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Fballguy

Carnival Dream Aug 1st - LIVE REVIEW

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The fact that I’m live reviewing while on the cruise should be a clue...but to what???

 

(Typing on my phone, so please pardon typos)

 

First the background.  We are a displaced family of five from the Carnival Vista.  A week prior to departure, we received an email alerting us to the Vista’s technical issue.  Our cruise, scheduled for the week of July 4th, was not cancelled in theory...Unless you consider changing the departure date, return date and itinerary to be “cancelling” (We did).  Instead of visiting Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Cozumel, the new itinerary, despite being one night longer, visited only Mexico, which would be sandwiched between three straight sea days at the beginning and the end...on a disabled ship incapable of cruising at full speed.  We passed, instead opting for full refund and 50% off a future cruise.  Our decision was somewhat validated, when the Vista briefly lost power during what would’ve been our replacement cruise.

 

The Dream is our 50% off future cruise, though we are now traveling as a family of four as our son could not get this time off from work.  It would’ve been my preference to use the discount on a better cruise, but having delayed a month, my wife and I were desperate for a vacation and we were traveling with my 85 year old mother in law.  This was to be not only her first cruise, but first vacation.  She absolutely will not get on a plane so our options were severely limited.  But, since we wanted her to see Mexico, where she was born, but has not visited in 70 years, this cruise made sense. Not to mention she was incredibly disappointed when our Vista trip was cancelled and being 85, a cruise “next year” isn’t guaranteed.  So here we are...

 

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I’ve been on probably a dozen cruises but none in the past five years...Norwegian, Princess, Celebrity, Costa.  Carnival was my very first cruise, but I never sailed with them again until now.  I’ve cruised out of Miami most often, but also New York, San Juan, New Orleans and Singapore.  Galveston was never on my radar due to their limited itineraries and with me living in Connecticut most of my life.  But I live in Houston now which puts port of Galveston only an hour away.  Cruising without having to fly???  Sounds good, right?

 

Up next...Check In

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We arrived in Galveston after a short, smooth ride.  Bumper to bumper traffic in our area is practically a given but we had smooth sailing (pun intended) and arrived in about an hour.  I dropped my wife (did I mention it was her first cruise too?), mother in law and daughter off at the terminal and went to find parking.  Drop off was easy and clearly marked.  Just like at the airport...pull up, unload, drive off. A porter was waiting to help.  Smooth sailing.  Parking was a little more chaotic.  While clearly marked with directional signs, there were two opposing roads converging into a single entrance and no one directing traffic.  This resulted in several Mexican Standoffs (pun again intended) with two determined drivers sitting grill to grill (imagine Dr. Seusses North and South Bound Zaks) until one said Uncle.  There were two terminal lots (plus several other private lots) marked A and B.  B was cash only, so I chose A.  Parking was $55 for our four night cruise.  Lot A was also chaotic, with people milling everywhere, no signs to follow and no sense of order.  But I decided not to follow the line of cars and ended up finding a spot much more quickly than if I followed the herd.  It seemed as if hundreds of people were waiting for the shuttle with no semblance of a line, so I walked back... about four football fields length if I had to guess.

 

I know this is supposed to be “LIVE”.  I’m getting there.  I promise.

 

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As I said, this is my first cruise in five years and I was curious how much has changed.    After walking back to the terminal I was surprised to see the amount of “cargo” cruisers were loading onto the ship.  Cases of water and soda, collapsible coolers and hard coolers.  It looked more like an evacuation than an embarkation.  Not sure if this is cruising in 2019 or just cruising in Galveston.  Given Galveston’s history, maybe that’s how they roll.

 

The check in process from this point on could not have been easier.  No waiting in lines.  No sitting and waiting.  We were right on time for our 12:30 check in and they swept us right in.  The entire process, even with my mother in law walking at the pace of a bridal procession, took about 15 minutes...and now we were on board and officially on vacation.

 

Up next...Waiting for the room.

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Post check in, having been told our room would be ready at 1:30 (a little over 30 minutes away), we did what everyone, and I mean everyone, did.  We went to the Lido Deck for food and drink.  It was cattle car crowded but, miraculously, we found an available table to sit at.  Our table was near two pool side eateries with manageable lines, the Blue Iguana Cantina and Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint.   We tried both and 24 hours into our cruise, they remain the best food we’ve had so far.   That’s both a testament and an indictment.  The pork tacos and the burgers were really good with each having a nice “fixings” bar to design your dish as you pleased.  This was a nice start.  Dinner would be another story (Queue dramatic theme music...Da Da Daaaaaaa)

 

“We’ll be back after these messages...”

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We’re happy with our rooms on the 9th deck, two side by side balconies that were able to be opened to form one big balcony.  This achieves our desire for adjoining rooms.  The rooms are spacious enough by cruising standards.  Air conditioning keeps the room nice and cool. TV is small but it helped us fall asleep just the same.   Our room steward seems like a nice guy but not much interaction with him yet.  Only one complaint about the room so far, other than the mystery neighbor who keeps leaving their dirty room service dishes outside OUR door (I’ll find you), and that’s the number of electrical outlets.  At this point we’ve found a grand total of one.  When was this ship built?  1975?  Get with the 21st century please.  

 

The ship itself is small, which they try to compensate for by making it seem there are more amenities on board than actually exist.  Their ice cream shop Swirls, for example, is really just a soft serve ice cream machine with a Swirls sign hanging over it.  

 

The pools are small as well...and very crowded...and based on the announcement that there are over 1,000 children on the ship, I’m guessing filled with at least 15% urine.  I have nothing against cruise ship pools, but when the pools are so small that it looks like 50 people are taking a bath together, I bow out.  I’ll wait for the ocean.

 

There is an adults only section, which with our daughter, we can’t partake in...but I don’t believe it includes a pool.  Just a couple of hot tubs.  I may be wrong about that.  We took a quick stroll through it last night after Mom and Kid went to sleep.  Didn’t see a pool.

 

Up next...Dinner in dining room.

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I'm going on this ship on Monday, and like you, it's been about 5 years since we cruised so this is all super helpful. Thanks for posting!

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52 minutes ago, Fballguy said:

The ship itself is small, which they try to compensate for by making it seem there are more amenities on board than actually exist.

 

Enjoying your posts so far and will continue to follow this thread. 

 

I did find this comment interesting, since Dream class ships are Carnival’s second largest ships. They are only slightly smaller than Carnival’s largest Vista class ships. I assume this means you have been on larger ships on the other cruse lines you mentioned you have cruised on in the past. 

 

 

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There’s no nice way to say it.  Both the service and the food in the main dining room are bad.  Actually that is being nice.  I wanted to wait until we had a few meals before commenting, but after two dinners and two breakfasts, it’s official. 

 

We booked the late seating (8:15 pm) in the Scarlet dining room.  In an odd arrangement, the Scarlet doors (which remain closed until 8:15) are adjacent to the elevators.  As people waited outside the dining room doors, they actually blocked the elevator doors making it difficult for people to step off.   As more elevators arrived, more people pushed their way into line and it became very uncomfortable very quickly, especially when try to prevent an 85 year old from being pushed.

 

The waiter for our first dinner was either overwhelmed or under trained.  He disappeared for long stretches, to the point we had to ask other waiters to find him.  When he did show up it was with the wrong food.  We ordered a round of drinks when we first sat down.  We never received another.  Once he realized his error, he tried to make amends but we were halfway through dessert at that point and passed.  Clam chowder was ordered.  Chicken soup was delivered.  The basket of bread we asked to be refilled, never was.  The food was below cafeteria quality.  The wine list embarrassing.  Not sure how they accomplished it but they actually managed to make a baked potato taste bad.  It was unanimous at our table that the best thing we had that night was the butter.  If only we got that second basket of bread.

 

Brunch the next morning was equally bad. Coffee terrible.  Waffles have the texture and taste of a dish sponge.  If you ask for toast, make sure you specify with butter or you will end up with cold, dry toast.  We joked that the ham in the Eggs Benedict was Armadillo, how else would you explain the grayish brown meat?

 

Service improved slightly for our second dinner (formal night) and breakfast, but we’ve decided to eat our meals elsewhere from now on as the food did not.

 

Regarding dining room attire...The first night, as usual, was casual.  Closed toe shoes, nice shorts, polo shorts, sun dresses were the norm but tank tops and flip flops were present as well.  For formal night....Men, if you’re unsure of what to wear...I suggest long pants and a shirt.  Follow this simple tip and you’ll blend right in.  Nobody was dressed to the 9’s (or 8’s for that matter).  Ties were the exception.

 

Note...Since when is lobster not included on formal night?  $20 up charge.  Given the quality of the other food, we skipped it.

 

Sadly...There was nothing special or even formal about formal night.

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One other quick note.   Maybe this is the new normal, ironing is not allowed in your stateroom.  There are ironing rooms on each deck.   As there are only two irons in each room, I recommend you don’t wait until 30 minutes prior to your seating to press your tank tops.  The line on our deck extended out of the room and down the hall last night.  You’ve been warned.

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Regarding the Cheers package...We debated and ultimately went for it.  It probably saves me a few bucks...literally $20 at the pace I’m going.  For my wife, it was going to be a stretch to find value.  We knew this but figured it would allow her to sample more drinks and find the ones she really liked.  That’s probably the biggest benefit of the package, especially with so many of the drinks tasting like spill basin swill.  I can’t tell you how many we’ve abandoned after the first sip.  We were really counting on making our money on wine and Bloody Mary’s, but as I mentioned the wine list is pathetic (When Layer Cake is the best you can offer, get out of the wine business) and the Bloody Mary’s taste like Campbell’s Tomato soup on ice, despite the elaborate description on the menu.  Don’t believe it.  

 

The beer selection is solid.  That doesn’t help my wife much, but I’m an IPA guy and they have several good options.  Plenty of non-IPA and non-Budweiser options too.  It’s hard to drink your money’s worth of just beer though....thus my meager savings.

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31 minutes ago, Fballguy said:

Note...Since when is lobster not included on formal night?  $20 up charge.  Given the quality of the other food, we skipped it.

 

I think it was last year. They cut it out on short cruises. If you go on a 7-night cruise you'll get lobster included.

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Wow, this review really surprises me. I have sailed on the Dream eight times, including three times last year and have never had this bad of an experience. 

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2 minutes ago, Wheels87 said:

Wow, this review really surprises me. I have sailed on the Dream eight times, including three times last year and have never had this bad of an experience. 

 

I had two good experiences last year. I did switch servers on the second cruise because I had a slow one at first.

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1 hour ago, Fballguy said:

One other quick note.   Maybe this is the new normal, ironing is not allowed in your stateroom.  There are ironing rooms on each deck.   As there are only two irons in each room, I recommend you don’t wait until 30 minutes prior to your seating to press your tank tops.  The line on our deck extended out of the room and down the hall last night.  You’ve been warned.

Can you advise as to which cruise lines you've sailed that allow ironing in the staterooms?  I've been on very few cruise lines that even had ironing rooms, much less self service laundry facilities.  There is always the option of sending your "tank tops" out for pressing, but it will cost you a couple of bucks.

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Our dinner service in February aboard the Dream was the worst. We were told by many in our group of 150 persons in the same dining room it was the same for them. It was a one off I must say. Sorry you experienced what we did. It may be isolated to the current dining management team assigned to the Dream. Thanks for doing your live for us! 

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The ship WiFi works well as you can tell.  With a little trepidation, I opted for the high speed option.    $68 for the length of the cruise.  Kind of a bummer that you can only connect one device for that price unlike a hotel room that will let you connect  four or more.  But it works well.  No complaints here.  There are cheaper options.  $48 for “normal” speed internet and $30 something for a social media only option.  I may be slightly off on that price.

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Attempted the buffet for a second time.  First time was this morning, prior to Cozumel.  It was a zoo.  The lines were very long and the food was sparse so we bailed out.  We hit the dining room instead for breakfast which, at least, had plenty of seats.  Attempt two was 6:00 pm dinner tonight for my mother in law and daughter.  

 

Though we arrived near opening, the area was already crowded and a mess.  Dirty tables everywhere.  Food gone.  Slim Pickens.  It really seems there are more guests on this cruise than the ship should hold or the staff can handle.  After standing in line for 15 minutes, they settled on soup and rolls.

 

My wife and I have 9:30 reservations at the steakhouse.  Though my instincts tell me that paying $38 pp extra is flirting with disaster...We’re going for it.  At this point, not too many other options.  The pizza joint is perpetually out of pizza, the burger joint (best food on ship) and Blue Iguana Cantina are closed.  We could get a donut at the coffee bar.  They look good, but the coffee there is abysmal so who knows.  Fun fact...Went to the coffee bar early this morning to grab coffees and a lite breakfast allowing us to avoid the buffet and/or dining room before heading out to Cozumel.  But, sadly, they don’t sell donuts or pastries in the morning.  They have plenty right now though...at 8:00 PM.

 

Sorry...That’s this review is trending to the negative.  But I’m not going to lie.   I guess it all comes down to expectations.  I’m remembering why I never went back to Carnival after that first cruise.  If one eats Swanson’s TV Dinners and Taco Bell with regularity, they’ll probably love it.  And I’m leaving plenty of negativity out just to tone it down.  For example...

 

The burger joint employee who embarrassed an extremely obese man in line by saying “I haven’t seen you in at least 5 minutes.  Where have you been?  Working out?”  This made everyone in line uncomfortable.  I can only image how he felt.

 

I’m sure my next post will be more positive after our trip to the steak house.

 

 

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11 minutes ago, Fballguy said:

I’m sure my next post will be more positive after our trip to the steak house.

Hope springs eternal.

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I definitely agree with setting expectations. Glad mine are already low so that I won’t be disappointed and hopefully I’ll be happily surprised. 

 

Hope tonight’s dinner exceeds your expectations!

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8 hours ago, Fballguy said:

There’s no nice way to say it.  Both the service and the food in the main dining room are bad.  Actually that is being nice.  I wanted to wait until we had a few meals before commenting, but after two dinners and two breakfasts, it’s official. 

 

We booked the late seating (8:15 pm) in the Scarlet dining room.  In an odd arrangement, the Scarlet doors (which remain closed until 8:15) are adjacent to the elevators.  As people waited outside the dining room doors, they actually blocked the elevator doors making it difficult for people to step off.   As more elevators arrived, more people pushed their way into line and it became very uncomfortable very quickly, especially when try to prevent an 85 year old from being pushed.

 

The waiter for our first dinner was either overwhelmed or under trained.  He disappeared for long stretches, to the point we had to ask other waiters to find him.  When he did show up it was with the wrong food.  We ordered a round of drinks when we first sat down.  We never received another.  Once he realized his error, he tried to make amends but we were halfway through dessert at that point and passed.  Clam chowder was ordered.  Chicken soup was delivered.  The basket of bread we asked to be refilled, never was.  The food was below cafeteria quality.  The wine list embarrassing.  Not sure how they accomplished it but they actually managed to make a baked potato taste bad.  It was unanimous at our table that the best thing we had that night was the butter.  If only we got that second basket of bread.

 

Brunch the next morning was equally bad. Coffee terrible.  Waffles have the texture and taste of a dish sponge.  If you ask for toast, make sure you specify with butter or you will end up with cold, dry toast.  We joked that the ham in the Eggs Benedict was Armadillo, how else would you explain the grayish brown meat?

 

Service improved slightly for our second dinner (formal night) and breakfast, but we’ve decided to eat our meals elsewhere from now on as the food did not.

 

Regarding dining room attire...The first night, as usual, was casual.  Closed toe shoes, nice shorts, polo shorts, sun dresses were the norm but tank tops and flip flops were present as well.  For formal night....Men, if you’re unsure of what to wear...I suggest long pants and a shirt.  Follow this simple tip and you’ll blend right in.  Nobody was dressed to the 9’s (or 8’s for that matter).  Ties were the exception.

 

Note...Since when is lobster not included on formal night?  $20 up charge.  Given the quality of the other food, we skipped it.

 

Sadly...There was nothing special or even formal about formal night.

Our service last week was pretty good, but i agree with the quality of the food every fish dish i had was very dry, but i kept ordering them there was nothing that actually tasted real good but this was my 10th Carnival cruise and 5th in 4 years so I knew what to expect the food has not been very good on any of the cruises but we still have a blast what i dont understand is that the food is not that good but i still overeat

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Dream has been our only “bad” cruise with Carnival.  We didn’t like the Dream either.  It just wasn’t well run overall.  Too bad you didn’t get to go on Vista.  The cruise director (Matt) alone makes that ship amazing.  

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And now for some good news...The Chef’s Art Steakhouse was really good.  Great menu all around, but I played it safe with Filet Mignon and received a very nice piece of meat cooked perfectly medium rare as I requested.  Nice selection of apps...I went with bone marrow and French onion soup.  My wife had lobster bisque and Caesar Salad.  All great.  I’ve never experienced such a huge disparity between the free food and the specialty food before.  The filet was absolute quality, while the prime rib I had on formal night should have come with a side of shoelaces.  Even the Caesar Salad was exponentially better than the one I couldn’t bring myself to finish in the dining room.  How could this be?  For dessert, we shared a huge piece of delicious, lemony cheesecake over coffees.  Everything was restaurant quality, including the service, and worth paying for.  A respectable wine list here too...finally.  

 

We’re thinking of going again tomorrow.

 

The one bit of bad news on the evening is that our room steward is MIA.  We wanted our bed made up (post Cozumel nap) and needed our towels refreshed.  I called the room steward line from our phone but it rang and rang with no answer.  I tried the guest services line, but that one doesn’t give you a human option and none of the automated options applied.  So I finally called Room Service and explained my situation.  The girl assured me that she would get in touch with our steward, even confirming my name and room number...but alas...When we returned from dinner, our room hadn’t been tended to. Disappointing.  Is quality service...being pampered...still part of the cruising experience or has that gone the way of the free lobster?

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Regarding room service...We have a balcony so we wanted to relax each morning with a cup of coffee and watch the sun rise.  As mentioned, on our first morning, room service didn’t arrive.  The hang card was gone from our door so I assumed some prankster swiped it.  It took several calls to room service and an additional 30 minutes (As I was told to wait for a call back that never came), but I was finally told they had no record of our order, which seemed to confirm my suspicions.  I was told they would expedite   a replacement order.  Sure enough, there was a knock at the door about 10 minutes later.  But this waiter had a different story.  He was holding our hang tag in his hand and apologized that our order had been delivered to someone else.  Ok...No problem.  He was breathing heavy so I knew he rushed to fix the error.  After “Andy” left, as we were settling onto the balcony, I hear another knock at the door and open it to find another waiter with another order of our food.  It was now over an hour past the late end of our delivery window and we had double orders of cold toast and bad coffee.  Communication seems to be lacking on this ship.

 

On that note...Is making toast that difficult?  I’d forgive the temperature if the bread was at least somewhat toasted.  It’s not.  They must leave it in for 10 seconds before replacing with the next order.  Cold, rubbery bread.  Such a simple thing to get wrong.  The coffee, depending on where you get it ranges from very bad to terrible. Even the coffee bar and steakhouse serve the same battery acid.

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