In the world of cruising, Carnival Cruise Lines is known as the “Fun Ships”. So it was no surprise that Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Dream, was christened last week in New York City amid much lighthearted fun.
The party got started when the godmother, Academy Award and Tony-winning actress Marcia Gay Harden swung a baseball bat signed by Yankees’ star Alex Rodriguez against a 5-foot-tall ceremonial bottle of champagne.
At 3,646 passengers (maximum 4,631 passenger capacity including upper berths) and 130,000-tons, Dream is Carnival’s biggest vessel to date and introduces a number of new features for Carnival.
As the first of two Dream-class ships (Carnival Magic is scheduled to launch in June 2011), the biggest change is Ocean Plaza, an indoor/outdoor cafe and live music venue and the Lanai, an outdoor area featuring a wrap-around promenade and four cantilevered whirlpools suspended over the ship’s side. There’s also a “FunHub” area, which Carnival dubs the first social network area at sea. Guests can use one of 36 onboard computers to post or look for like-minded guests wanting to play backgammon, cards, or simply get together over Pina Coladas.
There’s also Carnival’s first-ever comedy club venue offering multiple nightly shows with top-notch comedians. Dream offers the first outdoor laser light show at sea at the top-deck Seaside Theater – lasers project patterns onto the night sky, accompanied by rock music by the world’s most famous acts. New accommodations include two-bath, five-berth staterooms designed to appeal to families, and “cove” balcony cabins located close to the waterline.
The Cloud 9 Spa has been expanded to 23,750-square feet over two decks in the front of the ship and offers an Asian-inspired ambiance. You can relax in the huge thalassotherapy pool or the thermal suite based on a Turkish bath experience. Before and after treatments, guests are encouraged to relax with a cup of tea in a relaxation area with comfy loungers and canopied beds with sea views and soothing music. For fitness buffs the spa’s large fitness center offers users state-of-the-art Lifecycle machinery along with daily fitness classes with personal trainers. There are also 65 spa staterooms that offer direct access to the spa through a private elevator. Each stateroom has special décor and amenities that make for the ultimate seagoing spa and wellness vacation that’s only steps away from the stateroom.
Carnival will carry an estimated 625,000 children this year, roughly half the total number of kids carried by the entire North American cruise industry. So, it’s no surprise that Dream offers 19,000 total square feet of space catering to kids of all ages. Dream’s youth activities areas are expansive, the largest is the 5,000-square-foot Camp Carnival (ages 2-11) located on Deck 11 that is divided into age-appropriate areas. Located on Deck 4, is the 1,075-square-foot Circle C (ages 12-14) and adjacent is the 2,740-square-foot Club O2 (ages 15-17) that boasts a dance floor, soda bar, game area and more.
Located on Deck 12 is the largest water park at sea, WaterWorks, with various water-spray apparatus, but the highlight is the 303-foot-long, four decks high “Twister Waterslide”, the longest at sea. The water park complements Dream’s three swimming pools and seven whirlpools.
A kinder, gentler décor
Carnival ships are known to have an outlandish décor, but Dream has been toned down to a more moderate fun level. One of the most relaxing places on the ship is the adults-only Serenity area that operates across two levels and can hold up to 200 people seeking a respite from high-octane activities. There’s luxurious seating, including hammocks, a bar, and whirlpools.
Among the ship’s amenities are: three swimming pools, a giant movie screen; seven Jacuzzis. As on other Carnival ships, you’ll find a towering atrium and show theater with amazing entertainers, Internet café and library, shopping promenade, and dozens of bars and lounges that are always thronged with guests.
Accommodations include 1,823 well-appointed staterooms, including 12 penthouse suites, 58 suites and the 65 aforementioned spa cabins. The new deluxe ocean view staterooms feature a configuration with two bathrooms and five berths. Of the ship’s 1,823 staterooms, over 250 will be interconnecting with more than 400 accommodating up to three, four, and four guests – perfect for families.
One thing to keep in mind when choosing a stateroom on a Carnival ship is the location. Passengers take the fun ship motto literally — especially late at night. Therefore, if you want peace and quiet pick rooms that are not near high-traffic elevators – mainly the ones with access to the ship’s atrium area. Still even away from high-traffic areas the Dream’s staterooms appear to have a problem with noise – sadly I could hear the televisions in the rooms next to me and pretty much every conversation, cough, and sneeze. Thankfully, I had my iTouch white noise application to block out noise at bedtime.
Carnival offers by far the best dining value at sea with a vast array of perfectly prepared dishes. The dinner menus are full of fine dining staples Carnival is renowned for. The majority of meals are served in the ship’s two main dining rooms, Scarlett Restaurant and Crimson Restaurant that offer dinners in the traditional manner, with assigned times and assigned tables (breakfasts and lunches are open seating), and the line’s newly rolled out “Your Choice” open seat dining that allows guests to eat when they want.
Main restaurants aside, Dream offers abundant round-the-clock dining options. The Gathering on Lido Deck, is the ship’s casual buffet restaurant, is arranged into several serving stations. Two areas that are particularly popular leading to long lines are the burrito Bar and pasta bar. Both areas allow guests to pick what’s in their burrito or choice of pastas, sauces, and meats. Also available is Indian Tandoori, Mongolian wok, a 24-hour pizzeria, deli, hamburger and hot dog grill, and ice-cream machines. Chef Art’s Steakhouse is Dream’s supper club restaurant, where for $30 per person you’ll get a magnificent six course gourmet meal. Another dining option is the Wasabi sushi bar on Promenade Deck and of course there’s always 24-hour room service.
It’s clear: Carnival Dream is one big “Fun Ship” full of innovations that can make for a great family vacation.
If you go:
On Dec. 12, the Dream will begin alternating seven-day Eastern and Western Caribbean Cruises from Port Canaveral. Prices start at $479 for the Western Caribbean cruises and $629 for the Eastern Caribbean. Visit Carnival’s Website for more details.
It was a hilarious afternoon in New York City featuring Carnival’s senior cruise director John Heald toting a five-foot tall bottle of Moët & Chandon around New York City and a lovely Tony- and Oscar-winning actress, Marcia Gay Harden wielding a baseball bat to break the bottle. Fittingly, Harden used a bat from the World Series champion New York Yankees and signed by Alex Rodriguez. The bottle-breaking bat will be auctioned with proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.