The dream is a great ship. She does have a couple of flaws but nothing that distracts from a great cruise experience. We sailed on the western Caribbean itinerary – Roatan, Belize, Cozumel, Costa Maya. The only “new” port in this list for us was Costa Maya, but we enjoyed the other ports too.
Pre cruise- We have found that when sailing from Port Canaveral that it is more economical to rent a car to get us from Orlando to the Port. You can drop off the car in Cocoa Beach and the car rental companies all seem to have shuttle busses that will take you to/from the port. If you have any more than 2 people in your party, the rental car is the least expensive of your choices. We flew in the day before our cruise and stayed at The Radison at the Port. This is a great hotel, featuring excellent pool facilities and convenient walking distance to a couple of restaurants and fast food places. They also offer free Port shuttle service, but be sure to get put on the shuttle schedule when you check in. The shuttles can and do fill up fast. If you are driving to the port, the hotel also allows you to keep you car parked there during your cruise. Since we had a rental car we were able to go eat and see a movie before returning the car and heading to the hotel pool. Note: verify what time the rental company closes, we got there just before they closed. It would have been a long walk to the hotel if we had been a bit later.
I love the Port Canaveral terminal. They are fast and efficient in boarding passengers. We took a 10:30 shuttle from the hotel (which didn’t leave until 10:45) and we were on board and sitting in the Crimson dinning room by 11:20. (Although we are platinum guests and got processed through check in quickly.) Eating lunch on embarkation day in the dinning room is a new experience for us. Normally we head up to Lido deck for a buffet. But on the Dream they open up the dinning room to reduce the buffet crowd. It was great to be able to sit, relax and have a nice lunch served to you instead of fighting crowds on Lido. After lunch we roamed around the ship and got acquainted with the layout.
I really can’t complain about the ship’s layout. Despite being a large ship, she is very easy to get around on. The ship still has the typical Carnival design issue of not being able to get to the main dinning room on the 3rd deck from the front of the ship, but you can from travel front to back on any of the other levels. There is also “lower Dream street” which is deck 4 under the Promenade deck. This has a nice wide hallway like the promenade deck to walk to the length of the ship but since it is not the main promenade deck we found it to be less crowded.
I also liked the concept of the lanai. On deck 5 you can walk around the entire perimeter of the ship. It provides a great place to take a relaxing stroll. This is also where they placed the hot tubs that are on “bumps” that sit out over the water. The only issue with the lanai concept is that all the Balcony staterooms above are recessed from the edge of the ship by the width of the lanai so if you have one of these you can’t look straight down into the water. The other issue (I was told) is that noise you get coming up from deck 5 if you have a balcony cabin. You also don’t have the privacy of a normal ship configuration.
We booked one of the “family oceanview” cabins. These have two showers (actually a normal bath room with another half bath that adds a shower/mini tub and a sink) This comes in very handy when traveling with 2 teen girls and a wife. Normally we are fighting over the single shower or using the spa showers, but with two showers we didn’t have that problem.
The ship also rides VERY smoothly. We were in some fairly high seas a couple of nights and only occasionally did you feel the ship moving. Most of the time you felt as if the ship was not moving at all.
Cozumel is the first port. There is not much I can say about Cozumel. We have been there many times and it is one of our preferred ports. We took a taxi to a beach and spent the day there. We didn’t do much of any shopping.
Roatan, Honduras- Second port. This was the second time we have been to Roatan. It is quickly becoming a favorite. If you are into snorkeling or diving, this is the place for you. The reef is incredible. We didn’t dock at Mahogany Bay (Carnival’s cruise terminal) because of the high wind conditions. Luckily we were the only ship there so we were able to dock at RCCL pier instead. I think Carnival has an issue here as if their facilities are going to be forced closed every time it is windy, then they are going to be closing the port too often. They need to rethink the port entrance design to allow for more flexibility. We booked an all day tour from Roatan Cab Tours. They provided a car and a driver to take us on a tour of the island. We saw the west side of the island and stopped at a zip line place. It was very reasonable- $45 a person for what was about an hour of zip lining. Then we went to Foster’s West Bay beach resort. This is a locally owned resort which has a great beach and provides a bar and food services.
Belize- We took a snorkel/beach break tour here. It was a ship booked tour that picked you up from the ship so you don’t waste time having to tender into Belize city and then back out to the reef. It was windy and overcast when we were in Belize, so the snorkeling was not as good as it could have been but it was still very good. After snorkeling the tour takes the group to Bannister island for a beach break. The island is maintained very well and has excellent facilities – bar, food, shopping, beach chairs, hammocks, water trampoline, sea kayaks.. etc.. All free to use for the tour.
Costa Maya- Costa Maya has been rebuilt since the hurricane. They have a very long pier (it was easily a quarter mile to a half mile long.) that leads to a cruise terminal/ shopping area. There are many stores and the people were friendly. There is also a swimming pool within the terminal if you wish to swim there. You can venture outside the terminal and take a taxi into the real town but we did not do this. We assume we will be back some other day and we had had enough after we finished shopping.
Getting off the ship went as smoothly as getting on. We nearly walked right through customs, we only had a one family wait there. Our bags were quickly loaded onto a cart and taken out to our awaiting car rental shuttle bus. The whole process from walking off the ship to being on the shuttle took all of 30 minutes. We took our time getting off and we were still in our rental car heading back to Orlando by 9AM. If we asked for early disembarkation we probably could have been off and away by 7:30AM.
Thanks, Jim, great review The Dream sounds like a dream for sure. I LOVE the 2 showers, that is wonderful news for those with large parties. Sounds like Port Canaveral is a good port to sail out of, too.
The casino was very good to me. I came off the ship with more money than I went on with... which is good for any casino. I didn't win any big jackpots but considering how much time I spent in there, coming out positive is really good.