Carnival Cruise Lines
by Bud Lockwood
October 9, 2010
My wife, Ginny, and I cruised on the Carnival Dream from Port Canaveral, Florida to the Eastern Caribbean ports of Nassau, St. Thomas and St. Maarten, embarking on Saturday, October 9th and disembarking on Saturday, October 16th. We live only 40 minutes from the port so we drive and park at the port terminal garage which costs $15 per day. We booked the Dream because it was Carnival’s newest and largest ship. We enjoy large ships
The Dream is a beautiful ship, filled with familiar Carnival venues and complemented by some new features. Previous Carnival guests will feel comfortable with the layout and be surprised by a couple of the additions. There were a lot of dining choices, good food and excellent service.
We did feel, however, that Carnival seemed to come up a little short in managing the larger numbers of people in its venues, especially the deck 10 buffet, called the Gathering. There were always delays, not necessarily long lines, but delays
The line also attracts families with children and could do a better job of controlling the noise and activities in the cabin hallways. Each evening there was celebrating, discussions and unsupervised children in the hallways long after bedtime.
Guests were encouraged to check in as early as 10:30 AM. We received a telephone call confirming that fact. Boarding began at 11:15 AM. Rooms were available at 1:30 PM. The embarkation process was smooth. We arrived at the port at about !0: 45 AM, parked our car, checked through security, checked in, had our ID photos taken, and were on board shortly after 11:15 AM
We booked cabin 7355 located near midship on deck 7, conveniently located near the action on both the upper deck restaurants and the decks 4 and 5 activities. We selected “Your Time Dining” with dinner assigned in the Crimson restaurant. We were pleased with both selections.
The Dream is Carnival’s largest ship. The design of the public rooms, including colors and use of lighting and glass, was excellent. The atrium area is especially colorful with a lot of photo possibilities. The Lanai, a promenade on deck 5, is a new feature. It includes several whirlpools, a deck circling the ship, outside dining tables and chairs and hundreds of deck chairs.
Dining and entertainment venues were centered on decks 3, 4 and 5 along with decks 10 and higher. We spent a lot of time on deck 5 during the day and there were plenty of options for things to do. We don’t use the pools but they were central features for many, many people. There were plenty of deck chairs scattered across decks 10 and higher.
DINING AND FOOD
The Dream had numerous options for dining including the main Scarlet and Crimson restaurants. “Your time” dining was hosted in the Crimson restaurant and deck 4 while scheduled dining for the early and late seatings were in the two decks of the Scarlet and the lower deck of the Crimson restaurants.
We tried the buffet for breakfast, the pasta bar, the deli, the Mongolian Wok. The food was fine. We missed several options including a barbecue on sea days on the lanai.
Cruising provides excellent opportunities to sample excellent food. Our meals included cold fruit soups which are very tasty. They included strawberry bisque, bing cherry and peach. We tried very good entrees that included lobster tail and tiger shrimp, basa filets, petit filet of beef, pork loin and deserts like cherries jubilee. The pasta bar was nice. The Mongolian Wok was tasty but beware the hot sauce! The deli sandwiches were also good, prepared to each persons taste.
The buffet was a problem. It seemed like there were nearly always slow moving lines. The cause, we concluded, was the selection of foods available in each line and the order of their arrangement. Carnival needs to solve this problem. There was plenty of seating in the buffet area even on embarkation day.
Service in all the areas was excellent. The staff were friendly and accommodating. It was highlighted by our lead waitress, Ulla from Latvia, and her assistants Janos and Gibson, in the Crimson dining room. They were well organized, efficient, and friendly, even on nights when they were extremely busy. Waiters and waitresses in each of the venues were very good as were the staff in the guest relations area. They were obviously well trained, experienced and well managed. Our cabin steward, Arnold, and his assistants were also very good.
THINGS A LITTLE DIFFERENT
The cruise industry evolves to better serve so there are frequently “new” features on cruises. This was no different although we had experienced some on previous cruises.
- Facial recognition technology was employed to provide computer access to photos taken throughout the cruise. A master photo was taken at embarkation and matched to your sign and sail card. The system needs work. It was interesting, and humorous, to swipe your card at the computer station and see whose photos appeared. We never did find photos we wanted.
- Safety drills are now held, and have been held for months, without carrying life jackets to the muster stations. Nice.
- “Elegant Evening” has replaced formal night. Dress is far less formal with many less coats and ties appearing on “elegant evening” nights. This is probably great for families with children.
- Gratuity envelopes for wait and room steward staff were not distributed. Gratuities are automatically charged to your shipboard account and the envelope exercise has been eliminated, at least we never received any.
- Guest survey sheets never appeared and there were no announcements about them. That is a mistake. Carnival will receive neither compliments of its operation and staff nor suggestions.
- Electronic casino accounts are now mandatory although they are not totally new. Every player needs to establish a PIN, then use it to cash out when leaving a slot machine in the casino. We like the system but it was very confusing for many guests. For gamblers there are a lot of one and two penny slot machines and two electronic poker tables.
- Room TV channels included no sports or business channels. Sports channels were available on several large screens in the casino bar.
Disembarkation at the end of the cruise was relatively smooth. Those picking up bags in the terminal did have to wait longer than expected, probably because they were allowed off the ship sooner than expected leaving the conveyer belts filled with bags of guests still on the ship. We were off the ship and home by 9:00 AM.
Disembarkation at the ports of call was efficiently handled with minimal lines.
The Carnival Dream is a very nice ship and I highly recommend it for families, especially those with children. The venues, dining, food, entertainment options and relaxation options are very nice. The staff were very good. Ulla and her team were excellent!
The venues did not appear to be enlarged properly to accommodate the growth in guests. The “Gathering” buffet needs some attention to speed the flow of guests through the lines.