REVIEW: The Carnival Dream, christened in New York shows how the line is focusing on bigger and better entertainment and food. You won’t find roller blading rinks or rock-climbing walls, but you will find 15 places to eat and 20 places to drink – because that’s what Carnival customers love to do most.
Being athletic and adventurous doesn’t appear to be a priority for these passengers. Nor do they want to pay a higher price for ship gimmicks they won’t use.
When you consider that some Carnival cruises cost less than $100 (U.S.) per day, it’s great value if you don’t mind the crowds and lineups.
“I thought the shows were excellent – much better than I was expecting,” says passenger Jim Donoahue, 52, of Burlington.
“The Dancin’ in the Street show was fantastic and the comedian Tommy Drake was hilarious.”
Dancin’ in the Street, Get Ready and X-Treme Country are three regular shows on the Dream.
Dancin’ receives standing ovations. The show is set on the back streets of a gritty city and features break-dancing acrobats who perform amazing stunts spinning on their heads and doing back-flips, aerials and gravity-defying moves. Special video photography also had the audience feel like they were on a motorcycle chase in a video game.
The Dream also has Carnival’s first 425-seat Comedy Club. Top-rated comedians who have appeared on talk shows and in comedy clubs are featured.
Tommy Drake, for example, opened for Cher’s 29-city farewell tour.
He had passengers laughing so much in the family-rated show that many returned for the adult-rated version. There will be 26 shows per voyage.
Also new to Carnival is an outdoor laser show, set to music by Styx, Rush, Van Halen and Pink Floyd, and pumped out by a 70,000-watt sound system.
Carnival passengers are known for their appetites. The Dream staff prepares to serve 8,900 hamburgers, 6,780 hot dogs and 34,360 cans of pop in a single week.
“The food in the Crimson dining room wasn’t great. The fish was a little dry one night, but the steak was better the next,” says Donoahue. “At the Lido buffet the salad bar is pretty small and the fruit wasn’t fresh. But the dinner in the Chef’s Art restaurant was outstanding – easily worth $200 and rivalled many $200 meals I’ve had in Toronto. It was well worth the $30 U.S. surcharge.”
Chef’s Art is the 139-seat steakhouse that serves prime USDA beef ranging from nine-ounce fillets to 24-ounce porterhouse steaks.
Other restaurants include the Mongolian Wok, Indian Tandoor, Pizzeria, Pool Grill, New York Deli, Wasabi Sushi Bar and Dessert Station.
“We have an eye toward continuously improving the core elements of a cruise experience – dining and entertainment,” says Jennifer de la Cruz, director of public relations. “The Chef’s Art food is exceptional and the Burrito Bar, Tandoor and fresh pasta bar are new.”
There are three pools and seven hot tubs. The WaterWorks area is the most elaborate at sea at 10,000 square feet. It has racing slides, splash zones and the Twister water slide is the longest at 93 metres long and four decks high. Carnival is rated the number one family cruise line and carries about 625,000 children annually.
Adults can escape the noise at the Serenity area with its chaise lounges and hammocks.
“The Serenity area and Ocean Plaza exterior promenade are quiet places,” says de la Cruz.
“During a typical Caribbean cruise, about 80 per cent of people are outside so we’ve increased the amount of outdoor space not just for kids to have fun, but for adults who want some quiet time.”
Crowds and lineups are to be expected since the Dream’s space ratio per passenger is 36 square feet versus 71 on a six-star line.
However that’s not the case in the gym. The Cloud 9 Spa is 23,750 square feet and has fitness equipment, bubbling hydro-pool and treatment rooms.
“The gym was practically empty whenever I was there, but the spa was packed,” says Donoahue.
“Everybody seemed to have a lot of fun, which is fine if you’re prepared for the noise. It was a very vocal and rambunctious crowd. I would bring earplugs next time and wouldn’t get a cabin near the Atrium because the sound travels right up to the top decks.
“I was also really surprised that smoking was allowed in the piano lounge, disco and casino. But then again, a sign in one of the gift shops said, `No more than five cartons of cigarettes per person, per day,’ so I guess there have to be some designated areas.”
The Dream sails out of Port Canaveral, Fla., for year-round, seven-day Caribbean voyages. Visit carnival.com or call 1-800-Carnival.