We sailed on the Carnival Dream from Oct 22 until Nov 5, 2022 round-trip Galveston, calling on:
- Montego Bay, Jamaica
- Oranjestad, Aruba
- Willemstad, Curaçao
- Cartagena, Columbia
- Colon, Panama
- Limon, Costa Rica
- Cozumel, Mexico
We had never visited Cartagena, Colon or Limon. We also had six sea days. I realized that this was a cruise where we never tendered – we docked at all of the ports.
We had an aft extended balcony which is amazing for the view but leaves the rest of the room strangely shaped. Once you get used to squeezing past the bed every time you cross the room, it’s not bad. It also can get warm with the sun coming in through so many windows.
I desperately missed coffee pots in the room.
The Main Controversy
When we booked this cruise, it was a partial transit of the Panama Canal. The cruise was still titled “Panama Canal” even after the itinerary changed and the ship was scheduled to call in Colon, Panama, just outside the Canal Zone.
We found out the itinerary changed because we were members of a 900+ member Facebook group and someone asked, “Hey, weren’t we going in the canal?”
We booked an excursion on a smaller tour boat to go through some of the locks. Disappointed, but we still transited a pair of locks in the Canal and have a certificate to prove it.
For the excursion, there were 321 passengers on a 350-passenger ferry, and two ferries doing the same excursion. There were 3500+ on the ship. So, if you went on the Panama Canal cruise to see the Panama Canal, you had to purchase the excursion before it sold out.
At the engineering Q&A, someone asked about not transiting the canal, and from the murmurs in the room, some people were discovering the itinerary change three days before we got to Panama. I am wondering what will happen when we get to Colon.
Our cruise director, who was otherwise excellent, confirmed the rumor that “we won’t fit through the canal.” Perhaps not through the old locks, but the Dream has transited the new locks, so that’s not really true.
My fear was that we had a few hundred people on the “trip of a lifetime” into the Canal who will find out they spent their life savings on a trip that isn’t going where they thought.
There was a long discussion on the Facebook group about the itinerary “change” and whether is was changed at all. Apparently, a number of people read the title of the cruise (“Panama Canal”), saw the port (“Colon [Panama Canal]”) and instantly understood the ship would not transit the Canal.
I will forever know that if Carnival says Colon, it’s not a partial transit.
Carnival has improved its mobile phone app to provide “touchless” options for a lot of the usual onboard activities. The app lets you build a daily plan, book dinner tables, purchase excursions, order food delivery and more. It was great for us because we have our phones all the time.
We had breakfast with a couple that don’t have smart phones, have their kids do any computer stuff and are still managing onboard. You just have to ask for paper menus, visit guest services or the ShoreEx desk and so forth.
However, if you are technology-challenged, I can see how it would be a … challenge.
The WiFi was decent but not good. This is because after our last Carnival cruise, we raved about how good the WiFi was.
I have never understood Carnival’s food scheduling policies. There are a multitude of choices for lunch but almost all of them close before dinner. One of the most popular places on the ship is Guy’s Burger Joint and it closes every day at 6pm. Nobody ever wants a burger for dinner? When we were driving home from the port, it occurred to me that we can get Guy’s Burgers later at home (with UberEats) than on the ship.
MDR menus change daily and had decent variety. Almost everything was good. There were days with “things you always wanted to try” (frog legs, escargot) as appetizers for people who wanted to be brave. (I love escargot, but I’m not sure the serving I had would convince anyone that it was tasty.)
The buffet had a lot of choices but was always packed. The deli is inside the buffet so you could miss it (it looks like another buffet station.)
Seafood Shack is an extra charge, but I loved the fried clams, and you can preorder on the app, so you can order on your way to the buffet (it’s just outside the buffet) and pick up your order when you arrive. Pizza was tasty. Room service was very limited in choices but relatively fast compared to many ships. You can’t pre-order breakfast – or we never found out where to get the forms.
I think the Chef’s Table was worth the money – it was a lot of fun, and the food was very good. However, it was held in the galley which is exciting, but it’s hot and noisy.
Carnival has an “unlimited” drink program (limited to 15 drinks per day) but there is no discounting that we could find (unlike Norwegian, who include a “free” drink package and charge gratuities.) So, for “unlimited” drinks on Carnival, you will pay full-price which was over $1,000 each on a 14-day cruise. We just paid by the drink, since we don’t drink that much, anyway. (We drank more than usual on this cruise because of the length and the number of sea days, and still weren’t anywhere near the cost of the package.)
Drinks were good and easy to get at the bars. Drinks during dinner in the MDR were slower – get a drink on your way to dinner. The MDR staff would happily bring iced tea instead of water when you were seated, but refills were sporadic (drinking water meant a small carafe of ice water was left on your table.)