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Age: 32

Occupation:MBA Student

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Dream

Sailing Date: 2011-09-4

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

This was our first cruise and I was really really impressed. I then talked with other, more experienced cruisers who told us what they were used to in a cruise line and how the quality has gone down, and it makes me want to try other cruises to see how much better they get.

Therefore, this is an excellent first cruise. It was fun, relaxing, amazing, inexpensive and apparently isn't even near the best.

The ship is new and at first felt huge. After a week you get to know it. There seemed to be two different cruises going on in the same ship. There was the "casual crowd" - families with children, party goers dressed in jeans and basketball jerseys who crowded the pools and formed lines at the buffet. Then there were people who kept to the serenity deck, and the formal dining room. My wife and I were in the second category.

As a student with my wife unemployed we were trying to do the cruise on the cheap and succeeded admirably. I was ready to leave when it was done, but am already thinking about our next cruise and who it will be with.

We felt the buffet was a bit too much like a food court at a mall, so we did the formal dining room every night. We signed up for late dining, dressed up and had a waiter serving us. Loved every minute of it. We got to know our table mates and they seat you with people of similar age, so it was great. We exchanged contact info at the end of the cruise.

You can tell the experienced cruisers in the dining room because they all order multiple entrees to see what they like.

I also liked the pasta bar. It was upstairs from the main buffet so not many people even found it. And of course all night pizza and late night burgers is a hit. I suppose on the nicer cruises it would be shrimp and steak instead of burgers and hot dogs, but I'm not complaining. I think I gained 10 lbs.

I was surprised how nice the staterooms were. The staff work so hard, and it shows in how clean the rooms are and even the little details like the towel animals they leave when you go back to your room at night. I didn't notice anything unpleasant and the sway of the ship was very slight even though we were in the aft. I felt seasick at first, but (counter-intuitively) having a meal helps with that.

The shows were a lot of fun and we went to all of them. I really wasn't expecting anything so elaborate, honestly. It wasn't broadway level by any means, but I was super impressed by the dancers and the band and the special guests. Our cruise director, Butch, was hilarious. We wrote in a note to his morning show and he read it on the stateroom TV and gave us a bottle of champagne for our trouble!

We started the trip trying to do all the onboard activities before we realized we were too tired for all that and started relaxing a bit more. Some of them were just a bit hokey, but I liked the "thriller" dance class.

Some of the comedians were better than others, and I think it helped if you were drunk...

Didn't do any excursions. Nassau was hard hit by a hurricane so we just poked around and leeched wifi off a local MacDonalds.

St. Thomas was fun. We walked into town and grabbed a bus to Magen's bay, easily the best beach I've ever seen, but boy was it crowded. We miscalculated our cash and didn't have enough money to get back so we asked a bus driver nicely and they let us on for $13 instead of $16. The bus is nice because you go over the huge hill and get a panoramic view of the island.

St. Maartin is a huge tourist trap on the dutch side. We went to the jewelry stores getting all their freebies, then we walked a few streets over. Local buses are $2 per person to get to the french side (as opposed to $9 pp for a taxi) so we went to Marigot and it was like stepping into France. We had crepes at a little restaurant before heading back to the Dutch side to go swimming. There are a lot of beaches, mostly clothing optional from what I'm told, but only really one that doesn't require a taxi to get to - busses don't go there. But it was ok, even if it was right beside the tourist trap. We got a frozen rum drink and sat in the waves, and even though there were thousands of people there, it was still a little slice of paradise.

I think what made this trip for us was that we weren't sure what to expect. We were blown away by everything from the service to the ports of call to the food, you name it. Now that it's over I see many areas that things could be improved. For example, I was told that the balconies weren't that great because the doors swing open, they don't slide. That means that in the wind you'll hear all your neighbours' doors slamming all the time. But we were inside so whatever.

We went to the art auction mainly for the free champagne. We left because it was hectic and I felt overwhelmed, but it seems like a fun rich guy hobby. Maybe one day when I'm a rich guy I'll try it again.

The one thing I do regret is not trying the waterslides until the last day. Those were a lot of fun, even though there were always a ton of kids in line for them.

One fun thing about cruising that you don't get with other types of vacations - you're going to meet people and you always have something to talk about. At breakfast and lunch (and tea during sea days) if you go to the dining room you'll be seated with others, and it's so easy to meet them. "So, you cruise often?" is the easiest opener. I really loved that, and we made some friends that we'll likely keep in touch with.

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