Carnival Dream Comes True

| November 14, 2009

Carnival Dream has finally arrived on the U.S. shores, and after a clever naming ceremony is sailing its first domestic cruise out of New York City

I am writing this from my stateroom aboard Carnival Dream, the largest Carnival cruise ship built and from my point of view, the classiest Carnival ship in many years. According to top Carnival designer and architect, Joe Farcus, Carnival Dream represents a move beyond what he referred as "entertainment architecture" and begins an area of more serious design goals. More about that later, though, let's look at the ship.

Yesterday, Carnival Dream was officially named by Academy-award winning actress Marcia Gay harden. Popular cruise director John Heald brought out an extremely large bottle that appeared to be full of champagne, but it was broken into pieces with a baseball bat by Harden and it actually contained several pounds of confetti which went everywhere upon impact.

From the outside, Dream has beautiful lines, the most sensuous in a Carnival ship yet. There is an added deck of passenger cabins as well as more and larger public rooms. If you don't know already Dream has a 130,000-ton capacity and can house as many as 4631 passengers in total, although the normal capacity (based on double occupancy) is just 3646 passengers.

This makes her only a mere 15% larger than the previous Carnival ship, but still the largest Carnival cruise ship ever. But size is not the important factor; it is innovation in what the ship has to offer its guests.

Beyond an elegant, new look, it has more inviting public spaces with generous windows and large comfortable chairs. It has conference rooms for people who want to bring seminars to sea. It has more areas dedicated to youngsters than any previous Carnival ship. It has the best entertainment ever offered on a Carnival ship and it has more varieties of cuisine on tap every day than any Carnival ship has ever offered.

Carnival Dream is the epitome of Carnival cruising, at least for now and the foreseeable future.

Unique Features of Carnival Dream: The new Carnival Cruise Lines president, Gerry Cahill, who capably achieved the impossible by replacing cruise industry icon, former Carnival President Bob Dickinson who retired in 2007, gave us the rundown on Carnival Dream this morning. First of all, the ship was given a new hull design in an attempt to improve fuel efficiency, which it did by almost 20%. They also re-designed the rudders to make the ship more maneuverable.

The hull is the basis of everything on a ship, and it dictates the overall design of everything that goes on top of it. As the chief interior architect and designer, Joe Farcus was charged with creating the excitement. In many ways much of what Dream includes was already determined by Carnival's tradition and reputation as a "Fun Ship," but there are also several innovations in the design based on carnival's desire to build its biggest and grandest vessel yet.

One of the goals of the ship is to appeal to the family market. They do this with a new style of family cabin, the "deluxe ocean view" stateroom with two bathrooms and five berths (beds), one bathroom even has a bathtub. There 190 of these cabins onboard.

The youth facilities onboard are the biggest of any Carnival ship yet with over 19,000 sq. ft. of space dedicated to the youth programs.

Spreading the Love Cahill pointed out to us that while the oldest ship in the Carnival fleet just left, the Holiday, the line still has 22 ships, but only one like Dream. There are eight Fantasy-class ships, four of the Spirit-class and nine of the Destiny-class, which includes Conquest and Splendor. The goal of Carnival is to spread the ships out, coast to coast throughout America. Next summer they will have ships home ported year round out of Los Angeles, Galveston, New Orleans, Tampa, Miami, Ft Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, Charlotte and even Baltimore.

Carnival Dream will be home-ported in Port Canaveral which is a very bold and complicated move by the company. It was unexpected since Royal Caribbean and NCL has chosen to put their newest ships into the southern Florida market, Ft Lauderdale and Miami.

So, why did Carnival choose Port Canaveral, some 300 miles north? One reason may be that it is extremely close to the huge "drive market." Carnival rightly believes that cruise consumers are very value conscious these days, striving to avoid the cost of airfare. Cahill points out that 50% of the U.S. population lives within five hours of the coast. Port Canaveral is easily within the five hour drive time of several major cities from Florida to Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and more.

Even better, it is extremely close to the Orlando tourist Mecca - home of Disney World, Universal Studios, Wild Animal Park, Sea World and a multitude of other attractions. Even the port city, Port Canaveral, is the home of the Kennedy Space Center, of the best tourist attractions in the United States in our opinion.

Marketing Carnival and Carnival Dream According to Cahill, the plan of Carnival currently is to get bigger, but not to go too large. Yes, Carnival Dream is the biggest Carnival ship yet, but it is only 60% the size of the new Royal Caribbean ship about to debut in two weeks, Oasis of the Seas. Of the line's 22 ships, they still only carry 3.9 million people per year.

Dream is designed to appeal to families, which tend to book more value-oriented cabins. Only 48% of the staterooms have on Dream have balconies, despite the addition of some of the lowest placed (closest to the water) balconies on any major cruise ship, the cove balconies on deck two. These family cabins can sleep three people (one queen and one single bed).

Carnival Cruise Line plans to host as many as 625,000 children every year, and they are well prepared. Age groups are broken down into 2-5 years, 6-8 and 9-11. The kids aged 12-14 are called "tweens" and they get a space of their own called Circle C.

According to Gerry, they want to be with the older teens (16 - 18), but those teens don't want them. The older teens have their own nightclub called Club 02. It seems to me that when you care enough to separate the tweens from the teens you are truly aware of the subtle dynamics of youth interaction.

One of the biggest attractions for the kids is, of course, the Carnival Water Works aqua park with the (currently) longest water slide at sea at 303 feet (The new one on Disney Dream to arrive in 2010 will be 760 feet long). There is also a 104-foot spiral water slide with a giant funnel ending. There are also two double lane 80-foot long racing slides - side by side identical slides so kids can see who is the fastest on the water.

To help the parents get a little private dining time, the kids' program includes dinner for the kids followed by late-night movies, video games and pool parties on certain nights during the cruise.

Adult Fun

Most obviously, the only "adults only" section is the onboard "Serenity Area" where no minors are allowed, like many ships have. But Carnival Dream has the first Serenity area to span two decks, and they do not charge to enter this area (it costs as much as $25 per person per day on some ships).

One of the most popular new attractions is the Ocean Bar, a combination nightclub featuring smaller bands for dancing, close-up magic and other variety entertainers, restaurant and watering hole with indoor and al fresco seating on the Lanai Deck. Once again, it is a very unusual design feature to have so wide open deck space so close to the waterline on a cruise ship.

Obviously, they would not have built this unless they felt it was safe, and I hope to see much more of it in the future. The Lanai patios are part of the Ocean Bar, but they are also part of the wrap-around promenade deck (5) which has four adults-only cantilevered hot tubs bulging out over the sides of the ship.

For more impressive stage shows, Dream has three original production shows for the Encore Theater, the largest showroom on the ship. This first year Carnival entertainment director, Roger Blum, has come up with "Dancin' in the Streets," "Get Ready" and "X-treme Country;" three productions each featuring solo singers and dancers as well as ensemble choreography and live music by the Carnival Dream orchestra.

Dream also has the first true comedy nightclub at sea as each cruise features four different comedians, each doing two different shows, one family-oriented and the last two shows of the night being "R-rated" adult-oriented. That means a total of eight unique comedy shows per cruise - a record amount of comedy per cruise for the cruise industry.

Another first for a cruise ship on Dream is the laser light show - performed every night of the cruise to the music of Pink Floyd, Rush, Van Halen, Boston or Styx. The laser lights are mounted on the top deck and shoot the light beams far into the nighttime skies. The music is amplified by a 70,000 watt sound system.

The huge spa onboard is called the Cloud Nine Spa. Nearby are 65 Spa staterooms and suites with direct access to the spa area. They all come with the Carnival Comfort Bed systems, plush mattresses, duvets, top quality linens and pillows. Some of the unusual offerings of the spa itself include the bamboo massage, a 75-minute couples massage, a hydralift facial, microdermabrasion, a cheek lift (for the face) and the "fire and ice manicure and pedicure."

There are 17 private treatment rooms including two just for couples. The spa is also the location of the ship's gymnasium - no charge to regular cruise passengers, including treadmills, stair steppers and rowing machines.

There are three swimming pools, seven whirl pool tubs, the Signature Carnival "Seaside Theater" with the large screen outside by pool backed up by the huge 72,000-watt sound system. In the cabins they run regular movies at no extra charge as well as several networks like CNN, TMC, Headline News, ABC and more.

Dining Options on Carnival Dream No cruise is complete without a fantastic array of food and Dream fills the bill as well as any ship in the world. In addition to the two two-story dining rooms there are several special service areas with cuisine hardly ever heard of on a cruise ship before.

There are dedicated food stations service Indian Tandoori, Mongolian Barbecue, Sushi, a New York Deli, Italian and a special Burrito Bar. Especially enticing is a special Pasta Bar where the cooks will serve the pasta and sauce of your choice and a Burrito Bar where you can create the burrito of your choice based upon your choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, salsa and vegetarian.

While the selection in the buffet area is extraordinary, I felt a little let down that they still have the long cafeteria-style lines where people pick up trays and push them along a long line with salads, entrees, a carving station, etc. From the time the buffet opened and for hours these lines were backed up around the corners and down the halls. They should have gone with more of the food-station approach for the entire buffet, not just certain items.

The 24-hour room service offers roast beef and brie on a baguette, grilled Portobello and mozzarella on focaccia and more - all offered at no charge any time of day. If you want to get out of the stateroom for food in the middle of the night the pizzeria is open 24-hours/day for slices.

The best food anywhere, onboard, is to be found at "The Chef's Art Steakhouse," a 139-seat venue high atop deck 12. There steaks of 9, 14, 18 and 24 ounces, as well as lobster, sea bass and more. The service charge is $30 per person.

Internet Access and Far More Every ship has Internet access these days, and the best ones have it bow to stern via Wi-Fi. Now Carnival Dream takes it a step further with something called FunHub - an onboard social networking intranet just for the current cruise passengers. There are 36 FunHub workstations onboard. It os free tro access these computers and interact with other passengers. Each workstation also offers Internet access at an additional charge. The ship also has bow to stern Wi-Fi access, and once you are connected to the ship's wireless network the first site that comes up every time you start up is the FunHub interface - also free for people using laptops.

FunHub is free to access and gives everyone onboard a place to go to see and what is happening onboard, scheduled by the ship's staff, and also by individuals who just want to connect with like-minded people. Any passenger can set up an account and make it either public or private. Almost like a Twitter or CruiseMates message board, FunHub offers groups for guests to join and discuss topics of mutual interest, and if they choose to meet onboard they can do so.

This means a chess maniac can look for quality players and schedule a match, or people who want to discuss stock market strategies can kibitz over investment options. Groups of people traveling together can leave messages for each other. The key is that people can read FunHub anonymously and choose what they want to get involved with, and if they choose to create a public profile they can restrict access to certain people, or they can make their posts public. It is essentially like almost any Internet-based community Web site, but it is limited the guests on the current cruise. This is a very interesting experiment in passenger interaction and it will fun to see where it all leads.

On the FunHub people of like interests can get together and meet up for sports events (for example) if they care to do so. Sports facilities include an 18-hole miniature golf course, a basketball court, a jogging track, ping pong and a volleyball court.

Summing up Carnival Dream This is Carnival's biggest ship to date, but certain things about it make me believe they have bigger plans for the future. Normally a ship like this would become the line's "Flag ship," and would be placed in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, but they chose to put it in Port Canaveral. This makes me believe it is more of an experiment in how well a ship of this size can do in an "average" market. That also implies there will be more of these ships and possibly even larger ones in the future, even though if you were to ask Carnival Management they would deny that is their plan right now.

This ship, Carnival Dream, cost $860-million, only about 60% the cost of the brand new Royal Caribbean ship which just arrived in Ft Lauderdale this week. Her top speed is 22.5 knots, very typical for cruise ships these days (keep in mind the ocean liner Queen Mary 2 can top 30 knots).

Dream carries 1367 crew members - all of them living comfortably below on their private crew decks, except for the officers who live close to the bride on deck 10. Most of the officers are Italian citizenry, as has been true on carnival ships for most of the line's history. The hotel and cruise staffs are international origin.

The gross registered tonnage of Dream is 130,000-tons, which is actually a measurement of volume. She is 1004 and 122 feet wide at the water line. Her maximum width is 158 at the bridge wings. Yes, she is too large to sail through the Panama Canal, by a large margin.

Dream has six engines capable of producing about 85000 horsepower. The engines produce electricity by burning a form of diesel fuel. The actual propellers are driven by electricity, not carbon-based fuels, although this electricity is derived from burning fuel. She has three forward bow thrusters and three stern bow thrusters.

Dreams number of berths (the number of beds on the floor) is 3646, but she can hold as many as 4631 passengers at once, and quite possibly will hold well over 4000 quite often, especially during the summer months when more families travel together. There are 13 guest decks, and the space/passenger ratio is 36; which means there are 36 square meters of space onboard for every single passenger when taking all public space into account. This is actually a relatively low figure for the industry but typical for Carnival.

There are 12 Penthouse suites onboard, 58 suites, 817 balcony cabins, 258 ocean view (no balcony) cabins and 678 inside staterooms with no windows at all. This is an ususually high number of inside staterooms for a modern cruise ship, but accounts for the high passenger capacity of the ship. These are generally the lowest-priced cabins in the industry, but not always the first to sell (balcony cabin sell faster). This makes this an interesting ship with an extremely high capacity of lower cost cabins.

More than 1.5-million pictures are taken on every cruise.

The signature Carnival dessert, the chocolate melting cake, will be served about 242,000 times per cruise. 26,600 meals will be served in the steakhouse, "The Chef's Art."

The galley will use 22,000 pounds of flour, 100 metric tons of pineapple - mostly in tropical drinks, room stewards will place more than 2-million chocolate pieces on pillows and make 663,000 towel animals.

The Spa will offer 18,000 massages, 9000 facials, 6000 slimming treatments and offer 2000 personalized fitness consultations.

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