Was the Carnival Dream a Dream?

Last week we cruised on the Carnival Dream for a Exotic Western Caribbean itinerary.  We chose this cruise for two reasons – I needed a cruise on a line that I’ve never been on for a certification and I have always wanted to go to Belize.  First let me say that this cruise was not a complementary cruise, nor was it purchased at a travel agent rate.  We did book it on a discount under a senior rate promotion with a small onboard credit.

We drove over to the port in our rental and turned it in at Avis.  They took us to the port and we noticed when we arrived that there were lines all over.  They dropped us off and the porters took our bags.  We were quite a ways back in line but the line was moving.  We found out a little while later that the construction outside of the terminal was causing the backup.  A Carnival employee brought us out water (complementary).  I asked him if the water was normal and he said no, they are doing it because of the delays due to the construction.  We got into the terminal in a bit and went through security.  I was a little surprised that not only did I have to take out my computer, but I had to take it out of the neoprene case.  We have had this happen in one other port, but most of the time, we haven’t had to remove the computer.

We got upstairs in the terminal and there weren’t many lines.  I wasn’t sure why they didn’t get more people into the terminal where it was air conditioned, but once we got in line, it was quick to get on the ship.  Once onboard, the lines began again.  The elevators in the Atrium were packed!  There were at least 10 elevators there and masses of people for the elevators.  Bill and I gave up and took the stairs, carrying our carry ons up three floors.  Our room was close to the Atrium so once we reached deck 6, we were almost there.

I was pleasantly surprised by our room size.  On other Carnival ships I’ve toured, the rooms were very small.  The layout was good and the storage space ample.  Here are some photos of our cabin.  It is a category 8B.  The only things we didn’t like in the room were the main room lights (which we never used) and the balcony door slammed shut all the time when we used it.

Luggage delivery was very fast, but luggage delivery also caused a lot of problems.  Midship and aft, all elevators but one in each location were being used for luggage delivery.  There was a lot of congestion and it was difficult to get an elevator here.  We used the stairs a lot on the first day.  That said, by the time we went for our lifeboat drill, luggage was already delivered and we were mostly unpacked.  We went to the lifeboat drill and this was a little odd to me.  We all gathered in the stations and waited for everyone to report to their stations before they gave us instructions.  The cruise director was telling people they needed to report to their stations and that they could see them on their balconies.  We were expecting them to do a roll call or scan our Sign and Sail passes, but they never did.  Apparently, they used the cameras around the ship to verify everyone was there.  I would also guess they had stateroom hosts checking the rooms as well.

Before the drill, we did get a chance to check out the Lido deck and get some lunch.  This was a zoo, but we have found this on many cruises on the first day.  Traffic flow was not good.  On top of this, the floor felt slick (and this continued all week).  Bill said they were probably using too much soap and not rinsing good enough so when the humidity hit it, the floors were a bit slick.  The food was very good though.  We didn’t try any of the specialty buffets at this time because the lines were too long, though we noted we would do this during the week.

I should mention that before we boarded, we requested reservations at the steakhouse for the first night.  We had heard that on the first night there was a free bottle of wine with dinner so we wanted to check this out.  When I made the reservation, I thought I would get an email back confirming it, but didn’t.  A few days later I tried again, thinking I made a mistake and again I didn’t get an email.  I called Carnival to confirm.  I was told that we would not get an email but rather an email would be sent to the steakhouse and they would confirm our reservation once onboard.  A few weeks later, we heard that the price at the steakhouse was increasing from $30 to $35 per person but anyone with reservations in advance would pay $30.  When I got onboard, the first thing I did was call the steakhouse, only to be told they did not have a reservation for us.  They could easily make one, but we would be charged $35.

Before we knew it, we were on our way.  Unfortunately, we spent too much time exploring that we missed the sign up for the mixology.  I was going to make “Frog Juice” too!  Here was one of the bars we spent a lot of time in during the week.

Here is a picture inside the comedy club.

Do you see what I see?

Here is a view of the Lido deck.  We only got up here while doing laundry in Cozumel and during the Digital Scavenger Hunt.

We called it an early night (this was a theme for the week for us), but first checked out the FunTimes for Sunday, charting out our day.  I liked this format because there was some information in the flyer, but there was a tear off sheet to carry with you.  This fit nicely folded in quarters in my lanyard holder.  On one side was the schedule.  On the other were times for food and beverage service.

There was a lot of trivia and games that went on every day in Oceans Plaza.  I was really surprised by the number of people that attended these things.  Sunday we had Morning Trivia Fun, Team Trivia, TV Theme Trivia, Super Trivia Challenge, Weakest Chain Trivia, 70’s Name That Tune Trivia and 30 Year Trivia.  We actually won the 30 year trivia (which should have been the 40 year trivia) which was about the history of Carnival Cruise Line.  We won medals for that (which were actually metal!) but on another day we won the coveted 24 carat gold plastic ship on a stick (or as some of the hosts called it – A Piece of Ship).

This day we also participated in the Cooking Demonstration which was in Chef’s Art Steakhouse.  This was great, complementary and we got recipes and samples of four different dishes served in the steakhouse.  Lucky for us they were different dishes than we had the night prior.  At noon we went to the Food & Wine Pairing.  This cost $15 plus gratuity per person, but offered us five wines and a plate of food to sample with the wines.  It was interesting to try the wines separately and with the foods.

That night was the first elegant night.  Elegant night carried restrictions in the dining room and we did see people turned away for wearing shorts and t-shirts, though other nights this was acceptable as long as they weren’t sportswear (gym or basketball shorts) or swimwear.  Baseball hats were not allowed ever.  It was a bit uncomfortable with people in shorts and t-shirts in the dining room, especially the time when a guy near us realized his shirt was on backward and changed it in the dining room.

With Elegant night we had a chance to meet the ship’s officers.  We chatted with a member from the Entertainment staff, Diane, for a bit as she had been at a number of the trivia meets.  She introduced us to the captain and invited us to be her VIP at the 10:30 show in the Encore! Theater.  This was very nice of her and even though a 10:30 show was much later than we would normally do, we decided to stay up.  It was fun to see the show from the second row.  She also brought us a bottle of champagne.  We enjoyed the show, but it was not anywhere near the caliber of show we were used to with Disney.  It was a country music musical.

When we turned in for the night, we realized that even though we were one deck above the open Atrium and about 7 rooms from the elevator lobby, it was still possible to play “Name that Tune” while lying in bed until around midnight each night.  There are openings to the Atrium on every deck by the elevator sides.  The music in there is very loud and travels down the hall.  The only night we couldn’t hear this was when they were running a fan right outside our door due to water by the room next door.

Monday we arrived in Cozumel.  We have been there before and really didn’t want to do anything special so we figured this would be a good opportunity to do a test run of a 5K walk.  It takes 7 1/2 laps on the Lanai to equal a 5K and we set out at noon to do this.  We will be doing the 5K on Castaway Cay in October (check out our fundraising page for Running for Rescues) and wanted to know what to expect with the heat and humidity, while still having the security of the ship so close that we could walk inside if need be.  We made it in under and hour so we were pleased!  October will still be tough!

Here are some photos of the lanai as seen from our room.

What was a bit disappointing was the lack of activities onboard while in port.  Very little was happening.  In the morning we did our laundry and went for a swim in the Sunset Pool.  The pool was a bit cold so we just did the hot tub.  Then we did our walk and got some lunch after cooling off.  We tried the Mongolian Grill which was good, but took a long time (they only were using one side and everything continually ran out).  We didn’t do this again as it wasn’t good enough to wait the amount of time we did.  As long as we are talking about food, for lunch in The Gathering (buffet restaurant on the Lido deck), there was a themed buffet (first day was Italian), plus the Mongolian Grill, The Grill, Tandoor Station, Burrito station, Deli and Fresh Pasta.  We loved the Tandoor Station. Our problem was the hours these locations were available.  On days at sea, the specialty locations were only open until 2:30 and on port days only until 3:30 pm.  The deli was open from 11 am to 11 pm most days and The Grill was open from noon until 6:00 pm.  Pizza was available 24 hours a day, sort of.  We went to The Grill one night after 6:00 pm and found it closed so we decided to go for pizza.  After waiting in line, we found no pizza was ready and anything that you ordered was an 8 – 10 minute wait.  This was during dinner hours and there was a line to get the pizza.  We went to the deli instead and never did try the pizza or the grill.

We were pleased with the dining room and Your Time Dining.  We did find it was best to come very early or very late, that 6:30 to 7:30 were very busy and you would have to wait for a table.  Since I was tired of lines, we just ate at 5:45 pm each day when they opened.  They are very accommodating with your table requests and found a server on the second night we ate there that we liked.  We continually requested him and were seated in the same area each night.  After dinner we made it a habit to check out Sam’s Club and listen to Michael on the piano there.

Our second port of call was Belize.  Unfortunately, the day was grey and overcast, but that didn’t dampen our spirits.  This was a great place to snorkel and we thoroughly enjoyed it.  Here is a photo of our ship from the snorkel boat.

The bad part about Belize is that the ships have to tender and tender a long way.  This process takes 20-25 minutes at least plus the lines onboard to get a tender were insane.  We did a snorkel shore excursion and were picked up at the ship so we didn’t have to experience this.

Our next port was Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan, Honduras.  We had a beautiful day there!  Here is a photo of our arrival.

The port area was contained and had some shops and bars/restaurants.  There was a walkway to a beach and nature trail, but also you could take a chairlift there for $12 per person for an all day pass.  The only bad part about our shore excursion this day was the sea lice.  Once we got out of the area it was much better, but I reacted to the bites more than most people so I ended up using a lot of Benedryl spray for the rest of the week.

Our last port of call was Costa Maya.  Yesterday’s blog was all about this port so check it out!  Fantastic time there, will definitely do that again!

On our last day at sea, I got up much earlier than Bill so I spent some quality time on the balcony, watching the clouds and the ocean.  Can’t get enough of this!

Lots of trivia that day so we got up and got going.  The most fun had to be the Digital Scavenger Hunt.  They had us power walking all over the ship to find (or create) 17 different scenarios on camera.  In the end our team won.  It took us only 20 minutes!

We again stayed up late, wanting to check out Sam’s Bar for the 10:00 set.  We had some time to kill so we went to Encore! for the Liars Club.

One other thing that happened that we were very pleased with was the luggage express plan.  For $20 per person, we could do onboard airline check in.  This was great because we didn’t have to pick up luggage in the terminal at all and were able to get to Disney World for the opening of Hollywood Studios.  This is different than what Disney offers.  Disney offers this service if you have their transfers only.  Carnival offers it regardless of how you are getting to the airport.  Plus Carnival offers it on Southwest, which Disney does not.  Additionally, since we are exempt from paying luggage fees for our first piece of luggage on Delta, we could note that and did not get charged for our luggage.  With Disney, they charge you and they you have to request reimbursement.

Some overall observations for you.  There were a lot of children on the ship and they were more noticeable than on Disney even.  They didn’t seem to be in the clubs as much and were roaming around the ship.  There were lots of lines, and cutting in line was very, very common.  We loved the BBQ on the lanai that was offered on days at sea.  The sushi bar in the evenings was fun to try, but I wasn’t really a fan of the sushi served.  We saw a lot of families and we saw a lot of party people on the cruise with not much in between.  For a line that wants to lose the “Party Ship” stereotype, they do a lot to promote the “Fun Ship” atmosphere, definitely giving it the party ship feel.  Other than Serenity and a couple adults only comedy shows which were enforced, there weren’t any other adult only venues.  We also felt that some of the topics and jokes were not age appropriate for little ears.  This shocked us on more than one occasion.  Finally, tipping was very weird.  There was no place on our receipts to add an additional gratuity.  When we were in the entertainment venues, the entertainers were mentioning giving them tips all the time.  What was weird about this was that we have been accustomed to not carrying cash on the cruise.  We felt bad at times because we couldn’t tip so the last night we got out some cash to tip those we felt should get more.

As I have mentioned before, we had a number of issues on the cruise with Guest Services.  I may expect too much out of a cruise line and therefore, I feel that Carnival is really not the right line for me.  We met a lot of wonderful people on the cruise – both staff and guests and did have a good time.  I did not feel in any way that this was the worst cruise ever, it was far from that.  It was just not up to my personal standards for a cruise.  I think they have some great deals and if you just want to get away, Carnival could be a great choice for you.  We paid less than half what it would have cost us on the Disney Fantasy for the same week.  This was a big consideration when choosing which line to use for my certification.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Just recently cruised the Carnival Dream. For some reason your pics aren’t showing up…would love to see them.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Pam on October 23, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    We were on the Dream last year and loved it. What’s not to love. They make your bed, fix your food, offer entertainment, have a casino…… You have to realize there are a lot of other people on board, be patient, and have a good attitude and life is good! We loved the Dream and are going back on it January 5th of 2013 for my husband’s retirement. Can’t wait.

    Reply

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