Carnival Dream – A very pleasant surprise.

Some time ago, while on a cruise ship port visit to Grand Cayman, we were sitting in the Margaritaville Bar in George Town and could not help noticing the fun a large number of Americans were having. There were five cruise  ships visiting that day, but  it didn’t take us long to establish that these particular folk were from a Carnival one.

It intrigued us so much  that we discussed whether or not this would be a ‘fun’ experience for us and when an opportunity arose  – following our post American Queen stopover in New Orleans –  to take a one week Caribbean  Carnival cruise, it appeared a no brainer…

I booked this cruise with the full expectation that we would be cruising outside of our normal  comfort zone: a different style of cruising, dress codes and social life. And so, on New Years Eve, we embarked on Carnival Dream …

…at New Orleans’ Erato Street Cruise Terminal…

As first timers with Carnival we were somewhat surprised to be allocated an 11.00 am embarkation time but hey-ho, we turned up on time and were quickly processed despite there being an ‘additional’ stage to the check-in process. Incidentally, we were required to produce proof of our ESTA validity.

Once checked in there was the shortest of waits as they called forward by zones…

…and we were onboard minutes after 11.30. Considering that we had no ‘loyalty level’ or ‘privileged suite status’ this proved to be the quickest and most efficient standard embarkation we have ever experienced. Well done Carnival.

Cabins became available for occupation around 1.30 pm and in the meantime bars were open with live musical entertainment in addition to the rather large Lido Buffet being open for lunch. I never did find out whether it was normal practice on any embarkation day or just that it was New Years Eve but having settled down to some lunch in the Lido there was an endless supply of complimentary Champagne: another good start.

On embarkation there were a number of staff, positioned around the Atrium, selling various services. One of particular   interested us was the ‘Carnival’ Wine Deals…

The Deluxe package suited our requirements, primarily because it contained an Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc and a reasonable looking Shiraz…

After a quick calculation an even quicker investment of $133.00 was made…

…producing a whopping saving of $74.00.

 

For this cruise we had chosen a Grade 8D balcony cabin on Deck 9 (Vista Deck)…

Cabin 9251…

*****

*****

*****

*****

*****

Our luggage arrived reasonably promptly and I was delighted to make good use of the ironing facility on Vista Deck...

Prior to our departure from New Orleans a ‘safety drill’ took place. There was no requirement to carry life jackets and all passengers had their ID checked via  card readers and their ‘Sail & Sign’ card at their muster station. Good system.

Safety drill over it was time to start the party. Carnival Dream sailed smack on time at 4.00 pm which was quite marvellous considering the amount of passengers she had embarked. The New Orleans weather was a little bit too chilly for a deck party so the Atrium’s Dream Lobby was the venue…

After a  while we decided to explore the other bars  and, having discovered the ‘Burgundy Lounge’, where a fair few passengers were ensconced, we found a seat and ordered a drink. We now have a confession to make.

One drink followed another, and another and there were trays of beautiful canapés constantly doing the rounds. After about  an hour the Burgundy Lounge was  full, and  service continued, but  we still hadn’t signed a chit.

We then had an inkling this was maybe some function as chaps in suits started introducing themselves…

…and it became clear that the Solents had gatecrashed the casino High Flyers club! Having  thanked our hosts for their kind hospitality, we beat a hasty retreat, and only then  noticed  the banner by the door…

Whoops,  but what an excellent way to start our New Years Eve.

Time for a tour around the ship.

The central hub onboard and easily described as the main thoroughfare is The Dream Lobby on Deck 3, The Atrium…

…which extends up to, and including, Deck 10…

On the Deck 3 can be found Guest Services Desk…

…the Shore Excursion Desk…

…the Dream Bar

…and the entrances to the lower levels of the Encore Theatre (covered later under the Entertainment section) and Crimson Restaurant (Your Time Diners – covered later under Dining)

Surrounding the Atrium on Deck 4  is the Photo Gallery and photo accessory shops…

*****

The photographic department on Carnival Dream is massive and obviously big business. On every occasion we passed through there were queues making purchases.

At this level there were also  the upper level entrances to the Encore Theatre and Crimson Restaurant (Club Diners).

The level surrounding the Atrium at Deck 5  is devoted entirely to retail sales while also providing further access to the Encore Theatre (forward) while moving aft is the entrance to the Casino…

…which also had its own bar…

The casino onboard Carnival Dream was without any doubt the largest I have ever seen onboard a cruise ship. What’s more, when the ship was at sea and it was open one would struggle to get a seat at any of the tables or slot machines. Sadly for us there was no ban on smoking in the Casino so despite the earlier hospitality we experienced we were unable to reciprocate in kind.

Continuing aft on Deck 5, beyond the Casino, was one of our favourite areas for a pre-dinner drink and musical entertainment, The Ocean Plaza…

*****

The Ocean Plaza was served by both the Alchemy Bar…

…and the Plaza Cafe…

Continuing further aft along Deck 5 is the Client Night Club…

Sam’s Piano bar…

The Song…

and that place we discovered on day one, The Burgundy Lounge…

*****

*****

Time for a look out on deck, so let’s start on Deck 10, Lido Deck and Waves Pool…

As we found warmer weather it soon filled up…

In this midships area there are two food outlets, the Blue Iguana serving Mexican food and Guy’s Burger Bar. There are also two drinks bars, The Red Frog Rum Bar…

 

…and the Blue Iguana Tequila Bar…

The really big attraction for the children onboard is the Water Twister…

Further aft is another pool, the Sunset Pool…

which also has its own bar, not surprisingly called The Sunset Bar…

There are also two further food outlets at the Sunset Pool, The Pizzeria and The Tandoor: both of which will feature later in the dining section of this review.

Still aft and on higher decks are the Mini Golf course…

…and the Netball Games area…

Indeed, there always appeared to be ample deck space and plenty of sunbeds to go round…

One deck area that particularly appealed to my wife and me was the Serenity Adult only Retreat…

 

*****

*****

A really great exclusive area for adults only with more than adequate comfortable sunbeds and its own bar.

Dining on board Carnival Dream

We had opted for ‘Your Time Dining’ so were basically free to decide what time we wished to take dinner, between the hours of 5.45 pm and 9.30 pm. There are two main restaurants on Carnival Dream, the Scarlet and the Crimson, both with upper and lower levels. My Time Dining passengers use the Crimson Restaurant lower level…

Restaurants on Carnival Dream also follow the evening’s dress code for how the tables are laid. On ‘Cruise Elegant’ evenings – there were two on our 7 night cruise – tablecloths are laid as seen above.

On ‘Cruise Casual’ evenings tables are laid without tablecloths, as seen here in the Scarlet Restaurant…

Both my wife and I found dining onboard Carnival Dream a real pleasure. Apart from the sheer variety of food outlets the quality of everything we chose was excellent. Neither was there ever a problem dining at whatever time we opted to eat. Tables for two were never a problem and on a number of occasions we were seated at a table laid for four and the additional cutlery was simply moved off. Staff were invariably excellent and the table team’s names were always on the table…

…another nice touch.

Here’s a sample of the menus from the Crimson Restaurant…

*****

*****

*****

 

And a few sample dishes…

Seared Tuna Appetizer…

Prime Rib Main Course…

King Prawn Main Course…

Amaretto Cake Dessert…

There was one other excellent restaurant facility that we enjoyed immensely. On the three sea days, in the Scarlet Restaurant, we were offered  ‘Sea Day Brunch’ operating between 8.30 am and 1.00 pm…

*****

…where the Eggs Benedict were superb…

All very civilised, unhurried,  excellent coffee and a pleasure to experience.

Around the ship other eating outlets included the Blue Iguana Cantina…

…with its self service Salsa Bar…

Guy’s Burger Joint…

(Which we can vouch  served really great burgers)

 

Pizzeria del Capitano…

*****

(Incidentally, the pizzeria was open 24 hours a day)

Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse on 5 Deck Midships…

 

…and the Tandoor on 10 Deck Aft…

*****

All these eating venues were in addition to the multitude of various food counters in the Lido Buffet…

…examples of which were…

The Mongolian Wok…

*****

The Carvery…

 

Italian…

 

…and another favourite of ours, The Carnival Deli, open from 11.00 am to 11.00 pm…

*****

with the Turkey & Avocado in Pretzel Bun…

Spoilt for choice?

There were also two ‘speciality’ restaurants onboard for which there was a supplement to be paid, the Bonsai Sushi…

*****

…and The Chef’s Art Steakhouse…

The menu for which was…

*****

*****

The food in the Chef’s Art Steakhouse was excellent…

*****

…however, with a surcharge of $35.00 per person the service fell short of what was expected.

Entertainment.

Central to the ship’s entertainment programme was the Encore Theatre…

Initial reaction was that it looked a little dated however, having tried it we found it very practical…

Over the 7 nights we were on board the Production Company put on four great  shows including a real screamer, Flick, The Show…

Next in overall capacity, and certainly in popularity,  was the Burgundy Lounge…

Most evenings saw a good four sessions of ‘The Punchliner Comedy Club’…

…with the latter two carrying a ‘Over 18’ programme  restriction.

Other activities including quizzes and bingo were available during the day as well as one that particularly caught our eye, A Military and Veterans  Appreciation Gathering.  I really liked the way the Cruise Director opened the event: introducing one of the lead male singers from the ship’s production team to give a great rendition of…

 

The event concluded with a group photograph which, when we went to purchase a copy from the Photo Gallery, the staff wouldn’t hear of us (Veterans) being charged…

Lovely touch.

I covered the Ocean Plaza on my earlier tour along Deck 5: we spent many enjoyable pre-dinner hours there listening to live music, solos, country and western and sometimes just instrumentals…

I also mentioned The Song, further back on Deck 5: here we would drop in occasionally to witness  karaoke or, if they were at a convenient time, an English couple playing Country and Western, Two’s Company…

Of course not all ‘entertainment’ was restricted to the evenings and one sea day we were just so pleased we pitched up to watch a bit of fun around the Lido Pool…

Yes folks, this was the ‘Hairy Chest Contest’ complete with the three female judges…

…and the contest commenced…

*****

…and the eventual winner with his bottle of Bubbly…

All good fun that helped pass away half an hour.

That just about concludes the entertainment section of this review though I would like to add one or two other photographs of an event that I found entertaining. The crew on Carnival Dream certainly go in for ‘towel animals’ in a big way. Imagine my surprise when emerging onto the Lido Deck early one morning and discovering this …

*****

*****

*****

and this…

It certainly brought a smile to my face if not to the laundry man’s.

Some Miscellany

One or two oddments found around the ship. We certainly liked the idea of the Sail & Sign Kiosk…

…where it was possible to manage your onboard account, add funds and print off an onboard statement.

For those who needed cash for whatever reason there was also an ATM…

…and a Laundrette operated with the ‘Sail & Sign’ card…

 

Itinerary

Our first port of call was Montego Bay…

This was our second visit here in 12 months but we had planned one visit plus some beach time. Knowing the ropes we walked through the terminal and out onto the open road at the end of the Terminal Drive. Here we negotiated with a local taxi driver a reasonable fare for the return journey to Rose Hall…

Rose Hall is a Georgian mansion in Montego Bay, Jamaica, noted for the legend of the White Witch. This Eighteenth Century plantation Great House is an exquisite architectural celebration of Jamaica’s heritage and culture enhanced by tales of the famed Lady of the house, Annee Palmer – the ‘White Witch of Rose Hall’…

Rose Hall was restored in the 1960s to its former splendour and was bought in 1977 by former Miss USA Michele Rollins and her entrepreneur husband John Rollins. They refurbished it at great personal expense and conceptualised a tour and museum that showcase Rose Hall’s slave history, antique splendour and original fittings

*****

Admittance to Rose Hall is $20.00 and this includes a guided tour of the house and grounds…

…including a call at The White Witch’s tomb…

 

On our return journey we decided to dispense with our taxi as we passed the Old Hospital Park. We took a photograph of the blowhole at the side of Margaritaville …

…and walked through the park to  One Man Beach…

A short distance from Margaritaville is the Old Hospital Beach or One Man Beach – fronting on Old Hospital Park.

This is a  free access beach with crystal clear waters,  perfect white sand and dotted with coconut and almond trees. Together with the adjacent oddly named Dump-Up Beach, (also free access), they are popular with locals but never crowded.

We spent some time in the water….

…before heading off for the 25 minute walk back to the ship: seen in the distance.

The next day and our second port of call was Grand Cayman…

… where, due to adverse winds on one side of the island, we were diverted from the capital, George Town, to an altogether more peaceful side, Spotts…

Sports is a sandy  public beach just yards from the landing jetty- seen here from the tender as we docked…

Having visited Grand Cayman not so long ago we had not booked any shore excursions here. It was, however,  noted that the locals and ship’s excursion teams were well versed in the change of landing venue and no excursions were cancelled…

…while plenty of transport was on hand for those wishing to explore the island further afield…

Spotts Public Beach was outstanding and, unlike those along Seven mile Beach, there was no charges…

There was a great jetty to  aid water entry and exit and a large bale of turtles just to the left of the jetty…

Having spent a couple of hours on the beach I took myself off on a solo mission to find the Grand Cayman Brewery. This was around a 30 minute walk and offered the additional benefit of fresh views of the three ships at anchor…

The Cayman Islands Brewery is in the Prospect District and was easy to find…

*****

For around an hour I had the place to myself…

*****

…well, just me and the barmaid…

though later two ships excursions arrived, one Carnival and one from Celebrity…

The visitors stayed for around half an hour and it was good to chat to some…

…before peace returned and just a few ‘independents’ remained…

There was a great Wifi signal in the Brewery, the strength matched by their top brew, I was on the Ironshore…

 

 

Despite the copious quantities consumed  I managed to make it back to the Spotts Jetty in good time to catch a tender back to the ship…

The following day we arrived in Cozumel where we were one of 8 cruise ships visiting that day…

We berthed at the Puerta Maya Cruise Terminal while at the Punta Langosta Terminal was Norwegian Getaway and Vision of the Seas with Silver Muse out at anchor…

This was our third Cozumel visit in 24 months so we had covered the area, including a Chitzen Itza excursion, pretty well.

The one thing we hadn’t done was a concentrated bar exploration. Time for a margarita or two and the odd frozen daiquiri while lapping up Cozumel’s Christmas Spirit…

Fat Tuesday’s…

*****

The Blue Angel (good Wifi)…

No Name Crew Bar (more good Wifi)…

Senor Frog’s…

…and back nearer the ship, the Three Amigos…

Our final day was a sea say as we headed back to New Orleans where we were to disembark. Again, the Carnival organisation was faultless with comprehensive briefing and instructions…

Those passengers with later flight times were given later disembarkation times…

…and we eventually made our way into the terminal and used Uber for our taxi to the airport for our flight home.

As luck would have it our Delta flight overflew New Orleans and the Mississippi at just the right time for one final photograph, Carnival Dream heading off on her next cruise and passing ‘The World’…

 

Summary:

Any anxieties we may have had about cruising with Carnival were soon forgotten. We booked directly with a very small deposit and from the moment of booking we appreciated their fine tuned administrative organisation: it sure makes a difference particularly up to the time of boarding.

We equally rated both the food and entertainment ‘very good’ and the buzz around the ship, from the moment we arrived onboard, was electric:  we often struggled to fit in everything that we would have liked to do.

Reflecting back to our original reason for wanting to try Carnival, one thing was for sure – Carnival passengers have an ethos that dictates they are going to enjoy themselves and, by hook or by crook, they do. We found those with whom we came into close contact to be fun,  friendly, ultra polite and interested in us as much as we were with them.

One of the most surprising things was the standard, ambiance and level of dress on the two ‘Cruise Elegant’ nights. It was good to see that almost everyone made the effort.

Overall we had a most enjoyable time for a very reasonable price and can happily recommend this type of cruise to anyone who will enjoy a relaxed and fun cruising environment.

 

 

If you have enjoyed this review of a cruise onboard Carnival Dream  and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews including a first time cruise with Princess Cruises,  plus  Solent Richard’s next  port reviews featuring  Jakarta and Bali,  why not join over 650  followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page.

You will be alerted by email immediately a new post appears.

©2016 – 18 * Solent Richard’s Cruise Blog * All Rights Reserved

Duplication in part or whole without prior written consent is prohibited by international laws.

 

Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

 

7 responses to “Carnival Dream – A very pleasant surprise.

  1. First-class review as usual. Makes very enjoyable reading especially on a dreary February day. Sailed on Queen Elizabeth at Xmas/New Year. Excellent, but Carnival looks more fun, and weather was definitely much better.

  2. I always thought earplugs were a necessity on Carnival least when I watched passengers leave on Alaska run at our local port
    You have to give Americans credit, they get on to have fun period
    Great review Richard
    As I said earlier Liz and I were at the same Grand Cayman Bar as you last April 2017 during our Panama Canal transit on Queen Victoria
    Rob

  3. The free-flowing Champagne is certainly not standard, but nice to see them marking the festive season.

    I have to say that this review echoes our experience. After numerous sailings on a variety of lines, it’s hard to convince us that there’s not a direct correlation between price and quality; there have been two exceptions to this – Carnival far exceeding expectations in almost all areas, and another line, falling far short, but we’ll leave that discussion for now.

    I’d also pick up on what you said about the muster drill and the punctual departure – the operation is slick, well thought out and well managed. Indeed, it frustrates me that the expertise hasn’t been cascaded to some of the other brands owned by Carnival Corporation.

  4. Glad to read this very good review. Sailed twice with Carnival and enjoyed both cruises. Its a shame so many people are very snobbish and discount Carnival without even trying. Thanks Richard I always enjoy your reviews.

  5. Pingback: Cruising Mates | Solent Richard's Cruise Blog·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s