Thursday, March 12, 2020

Carnival Dream Cruise Review

 Carnival Dream (almost a B2B) Cruise Review
March 12  & March 16, 2020

Just The Facts
Ship:  Carnival Dream
Ship Captain:  Carlo Alquilone
Ports: Galveston, Cozumel, Galveston, Cozumel, Puerto Maya, Galveston
Weather:  Very good all four days sailed.

This is my 2nd time on the Carnival Dream, my 77th Carnival Cruise Line cruise, and my 154th cruise overall.  I am sailing solo.  I really need this diversion as the U.S. Stock Market is suffering it’s worst decline since the 1987 crash due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Day Zero--Wednesday--Travel
I booked this cruise about 11:00 am today. Due to the Coronavirus scare creating guest cancellations Carnival offered a very nice Travel Agent fare so I took advantage.  I made quick arrangements, and left the ranch about 5:15 pm arriving in Alvin, Texas at friends about 9:15 pm.  The reason to drive down early was due to a Fog Warning I received for Embark morning.

Day One--Thursday--March 12--Embarkation
Carnival Dream Lobby Area
I was up early enough 8:00-ish and saw that yes the Dream was delayed by fog. First Carnival notification said they would be docked by 9:30 am.  I was advised by Carnival that it was officially only a one hour delay but still planned for later arrival.  My friends and I had a great 10:00am brunch at Juanita's Taqueria in Alvin, I had Migas.  Much better to be waiting off site than in a fog delay mess.  My friends dropped me off about 2:00 pm. There were lines but Priority went faster especially if guests cooperated and allowed you to pass. Most did.  Once I reached the Priority door it was fairly smooth for a fog delayed embarkation.  They paid very close attention to your health form and your documents.  Because I had booked within 24 hours I had to be screened twice then extra security.  The check-in person escorted me through the luggage scanning process then I was searched.  Only then did she give me my boarding pass.  It didn’t take long though, so glad I waited out most of the Priority guests.  Once onboard I went down one deck to Main and my Cove balcony to drop my one bag and my diet coke.  Unfortunately no Sail & Sign key card. I left my bag at the door and went up to Guest Services and the line was very long…so I went to the lobby bar and had a nice water to cool off, relax, and observe.  I spied a GS lady and requested some help, as I had enough lines for the day.  She soon returned with my card…thanks…mini-crisis averted.  I  returned to the cabin and got things squared away quickly.  I have my first Cove balcony, I have friends that really love them so I’ll get my first experience.  The cabin is standard size, maybe even larger than the norm.  It’s already time for muster drill so I went up to deck 4 and station 4B in the upper Crimson Restaurant.  Following muster I went to the Alchemy Bar on Promenade Deck.  Soon my friend who tipped me about the special rates on this cruise came by…he told me the next sailing has the same rates.  My mind is working quickly now.  I called my friends minding the truck, minding the dog, and the DW with my idea and yes I booked the next cruise.  All from the Alchemy Bar.  My friend encouraged me to get a secret balcony on Lido deck so I went up to deck ten to find it…it will be amazing.  My thanks to all the friends that helped.  It was almost 6:00 pm and I’m on Lido so it’s Guy’s Burger time before they close at 6:00pm.  Good, but not as good as the Imagination last month.  The condiments were out as usual, that answers one question I had.  Staff are serving the guests in the MarketPlace buffet.  Something they really should do all the time.  I had some very nice fruit for dessert.  I returned to the cabin just as we were having our late sail away.  The cove balcony is different…you are so close to the water, and the pelicans were flying so close at this lower level I could almost reach out and touch them.  Very nice experience.  After a telephone call to the DW before I lose service I had cabin time…I established my internet package, then finalized my new booking for next cruise.  I did clean up and go up to the Alchemy Bar about 9:00 pm and Nikola BoŇ°kovski prepared me a very nice cocktail.  Thanks Nikola.  I retired by 10:30 after a very busy day in Alvin, Galveston, and on the Carnival Dream.

Day Two--Friday--March 13. 2020--Fun Day at Sea
Pool deck on first sea day
Very calm seas in the Gulf of Mexico and I had a very good nights sleep.  I woke about 7:30 am and used the internet…stock market futures are up.  I finished my review from yesterday and posted it and bought a few shares of cruise stocks: RCL ($30) and CCL ($16).  Nice and sunny today and quickly warming as I went up to Lido about 9:00 am for breakfast at the Blue Iguana. No line and I had two fresh fried eggs on my Huevos Rancheros.  Pico de Gallo and Cheese added from condiment bar as well as watermelon slices.  Very good.  I bought some candy from Cherry on Top and had some cabin time until my 11:00 am meeting with the Captain at the Coffee Bar.  First time I attended a Diamond Gathering event there.  They had sweets and donuts and I ordered a couple of Bellinis as well.  There were five Diamonds, The Captain, Hotel Director, and two staff officers attended.  It was actually nice.  I wore my new Gadsden Flag t-shirt that read “Don’t Cough on Me”.  Captain loved it.  I was looking forward to a basic Mongolian Grill lunch on the Dream.  On Vista class ships you get the Grill in JiJi’s restaurant.  On the Dream Class ships it’s in the MarketPlace buffet.  Due to health concerns they have fewer ingredient selections and a staff member fills your bowl of noodles and vegetables.  It was still very good.  I had two bowls, one with Szechwan (really hot) spices and one with Thai spices (medium). It was perfect weather and the pool deck was full although comfortable.  My t-shirt got a lot of attention out there too.  I had cabin and movie time then sat in the sun on the balcony for half an hour as it’s supposed to be good for your immune system.  I did enjoy the sun sitting in the west.  The water seems to go by so much faster when you have a low Cove Balcony.  Very different seems we are really going fast.  The late afternoon was spent running down rumors that Carnival was suspending operations.  Royal Caribbean and Norwegian announced it.  Nothing from Carnival.  President Trump let the cat out of the bag in one of his press conferences about 6:00 pm when he announce that all cruise lines were suspending at midnight.  Carnival actually didn’t announce anything until after 7:00 pm.  Well there goes the B2B.  I guess we’re lucky we are continuing on to Cozumel.  I had a nice cocktail at the Alchemy Bar then dinner with friends in the Crimson Restaurant.  It was the formal dinner and I ordered: two Shrimp Cocktails, the Fusilli Mushroom Creme Pasta, the Prime Rib with Baked Potato and Horseradish, and the Chocolate Hazelnut Cake and Fruit Plate for dessert.  The food was just OK in my opinion…service was great though.  After dinner I confirmed my cruise cancellation and retired soon afterward. It was a FUN day on the Carnival Dream.

Day Three—Saturday—March 14, 2020--Cozumel. Mexico
Port sign with Carnival Dream in background
Another good nights sleep and again very smooth seas as we entered the Caribbean.  I was up about 7:00 am. and checked emails and the internet.  I went to breakfast in the Scarlet Dining Room about 8:00 am as we were approaching Cozumel and the Pier.  I had a nice hearty breakfast:  Three eggs over easy, Avocado Toast, Hash Browns, Bacon, Corned Beef Hash, White Toast, Banana, Melon, Tomato Juice, and Hot Milk.  It was great.  I left the cabin about 10:00 am and debarked.  We are the only Carnival ship at Puerto Maya today so debark was very easy.  No line for taxi’s and in fact I had my own to San Miguel  ($8) arriving about 10:15.  I walked over to Angelo's Barber Shop and Martin was just arriving.  I had a great haircut and visit then walked to Farmacias Similares to check on medications…oh no…you can no longer purchase medications without a prescription.  I found this true at all the legit drug chains.  Skipped my Pedicure today as I have spent all my $ purchasing Carnival stock.  Seriously you can now get one+ shares of CCL for the price of a pedi. It has dropped so much during this virus scare.  I made it to Woody’s about 11:00 am and my table was reserved for me.  I enjoyed a cool water, live music, some nice Bohemia beers, and the fastest internet WiFi I have had in months.  I updated 51 iPhone app’s in 20 minutes…wow.  I did have an excellent Chicken Chimichanga with Frijoles and Pico de Gallo for for an early was great.  I was able to download a new Apple operating system for my laptop, I could not do it at the ranch.  I was worried the BIG file would not finish in time as I wanted to leave at 4:00 p.m. since we have a 4:30 back-on-board time, but it finished at 3:45.  Woo Hoo.  I got a taxi at my usual location by Antonio’s and was back at Puerto Maya by 4:15.  Time for a few photos, then back on the ship…it went rather smooth with short lines at security and to board.  Once in the cabin I took a shower, fixed a coca-cola, and relaxed until sail away.  I really enjoyed the Cove balcony for sailing from Cozumel Island, the sound of the water is so magnified being so close.  I can see why they have the solid steel doors for high seas.  I was so relaxed I decided to order room service: two BLT’s one of my favorite Carnival meals.  They were delivered strait-away too.  With my diet coke I was set.  Amazingly not 20 minutes after I finished eating dinner a plate of fresh cookies were delivered to the cabin…wow dessert: Two Peanut butter with nuts, two Chocolate chip, and two Oatmeal & raisin.  Cookies moist and very good, I assume it was a Diamond gift.  I watched a movie, finished this review, and did some internet research before retiring.  It was a very productive and fun day in Cozumel.

Day Four—Sunday--March 15--Fun Day at Sea
Cove Balcony Day - my view so close to the water
Again smooth seas overnight.  I was up very early used the computer for a while then went back to sleep until about 9:30 pm.  The black out curtains work well.  I went to the MDR for the Sea Day Brunch about 10:00 am and no wait at all…good timing this morning.  I ordered:  the Steak & Eggs, Bacon, Hash browns, and the French toast. The waiter said they were behind on the steaks so a short wait, luckily all three men at the table ordered it. I enjoyed my Bloody Mary, remembering to use my free coupon.  When my meal was delivered the steak had grill marks but was very rare in the middle, the eggs were ordered over easy, but very hard.  Amazingly wrong all the way round.  Someone on staff must have seen me take a photo of the steak and eggs before I sent the plate away because soon the Matre’D was there with my plate apologizing.  He admitted the steak was basically raw. I enjoyed my French toast while they brought me a proper Steak & Eggs order.  I ended up with three perfect small filets and perfect eggs.  It worked out well enough.  A nice breakfast and I’m in no hurry today. I even had hot milk again.  The Matre’D sent me very nice Chocolate-covered Strawberries…huge beautiful ones and they were very good.  I had cabin and balcony time all afternoon, I’m not on the sun side today but very nice sitting in the cove protected from wind…so very pleasant.  At 3:00 pm I went to the MDR for Tea Time.  The Scones were great. Another beautiful day and guests were happy to be outdoors around the pool and getting fresh sea air.  It's been a different cruise with only four days, but I experienced a lot.  Another first for me on this cruise...I only brought ONE pair of shoes.  Worked as planned.  I had some more private balcony time then prepared for the evening.  This evening I had a nice cocktail at the Alchemy Bar, then went to the steakhouse at 8:00 pm for a very nice relaxing dinner.  I had a nice small Fried Avocado as palate starter and three breads and unique butter.  I ordered:  Heritage Berkshire Porkbelly with Apple & Walnut Preserves, Carrot Paper; Risotto with Crab, Mushroom, & Brown Butter; the Spice-rubbed USDA Prime Ribeye with Baked Potato & Trimmings and Onion Rings; for dessert: a Fresh Fruit Bowl.  A very nice premium meal.  After dinner I popped into the Piano Bar then walked around the Promenade Deck.  There was good entertainment everywhere: Ocean Plaza, Lobby, Disco, Comedy Club, Piano Bar, and I’m sure more.  Guests where really enjoying their last night on he ship.  I returned to the cabin finished todays blog notes and too tired to pack retired for the night.  It was a FUN sea day on the Carnival Dream.

Debarkation -- Monday--March 16, 2020 -- Galveston, Texas
The Strand - Galveston, Texas
Smooth seas overnight and I had best sleep of the cruise. We arrived back in Galveston very early, we were already docked when I woke just before 7:00 am.  I hopped up and quickly packed…only took 15 minutes.  I noticed that Diamond guests met at 7:30 for early walk off so I went there just to avoid lines and most guests. Although I had a later meet time with my ride it was just easier to go early.  I was actually the first one ‘dinged’ off the ship and was on the street about 7:40 am.  Smooth & easy.  Beautiful weather so I found a bench on the Strand and was able to get online and see some new videos of the family in Florida (no video with social internet package on the ship).  My friends came early and brought my truck so I was on the way by 8:30 am.  Thanks.  A stop at Chick-fil-A (drive through only) and gas in College Station and I was in Clifton by 1:00 pm.  I stopped at David’s for groceries and they had the basics I needed: bread, eggs, milk, and more.  They had a delivery that morning so I was lucky on timing.  I don't understand why people are hoarding food and toilet paper during this Coronavirus scare.  I was at the ranch before 2:00 pm.  The country side was very pretty as there are many different shades of green in the valley and hills.  Reminded me of the different colors of blue in the Caribbean waters around Cozumel.  Both are beautiful.

Crew / Staff
I found the crew to be good.  My cabin steward Marlon was very good. The girl from GS bailed me out with getting my card for me. They were cleaning constantly everywhere you looked.  They were a bit perplexed the last two day after the 30 day cancellation was announced, but carried on very well.

Food / Drink
First time I have sailed the Dream since the Guy’s Burgers and the Alchemy Bar were added.  The new extra bar in the Ocean Plaza helps the Alchemy a lot. After 77 Carnival cruises the MDR food has become very routine to me and I really don’t get excited about it as I used to do.

I had cabin 2285 a cove balcony on deck two by the forward elevators on starboard side.  Great location if you like the Coves.  The cabin is the usual Dream Class layout with door at balcony, full couch, three closets, nice table, bed stands with lamps, push button safe, mini refrigerator, four dresser drawers, and stool at dresser/desk.

The Dream Class was not my favorite class of ship as initially they did not have a Guy’s Burger nor an Alchemy Bar, at least until the Carnival Magic.  But now I really like the Dream.  It has all the 2.0 upgrades and even a second bar in the Ocean Plaza that takes care of the beer/wine guests allowing the Alchemy to do the cocktail thing. Great.  I would go as far as saying the Carnival Dream is my favorite Carnival ship at this time. 

Cruise Highlights
Alchemy Bar
Steak House
Mongolian Grill
Cozumel Day
Diamond Gathering was new & different
Room Service BLT’s

A fantastic FUN cruise!!