Sunday, November 20, 2011

Carnival Dream ~ February 2010

Carnival Dream 2/20 – 2/27/2010 ~ Western Caribbean

We have been on Carnival seven times previously; this was our 36th cruise overall.

Embarkation – Port Canaveral does a fine job, no real delays, everyone keeps moving; on the ship in 20 minutes from the time we parked the car.  Got right on the ship and headed to Lido deck for the buffet lunch.

Buffet – While there are definitely some traffic flow "pinch points" throughout the buffet, there were some very good food choices.  The Tandori and Deli stations on the back deck were excellent; the Burrito Bar (turned into omelet station in the morning) never had much of a line and was a nice option.  The Mongolian BBQ was a big hit, and the lines showed it.  We only did that once, but it was fun to pick your own veggies and sauce, etc.  The food quality was very good, with some items excellent.  Breakfast selections were limited, but that’s pretty normal on a ship buffet.  We never made it up to the Pasta Bar, but the reviews we heard were good.

Stateroom – We selected a COVE balcony – Category 7C.  Amazing!  We loved being so close to the water.  We could hear the waves, feel the spray, etc.  It was really cool.  The only negative was there was a fan blowing over our balcony that created some wind and smelled a little like chicken noodle soup.  We determined that this fan was over four staterooms in a row on our starboard side:  2305, 2309, 2315, and 2317.  Try to avoid those cabins if booking in category 7C.  Amy’s parents were in 2273 and they had no wind or food odor.  Cabin locations are very convenient: only one deck up to showroom, lower restaurant, and atrium bar; two decks up to other public areas.

Ship – Loved it.  Very well done, but a little RED overall.  Both dining rooms have red décor and red lighting.  The Ocean Plaza – a neat area – was used for lots of activities.  Many people playing cards and dominos; they held trivia and other games in this venu.  The bar there switched specialties each night:  margaritas, martinis, wine, etc.  The Adults Only Serenity Deck is very nice, but get out there early because there aren’t many chairs.  We purchased the weeklong pass for the Thermal Suite and enjoyed using the various steam rooms and heated stone beds throughout the week. 

A few areas of concern:

  • The stadium balcony seating in the showroom offers NO leg room - if you are taller or larger make sure to sit on the main floor.
  • The tables in the Ocean Plaza have a weird curving edge that many a knee was getting banged on.
  • They definitely crammed in the tables for extra seating in the buffet.  There were many tight areas where a scooter or a wheelchair or even a larger person may have an issue getting to/from the tables.
  • Avoid booking into balconies on Deck 6.  Deck 5 is a wraparound promenade deck that sticks out with the hot tubs and deck seating.  Those on Deck 5 can look up and very clearly see into the Deck 6 balconies.  That’s one reason why we selected the Cove Balcony.  It was very private with the lifeboats over us and no balconies below us; you had to really lean out to see the neighbors, etc.

Entertainment – overall excellent.

  • Carnival has started a "comedy club" like some of the other cruise lines are doing and they scheduled repeated shows with four different comedians.  It was timed so you could take advantage of these shows without missing the production shows.  There were always lines for this – full house every show.  Comedians do clean family comedy during the earlier shows and offer later adult shows.

  • Big screen by the pool – concerts, movies, Canada vs. USA hockey (Olympics) and the Laser Light Extravaganza.  Overall very fun!
  • Production Shows – They put on three full production shows during the week.  One was Country themed – not too bad, but there are only so many line dancing country moves for the dancers to do.  The next was FANTASTIC – “Dancing in the Streets”.  They bring a group of break dance type dancers on the ship and incorporate trampolines, and so much more, along with fun music.  This is a “don’t miss” show.  The third show was the weakest of the three.  We watched it, but really don’t remember it – maybe something Motown (which we usually enjoy).
  • Atrium Duet – this girl was beyond belief - she sang everything!  And she sang it well!!  She was always there.
  • Piano Bar – sounded nice, but was always way too smoky for us.
  • Casino – they have a strict no-smoking policy – except for players at specifically signed tables and machines.  We never really smelled the smoke when walking through.  It is a main walkway to get around, so it was nice not being overwhelmed by smoke just to walk through.  People were saying the machines were very tight.  We didn’t make any deposits ourselves.

Dining – the big one that everyone wants to know.  Well, we found the quality to be very good and many items excellent!  Presentations were very nice, too.  Amy’s dad had shrimp cocktail every night and said it tasted just as fresh at the end as it did in the beginning.  Lobster was good. The "everyday" steak was one of the better meals we tried – we were surprised!  Pasta dishes were excellent, mom enjoyed the Salmon twice, the stuffed mushrooms were delicious, and we could go on!!  Not to forget the warm chocolate melting cake and the Bitter & Blanc bread pudding – YUM!!   We ate very well! 

Bar Drinks – Found the bar drink prices to be high for specialty drinks, and they really didn’t taste that great.  If you like rum and Coke or something simple like that, then you are fine, but if you are looking for a GOOD margarita – don’t bother on the ship.  We found some nice margaritas at Mr. Sancho’s in Cozumel!


  • Stateroom Service – friendly, efficient and mysterious – we never saw him, but he and his assistant always got the room done within minutes of us leaving our room (using the Cruisin’ or Snoozin’ card on the door handle to notify when we were out). 
  • Bar Service – plentiful and friendly, we just really didn’t use them much.
  • Dining Service – we were confirmed for late dining, but upon arrival we were assigned anytime dining.  The first night, we waited for ten minutes and were sat at a table for ten, waited for seats to be filled, and finally got a server to take our order.  Interestingly, we found out that all ten of us had been confirmed for late dining and assigned anytime.  The anytime dining timing seemed off, food arrived cold, took a long time between courses, etc.  After dinner, we went to the maître d and confirmed our switch to late dining.  Our second night, we reported to Stanislavia (Tania) at table 157 and had one of the best dining experiences out of all of our cruises.  Tania’s service was amazing with a personality to match.  She and her assistant really turned around the whole experience from the first night.  We know people think they like anytime dining,  but really, there’s nothing like building that relationship throughout the week – the lemons were on the table every night, timing was good, we never thought we’d miss the show, we laughed, we danced, we sang, we hugged.  5 stars!!
  • Breakfast Dining Service – after not being overwhelmed by the breakfast buffet (except the omelets), we tried the dining room and had a great experience – quick, friendly,  large juice glasses kept full of fresh OJ – WOW!  Unfortunately, that wasn’t consistent.  We went another day and had what we call typical breakfast dining room service of trying to flag someone down for some bread and/or juice, waiting forever for the food, not even really knowing who the server was so you could get their attention.  So, I guess that’s hit or miss in the dining room for breakfast.
  • Buffet Service – always had people bussing tables right away, they were friendly and efficient.  The cooks behind the service lines were fine, not outstanding, but fine.
  • Spa Service – the spa receptionists were always welcoming and friendly when we went to get our wristbands for the thermal suite.  They never pushed other services on us or made us feel pressured.  It was a nice staff.
  • Overall Service – throughout the ship, all staff was smiling and friendly, saying "Hello" and "Have a good day" wherever we went.  A very pleasant team overall.

In conclusion, we are very confident in recommending the Carnival Dream (and many other Carnival ships).  In fact, once you sail in that cove balcony, you’ll be torn by wanting to keep the secret for yourself so the prices don’t increase and or by telling everyone because they are so cool!

On our Western Caribbean sailing, we visited Cozumel, Roatan, Belize and Costa Maya.  Here are a few pictures: 

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