November 2015 - Carnival Dream to Caribbean - Western
We were a party of 6 with parents in 1 room and 4 kids down the hall. We drove from VA to LA and arrived with a car full of kids, luggage, and leftover food. I was not prepared to pull into the parking garage and immediately be directed to pull over and unload luggage. It was a bit chaotic with backed up cars and didn't seem to be the best system. I was feeling rushed and with having driven 15 hours, I was wanting to be sure all the food was out of the car and for the kids make sure they had everything they used for the car ride back in their bags. The embarkation was fairly smooth so that was good.
Food - The food in the Crimson was very good. The steak was like butter and the food in general was very flavorful. The temperature varied though so some nights the food was hotter than others. The Lido buffet food was also good but again the temperature was not consistent. I really enjoyed the Tandoor station. I did not care for the breakfast in either place because there was not enough healthy options. A lot of bacon, potatoes, eggs (from powder) and other high cholesterol food. Not enough healthy options...just your standard yogurt, fruit (which was not ripe enough), oatmeal. There was an omelet station and I was able to get egg whites but they loaded the pan with spray and oil which cancelled the healthy aspect! Also, there were crocks of toppings for the omelets but you couldn't see what was inside once the level dropped down so it I was blindly asking for toppings and hoping they had it. The service in the Lido buffet was basically non existent. Dirty dishes sat on tables longer than necessary and it was impossible to get a soda. One had to go out to the bar at the pool which seemed odd since we were in a restaurant.
We opted for Any time dining which I don't think I would do again. Imagine your local steakhouse on a Saturday night! It was like a regular restaurant where they give you a beeper when your table is ready and lots of people cramped in the waiting area. For me, I prefer to go at a certain time and have my table ready so I can plan for evening activities. The service in the restaurant was hit or miss. Some nights we sat longer than usual for our meals and other nights they were grabbing the empty plates before everyone at the table was done. I also had a bottle of wine there and some nights I could get it timely after being seated or other nights it would take a long while.
Pools and Hot tubs - The 2 pools were extremely small for the size of the ship and overtaken by kids. Ten kids in the pool and there was no room. It would have been nice for them to have an adult swim occasionally. The adult only Serenity deck does not have a pool. One pool was closed a day and half before we docked so that was a bummer. The hot tubs were cold but we did find one that was warm on the back deck of Lido but again they were all over taken with kids. Most unsupervised and even had one child drop their ice cream cone in the water!
Activities - a nice variety and the shows were good. They have one show where passengers can audition for a part and my daughter got in so that was fun. The Bingo was a bit more expensive than I remember on other cruises but I did win $150 so that compensated. The tender system they use to disembark at Grand Cayman was a fiasco and many people were complaining. Perhaps if you have an excursion it would be different because they were giving priority to them. However, we took this into account and stayed back until around 10 and still had to go up to deck 5 to stand in line that wrapped thru Ocean, thru the casino, thru the piano bar all to get an Avery sticker with your tender # and them back track back thru all you just came to get to the elevator that takes you down to the tender. I felt that they are accustomed to moving large quantities of people and should have perfected a better system.
One thing I did not care for is that they allowed my 16 and 17 year olds off the ship without me knowing. There was miscommunication and they thought we left but we were looking for them on the ship. I asked for them to be paged but Guest Services said if they were missing there is a whole process they have to follow (check their card, call security, check the room etc) and I didn't need to sound alarms....I just wanted to pretend we were at the mall and you make an announcement over the loud speaker to meet your party but they wouldn't do it. So after hr and 1/2 of searching the ship I asked another employee if they would be allowed to disembark. They checked their Sail and Sign card and sure enough they got off the ship. I was not at all happy that Carnival would allow them off. They are not allowed in the comedy club or the disco because they feel they are too young and I can respect that....but you feel they are mature enough to get off the boat in a foreign country!!!! We spent the next few hours looking in the faces of every person in port to find them and never did. An unnerving feeling but thankfully when we returned to the room, they were already there.
I cruised on Royal Caribbean 2 years ago and by far they have better service. Having said that, I would not rule out another Carnival cruise. I would just adjust down my expectations.
I hope this helps.