The crew of the Dream was marvelous. Very hard working, well trained, friendly and polite in all cases. The only drawback is that some did not have much English, so you need to pay attention to make sure they understand what you are saying. It is amazing how many countries are represented on the crew. We only met one American who happened to work at the shore excursion desk.
The food varies from below average to very good. It appears that the company cuts corners on some ingredients, especially meats. The chef does a good job of compensating with fancy preparation and exotic sauces, but as any cook knows, the most basic secret to good food is to start with the best ingredients. The service was excellent in all the restaurants, and we were usually able to be seated without waiting (except for a 10-minute wait one evening at the height of the dinner hour).
The Bistro is the only restaurant with an additional charge ($15 per person) and it also had the best food. I'd say The Trattoria (Italian cuisine) was second best. We missed the famous chocolate buffet, since it was presented at 10 p.m. on Friday. We were very tired from our long shore excursion and were not willing to stay up that late.
These vary greatly in quality and are not under the direct control of NCL. The local contractors seem to want you to have a good time. Our favorite excursion was the Jungle Canopy Tour on Roatan, which involves flying through the forest suspended below steel cables on a pulley. The young men and women who run the tour (more like a thrill ride) are very professional and careful. Our least favorite tours involved long bus rides to distant Mayan ruins. The ones to Tulum and Xunantunich (El Castillo) involve a four-hour roundtrip with only about 90 minutes at the site. Tulum was too crowded to take many photographs of the ruins. If you like to snorkel or scuba, I'd say the water-based excursions are your best bet. Our friends said that they liked the cave tubing, and we enjoyed the dune buggy/snorkel excursion on Cozumel.
One problem that affects almost all shore excursions is getting folks off the ship. On the morning of port days, everyone with a ticket for a shore excursion must gather in the large theater (Stardust Lounge) and wait until your excursion is called for disembarkation. If the tenders are being used, you can easily wait there for an hour. Then the boat ride to shore can take another 30 minutes or more. This takes a big chunk out of your recreation time. We were able to dock in Cozumel, which was really nice. At Roatan, we rode a tender to shore in the morning, then the ship was able to dock in the afternoon after another ship left and opened up space. Riding in the tenders is somewhat uncomfortable and could be a problem for handicapped passengers.
We only caught one performance by the Jean Ann Ryan Company. It was called "Rock This Town," a tribute to famous Broadway musicals, notably by Bob Fosse. The subject matter seemed rather bland and dated to me, but would probably be very appropriate for viewers over 65. While I was not interested in the music, I was fascinated by the quality of the performers. They have some very talented singers and dancers. There was a male/female pair of ballet dancers and an Olympic-level gymnast who managed to work their routines into the overall Broadway musical theme. It was kind of odd, but a great tribute to the performers, who were making do with a small cast and limited budget. I imagine that this is a great place for young entertainers to gain experience before making their way to Broadway or Las Vegas. One of them, probably the best singer, was honored at the end of the show since it was her last before taking a role in an unnamed Broadway show.
All our friends seemed very happy with their accommodations. There was plenty of room to unpack into drawers and closets. The bathrooms are quite small, but very well designed to make use of every cubic inch. A large person could still have a problem moving around in the bathroom and especially in the shower. The beds seem quite comfortable. TV reception is limited to just a few channels off the satellite plus a few channels of ship information that come in rather handy.
The ship appears very well maintained, but as others on this message board have said, it is an older ship and not up to the standards of newer, larger vessels. I noticed certain areas for improvement. The ship's plumbing system has some minor problems. The vacuum toilet system seems to allow frequent escapes of what plumbers call sewer gas. This is most noticeable in your own little bathroom, but you will notice whiffs of nastiness as you walk down various passageways. The freshwater system provides plenty of hot water for showers, but while at sea, the water takes on a yellowish color, perhaps due to rusty sediment sloshing around in the water tanks.
Many areas of the ship were rather noisy. In the Observatory Lounge, you could hear people playing shuffleboard on the deck above. In the cabins, you could hear passengers next door talking or watching TV. If you are on Deck 6, you are under the running/walking track and will hear the footsteps of everyone who passes overhead.
Our biggest complaint of the whole cruise was the amount of motion we felt while underway. The Dream is supposed to be equipped with roll stabilizers, but there seemed to be a lot more rolling than you would expect given the fairly calm conditions. Maybe the stabilizers were turned off or maybe we were just too sensitive, this being our first cruise. Using the outdoor running track that circles Deck 7 was difficult for some folks who like to jog.
In addition to the rolling, there were a lot of odd, sharp shuddering motions from side to side and vertically. It was like riding in a motor home with bad suspension on a curvy, bumpy road. Our cabin was on Deck 6 amidships and we were amazed at how much more motion there was when we went up to the restaurants on Decks 10-12. Most of these were located at the stern, where the beat of the propellers added a strong vibration to the other motions. It was funny to watch the water sloshing violently in the two swimming pools. Don't count on using the pools while the ship is underway, as you will feel like you are in a washing machine. The crew closes the pools when it gets unsafe.
I survived the first day by using a scopalamine patch, then I guess I got my sea legs and did not need to put a patch on again until the last day headed back across open water to New Orleans. We found it quite annoying to have to deal with so much motion. It was hard to relax and enjoy the trip. As I type this I still feel as if the floor is rocking a bit.
While we were impressed with the performance of the crew and enjoyed a safe, uneventful cruise, we don't think we would do this one again. It might be worth trying one of the larger, newer ships someday.