WESTERN CARIBBEAN: Port Canaveral, Cozumel, Roatan, Belize, Costa Maya, Port Canaveral.


 September 2011 cruise

RADISSON – we arrived a day early flying into Orlando Int’l Airport (MCO). Port Canaveral is about 45 minutes from the airport. We wanted to be close to the cruise port on embarkation day so we stayed at the Radisson on Astronaut Blvd in Cocoa Beach. The cruise port is 3 miles away from the Radisson. A week before we left we arranged transportation with Busy Traveler for our transportation needs from the Airport to the hotel. Once we received our luggage it was a short wait for pick up. Check-in at the hotel was fast and we secured space for the shuttle to the port the next day. Our room was ready as soon as we arrived and once we dropped off our luggage, vacation relaxation began. The Radisson rooms are clean and quiet with plenty of space. The outdoor area is highlighted by a large pool and amazing, soothing waterfalls. There are many lounge chairs and umbrella shaded tables. There is an outside bar to complement the soothing ambiance along with live entertainment in the evening. The Flamingo restaurant on site is an easy choice for your dining pleasure and you will find a family style restaurant next door (Greek themed menu) along with an Italian restaurant and McDonald’s across the street. If you want to explore, there are many options available with the Kennedy Space Center the top draw. It is a 20 minute walk to the beach or you can take a cab or shuttle to the pier and enjoy a long, relaxing walk along the beach people watching and searching for shells to add to your collection. The next morning we left the Radisson around 11:00am and we were on our way to the Carnival Dream.  I would highly recommend the Radisson for a pre/post cruise stay.  The Radisson is perfect for a longer stay if you are visiting the area and not going on a cruise.

EMBARKATION – When our shuttle from the Radisson arrived at the terminal, we were in line to check-in within minutes of our luggage being unloaded and handed over to the porters. There were 3 lines located in different locations of the cruise terminal and none of them were very long. From the time we chose our line, went through the metal detector, checked-in, had our photo id registered to our sail and sign card, and stepped onto the ship in the Dream lobby, less than 15 minutes had elapsed – FANTASTIC. Our cabins were not ready, so we headed to the Lido buffet and then familiarized ourselves with the Carnival Dream and captured the tantalizing features of the ship on our camera’s memory card.

CARNIVAL DREAM – The first thing you notice when you walk on board the ship – sunglasses not required. The bright neon lights that indicate Carnival fun and make the ship come alive, are muted and pleasing to the eyes on the Carnival Dream. As a matter of fact, the whole ship is a little darker due to the low ceilings and darker colors on the walls, floors and furnishings; however, the atrium is wide, open and cavernous with mirrored panels, marble, and copper accents. To add a little color to the atrium’s darker colors, tilt your head back and look up to the skylight and see the colorful corkscrew slide curving around above the skylight as passengers enjoy the wet and wild waterslide. That waterslide contains the most multiple, vibrant colors on the ship. The dining rooms (Scarlet and Crimson) are one color – you guessed it – RED. The Scarlet offers beautiful sea views in the aft section (during daylight of course) through large windows while the Crimson’s focal point is the beautiful double staircase in the center of the dining room. The dining rooms, although red, were not too bright and not too dark and they did fit the color choice nicely and blended well with the Burgundy Lounge one deck above. As the name indicates, the lounge was decorated in a burgundy color with red chandeliers. The red chandeliers with their many curved arms or spokes reaching for the ceiling added to the dark room’s ambiance of red shades and featured over 90 masks in a variety of styles and color adorning the walls and ceilings. The darker color of the lounge was relaxing and soothing. While the lounge was not busy during the day, it literally came to life at night as the lights were turned up (red lights) illuminating the eyes of all the masks to glow red – which appeared sinister and evil. What better way to honor the comedians who were about to appear onstage than with a mask of red twinkling eyes appearing to have been forewarned as to what the comedians were about to unleash to their unexpecting guests. It was disappointing to see numerous light bulbs burned out. Next door  more highlights of red-lighted ribbons adorn Sams and the scarlet, crimson, and red colors of the dining rooms and Burgundy Lounge continue into this small lounge. The Encore Lounge located at the front of the ship has giraffe spots/prints on the wall lending a somber ambiance to the cavernous three deck lounge with striped lounge seats of tans and browns. The Gathering, Ocean Plaza, and cabin corridors are all less bright and very toned down. Even the Lanai is understated with teakwood style deck, overflowing deep, dark blues of Ocean Plaza and oversized wicker style chairs of pure relaxation. Ocean Plaza has low ceilings (like the rest of the ship) colored in dark blues with red sofas and a circular dance floor. It can be very dark even though there are large windows and doors acting as a gateway that spills out onto the Lanai. Ocean Plaza is not open to the Lanai as the doors must remain closed due to air conditioning. The liveliness and entertainment fun could be more enhanced if one side of Ocean Plaza “poured outside” to the Lanai with a little cove bar as an added feature. Even when sunlight shines through the windows from the Lanai to Ocean Plaza the Ocean Plaza remains shadowed in dark colors and creates the illusion that the pace has slowed contrary to all the fast paced fun and excitement found onboard. The Lanai is not just a wraparound promenade, but a new innovation similar to a boardwalk close to the water. The Lanai has an over-sized chess set, cantilevered whirlpools (quite often underutilized), lots of deck chairs and lounges, small living rooms overlooking and jutting out over the water. These little living rooms are set in a location that seems more fitting for another cantilevered whirlpool. The Lanai is also a quiet place to enjoy a stroll or escape from the active and often noisy Lido deck. The Lanai is an ingenious idea and design and is a favorite among passengers. The Jackpot Casino with its bright flashing gaming lights is not gaudy or bright, but a little dark with large windows to the sea offering ample light in place of the missing neon and missing bright carpets and walls – very nice.  The ship is a palette of darker colors and shades all blending well to give this new class of ship its own identity and own personality not to be compared with similarities to previous ships in the fleet. As we made our way around the ship and headed for the open decks we noticed crew members strategically placed at the stairwells and open areas of the ships all wearing red shirts with the words “ASK ME” printed in bold all wearing smiles which was indicative of the friendly crew across the entire ship. All crew members were ready to help with any questions lost passengers may ask. Out on the open decks the most noticeable was the OPEN decks. The Lanai is not the only wide open expanse on the Carnival Dream as the Panorama deck has wide easily passable decks great for lounging and viewing the passing scenery. There were lots of deck chairs with lots of viewing areas.  Serenity - no fee - adults only section of the ship has plush cushy chairs, couches, clamshells, hammocks, and loungers for pure, quiet relaxation. As you familiarize yourself with the outdoor area and learn the layout, the Carnival Dream is easy to navigate with no dead end deck areas or steps with dead ends forcing you to turn around and try the other side of the ship to find an egress. You can’t get there from here does not exist on this ship – a great layout with very little congestion. The most congestion we had on the entire cruise was the last sea day with shops offering the $19.99 watch sale – craziness. The multi-tiered decks around the Lido pool evoke a unique décor with its shiny railings surrounding each tiered level. If it is a very hot day take note that many of the outdoor railings are not wood, they are shiny polished stainless steel and when the sun is blazing hot, the railings are HOT to touch. Activity seekers will find an outdoor basketball court, table tennis, jogging track, mini golf (always busy), a busy water slide, side by side water racing, a water drain, indoor spa and workout/exercise. The Water Works area featuring the soaking wet cork-screwing water slides, a funnel slide, and racing slides with water splashed everywhere provides hours of entertainment for young and old. Pure fun as can you hear the kids giggle and squeal; even some of the adults were making the same noises while having fun. Along with the waterworks area there are two pools that, for a ship this size, were quite small. We always found open deck chairs with plenty left over on the huge open expansive areas. This is contrary to early reviews when the Carnival Dream first set sail with complaints of crowded spaces and few chairs available. On the subject of deck chairs: when I worked on a cruise ship, my least favorite chore was painting, second to that was cleaning deck chairs/lounges. There are A LOT of dirty and stained chairs on the Carnival Dream that make you cringe and avoid even if you have a towel to drape over the chair before relaxing. Heading back to our now ready cabin the fun continues as playful artwork adorns the stairwells(playing polar bears, sea turtles with beach balls, snow geese flying above the earth, hot air balloons with bald eagles) coaxing you to utilize each flight of stairs while putting a smile on your already relaxed vacation face. It doesn’t stop there. Walking down the corridors of each passenger cabin deck, your eyes dance along the walls with painted murals transporting you back in time to another era of travel and luxury. It’s a cinematic trip of stills, each depicting an era of fashionable travel and fun as travelers enjoy their elegant lifestyle on planes, ships, casinos, and in society. Art depicting the fashionable traveler in classy settings enjoying life reminds you that the corridors are not just passageways from point A to point B, but a passageway of time to be remembered fondly as you go about your travels and everyday life.

CABIN – our cabin (2485) was huge. I mean HUGE. We had two large square porthole windows and the first thing you notice when entering the cabin is the large open space and no sign of a bed. You have to walk completely inside the cabin to see the bed sitting off to the left. The vast open space of our cabin was approximately a 9ftX9ft section. Another bed and sofa could have fit in this space and there would be ample space remaining. There were two bathrooms, one with shower, toilet, and vanity; the other with shower, tub, and vanity. The cabin décor was a little dark due to the layout of the cabin with tan walls, red carpet mottled with oranges and yellows, and curtains of brown with complementing dark red and orange stripes. The cabin desk/vanity was long with more than enough surface space to store all your belongings. Shelves and drawer space was more than ample and included in the shelving space were 4 separate closets.  The one shortcoming, besides lack of lighting in this vast space, was the lack of electrical outlets. This is a newer ship constructed during an era when multiple gadgets are part of everyone’s lives. I do not carry a lot of gadgets – just a camera, but one outlet does not satisfy all the charging needs that come with those who have computers, phones, iPods, e-readers, cameras, etc.  At least two outlets would have been nice. I don’t want to have to add a power strip to my packing list. As stated above, we had two large square portholes as we did not have a balcony. There is so much open space on the Carnival Dream that you do not need a balcony. After unpacking the carryon and reviewing the in-cabin paperwork and Fun Times, we planned on unpacking our luggage, but luggage service was horribly slow and very late arriving. Some passengers dining with us at late seating still did not have their luggage. Not sure why luggage service was so painfully slow, but it is an area that could use some improvement.

MUSTER DRILL – Before we set sail we attended the mandatory muster/lifeboat drill. It was very easy as life jackets were not required; thereby, eliminating the trips and falls on someone’s hanging straps. All we had to do was sit and relax and pay attention to the announcements and directions.

DINING – there are several lunch and dinner dining venues with the Gathering being the lido buffet area surrounded by the Deli, Tandoor, Pasta, Burrito bar, Mongolian Wok(made to order), Grill, and 24hr Pizzeria. The GATHERING features Taste of the Nation which offers a different food genre each day(American, Italian, French, etc). Large windows offer great sea or port views while dining and brighten up the space with natural light which is very warming. Do be careful when walking through the area as the floors tend to be slippery. The upper level of the Gathering is a Pasta Bar in which you choose your selections and they are made to order. This upper level has to be the most under-utilized area of the ship. Once lunch is over, the area is not used again and that is a shame. There are many opportunities that could be used for this space – perhaps an alternative dining venue in the evening. Dining room dinner is served in the Scarlet and Crimson dining rooms for assigned dining of 6:00pm for Early dining and 8:15pm for Late dining. The Crimson dining room upper level is reserved for anytime dining from 5:45pm to 9:30pm. The Gathering Lido Buffet opens at 6:00pm for dinner service; unfortunately, the Grill, Mongolian Wok, and Tandoor, are closed at 6:00pm and your only options are Pizza and buffet (if you are not dining in the main dining room). The Gathering buffet’s offerings are drastically reduced in the evening and have to be the most minimalistic buffet sailing with little variety and few offerings. Perhaps the idea is to push passengers to enjoy the dining experience in one of the dining rooms or specialty restaurants. It may also be the reason we see so many people in shorts, flip flops, and t-shirts in the main dining room as they planned on eating at the buffet and were disappointed so off to the dining room without stopping at the cabin for a quick change. The main dining room menu featured the most choices while the Gathering was disappointing with so few selections for lunch and dinner. Ten years ago Carnival’s Lido buffet had so many choices it was not only hard to decide what to choose from, but hard to decide whether to eat there or in the main dining room. Competitor’s now have a more varied Lido buffet dining option while Carnival’s has diminished over time.   Here are the many varied choices served in the main dining room: SCARLET AND CRIMSON: The food was very good with a few new twists on old favorites and the menu has been redefined with a different format, easy to read, and fun. Appetizers: prosciutto ruffles(very good), smoked chicken quesadilla(very good), vine ripened beefsteak tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella, chicken tenders marinated in thai spices, smoked duck and caramelized oranges, fried shrimp, sliced beef tenderloin and noodle salad, baked eggplant with mozzarella, delice of the ocean(black tiger shrimp, ahi tartare, hickory smoked pacific salmon), New England crab cake. Soups: French onion, black bean, chilled cucumber with dill, beef barley (chunky), wild mushroom cream, chicken noodle, asparagus vichyssoise, Yukon gold potato, tom ka gai(chicken soup with coconut and lemongrass), chilled peach cream, cream of broccoli, corn chowder Maryland, chilled creamy bing cherry, navy bean, baked sweet potato, and mango cream. Didja(as in did you ever…): sushi, oysters Rockefeller(too much spinach), shark and langoustine fire cracker roll (very good), escargot(very tender), conch fritter, and frog legs with provencale herb butter (very tender, but too much garlic). Entrees: penne mariscos(with salmon filet, very mild), Sicilian chicken, jerked pork loin, braised beef short ribs(very tender), lasagna bolognese, oven roasted tom turkey, grilled red snapper filet(very mild and dense), duet of petite filet mignon and short rib confit, cinnamon pumpkin and squash and yam cheddar cheese pie, farfalle with roasted turkey breast and green peas, seafood newburg style (delicious), grilled marinated pork steak (large and juicy), duet of roasted rack and leg of spring lamb, penne siciliana, grilled jumbo tiger shrimps, martini braised basa filet with tomato, chili and fennel, chateaubriand with béarnaise sauce, spanakopita and stuffed bell peppers(greek pie with layers of phyllo dough, spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese), broiled filet of Norwegian salmon, panko crusted jumbo shrimp(very good), tender roasted prime rib, and zucchini and eggplant parmigiana. Comfort Food: baked meatloaf, shrimp and fries, pot roast, roasted half spring chicken and gravy, bacon macaroni and cheese(delicious) and southern fried chicken. Always available: fruit cocktail, guacamole, tomato salsa, Caesar salad, broiled filet mahi mahi(large, melt in your mouth), grilled flat iron steak, grilled chicken breast, and gourmet burger. Desserts: warm fig date and cinnamon cake, strawberry cheesecake, warm chocolate melting cake(order it extra runny so it is more like chocolate lava when you dip your spoon), lemon cake, bitter and blanc(dark and while chocolate bread pudding), tiramisu, coconut cake, amaretto cake, baked Alaska, grand marnier soufflé, cappuccino pie, and apple pie. I noticed that the Chef liked to use onions, onions, onions as they were everywhere and overpowered the flavors of some dishes.  Service was top notch – service with a smile. I found it odd that if you ordered two appetizers, they were served at the same time instead of one at a time – it made for a cluttered table and was a little awkward leaning toward fast food service. This seems to be a Carnival Dream thing and not prevalent on other ships. CHEF’S ART STEAKHOUSE – a dining experience at $30 per person and is a popular dining option. Menu items featured: escargot, lobster bisque, surf and turf and cheese cake. While the ambiance and food service created a personalized dining experience the food is not worth the extra charge – the filet melts in your mouth as it does the main dining room, the lobster tail was not large and its flavor was mediocre, and while the cheesecake slice was enough for 3 people, it was more like mousse than cheesecake. The layout does not even lend itself to a private and romantic table for two to enjoy a quiet evening together. If you want a night for just the two of you with fine dining, the main dining rooms in Scarlet and Crimson feature more quiet tables for two. CHEF’S TABLE – for $75 per person, you can enjoy an exclusive dinner with only 12 guests total hosted by a master chef with a tour of the galley and a seven course meal served in the galley.

 SCARLET DINING ROOM: Lunch service offered on sea days: caprese salad(fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil leaf salad, cured plum tomatoes), southwestern chicken Caesar salad, omelet or scrambled eggs, New England clam chowder, club sandwich, beer battered fish sandwich, penne mediterraneo, rigatoni with three meat Bolognese, Tex Mex burger, Norwegian salmon and rock shrimp, flame roasted double cut pork chop, caramelized banana cream pie, chocolate brownie melting tart, and vacation sundae. PIZZERIA: Options - Margherita, A La Rustica, Napolotina, Capriciosa, De Chevere, Pan, Calzone Al Forno, and Caesar salad. Very large servings of pizza and very good, but all seemed heavy on the garlic. LANAI BARBQUE – offered on sea days the choices were: soft bbq tacos with steak, chicken, pork or tofu, steak sliders, topless burgers, and hotdogs. GRILL: serving big juicy burgers and hot dogs with fries, mushrooms, nachos and all the fixings. TANDOOR:  tandoori chicken, fish, vegetables, Shammi Kebabs, Kadai chicken, vegetable pilaf, naan bread, garlic naan, flaky Indian bread. Very good, spicy, and addicting requiring several large glasses of water. SERENITY – offered on sea days - shrimp foccasia(delicious), turkey wrap, salad.  A nice light fare, but very filling.  SUSHI BAR – served in the evenings with many options, but the nasty aroma had me passing wide to the area.

ENTERTAINMENT – The Carnival Dream is a cornucopia of varied events happening throughout the ship. BURGUNDY LOUNGE – the hit here is PUNCHLINERS: an evening comedy club featuring different comedians throughout the cruise. The first half of the cruise would feature two comedians who alternated shows, each providing family oriented shows and three adult themed shows later in the evening. Even thought the comedians appeared more than once each day and on multiple days, their material was different for each show. Later in the cruise two new comedians would come onboard and follow the same format, offering different shows with each appearance. This venue is new for Carnival and is being rolled out on all ships as it is very popular with a packed house each night and at each show.  Jason Blanchard and Thomas Brown were hilarious and if they are on your Carnival cruise do not miss their performance. Nearby is SAMS piano bar which is small in size with a central focus of the communal gathering around the piano while passengers joined one another singing their favorites from the hit list. This was a popular spot each evening even though the man tickling the ivory keys could not carry a tune. It did not seem to bother anyone as most of the patron’s vocals were the same and everyone was having a great time. Across from Sams was SONG. Song was a hit with the karaoke crowd making this little nook outside the Burgundy Lounge another hoppin’ joint in the evening.

 LASER SHOW – very unique and offered on Lido deck two evenings of our cruise, but not an event that would be described as “do not miss”. ENCORE – the main lounge featuring the big Vegas style events. Seats in the upper level are quite uncomfortable with straight, stiff backs and once you sit down, the walkway space disappears and is very difficult to maneuver. The upper level may not be the most comfortable area of Encore as you sit in perfect stiff posture for an hour, but it is a great vantage point to watch the shows. The Welcome Aboard show has not changed and is a little tired, but is entertaining, fun, and engages the audience. Dancin’ in the Street – a superb show and the acrobats by Fun Force(who also perform in the Atrium) were phenomenal. You will feel left out if you miss the show, as everyone will be talking about it. Sean Andrews had great vocals and carried all shows. Get Ready – the second major production show was fast and fun, fun, fun. ATRIUM: enjoy pre/post dinner music with Impromptwo (great vocals by Marites) or music with Natallia. OCEAN PLAZA – the venue for daytime trivia contests and games and also features evening music and entertainment. SEASIDE THEATER – features movies, concerts, and shows on the outdoor big screen. If you are out for an after dinner stroll, you know when you are getting close to the Seaside theater, not because of the sound, but the smell of fresh popped popcorn riding on the sea air filling your nostrils with buttery goodness. BARS – there are 16 of them to keep you cooled off and refreshed any time of the day.  SERENITY – if relaxation with a good book is your idea of entertainment, then Serenity is the spot to be. Even if you don’t read, this adults only area (no additional charge as on other cruise lines) offers oversized chairs with comfy cushions with dark wicker furniture, blue cushions enhanced by vertical faux wood-slatted wind screens and large overhead pergola style structures offering full shade in some areas and partial shade in other areas allowing just the correct amount of sunlight in making the area feel more “awake” while maintaining the peaceful, laidback, tranquil respite that you think of when you hear the word Serenity. Serenity offers a hint of privacy and something special that you have discovered and don’t want to share with the rest of the passengers. Your own little getaway.

DEBARKATION – as always when you are not in a hurry you seem to breeze through debarkation, but it appeared that it did not matter as to the rest of your day’s plans as debarkation was just as organized, efficient, and streamlined as embarkation.

THE CARNIVAL DREAM – stunning, exciting, inviting, engaging, seductive, tantalizing, beckoning. If you’re keeping score: Home run, touchdown, checkered flag, game/set/match, swish, goooooal; however you describe a win, Carnival has scored and won with the Carnival Dream and this new class of ship. Sister Carnival Magic has even more features and the Carnival Breeze is sure to please.

SHOUT OUTS to Manuel, Arif, and Rocelio – dining room.  Neli and Anunchana at the Dream Bar. Kusuma and Damayanthi at Serenity. Thank you all for making our cruise memorable.