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MisterOJ2

Carnival Dream 10/7-10/14: Rock Me Like A Hurricane

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I've always thought I should do a cruise review topic, but I've never just gotten around to it. Well, since this was my 10th cruise, I figure this is the right time to do it. On this cruise, it was just my immediate family - myself and DW Becky (we're both in our early 40s) and our two daughters, Emily, 14, and Molly, 12. I guess at this point we're all at least somewhat experienced cruisers. The girls have gone on all cruises with us except for one, so they've been on nine now. This was our fourth cruise on the Dream and the seventh time we have cruised out of New Orleans. 

We usually do 7-day cruises and we chose this one because it had four port days and two sea days. Last year our Fall Break cruise wound up with just two port days and five sea days. Normally we really enjoy sea days, but wanted to do something different this time, since we didn't get many ports on our last cruise. The ports we visited were: Costa Maya, Roatan, Belize and Cozumel.  We'd never been to Costa Maya before, but the other ports were all fairly familiar to us - especially Cozumel. 

This cruise got off to a little bit of a rocky start because we had to sail around Hurricane Michael in the gulf (more on that later) but we had almost perfect weather the entire week.

That said, let's get on to the review:

Embarkation (and just getting to the port)

So, pretty much every fall break, we like to take the kids on a cruise. Around this time last year, however, my wife's niece decided to tell us that she would be getting married on Saturday, Oct. 6, in Portland, Tenn. (Which is about a half hour north of Nashville.) Well, crap. No fall break cruise for us in 2018, we thought. It only took a couple months or so until I came up with the "great" realization that if we left right after the wedding reception, and drove through the night, we could make it to New Orleans in time to get on the boat. So, that's what we did.

No, it wasn't a fun drive. I drove the whole way while everyone else slept. I had to pull over at a rest area somewhere in Mississippi and catch an hour or so of sleep. And we stopped about an hour from New Orleans for an early, leisurely breakfast. We wound up making it to the Port of New Orleans around 8 am or so. The parking garage at the port wasn't open, but we were able to park at the Fulton Street garage and then walked down to the French Quarter for beignets and cafe au lait at the Cafe du Monde. The street artists were just putting out their wares and the shops in the French Quarter Market were just getting up and going too, so we spent some time checking all that out before heading to the Riverwalk Mall, where the girls did some shopping and I sat in a comfy chair and dozed for a bit.

Our boarding time was 1 pm and we arrived around 12:40 and prepared to wait for them to call our group for boarding. After about 10 minutes, they made an announcement that we couldn't hear, so my wife went over and asked about it. Turns out, they had closed that entrance because of a "medical emergency" so they were sending everyone else over to the other entrance. That entrance (for the folks that either missed their boarding time, or just like standing in super-long lines) was the worst. If you show up at your assigned time, you can usually breeze right through. Now, everyone was stuck in the other line. And it took us over and hour and a half to make it through and get on the ship. As you might imagine, going on little or no sleep, this was less than ideal. We heard through the grapevine on the ship that the emergency was a man who had a heart attack going through security and that he didn't make it. I'm not sure if that's completely accurate or not, but it's super sad, if true.

The upside of getting on the ship so late is that we were able to go straight to our room and stow our carry-on bags. We then went up and grabbed some lunch. There wasn't a line for the Mongolian Wok, so I had that. It was tasty, as always. It wasn't long before they shut everything down for the dreaded muster drill. The drill wasn't actually that bad for me this time. Since I was plenty sleepy, I literally slept through most of it. That's probably the best part about driving through the night to get there, honestly. Our bags had arrived when we went back to the room, so we unpacked and then got ready for dinner, since we had early dining.

In our previous three cruises on the Dream, we'd always been in the midship dining room. (Is it Scarlet, or Crimson? I can never remember which is which because the names mean the same dang thing.) Anyway, this time we were in the aft dining room for the first time, which is great; because we always get an aft cabin. This time we were on Deck 8, so it was an easy walk down the stairs to dinner. 

Our servers for the week were AWESOME. In the past, our servers have generally been slow and just tried too hard to make our dining experience "special." I'm sure some folks appreciate that, but I don't care for it. Our team on this cruise were friendly and nice (without being over the top like so many others) and super efficient. I can't stress how happy that made me. Our dinners never lasted more than an hour, and that's the way I like it. We were able to make the 7 pm comedy shows or movies every time we wanted to. 

I had the blackened catfish from the Port of Call menu that first night. It was fine. Everyone enjoyed the strawberry bisque, as usual. It's always a favorite with my crew. The girls really liked the crispy chicken bites appetizers too. No one ordered the strawberry parfait dessert, but one of the servers brought one out for the girls to share, since they liked to soup so much. It wound up being one of their favorite desserts from the whole trip.

As you can probably imagine, we were all pretty beat by this point. So, it was an early bedtime for all of us. I think the kiddos stayed up a little bit just checking out the ship, but I was asleep by 8:30.

Day 2 - A Rocky Day at Sea

At some point in the middle of the night, I woke up and was like, "Whoa, this boat is really moving." But, I took a Dramamine and went back to sleep. The next morning, you could really tell that we were skirting around Hurricane Michael. That was probably the most rocking any ship we've ever been on has had. The crew had plenty of barf bags put out and available around the ship. And throughout the week, I heard from several other cruisers that they were so sick that first day, they never even left their room.

I just popped another pill when I got up and went and watched the sunrise from the back of the ship. I don't ever really feel like I'm on a cruise until that first morning, when I'm sitting on the back of the ship, sipping that "good" Lido coffee and watching the sunrise. When the rest of my crew finally woke up, we went down and had brunch in the dining room. The steak and eggs is usually one of the best things I eat every cruise, and this time was no different. 

This is probably when I should tell you that (for the most part) my wife and I are really boring people on sea days. After brunch, we got the girls checked into Circle C so they could do their thing, and we went and found a comfy spot to sit and read. This day, it wound up being the couches on Deck 4 by Pixels that overlook the atrium lobby. We read for a bit and then, the cruise director, Alex from the U.S., gathered some kids around the statue of Patches the Pumpkin Pirate and read them a "spooky" story. It was cute. The atrium was decorated for Halloween with the large statue of Patches and some other black and orange decorations. I thought it was a nice, seasonal touch. We also watched the bean bag toss and read some more before heading up to the Lido for lunch. I had some Indian food from Tandoor, which was great as always. 

The rest of the day was lazy. I took a nap, read some more and just walked around the ship some before getting ready for elegant night. Dinner was great. We all ordered the lobster, except for Molly, who wanted to be different and had the vegetarian option of root vegetables in a pie crust. Yeah, it was about as good as it sounds. Emily loved the lobster and wanted a second plate, but was embarrassed to order it. So, I did it for her and she cleaned the second plate up too. For an appetizer, I tried the tart with braised kale and blackened pork tenderloin for the first time. It was great. The girls even wanted to try it and they loved it too. So, that was a nice surprise. They would never try anything like that normally. For dessert, both adults enjoyed the creme brulee and the kiddos both liked the malted chocolate hazelnut cake.

We didn't do much after dinner. We just had a quiet evening and prepared for our first port - Costa Maya!

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Cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe Du Monde

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New Orleans as seen from the ship

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We found this letter from the Captain about the hurricane in our room on the first night.

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Sunrise the first morning at sea.

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Lobster on elegant night.

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Root vegetables in a pie crust.

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Patches the Pumpkin Pirate

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First night's towel animal. The towel animals in our room were kinda sub-par this cruise. But, we've been on enough cruises so it wasn't a huge deal for us.

 

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask and I'll answer them as best I can. Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed this first installment!

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We will be on the Dream at the end of December for the first time,

so I'm really enjoying the review!!!  Thanks!

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Thank you for the review.  We will be on this itinerary in a couple of weeks.  Looking forward to sailing the Dream again!

 

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It's fun reading about your cruise.  Since she's moving to Galveston I'm thinking there will be a Dream cruise in my future.

Looking forward to more.

 

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Enjoying your review.  We were in New Orleans and saw the Dream docked that morning.  Are you finding the new site easy to post from including your pictures?  

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18 hours ago, Saint Greg said:

Did I just read "root vegetables in a pie crust?"

Yeah. It was... about as good as you'd probably expect. 

33 minutes ago, JaniceB said:

Enjoying your review.  We were in New Orleans and saw the Dream docked that morning.  Are you finding the new site easy to post from including your pictures?  

I don't know if I ever posted pictures to the old site, so I don't have anything to compare it to; but posting these were fairly simple and easy.

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Day 3 - Costa Maya and Maya Chan! (Or, Wedding Part II)

So, like I said, we'd been to three of the four ports on this cruise before. And because of that, I was most looking forward to Costa Maya. While I love going back to nice, familiar ports; it's always fun to check out a new one. I wasn't sure what to expect from Costa Maya. Based on what I'd read beforehand, my expectations were not high. But, boy, did this port exceed them! It was the favorite of the whole trip. I would almost say it was easily the favorite of the whole trip, but there was another port that was also awesome and came close to being the best one.

In addition to being our first time there in Costa Maya, this port was also really different for us because we were scheduled to begin debarking at noon and everyone was supposed to be back on the ship by 7 p.m. I'd never experience a port day like that before. In all our past nine cruises, it was roughly the same schedule - get off the ship in the morning and be back by late afternoon/early evening. So, it was kinda strange to head up for breakfast at the Lido around 9 a.m. and not see any land in sight.

It was sort of weird just hanging around after breakfast, waiting for the ship to dock. But that's what we did. Usually we're at least somewhat rushed, getting breakfast, making sure everything is packed for our day on land and making our way down to the gangway. It was nice having a leisurely port morning.

Once we docked, getting off the ship went very smoothly. We made a point to wait a few minutes so that the rush was over, and then we just walked right off.

We had a beach day booked at Maya Chan. After reading through the different options on here, that one sounded like the best one for us. I knew from reading the reviews that it was a pretty good walk to get to the pickup spot for Maya Chan, and those reports were accurate. Just getting outside the port took forever. The way it was set up, we snaked through that place going past every single shop and bar. It was like being at a Mexican version of IKEA. 

But, that's not necessarily a bad thing. There was a lot of cool stuff to look at and do in the port. And everything seemed either brand new and nicely maintained. We were in a bit of a rush because we really wanted to get to Maya Chan, and in some ways, I wish we'd taken a bit more time in the actual port. But, I was pretty impressed by the pool they had there. And the flamingoes. Those were cool.

At one point, I thought we'd made it outside the port, but it turned out we still had some walking to do. The meet-up point was probably a couple blocks outside the port area. But, it was easy to find and once we got there it was a simple process for checking in and getting onto a van to the resort. The drive out to Maya Chan was... interesting. It probably took the better part of a half hour. The first part of the ride was through town and was fine. About what you'd expect in any Carribean port town. But once we turned onto the dirt road. Oy. That was different. It was slow going because of all the ruts and, honestly, it looked super dodgy for a lot of the ride. Even though I was confident that Maya Chan was going to be nice, some of scenery was passed on the way made me have a few doubts as to what we were getting into.

But, all that was washed away as soon as we showed up. Maya Chan was exactly how I expected it to be - charming, a little bit rustic, but very nice and welcoming. We were greeted by Jane as soon as we stepped off the van and she explained everything to us. Jane, her husband Mark, and grown son David, own and run the place with the help of an excellent staff. Mark and Jane are avid, veteran cruisers who wanted to own their own beach resort, so they really know how to cater to cruisers. It was fantastic.

We were escorted to our cabana. It was a shaded area with three loungers, an extra comfy beach bed and a hammock. The waitress came over with a couple of rum punches for the adults and cups of fruit punch for the kiddos so that we'd have a drink in our hands right away. She then took our drink orders and when we took our seats, we realized that a couple was going to be married right there on the beach at Maya Chan - pretty much right next to our cabana. So, we had the added entertainment of being "guests" at the wedding - our second in just four days! It was fun. I did have to get up out of the hammock so as not to crowd the bride's guest, who lined up along the edge of our cabana; but that was a small price to pay for getting to watch the ceremony. David officiated and did a great job. The whole thing was just fun and added to the experience.

And, the staff kept the drinks coming throughout the whole thing. They also delivered some yummy tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole for us to munch on while they prepared lunch on the grill. It wasn't long after the wedding wrapped up that we were informed that lunch was ready and that we could come make a plate at the buffet whenever we were ready.

After a bit, we went up to check out the buffet, which is next to the bar. There was kind of a long line, so we wound up just sitting at the bar and talking to the friendly bartenders, some of the other guests, and Mark. It was great fun talking to Mark about his past cruises and how he got into the beach club business and some of the ins and outs of it. He was a fantastic host. And the drinks... wow. They don't skimp on the pours or use bottom shelf liquor. The mixers and ingredients were all top notch too. Everything was just top notch from the bar. 

When the line died down a bit, we went and filled our plates. They have a taco bar at Maya Chan, and you have a choice of either flour or corn tortillas. The reason the line can move slow is because they cook the tortillas to order. So, when it's your turn, you tell them how many and what kind you want and they put them on the grill and get them to you hot and fresh. They have steak, chicken, pork and fish to fill them with. The steak and chicken is grilled right there in front of you. They also have beans and rice as sides and all the toppings you could want. The food was seriously good. I love authentic tacos and that's exactly what these were. Honestly, this was probably the best meal I had the entire week.

We just ate at the bar. We spent the whole rest of the day right there, talking to Mark and the various guests that would come up and order a drink or a shot. Of course, we usually wound up taking the shot with them. Which was fun, but I probably drank more than intended because of it. 

You may have noticed that I haven't talked about the water yet. That's because it was the one negative from the day there. Because Hurrican Michael had spent the previous 2-3 days sitting right on top of Costa Maya, the water at the beach was pretty much just brown and muddy. Several people didn't let that stop them and they got in anyway. I would have liked to get in for a bit, but it didn't really negatively affect me. My kids were disappointed by it though. Emily more than Molly. Maya Chan has plenty of kayaks, paddle boards, snorkel gear, etc., that's all included. Molly had a blast paddle boarding. Emily just hung out with some friends from the ship who were also there and enjoyed the complimentary wifi. 

At some point, a member of the staff asked us what time we wanted to get a taxi back to the port. We were having such a good time that I told them we wanted to be on the last one. And we were. The taxi got us back with about a half hour to spare. It was cool getting on the ship when it was mostly dark out. That was a different experience.

Since we didn't get back on board until well past our dining time, we wound up just having a late dinner from the buffet and hung out up on the Lido before turning in for the night.IMG_1087.thumb.jpg.9f30184b191c1ae696cb5f7751a362e4.jpg

These flamingoes were actually inside the port in a little viewing area. I wish we'd taken more pictures of the port area, since it was so nice. But we were mostly just focused on getting to the meeting area for Maya Chan.

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This was the view we had of the wedding from our cabana. It was neat getting to "be a part" of it.

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Even though the water was muddy, Molly didn't let that stop her from enjoying the paddle board.

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Rodas the beach dog was super chill. He is a good boy and was loved by all the kiddos.

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The bar area at Maya Chan. No crappy well drinks here!

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I mean, seriously. The food was out of this world.

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It was cool getting back into the port area and seeing the ship all lit up at night.

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Up Next: Roatan! (and probably Belize.)

 

Edited by MisterOJ2

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Enjoying your review! My youngest on our last cruise decided to be "adventurous" and ordered some dishes that were just not good, like the root vegetable pie thing.   Every time she did, our server "accidentally" brought an extra dish that she hadn't ordered as a back up. He was awesome!

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Looking forward to your review of the next stops - all on our cruise in April. I have boys around same age and curious what excursions you did and how they enjoyed it.

 

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I've bookmarked the Maya Chan website.  Based on your description, it sounds like the perfect excursion for our family the next time we're in Costa Maya!  I'm enjoying your review and pictures!

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Enjoying your review very much. DH and I, along with two adult "kids" will be on the Dream in February. This will be the first time we have been on Carnival in ten years. The Dream experience sounds great.

Looking forward to more of your review.

 

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Great review and looking forward to more! We will be on the Dream in 4 months.

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Really enjoyed the review of Maya Chan. Will definitely choose that the next time I'm in this port. Would you mind explaining how you booked this trip (direct, tripadvisor, etc).

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19 hours ago, GMRPHRN said:

Really enjoyed the review of Maya Chan. Will definitely choose that the next time I'm in this port. Would you mind explaining how you booked this trip (direct, tripadvisor, etc).

 

I booked directly through their website. It was really easy and everything was done through Paypal. I really appreciated that it's one of the few excursions where you pay upfront. They take a small deposit when you book. (I think it was $5 per person) Then, about 6 weeks before the cruise, they send you an invoice through Paypal. So, you don't have to worry about settling up once you're there. And since transportation is included, the only cash I had to bring with me in port was a few bucks to tip the folks there. (Which is also really easy, since they ask that all tips just go in the "Love Box" and they are shared evenly amongst the staff.) 

 

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