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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Carnival Cruise Line

MS Carnival Dream

Rating: Four Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Carnival Cruise Lines
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 2009 / 2009
Length / Tonnage: 1,004 / 130,000
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 1,823 / 3,652
Officers / Crew: Italian / International
Operating Area: Caribbean

Review by Matt Sudders, Guest Reviewer

Carnival Dream launched her year round, 7 night sailings from Port Canaveral on 12th December. I was onboard to see just what this 'new class' of Carnival flagship had to offer. At 130,000gt the Dream is Carnival's largest ship to date, and apart from the QM2, the largest ship in the Carnival Corporation. This was not my first cruise (about 40th I think) nor my first carnival cruise, and I like to sail all the brands and all the ships – I want to try everything before choosing a favourite! Carnival Dream has a stated lower berth capacity of 3,646 and on this cruise she was actually carrying 4,200 with 700 kids onboard, presumably many occupying the upper berths.

Carnival describe the Dream as a new class with 'stunning new features' including the Lanai (a wraparound promenade deck with 4 whirlpools which overhang the ships side), and some other features too.

In reality Dream is based upon the line's Destiny/ Conquest class but this version has had more changes than previous updates/ new versions. The class has been criticised in the past for passenger flow to the larger, aft dining room and this has been addressed with a new lower arcade running alongside the forward dining room and conference centre.

Public Areas
Previously the Destiny/ Conquest class had a promenade deck on level 3 which basically went nowhere – there was a single set of doors from the atrium lobby from which you had to enter or leave this promenade. This has now gone with the installation of the Lanai. Carnival have adopted the outboard hung lifeboats (as on Oasis) which are stowed under the new promenade deck.

Forward, the main theatre has grown, mainly with the addition of a lot of 'bad' seats along the sides which have only a limited view of the stage. Carnival have also installed some bench seats in the atrium to watch as the performances spill over at the end of the main shows. The atrium upper levels have always been a pinch point for traffic post shows and this is little different on the Dream.

The other principle change is up top on the Lido. The ship has a double deck space forward of the funnel with Seaside theatre screen and it is here that the laser shows are scheduled. The Lido is little changed (counters serving certain items have swapped places) from the Freedom, with the exception of the change of the upper aft level into a Pasta Bar. The Carnival website provides plenty of deckplans and pictures so I won't dwell on that, just tell you about the experience.

The cruise director was Todd Whitmer. He ran the usual range of activities - nothing particularly special or unusual. He did however talk and talk and talk. There was a drill on the Costa Maya day and Todd was giving crew instructions. I hope he can learn the art of brevity before any real emergency because otherwise the ship would have sunk before he'd got to the point about getting off...

We made a lot of use of the Lanai – which was one of the few uncrowded areas of the ship, especially the whirlpools. The noise from here obviously carries very well and be prepared to be social. It's a bit like sitting in a whirlpool and watching a ship sail by. We had lots of conversations with people on balconies (is it warm, room for another etc), even upto deck 9.

Boarding the Dream was relatively efficient and it was straight upto the Lido for lunch. Although the food was, as always fine, it was obvious here that space was at a huge premium. Where there had been walk through passageways on the Freedom, these were now filled with tables. In the buffet Carnival like to offer a number of 'made to order' items, including Deli Sandwiches, Mongolian Wok and Burrito Bars. Truth is though that there simply isn't the space or the staff to do this properly. The buffet counters had lines for all these items which obstructed access to the other, pre-prepared items. Net result, wherever you went were long, long queues. The one exception was the upper Pasta Bar. I don't think most people found it and as a consequence, it was possibly the only place where you could find a seat at mealtimes.

Breakfast in this area was just as bad, and one could see why it was called 'The Gathering'. Equally 'Refugee feeding station' might have been an appropriate name given the queues of people holding up empty plates and shouting.

As a sign of just how bad things have got at lunch times, Carnival are introducing a Lanai Barbecue, in the hope of taking some of the pressure off the Lido. A good idea on an underused space, although watch out if you have a deck 6 cabin, did you book a BBQ smell and view experience?!

The main dining room was a much better place at Dinner, but again there were big queues stretching down corridors to get in for breakfast. One morning there was a low-cost airline style approach of telling people nearing the front of the queue that they would not be served breakfast in the dining room as they were too late (despite queueing for 15-20 minutes). After some vigorous protesting staff relented…

We were seated in the aft dining room and Farcus had worked his usual here. But gone too far. On the upper level he had designed in high barriers so that it was only possible to see down into the main level through an obscured Perspex view. Worse still the seating and tables were fixed in position in many places. How can I put this delicately – they weren't fixed with American cruise passenger size in mind and they were a squeeze for some, with the chairs also being too low for the table. The dining room staff let us into a little secret, that they had been forced to change some of this after the ship was delivered, and they noted that more had to be done to this ship post delivery than previous Carnival vessels. Also the increase in seating makes it a slalom to get to some tables with no longer any through routes to the aft end lower level.

I had Cabin 1203 on 1 deck, the cheapest category 1A – and it was a very good choice. A spacious cabin which despite being officially inside, was actually with 2 portholes, and a complimentary bow thrusters alarm call at ports.

Post Dinner I like to go to the shows, and as ever with Carnival they remain high energy and visually spectacular with Carnival being one of those companies that uses the theatre capabilities fully. Unfortunately the previously mentioned seating expansion means that many of the new seats (side benches) have a poor view and for some shows I strongly advise getting there early to sit in the middle if you don't want to miss things.

The Dream has adopted the Carnival Comedy Club in the aft, Burgundy, lounge and this was very popular. Naturally you'll understand more as an American (quite a lot of the jokes required some US knowledge) but I enjoyed them anyhow. This has given that aft lounge a purpose and vibrancy which seemed lacking on previous Destiny/ Conquest class ships.

The Piano Bar was popular too and now spills out into the promenade. I can't say that I thought too much of the performer, who's shouty style and constant demanding of tips (the song gets played when the dead Presidents sing…) became irritating.

According to Carnival and the programme we were to be treated to Laser shows throughout the cruise. The unfortunate truth is that these afterthoughts simply don't work. The lasers need something to be projected onto and the 4 temporary smoke machines just have the smoke blow away (who knew that smoke would blow away on a moving ship….). The crew were really embarrassed by these shows and admitted that they weren't designed into the ship, and had been rushed in 6 weeks from idea to implementation. In the end on our trip they gave up after one memorable attempt where the show (should be no show) ended and people made a point of sitting on their hands and not clapping, and then there was canned applause…. Within the Carnival Corporation, the AIDA ships have this working fine (its designed in and projects onto a flat, white surface) – if only there was adequate cross-brand learning.

The post of call on this trip were Cozumel, Mahogany Bay (Roatan), Belize and Costa Maya. Walking independently around Cozumel was my favourite. Mahogany Bay is a picturesque 'disneyfied' Caribbean artificial area. There is a much vaunted chair ride, although I couldn't see the value in being lifted about the length of the ship on a park bench dangling from a phone wire – at $5, but that's just me. Even the beach is artificial here too, and the whole area is fenced off from the locals.

Costa Maya is not somewhere I ever want to stop again. A 3 ship pier with a shopping market and poky beach, all miles from anywhere and created just for ship calls, this is one extra sea day I would prefer…

On the final sea day we enjoyed the behind the fun tour, which was interesting. We did note that as a result of the Lanai is it now impossible for the ships' officers to see the sides of the ship when docking, a somewhat suboptimal solution I think.

Overall this cruise was good value, but frankly not something I would hurry to do again. The Dream is simply too crowded a ship, one which has outgrown its basic infrastructure and skeleton. Whether its lines for food, poor theatre seats, waiting for elevators etc, this is simply a tweaked Destiny with far far too many people vying for its facilities. It was really noticeable how in the final days the crew were pleading with passengers to rate them individually and not the ship. The cruise director asked us to note that the staff worked hard but 'send our message to Carnival HQ' via the handwritten comments. They all know this is a ship with problems. Todd W kept saying that the Dream had 800 more passengers than the Freedom but the same number of crew - I can't verify those figures though.

Ultimately this won't however stop me from sailing with Carnival again for a value vacation. I'll just keep to my order of preference
1) Spirit Class
2) Destiny/ Conquest - if essential for price/ itinerary
3) Never again - Dream class

And so I get back to the title. If only Micky Arison had played Sim Tower – a computer game a bit like Sim City where you build and run a tower block at a profit. It shows you that you can only grow your tower a certain amount before a new building is needed because you won't have enough elevators, parking spaces, food serverys etc and your tenants eventually desert because there are better buildings elsewhere. Perhaps if Arison and Carnival naval architects had taken that game for a spin we wouldn't have ended up with the Carnival Dream… And how disappointing that there is the Magic and even the 3rd one (Wonder or Passion were both suggested).

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