Friday, July 12, 2013 - Pre-Stay in Orlando
We live on Long Island, New York, and we flew from Islip MacArthur Airport (ISP) to Orlando (MCO). ISP is much more convenient to us than either JFK or Laguardia, so that makes Port Canaveral a very convenient port for us to sail out of. Our past two Carnival cruises were both from ports that you cannot fly to directly from ISP.
We always very strongly recommend a pre-stay before any cruise involving a flight, which we have done before all of our cruises. Our flight landed ontime, but due to thunderstorms, we had to wait on the tarmac for an hour before a gate was available, since the aiprort was closed to outgoing flights. This is why a pre-stay is so important.
For our pre-stay, we stayed at the Hyatt Orlando Airport. This hotel is connected to the airport, which is really convenient, since it avoids the need for ground transportation to the hotel. This is another reason why Port Canaveral is such a convenient port for us. Another convenient feature of this hotel is that, in addition to the two restaurants within the hotel, you have access to all of the pre-security restaurants and shops in the airport. The hotel was very nice. We had a room with an outside view, and had no noise problems at all. There is an outdoor pool on the 6th floor, which we used that night. Using the hotel pool during the night of our pre-stay is a tradition that we've done on all of our cruises. I highly recommend this hotel for cruises from Port Canaveral.
Saturday, July 13, 2013 - Start of the cruise (and detailed info about the ship)
We booked Carnival's transfers from the airport to the port. This is another reason why staying at this hotel was so convenient. We first went to the baggage claim, and a Carnival representative told us where to go to get the bus. We waited a few minutes and boarded the bus, and were very excited about our cruise!!
Since we purchased Faster to the Fun (FTTF), we were able to use the express check in line, and did not have to wait in line at all to board the ship! This alone was a great benefit, since we were on the ship in just a few minutes after arriving at the port!
One of the most exciting momemts of the cruise is when we step onto the ship into the lobby! The lobby on the Carnival Dream was beautiful! We especially liked the color changing lights. We liked the decor better than the eyeballs on the Magic. Aesthatically, the Liberty is still the nicest of the 3 Carnival ships that we've been on. But the Dream has Waterworks and the Liberty does not, so the Dream may have been our favorite ship overall (but it is hard to say, since we enjoyed all 3 ships so much).
The main reason why we booked FTTF was so that our room would be ready immediately, so that we could drop off our carryon luggage, and not be encumbered by it. This allowed us to enjoy our first afternoon even more. We were in room 8332, a Category 8D balcony stateroom, on Deck 8 midship. This was our first regular balcony, and we really enjoyed it! Last year, on the Magic, we had a cove balcony. My wife is short, so last year, her view from the cove balcony was blocked (when sitting), so she preferred this regular balcony. The location of this room was excellent, since it was centrally located, and was very close to the midship elevators, but was far enough away that there were no noise issues. This was our first regular balcony, and we really enjoyed it! The view from Deck 8 has a completely unobstructed view of the ocean when sitting; it is not in any way blocked by the Deck 5 lanai. When standing, you can see the Deck 5 lanai. A major subject of debate on this board has been, on Dream class ships, what deck do you have to be on to have an unobstructed view of the ocean from your balcony. I can assure you that Deck 8 midship has a great view. Based on observations from the Deck 5 lanai, I would not recommend Deck 6. I don't know about Deck 7; someone who has stayed on that deck will have to give more info.
Next, we went up to Deck 10, the Lido deck, for lunch. We ate at the burrito station at the Gathering lido buffet. The burrito station was one of our favorite lunch options on our past two cruises, and we enjoyed it again here! It usually has a long line, so today was a good opportunity to eat there. The Gathering lido buffet had basically the same layout as on the Magic and Liberty.
After lunch, we always like to explore the ship. This year, we were able to enjoy that more, since we didn't have to carry around our carryon luggage, since we had FTTF! Deck 10, the lido deck, is always the focal point of a warm weather cruise. The layout of the lido deck was very similar to the Magic. The main lido area is midship, and centered on the Waves pool, with 2 higher decks with seating (Decks 11 and 12) encircling the pool area. The two bars in this area were the Red Frog Rum Bar, and the Blue Iguana Tequilla Bar. Both bars seemed to serve most of the same drinks, but I guess one specialized in rum drinks, the other in tequilla drinks. Other than the decor, I'm not sure how they really differed from the pre-2.0 lido bars on the Magic, but maybe someone who knows more about drinks can elaborate more. To the aft of the main pool area was the Gathering lido restaurant, which I already described. Further aft is the secondary, usually quieter pool area, the Sunset Pool. As I mentioned in my past reviews of the Liberty and Magic, if you want to switch between pool areas with a wet swimsuit, it is best to use Deck 11 to bypass the buffet area.
I have read past reviews saying that people preferred the lido area on the Magic rather than the Dream. I honestly did not notice much difference, certainly not a difference that would affect our overall cruise experience. What was it about the lido deck on the Magic that some people prefer?
One of our favorite areas on the ship was Carnival Waterworks, on Deck 12 Forward! Waterworks on the Dream includes the two large slides: Twister and Drainpipe, two smaller racer slides, and 2 kiddie slides. The Magic did not have the racer slides, but instead had a splash zone with a dump bucket, primarily for kids. Which waterworks area one would prefer would depend on whether you prefer the splash zone or the racer slides. My wife said that the twister slide hurt her back, but when she wore a shirt, she was fine. I did not have that problem. I don't know if it was my imagination or not, but the drainpipe slide on the Dream seemed slightly more intense than the one on the Magic, and I seemed to be able to go around the bowl more, whereas on the Magic, I mostly stopped once I hit the bowl.
The uppermost areas of the ship on the Dream were different than on the Magic. On Decks 14 and 15 forward, the Dream had a 2-level Serenity area for adults, while the Magic had only a single-level serenity area; I think the reason is because the Magic had more spa staterooms. The Dream has a larger and nicer mini-golf course on Deck 12, but did not
have the ropes course or some of the other facilities in the Sports Square. To be honest, that was not a loss for me, since I didn't really enjoy the ropes course last year (too scary for me), and I literally never saw anyone last year on the Magic using the ourdoor exercise equipment in the Sports Square (too hot).
The other major difference to the upper part of the ship is that while the Magic had the basketball court on Deck 12 aft, the Dream had the steakhouse in that location, and moved the basketball court up to Deck 14 aft (which doesn't even exist on the Magic). Does anyone know why they eliminated that area on the Magic? There was also an additional
seating area on the Dream, Deck 14 midship, which I don't even think appears on deck plans. I do not remember that area existing on the Magic, but I could be wrong. Another difference was that the Dream has 2 hot tubs on Deck 11, which the Magic didn't seem to have. Does anyone know why they removed those hot tubs from the Magic, or if the Magic had other hot tub locations that the Dream lacks? It wasn't a big deal either way, since we didn't use the hot tubs much on a warm weather cruise.
Deck 3 mostly had a similar layout as the Magic. By now, most of us know that you must use the forward elevator to get to the lobby, forward restaurant (Crimson), and the Encore Theater, and must use the aft elevator to get to the aft restaurant (Scarlet). A minor point, but on the Dream, the Crimson restaurant seemed to have 2 annexes, which didn't exist on the Magic, and were probably part of the restaurant on the Magic. I'm not sure what those annexes were used for, I never saw anyone in them. I will talk more about the restaurant later when describing dinner.
Deck 4 we hardly used at all. It had the upper level of both restaurants, the photo shop, the library, the Chambers conference room, Circle C, Club O2, and the Warehouse video arcade. Near the Crimson restaurant, it also had the Rendezvous club Lounge, which was not open when we were exploring the ship. I'm honestly not sure what that space is for, since I do not recall ever seeing any events scheduled for it. I'm guessing maybe just a quiet space? The Magic had a similar space, but I don't remember its name.
Deck 5 was the center of the ship's nightlife! As I mentioned in past reviews of the Liberty and Magic, I like how all of the nighttime venues are clustered together on Deck 5. It makes it easy to hop from one venue to another, which we frequently did. We'll describe these spaces more when discussing the nighttime parts of the review.
Deck 5 had a few differences from the Magic. Instead of the Red Frog Pub, the Dream had an art gallery instead. Didn't really use the art gallery, but also didn't use the Red Frog Pub much (although it was cute), so that wasn't a big deal either way. Since the Dream has the steakhouse on Deck 12, rather than Deck 5, the Dream had an extra lounge on Deck 5, the Song Lounge. That was used for karaoke some nights, but seemed to be an under-utilized space. This is in the same space as the under-utilized jazz lounge on the Liberty. The Aft lounge, the Burgundy Lounge, which was usually used for comedy shows and sometimes karaoke, is larger on the Dream than it was on the Magic, since the steakhouse doesn't cut into it. I really wonder why, on the Magic, they eliminated Deck 14 aft, moved the basketball court to Deck 12 aft, and moved the steakhouse to Deck 5, eliminating the Song lounge and shrinking the aft lounge. Seems to me like the Dream's layout makes more sense, unless I am missing something. The lanai surrounding Deck 5 was
mostly the same as on the Maagic, except that the Dream obviously lacked the seating for the Red Frog Pub. The lanai had a barbecue for lunch, which smelled really good, and others said it was really good, but we never ate there (too many other options for lunch).
Don't have any real comments on the muster drill, it was mostly the same as on the Magic, where we went to one of the dining rooms. After that was the Sailaway party, which is always a lot of fun!! The cruise director was Jaime Deitch (aka Jaime Dee) and her assistant was "Gumby". Jaime was our assistant cruise director on the Liberty, and we really enjoyed her, and were happy to see her promoted to cruise director! She and Gumby were a great team! Jaime has so much energy, and is a lot of fun, and is a great fit for this ship, and her deck parties are always fun! As usual, the drink of the day was the Funship special, and I beleive that both bars were selling it. Unfortunately, they no longer seem to have the drink of the day souvenier glasses.
After the deck party, we used the pools and waterworks. Since the temperature this day was cooler than most and it was windy, we also used one of the serenity hot tubs.
When we were taking our showers, the drain in the shower seemed to be backed up, and drained slowly. We called housekeeping, and they fixed the problem later that night, and we had no further problems.
We opted for anytime dining on this cruise, as we did for our past two Carnival cruises. Anytime dining used the lower level (Deck 3) of the Crimson (forward) dining room. The first night, we had a short wait and had to get a pager, although the wait time became progressively shorter throughout the week. The wait time seemed slightly longer than it
was last year on the Magic, perhaps because the Dream lacks the extra Italian restaurant. The wait times on the Dream was comparable to or even shorter than on the Liberty.
Just like our past cruises, the food was excellent every night!! The menu was similar to past cruises. There may have been a few minor changes, such as items moved to different nights. Interestingly, there were no longer items marked as "didja" or "spa Carnival", but those items were still on the menu. Also, the items that were available every night are now marked as "Carnival classics", but I don't think it was explicitly mentioned that they were available every night. For dessert, in order to start our cruise off right, we both had the warm chocolate melting cake, which is always a favorite!! The decor in the dining room was very nice, and continued the red theme from much of the ship.
After dinner, we went to the Welcome Aboard show. The Encore theater is very nice, but, just like the Liberty and Magic, you want to get there early to get a good seat. This welcome abord show was a lot of fun, and they introduced Jaime and Gumby, who, as I said before, I enjoyed very much. This welcome abord show was very similar to the one on the Liberty in 2011, which we enjoyed. It was much better than the somewhat lame Welcome Aboard show that they had on the Magic in 2012. Was this a fleet-wide change, or is the show unique to each ship?
Since we had an early morning excursion tomorrow in Nassau, we went to bed early, so we didn't do any club-hopping tonight, but we did sit on our balcony for a short while to watch the ocean.
Some reviews claim that the Dream is more crowded than the Magic. I did not find that to be the case at all. I'm not sure why there would be much of a difference anyway, since, if anything, the Dream has slightly more public space and slightly fewer staterooms. On both ships, people complain about it being hard to find lounge chairs. We never had a problem on either ship, especially if you are willing to move up to Deck 11 or 12. I'm curious as to why some people seem to find the Dream to be more crowded.
I will continue this review later this week and start talking about the ports and the sea days. Since I have now described the ship in great detail, the rest of the review will be more concise.