Carnival Cruise Lines
The largest ship in the Carnival fleet, Dream puts her extra space to extremely good use, mostly by expanding Carnival's signature attractions and adding new public rooms, most of which seem to have more legroom and elbowroom.
Typical Per Diems: $60-$95
Carnival Dream sails the Caribbean from Port Canaveral (year-round).
At 139,000 gross tons, Carnival Dream represents an all-new class of ships for Carnival, offering a number of new features while retaining the overall look and feel that's come to define the line over the past decade. All in all, this vessel is about 15% larger than any other one in the Carnival fleet, and inches into the supermegaship territory dominated by Royal Caribbean -- though she's still miles behind the enormous Oasis of the Seas, which debuted in the U.S. just a few weeks after Dream, squashing any hopes Carnival may have had for a big media splash.
Through this ship is a bit toned down from Carnival's over-the-top design past, and seems to have higher quality furnishings and fittings than previous Carnival ships, Dream still remains consistent with the line's "Fun" philosophy, with all the brightness and busyness that entails. Among the more interesting features developed for the ship is the Lanai, an indoor-outdoor area that runs clear through from one side of the ship to the other on Deck 5 (Promenade Deck), creating a social outdoor gathering spot in a space that gets short shrift on most vessels. Social networking of another kind (think Facebook, MySpace, and so on) goes on at the ship's virtual Fun Hub, an intranet site that allows guests to create a personal profile, meet and interact with others on board, send and receive private messages, create groups based on interests, and invite friends to attend shows or participate in onboard events. The Fun Hub also includes information on Dream's entertainment options, daily events, youth programs, and restaurant menus, plus weather updates, news and sports scores, shipboard announcements, ship maps, and more. Guests can access the Hub either via their personal computers, netbooks, smart phones, or other Wi-Fi devices, or via 36 stations located on Decks 3, 4, and 5. Other highlights of Dream include the largest spa in the Carnival fleet, a water park with one of the longest water slides at sea, and an unusual number of bars and small dining spots.
A twin sister ship, Carnival Magic, is scheduled to debut in 2011.
Standard inside (185 sq. ft.) and outside staterooms (220 sq. ft.) are plain but pleasant, and are outfitted with a TV, safe, minibar, hair dryer, small sitting area, and bathroom with shower. Outside staterooms have either a picture window or (in category-5 rooms only) two nice old-fashioned portholes. Most have twin beds that push together into a king, but entry-level category-1A cabins (160 sq. ft.) have bunk beds.
Ideal for families are the new Deluxe Ocean View staterooms (185-230 sq. ft.), which feature all the above plus a full bathroom with shower and a separate washroom with a sink and junior tub. Another fun new option: the Cove Balcony cabins. Of average size (185 sq. ft.), the Cove cabins' distinguishing feature is their location way down near the waterline. Each cabin also has a 35-square-foot balcony that's literally carved like an alcove out of the ship's hull. The arrangement is very old-fashioned and ocean-liner-like, and being so close to the water gives you the feeling of being on a much smaller ship.
Probably the best among the balcony rooms are the Aft-View Extended Balcony staterooms (185 sq. ft.), located on four different decks. Their main features are the bigger 60-square-foot balconies and the wake views. Of course, there's an upcharge for them. Cloud 9 spa accommodations, available at several stateroom levels, allow private access, special amenities, and priority reservations at the Cloud 9 Spa. All accommodations, from small inside rooms to the largest Penthouse Suites, are appointed with Carnival Comfort Collection bedding, which includes comfy mattresses, high-thread-count linens, duvets, and custom pillows.
There are 35 wheelchair-accessible staterooms, spread across all cabin categories.
Carnival Dream has two main dining rooms, the two-deck-high Scarlet Restaurant and Crimson Restaurant, both done up in bright but comfortable red and serving all three meals, with two sittings at dinner. Scarlet offers up aft views in addition to side views for those lucky enough to get window tables. The upper level of Crimson has no external views; the windows look out on a ship hallway. On Deck 11, the Gathering is the two-deck casual restaurant for buffet meals and a whole lot more. On embarkation, for example, there's a customized pasta bar with three types of pasta, four sauces, and 12 toppings, including really nice size garlic shrimp. There's also a Mongolian Wok for stir-fry options, a deli-bar for custom-made sandwiches, a station for fresh-cut meats and poultry, and a vast array of salads. Pizza and ice cream are also available.
Aft on Deck 12, the Chef's Art steakhouse seats 122 for an outstanding menu heavy on meats and shellfish, at a cost of $20 per person. Special chef's dinners are also scheduled here. On Deck 5, the new Plaza Café (and accompanying bar) serves snacks in an indoor/outdoor setting called the Lanai. This is a new and welcome addition on what is usually a deck with no outside space.
From end to end, Decks 4 and 5 have an array of rooms for shows, dancing, drinking, eating, and -- happily for those wanting to take a break -- a small library and quiet room. The main show lounge, taking up the forward section of Decks 3, 4, and 5, is home to large-scale production shows. Extra leg room in the center part of the lower level makes that section very comfortable, while nicely tiered seating along the lower level's sides and the upper two decks means there's not really a bad view anywhere. At the opposite end of the ship on Deck 5 is the Burgundy Lounge, which offers up comedy and a variety of other acts. On a recent 7-night Caribbean voyage, six different comedians performed, doing prime-time shows as well as late-night adults-only sets.
On Deck 5, the Lanai straddles the line between indoor entertainment space and outdoor hot-tubbing, and is one of the best uses of a Promenade Deck we've seen in years. Located slightly aft of midships, the area has two semicircular, partially covered outdoor seating areas indented into the vessel at port and starboard from the ship's half-mile-long wraparound Promenade Deck. Tables and chairs are set up in each area, both outside and inside, and they face two large hot tubs that are cantilevered out over the ship's rail, with the sea bubbling below and 180-degree views over the horizon. (Two additional cantilevered hot tubs are located a bit farther forward along the Promenade.) Connecting the two Lanai areas is an indoor entertainment space called the Ocean Plaza, which has its own bar, dance floor, and cafe.
The ship's lobby area is also particularly nice, with not only the shore excursion and purser's desks but also a nice seating area and a bar. A piano stage cantilevered out over the space provides live music throughout the day.
For kids, Dream provides a huge Camp Carnival play area on Deck 11 for ages 2 to 11, while tweens (ages 12-14) and teens (ages 15-17) get their own spaces a full seven decks below, each with movie setups, dance floors, a soda bar, and Wii video games. There's also a full-on video arcade attached.
Pool, Fitness & Spa Facilities
The 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, which takes up the forward section of Decks 12, 14, and 15 (there is no Deck 13!), is the largest in the Carnival fleet. The top portion, Serenity, is for adults only, and is appointed with really comfy deck furniture. The gym area on Deck 14 is a nice size, with 15 treadmills and dozens of other aerobics and weight machines. The spa has 10 treatment rooms with the usual range of offerings. There are several different thermal suites, some free and some that guests can use once they book a spa treatment. Guests staying in special spa cabins also get access.
The Deck 10 pool area is large and quite busy, with hundreds of deck chairs, a bandstand, and a grill. Up on Deck 12, Carnival's Seaside Theatre is an outdoor setup that screens movies, has concerts and shipboard activities, and is also home to the U.S. cruise industry's first outdoor laser shows -- by which we mean LASER ROCK! The 15-minute shows choreograph patterns of blue, red, and green laser light to music by Pink Floyd, Van Halen, Styx, Rush, Boston, and others in the classic rock pantheon, all pumped through a 70,000-watt sound system and accompanied by the de rigueur smoke machines. The colorful paper-flower pots all around the area are a nice touch. Just forward are the termini of four different water slides, all of which have their jumping-off spots on Deck 15. Two go round and round, and two are set up side by side for racing.
Walkers, strollers, and sea-gazers take note: Carnival Dream has Carnival's only complete promenade, wrapping all the way around Deck 5.