Carnival’s largest cruise ship ever, the 3,646-passenger Carnival Dream, recently launched in New York City and marks a new class for the cruise line — strongly family oriented and more conservative in decor than Carnival’s norm.
Onboard, cruisers will find more conservative decor. // (C) 2010 Carnival Cruise Line
Although the Vegas-style neon is still present, the ship has no theme and the ambience is more subdued and darker than previous Carnival vessels, which drew mixed reviews from past passengers. Some found the quieter ambience a welcome change, while others missed interior designer Joe Farcus’ often-humorous creativity.
There was a very large contingent of first-time cruisers onboard for the introductory two-night cruise to nowhere out of New York, which promoted the Dream’s year-round, seven-day Caribbean service out of Port Canaveral, Fla. The ship’s dramatic atrium drew high marks from newcomers, who also loved the specialty dining venues, such as the Mongolian Wok and the Indian Tandoor, both in the Gathering Place Lido buffet. The deli counter, open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., pleased passengers from the New York area in particular, and the pasta bar was a hit, with guests consulting one another before choosing their combination of pasta, sauce and toppings. The 24-hour pizza counter also seemed to be in perpetual motion during our cruise, and the complimentary sushi in Wasabi was so popular with some of the guests that they never made it to the dining room.
The only dining drawback was the main part of the Gathering buffet, which was designed with traditional line service rather than individual food stations and, consequently, made for long waits. The 139-seat Chef’s Art Steakhouse has changed from its customary dine-and-dance, supper-club format. Carnival has eliminated the dance floor, but the beef and seafood are still excellent choices.
Dining room fare varied in quality, however. New cruisers seemed especially delighted by the everyday options, notably the steak and warm-chocolate melting cake. There was also some confusion about the dining rooms’ names: one is called Scarlet and the other is Crimson. This terminology frustrated diners many of whom were heard protesting, “But they’re both red! Who can tell which is which?”
In addition, Carnival has rolled out an open seating option on the upper level of the dining room for dinner, available between 5:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Quite a number of guests who chose that option didn’t realize that breakfast and lunch were open seating throughout and were looking for their section during those mealtimes.
Among the new accommodations, the Dream’s private cove balconies look as though they are going to be the same kind of unexpected hit as Royal Caribbean’s first Royal Promenade inside staterooms. With 185 square feet plus a 35-square-foot balcony, they are among the best values in cruising. They are built into the hull on Deck 2 with very attractive views of the water. The lifeboats above provide almost complete privacy and the rooms are less expensive than standard balcony staterooms, which are the same size.
Family cruising is huge for Carnival, and 193 new deluxe oceanview staterooms run 185-230 square feet with two bathrooms, similar to the design on Disney’s ships. One is a full bath with a shower, the other has a smaller bathtub plus shower and sink. These staterooms can accommodate five, with two twin beds that can convert into a king, a sofabed and two Pullmans, which is an excellent value for families who don’t want to book additional cabins.
The youth area, including the new WaterWorks aqua park, is 19,000 square feet, underscoring Carnival’s commitment to the family market as well. The Dream’s water slides really are amazing: the four-deck 303-foot-long corkscrew and the 104-foot Drain Pipe that spins around into a huge funnel are absolutely mind-boggling close up. The side-by-side racing slides (each 80 feet long) should stimulate some real competition. Plus, there’s a small slide for the younger kids.
Balancing the emphasis on families are the spa staterooms and an expanded version of Serenity, the adults-only area that debuted on the line’s Fantasy-class ships. The retreat has gone to two levels with a delightful relaxation area providing hammocks, comfortable lounges, wicker chairs, a pair of whirlpools and a bar. There is no usage fee. Serenity is connected to the 23,750-square-foot Cloud 9 Spa, as are the 65 spa staterooms and suites that come with special amenities.
New entertainment includes a dedicated comedy club, laser light shows and a very popular indoor/outdoor piazza on the Promenade, Ocean Plaza. The Dream has 36 Fun Hubs rather than a single Internet Cafe; the line also has introduced free intranet with a shipwide social network and a very useful list of activities onboard that can be sorted according to interest. Carnival Cruise Line