The 130,000-ton Carnival Dream is the largest and longest among Carnival’s ships
When the christening is over, the hoopla just a memory and the VIPs depart, all that matters about a new ship is whether the guests like it. How is the experience? Does it live up to expectations?
Travel Agent sailed on a two-night Carnival Dream cruise from New York during mid-November to review the new ship. As Carnival Cruise Lines’ largest and longest, the 130,000-ton vessel is the first in the Dream-class; sister ship Carnival Magic will launch in 2011.
While this was a revenue cruise with enthusiastic guests onboard, it was also a short and unusual cruise. As the remnants of Hurricane Ida impacted the voyage—with wind, rain, cold weather and rocky seas on tap—guests were unable to participate in most outdoor activities. That said, here are our initial observations:
The Brand: Guests board Carnival Dream seeking fun, and they’ll get more of it on this ship. For example, the new Ocean Plaza entertainment complex area features eclectic interior lounges, live entertainment and a coffee bar/patisserie; outside is an encircling promenade deck with cantilevered exterior whirlpools. It’s a great spot for libations, activities and just plain fun.
Family Fun: With more than 19,000 square feet of space for kids and teens, the Carnival Dream is home to a large Camp Carnival area for kids ages 2-11. Two of the coolest spots on the ship are for older kids—Circle C (12-14) and the Club O2 (15-17). The biggest problem Carnival may have with these venues is keeping the adults out. Beyond the clubs, kids and teens gravitated to a pirate-themed miniature golf course atop the ship.
WaterWorks: Carnival Dream’s star attraction is the WaterWorks aqua park. Thrill seekers should head for the 303-foot-long Twister waterslide, the longest at sea. A separate DrainPipe slide is comprised of a giant funnel attached to an enclosed 104-foot-long spiral slide. Two 80-foot racing slides and water spray toys round out the fun. While rain and wind closed the slides during our cruise, adults and kids constantly streamed by to wistfully admire them.
Relaxation for Adults: Both the 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa and the adults-only Serenity relaxation area are the largest on any Carnival ship. The Carnival Dream’s 11,250-square-foot, two-level Serenity area is reached either via a glass elevator from the Cloud 9 Spa or two staircases. Serenity area guests will enjoy a full-service bar in a shaded lower area; two upper-level whirlpools with sea views; and seven types of seating from plush chaise lounges to hammocks.
Balconies come closest to the water line in the Cove Cabins
Decor and Design: Designer Joe Farcus created a softer styling on this ship. While Carnival Dream is still fun and glitzy, it’s also easy on the eyes. The stunning atrium is comprised of solid yellowish-gold panels with imbedded LED lights; glass elevators change colors as they move. The atrium’s bar entertainment area is now mid-level adjacent to a spectacular atrium staircase. It’s better positioned and allows guests on multiple atrium levels to sit on curved sofas and enjoy the entertainment.
The Scarlet and Crimson restaurants and several lounges are tastefully aglow in red; our Crimson restaurant had stunning Murano-glass chandeliers. Throughout the ship’s public areas, you won’t find as many heavily themed venues as on other Carnival ships but one high-art concept room is the Burgundy Lounge with masks everywhere; it’s a celebration of designer Joe Farcus’ love of all things Venetian.
Savory Cuisine: Our group dined in the Crimson restaurant and loved the escargot, spa cuisine, lobster, steak, shrimp and other fare. Unfortunately, we didn’t have an opportunity to dine in the Chef’s Art Steakhouse, but it seemed an elegant, intimate spot. The sushi bar was packed nightly. Room service was on time and as ordered.
On the Lido Deck, The Gathering area’s Italian pasta bar and burrito bar were big hits with guests. The Tandoori food station offers a wide selection of Indian menu items to please both meat eaters and vegetarians. My favorite station was the Mongolian Grill, serving Asian cuisine freshly cooked to order.
Space: As Carnival’s biggest and longest ship ever built, Carnival Dream carries 3,646 passengers in double occupancy or around 4,600 if you count third berths (kids in the cabins). Yes, guests have enough places to get away from the crowds but it’s good to educate clients that on bad-weather days, they likely will encounter lines for the most popular dining and entertainment areas.
For example, the passenger capacity of The Gathering, the buffet-style Lido Deck restaurant, is 1,794. So imagine the scenario when nearly 4,000 passengers on our cruise wanted to stay inside due to the weather. Many headed to The Gathering for snacks, drinks, ice cream or a full meal. The venue became chaotic. Hint? Try the main dining room for breakfast/lunch or head upstairs to The Gathering’s second level for a bit of breathing space and more seating.
High-Technology: Thanks to a new rudder and hull design, Carnival Dream saves 15 to 20 percent in propulsion system fuel efficiency over any other Carnival ship. Entertainment-wise, we were impressed with the massive, high-resolution LED screen at the outdoor Seaside Theatre; it boasts a 70,000-watt sound system. Outside at night, guests also enjoy a new 15-minute laser show featuring aerial patterns of blue, red and green set to rock music.
In another fresh concept, Carnival Dream’s guests encounter 36 FunHub computer stations on Decks 3, 4 and 5. Guests enjoy free onboard social networking at the FunHub and Internet access is available for an added fee. Younger travelers, in particular, loved the concept. The computers were heavily in use.
The adults-only Serenity relaxation area with plush chaise lounges has a full-service bar
That’s Entertainment: New laser shows, high-energy production shows and the Fun Force acrobatic troupe entertain guests. Carnival Dream also boasts a Comedy Club in the ship’s 425-seat Burgundy Lounge; multiple shows are offered, some PG-, some R-rated. We checked out one PG-rated show with Percy Cruise III, a funny guy who has served as a warm-up act for Chris Rock. Using physical humor and “generational” comedy, he wowed the audience.
Sweet Dreams: On the accommodations side, 48 percent of Carnival Dream’s staterooms have balconies and 193 deluxe oceanview staterooms have two bathrooms. That’s advantageous for families or couples who want their own space. Also new are cove balconies, which are closer to the water line than normal balcony cabins. The cove balcony’s interior is similar to other balcony cabins but the balcony itself is cocooned “within” the ship’s superstructure. Guests relax outside using two chairs and a small table. An exterior watertight door can be closed by the crew to seal the balcony door in extreme weather.
Service: New ships often have service hiccups. I had an extremely pleasant cabin steward who was eager to please but missed a few things. A friend and I praised the food quality to a bar waiter who pointedly commented that the crew didn’t get the same kind of food. Dining room service in Crimson was slow and inattentive at times. Some major bars with a large number of guests had one frazzled bartender.
Simply put, the crew didn’t seem always “on” and staffing seemed thin at points.
Hopefully, though, these are “growing pains” with a new class of ship that will be resolved before it begins sailing seven-day Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, starting December 12. Again, weather was likely a contributing factor as guests sought to stay inside during most of the cruise. Crew and guests also had little sleep given the rocky seas. Overall, we liked the look, feel and new amenities of the $860 million Carnival Dream, the latest and biggest Fun Ship for agents to sell.
Outside at night, passengers enjoy a 15-minute laser show