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Cruising Carnivalís Dream

Cruising Carnivalís Dream
By Candyce H. Stapen

Carnivalís newest and largest ship, the 3,646 passenger Dream, launched September 2009, may be the ďFun lineísĒ best vessel yet, despite some crowding at maximum capacity. Several new features create smooth sailing aboard the Dream.

For this ship, Joe Farcus, Carnivalís designer, has gone tasteful-- well, almost. Gone are the themes that on some past ships resulted in pink blobs of grapes plastered to a dining room ceiling or clunky, cranberry velvet chairs plopped down to fashion a ďRenaissance-styleĒ lounge.

On the Dream Farcus employs creams, browns and soft green, granite-like counters with rusts, reds and reflective surfaces to create warm, inviting spaces. About the only holdover from ďFarcus fancifulĒ is the atrium with its multi-story, glittering golden glass panels tinged with green. Evocative of underwater treasure, the design grew on us as we sailed.

One of the shipís biggest changes is deck fiveís new design. A widened outdoor area called the ďlanaiĒ encircles the ship on deck five. Sun lovers find ample space here for lounging when the pool deck fills up. On sea days, the ship hosts outdoor barbecues in this area and serves healthy salads at the nearby, indoor, Wasabi bar. These alternatives help lessen the lines at the Lido deck buffet.

Inside on deck five, the Ocean Plaza lounge, stretching from one side of the ship to the other, provides indoor seating for lunch and a popular, central place for trivia contests and gatherings. My husband hung out here often, eventually winning a Carnival ship-on-a-stick for his arcane knowledge.

We also appreciated deck fiveís Burgundy lounge, a dedicated comedy venue. In the past, Carnival hosted comedy shows, especially adult-oriented ones, once or twice a cruise. On the Dream, Carnival kept us laughing with four evenings of shows and four comics. At the Burgundy you could settle in with your older kids for family rated humor and then come back with your friends later in the evening for adult riffs on marriage, sex, children and the foibles of modern life. For us, the comedy shows are just one of the ways Carnival distinguishes itself from other lines.

Another distinction: the Dreamís light, bright and well-equipped Camp Carnival play areas for ages two to five, six to eight and nine to 11. On this ship, kids can be as noisy as they want because the childrenís center isnít above any passenger cabins.

Ages 12-14 gather at Circle C, and next door, ages 15-17 hang-out at Club O2. Although well-designed with sitting areas, dance floors and flat screen televisions, we found it odd that the rooms, because they serve as muster stations, remain open 24 hours, even when no teen counselor presides, especially since these rooms are located off a less-traveled hallway. We would like to see enough teen counselors to staff the teen lounges whenever they are open so that the often unpredictable teen energy could be channeled into positive fun.

And the food. We start each cruise promising not to overt. That typically lasts until the second buffet lunch. Carnival, to its array of deli, Indian, hot entrees and salad stations, adds a make your own burrito area (really good) and a create your own pasta bar. We found Carnivalís main dining room fare typically better than most of its mid-market competition. And Chefís Art, the specialty steakhouse even at a pricey $30 per person, is worth the added cost.

We canít wait to cruise again aboard Carnivalís Dream.

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