December 2015 - 7 Night Western Caribbean (New Orleans Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Dream
Family Vacation with 4 kids over New Year's
We went on vacation with our 4 kids ages 14, 11, 10 and 7. New Orleans is a very easy port and there was only a little bit of a line when we arrived around 2pm. The line moved quickly and we were on board by 2:40. We had adjoining rooms on deck one (I have never been down this low before) but I kind of liked it. We were in rooms 1289 and 1293. There was plenty of space and lots of closet space. We liked how the bathrooms were set up with two showers and we really liked having a couch to sit on. Only negative about room (my complaint on all ships) is the lack of outlets! We needed to charge electronics, plug in a clock and be able to use a hair dryer. This would have been a real nightmare if we hadn't been able to use the outlets in the other room! The window was great and had a large space for the kids to sit in and watch the waves. Our room steward was great, we only saw him the first day, but our room was always clean and we had plenty of towels.
The good: This was a great week to go on vacation. There were lots of families on the ship which meant a large number of children. The crowd was also not your "typical" Carnival crowd. I always joke that Carnival is like going to Walmart..all kinds, good and bad. This was a little more like going to Target...a little step up. This could be because the price to travel during a holiday week costs a good bit more. I would compare this crowd to what I have experienced on Royal Caribbean, but a lot more fun. Sorry, not being snobby, just trying to explain the crowd. My 14 year old son is in 9th grade and I was worried about him being with 12- 14 year olds as he would hate it. He plays varsity football and wrestling and hangs out with an older crowd at home.
They had no problem moving him up to the 15-17 year old group. He told me it was the best week of his life when we got home. I did give him a good bit of freedom during the week. Our 7 year old enjoyed camp ocean and had a great time at the night owls as well. The ports were good - Montego Bay is just so far away from all of the good tourist attractions. New Years Eve was wonderful on the ship. They gave out a lot of free champagne...I had probably 3 glasses. Hats were on the dinner tables...they did not have one at each seat as some seats got noise horns. There was a balloon droop in the atrium which was also nice and a large party up on Lido deck at midnight. We loved the movies at night and the blankets they had. The food was ok, not great and not bad. We were assigned late dining, but it was messing us up for the kids activities, the movies and other things we wanted to do on the schedule. So, on the third day I asked the Maitre D' if we could move to anytime dining. He was hesitant but allowed the change. Overall a positive week especially, happy with the the fact that the two requests I made that week (14 yr old moving up and dining change) were allowed so easily.
The not so good: The ship was completely booked, probably close to capacity. This meant long lines for everything: elevators, at the bar, to buy pictures, to get food - you name it. The worst was the deck chairs. It was winter so everyone wanted to sit in the sun. The first sea day I got outside at 9:30 after breakfast - no chairs, anywhere. I sat in the shade by the pool. The second day, I got up early and was outside by 8:15 - again no chairs available anywhere! Lots of towels in the chairs though. One nice lady saw me looking and pointed to the chairs near her and said she had been there since 7:30 and nobody had been by those chairs. I found a towel person and they removed the towels and I sat down. Well, at 9:15 (I had now been there an hour) a couple came up and asked why I was in their chair(s). I explained the 40 minute policy Carnival has and the lady got mad. Said they had gotten up at 7am to reserve those chairs! This happened at several chairs around me as other passengers got fed up with people "claiming" chairs and not even sitting in them. Carnival needs to do a much better job as this is a very big issue! My 10 and 11 year olds only visited camp ocean twice - each for a very short amount of time and decided they didn't like it. They have always loved the kids camps in the past, but they had fun and found other kids in the pool that they ran around with all week. The last sea day was cold and rainy and Carnival did a very poor job "adjusting" for this. The Lido buffet was packed from the moment it opened for lunch. We actually waited 40 minutes for the Mongolian Wok. Everyone was inside and of course eating as it was the only thing to do. We wanted to eat lunch while it was warm and by the time we finished, they had closed all of the buffet lines - right on time so we did not get anything extra or desert. There were lots of people up there looking for food or desert, but they had a schedule to keep and they were not going to adjust it. One of the most annoying was that Camp closed at 3 on the last sea day for "cleaning"...from 3-7! This would have been ok if it was a nice day and kids could swim, mini golf or even be outside. Again, full ship with lots of kids. Kids were playing on stairs, running up and down the halls - it was crazy! We decided to pack since there was nothing else to do with the kids - and we watched a movie in our room. It was also a good time to go through all the pics and buy what we wanted - I think a good majority of the ship had the same idea as it took 35 minutes just to check out and buy pics. The other negative was that the shops all closed around 5 that last day. We did not get to buy any t-shirts or anything...I don't remember shops on cruise ships ever closing that early! This was the first time I have left a Carnival ship saying the shows were awful. The first night was the welcome aboard show and it was not bad. Then Dancing in the streets - awful - maybe it was our performers as other people on other ships liked it. Then a juggler - what?!?! Then Dancing in the streets again - once was more than enough. A passenger talent show one night, Marriage show another night and then a Country Music show. Why do they even have dancers and singers if they are only going to do 2 different shows?!?! The last thing is that the family size rooms were mainly on deck one and deck one was given latest debarkation times. This was good and bad. We have kids that sleep in, but lots of families had antsy kids they had to entertain in confined spaces. These issues, except for the deck chairs, were small enough that they did not interfere with our trip at all.
We had such a good week that we are planning to go over the holidays again next year. We will pick our ship based on ports and price...if it is Carnival again, fine, but if we find something that looks better for us we will go with that. We did not leave saying we loved Carnival....we left saying we loved the vacation.