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Carnival Dream - Western Caribbean



By Angela Ash

For those of you wanting to visit the Caribbean... lay upon its soft sand and swim in its sparkling, clear waters, your choices are seemingly endless.  Some opt to visit one location, painfully choosing between amenities and local attractions.  But others... those of us who dream a little bit bigger... who refuse to choose between Cozumel and Montego Bay... decide to set sail for their perfect vacation.  Literally. 

Carnival Cruise Line is a leader in its industry.  Known as the "fun ship", its on board water activities are enough to have its guests booking at first glance.  However, digging even a little bit deeper, Carnival takes you where you want to go, from ports that are convenient, close to home, and destinations all on their own merit.  You never have to decide which single island to visit on your vacation ever again.  Your only choice is what to do when you get there!

And fellow travelers, getting there is all part of the FUN!  The Carnival Dream is a beauty, and with 15 massive decks to explore, you could easily spend all 7 days at sea!  But first things first, your home away from home is a floating cabin of comfort.


The cabins on board the Carnival Dream range from suites to balconies to inboard staterooms.  What always remains the same, whether you book with extravagance or with a budget in mind, is the level of service received.  Your personal steward will attend to your every need, as well as leave little treats like towel art and night time chocolates.  With plenty of space to move about, you might be tempted to stay inside and order from the 24 hour room service menu (included in the price of your cruise), but with so many other dining options aboard the Carnival Dream, you have to go taste testing! 

The two main dining rooms offer three different menus.  One is a fixed fare, so that you may always order that steak or Caesar salad.  Menu number two changes nightly, boasting everything from prime rib to lobster, as well as menu items that you may have never tried, but have always wanted to!  The third option allows you to order special selections from the steak house, at a small nominal fee.  These dining rooms also serve brunch on sea days, high tea, and breakfast each morning.  If you require an extra special dinner, make a reservation at the Steakhouse, and enjoy premium cuts in an elegant atmosphere, for just a little extra on your stateroom bill.  Now, when hunger calls throughout the day, the buffet is always full of delicious all-you-can-eat choices, including special areas such as the Mongolian Wok, the Burrito Bar, and Pasta Bella.  And if you never want to the leave the pool or your swimsuit, you can have pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and fries right on deck. 

And now that we have mentioned swimwear, the Carnival Dream will literally take your breath away with the choices for staying wet!  Adults may spend countless hours in the hot tubs on the 18 and over Serenity area, or they can hang with the kids as they splash, slide, and swim their away through spray zones, water slides, and sparkling pools.  The Twister slide will have the whole family screaming to the bottom!


And every evening, the Fun Times is delivered to the staterooms, listing the activities for the next day, including everything from trivia to game shows, performances in the main showroom, tournaments in the casino, and liquor tastings. 

While this ship offers so much entertainment that it is impossible to do it all, be sure to visit the Punchliner Comedy Club!  With comedians personally selected by George Lopez, this side-splitting venue offers family-friendly shows, as well as racier versions for the adults only.  With several comedians aboard, the laughs keep coming in.  And one of the best things about the comedy club is Jeff the Fun Dude, who presents the night's performers and offers quite a few laughs on his own.  I would LOVE to see Jeff the Fun Dude for a show in its entirety! 

And if there is one other spot on the Carnival Dream to start or end your night, it is the piano bar! Always full of great times, this space is an excellent way to meet fellow cruise goers, shouting out tunes that erupt into a free-for-all sing-along. 

Now, while you could easily stay aboard the Carnival Dream and have the vacation of a lifetime, the ports of call on the Western Caribbean adventure are just begging to be explored! 

This itinerary is round trip from the magnificent Port of New Orleans, a complete destination in itself.  When arriving for your cruise, PLEASE be sure to spend a few days before or after sailing in this historic, beguiling city.  It would be a complete travesty to rush in and out, without at least experiencing some of what makes New Orleans one of our country's most significant gems.


Full of bewitching cemeteries, lovely live oaks, and live music that could pop up on any corner, New Orleans also plays host to a slew of award-winning attractions. 

The Audubon Institute offers a unique zoo experience, an aquarium packed full of underwater delights, and an insectarium, crawling with all sorts of slithering things on multiple legs.

Definitely do not miss the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. This is rated one of the top five aquariums in the country, and has the largest collection of sharks and jellyfish. Doesn’t that make you shudder already?

aqu shark

On the cute and cuddly side, you can see penguins and sea otters, so let go of the rail! From visiting an amazing rainforest to feeding birds at parakeet pointe, you could spend all day here! And don't forget about the state-of-the-art Imax Theatre!

For more information, call 504-581-4629, or visit them online at www.auduboninstitute.org.

Now, I am about to tell you about one of the most interesting museums I have ever visited. Like creepy crawlies? Awww… come on. You know you do!

ins bugs

The Insectarium is so amazing! Imagine what it would be like to instantly shrink to “bug size”. Whoah… pretty cool, huh? Wander through 13 gallery rooms, containing over 70 live animal enclosures, 30 specimen cases, and a multi-sensory theater. Walk through a Louisiana swamp, or visit a beautiful Japanese butterfly garden. Wonders await you!

For additional information, call 504-581-4629, or visit online at www.auduboninstitute.org.



Another fantastic part of the Audubon Institute in fascinating New Orleans, Louisiana is the Audubon Zoo!

Set in a relaxed atmosphere, beneath living oak trees that offer their shade and beauty, this zoo offers plenty to entertain the entire family. The Louisiana Swamp and the Jaguar Jungle offer spectacular looks into interaction between humans and animals, while plenty of other areas, including the sea lion and elephant presentations, amaze and delight visitors of all ages! 

For more information, visit the Audubon Zoo online, or call (504) 861-2537.



If you are ready for some of the best seafood in the entire country, with live music and a festive atmosphere... right on the banks of the Mississippi River, dance on over to the Crazy Lobster!It's even super close to the cruise ship pier!

I tell you, this place is pure fun!  I have rarely seen such happy servers, ready with helpful information for meal selections, which leads to an informal, "let's have a good time and eat" motto. 

And eat you must, because the Crazy Lobster has an enormous food selection.  I would suggest starting off with one of their many appealing appetizers, such as the Cajun Calamari or Onion Straws.  And of course, since you do happen to be in New Orleans, why not sample the Jambalaya, or the Red Beans and Rice? 

The Crazy Lobster also offers a pleasing array of salads and soups. Do not miss out on the Creole Seafood Gumbo.  It is absolutely fantastic, complete with tasty shrimp and crab meat! 

Now, this is the home of the Cajun Steamed Seafood Bucket... and yes this an actual BUCKET stuffed full of delicious lobster, snow crab, boiled shrimp, potatoes, corn on the cob, and a sausage link. Obviously, this is something to share for the table, making sure that you leave room for the spectacular entrees to come! 

And now the serious decisions begin!  The seafood options are seemingly endless, with everything from Lobster to Catfish Po Boys, and a vast selection of fried offerings including Crab Cakes, Shrimp, Catfish, and Oysters.

But don't even think about throwing in the napkin just yet! The bread pudding is an absolute masterpiece, with the brownie sundae sharing equal billing rights.

And if you are just looking for a great place to pop in for a drink, absolutely try Poppy's Voodoo Juice. Served in a yard style container that even has a handle for when you're ready to go on the move, this blend of rum and juices will have you coming back for a refill. And I will go on record to say that this is the BEST drink in New Orleans!

When you are looking for exceptional seafood served in an electric, exciting location, put the Crazy Lobster on your "To Eat" list.

For more information, visit them online or call (504) 569-3380.


Now, if you yearn for something just quintessentially New Orleans, head on into the French Quarter. The Court Of Two Sisters is definitely the place to be for brunch... and not just on Sunday!

You may choose to dine inside, or out… in the fabulous courtyard. And the buffet is endless… or about as endless as two plates can contain. There are so many choices that this is definitely a two plate buffet. You know what I'm talking about... where you fill up two plates at one time and pretend like one is for someone else. You know you've done it! There is always a fresh array of various fruit, an omelet or eggs station, and everything from carved turkey breast to jambalaya.

For more information, visit them online or call (504) 522-7261.

And as that it is imperative to spend a few nights in the Big Easy, the perfect home base for your explorations is a MUST!


The Holiday Inn Metairie is an exceptional, dynamic hotel property, just a few minutes from the airport, the cruise terminal, and the French Quarter. When they say it is all about location, this Holiday Inn wins the prize! 

And with over 200 rooms, the comfort and convenience that the Holiday Inn Metairie offers is also unmatched.  The rooms come equipped with everything that you may need to get a great night's rest before you set sail, or after a long night on Frenchmen Street.  With complimentary high speed internet a basic amenity, it is easy to lay back, surf the web, or enjoy a movie on your very own flat screen television. 

And if relaxation is key, you never even have to leave the property to enjoy a wonderful meal at the Roundhouse Bar and Grill, serving up delicious selections for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And no need to worry about the calories, because you can easily burn them right off in the state-of-the-art fitness center!

The on-site business center also offers computers for your use, complete with the ability to print boarding passes or directions. 

And to stave off the heat from a balmy day, take a dip in the outdoor pool. 

Now, while the Holiday Inn Metairie may be a fantastic place to stay for any traveler, it is the PERFECT place to stay for those about to cruise from the Port of New Orleans!  The stay, park and cruise package takes away all of the stress and guesswork from your pre-cruise visit to New Orleans.  Included are your hotel accommodations, complimentary parking, 2 complimentary drinks upon arrival, 2 complimentary breakfasts, and even transportation for 2 people per room, to and from the cruise terminal. Really... how cool is THAT?

For more information, visit the Holiday Inn Metairie online, or call (504) 373-5946.

And before you even think about leaving the Crescent City, be sure to spend at least one night on Frenchmen Street.  Lined with venues that are proud to host some of the best musicians in the country, this is the Jazz mecca of the country.  I always seem to especially favor the Blue Nile.  It is spacious, but still has that intimate feel, and I have never been able to walk by without being drawn in by the brilliant lineup of artists that continuously grace the Blue Nile stage.  I was lucky enough to even catch the legendary Kermit Ruffins on this visit!


Although it may be one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do, it is time to say farewell to beguiling New Orleans, and hello to the other ports of call on this exciting cruise itinerary!


Cozumel is located just off the Mexican mainland, and it offers visitors some of the very best snorkeling and diving that they will ever experience.  Cozumel also has many Mayan sites to explore.  Various tours are offered through many operators, ranging from dune buggy rides to a ride on the Atlantis submarine.   However, one thing that is synonymous with Cozumel is her beaches.  You can literally discover paradise.  No... really.

 Paradise Beach in Cozumel is precisely what it says it is:  PARADISE!  Located just five miles from the cruise ship pier and easily accessible via taxi, this is the place where exhilaration AND relaxation walk hand in hand, upon one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Mexico. 


Every water toy imaginable is available here.  Try the water trampoline, a 14 foot iceberg climb, floating mats and kayaks, one of several slides, a water rocker, paddle boards, a space walker bungee, and use the complete snorkel gear to explore the warm, crystal waters. New this season is a giant climb station that you may leap off of into the sea or onto a giant pillow.  However, the fun really begins when someone jumps onto the floating pillow, while their friend waits on its edge, thrown into the air when the weight of the jumper hits! This entertains not only those brave enough to particate, but everyone on the beach gets a show! And remember, you can play all day long.  There is no way you could beat this price anywhere in the Caribbean!


Want something a bit more on the calm side?  Then take a leisurely swim in one of the biggest pools in Cozumel.  This elegant, refreshing pool area is very reminiscent of what one would experience at a five star, all inclusive resort.  Bar service is also available right next to the pool, or never even leave the water by placing your drink order with a member of the super friendly wait staff, servicing the pool and beach areas, as well as everywhere in between.

Now after so much time in the water, if delicious food is what you desire, Paradise Beach definitely delivers. With everything from sandwiches and wraps to fajitas and fresh seafood, the enticing aromas floating from the open-air restaurant are absolutely mouth-watering.  The Nacho Paradise appetizer is covered in a delicious cheese that I am still dreaming about, and I have never had better chicken fajitas. While portions are large, don't even think about "sharing" a meal, because you will not want to give away one bite! You can check out the full menu HERE.  And good luck making a choice, as that everything looks and smells delicious!


Make sure you top off your dining experience with an expertly crafted cocktail from the bar menu.  With so many tempting treats to choose from, keep in mind that you will not go wrong with the frozen margarita.  However, the Melon Ball, a decadent mix of vodka, midori, and pineapple juice, is now my new favorite drink!

And did I neglect to mention that there are hammocks?  I think I may have also skipped right over the fact that they offer Wifi, restrooms, showers, changing rooms, and massages right on the beach!

Paradise Beach has truly thought of everything... except they do need a bit of work on a suitable exit strategy, because I wanted to go into full-blown, four year old tantrum mode when I was warned that we only had an hour before we needed to be back on the ship.  

Go to Paradise Beach, as soon as humanly possible.  You can only completely comprehend how beautiful it is until you see it with your own eyes! 

And before you sail away, console yourself with some much deserved retail therapy, as that Cozumel offers some of the best shopping in the Caribbean!


And buckle in, because this ride is nowhere near over!  With two more ports to explore, the adventure is just beginning!

Grand Cayman is the largest of the Cayman Islands, and includes the city of George Town, a mecca for retail shopping, diving, snorkeling, and other excursions. 

Grand Cayman seems to be best known for its sea life and gorgeous beaches.  Stingray City is a featured attraction, where guests may feed and interact with these beautiful, graceful creatures. 

However, if a relaxed beach day is what you may have in mind, Seven Mile Beach offers beautiful white sand and a relaxed atmosphere... just perfect after an hour of shopping.  But as on any island, the important thing is to find just the right location on the beach to suit your needs.


On an absolutely breathtaking stretch of Seven Mile Beach, a beguiling place awaits, complete with sparkling waters, plenty of activities, and delicious food. 

Tiki Beach is absolutely the best place to spend a day on Grand Cayman.  Whether you choose to relax in a comfortable chair, or you plan to snorkle the day away, Tiki Beach offers everything to ensure that you will have a memorable visit.

The facility offers everything from waverunners, kayaks, snorkeling, floating mats, jetpacks, and even parasailing! If you feel like a little bit of exercise, make use of their official size, beach volleyball court. And don't worry about walking about sticky and sandy for the rest of the day, because Tiki Beach offers spacious showers and changing rooms for your convenience.

If you arrive at Tiki Beach ready for a delicious meal, then you are in for some luck! Served in a location with the perfect view of the glistening waters, in an environment with a distinct Caribbean influence, the menu offers so many tantalizing options that the only drawback is making a choice. A wonderful selection of soups and salads are available, and the appetizers range from Crispy Caribe Crunchy Calamari, Gump's Cold Poached Gulf Shrimp, and Island Conch Fritters. 


When you are ready to move on to main course, the Jamaican Jerk Penne Pasta is a creamy delight, served with your choice of shrimp, lobster, or chicken breast.  The Brac Crusted Chicken Breast is also a mouth-watering entree, stuffed with goat cheese, cilantro, and sundried tomatoes.  A variety of sandwiches are also available for lunch, along with the Tiki Beach Grilled Angus Sirloin Burger, topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, and sauteed onions and mushrooms.  You may check out the full menus HERE

Whether you spend a few hours or the entire day, Tiki Beach will provide the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation, whether you are looking for a romantic afternoon, or several hours of fun with the entire family!!

For more information, visit Tiki Beach online, or call (345) 326-4805.



Montego Bay is a bustling city in Jamaica, bursting with duty-free shopping, pristine beaches, and historical gems.  It is easy to see why Montego Bay is included on many cruise itineraries, but also offers some of the best resorts in all of the Caribbean. 

If you plan to spend a day relaxing on the sand, Doctor's Cave Beach Club is a popular destination.  However, if you have a little more culture or excitement in mind, then Montego Bay will not disappoint!


For fantastic food, the best libations in the universe, and an exhilarating good time, stop on Montego Bay's "Hip Strip" at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. Just ten minutes from the cruise ship pier, this is the PERFECT place to spend an afternoon. 

Now, I am sure that almost everyone alive has been to a Margaritaville, but this is like a Margaritaville on steroids!  This is not merely a restaurant, but it is a party paradise, full of adventure at every turn.  With a 120 foot slide winding down the building, those brave enough to take the leap will be deposited into the warm, crystal-clear Caribbean Sea, where they can swim, jump on the water trampolines, or relax on the floating sundeck.  Really... how cool is THAT?

And of course, it is probably illegal somewhere on the planet to step foot in a Margaritaville and not have what?  Yes, a margarita!  But the options are truly endless, so you will have to sample a few.  My personal favorite concoction is the Five O'Clock Somewhere, a perfect mixture of everything tempting that should ever be put into a drink!  And having a drink at Margaritaville can't just be normal.  With take-home souvenir choices like an imitation blender or a giant clock that you can hang about your neck or carry like a purse, sipping from a regular glass just won't do!


And when hunger calls, the vast array of tantalizing menu selections is simply AMAZING!  For starters, the Volcano Nachos will literally make your jaw drop.  A giant mound of tortilla chips are served on a platter, topped with everything that you can imagine, and then some.  You can try to finish off this bewitching mountain of goodness, but good luck!  And if you want to experience another appetizer firmly listed under "One of the Best Thing's EVER" category, indulge in the Lava Lava Shrimp.  Lightly breaded shrimp are tossed in an addictive Asian aioli sauce, piled high on a platter, just daring you to eat every memorable morsel. 

Margaritaville serves plenty of large sandwiches and burgers to to fill any stomach, like the legendary Cheeseburger in Paradise.  The Fried Grouper Sandwich, served as po' boy, is also a favorite.

And if you are ready for one of the Chef's Special Selections, then prepare your taste buds for an explosion!  The Coconut Shrimp is one of the best dishes I have ever tasted, with jumbo skewered shrimp, fried in coconut batter. Also try Jimmy's Jammin' Jambalaya.

Now, even if you can only take two bites, you must save room for the Key Lime Pie. 

Margaritaville is a definite "must visit" while in Montego Bay!

For more information, visit Margaritaville online.

While you are in Montego Bay, delving into a bit of history is a MUST!


There are some places that, once you have crossed the threshold, they seem to stay with you.  They are enigmatic, memorable locales, that leave traces in your mind long after you have packed your bags and gone home. 

The Rose Hall Great House is one of these abodes, and it is easy to see why. 

Rose Hall has one of a handful of Montego Bay's plantation great houses.  Many were burned to the ground during a rebellion, but somehow, even though many would insist it should have been the first to burn, it stands tall... a constant reminder of the atrocities that occurred within. 

Annee Palmer ran the Great House with a strong arm and a whip clenched tightly in her hand.  She was known to torture her slaves purely for her own entertainment.  However, inflicting pain was not enough for Annee, as that she also murdered three husbands.  Finally dying at the hands of her slave lover, she is suspected of haunting Rose Hall, and is commonly known as the White Witch.

This structure bedazzles all who enter with its architecture, history, and its notable surroundings.  However, it is often human nature to be drawn to things which evoke both fascination, as well as a good dose of fear. 

Guests are taken throughout the house on a guided tour, filled with all sorts of facts regarding the property and its inhabitants.  As one climbs the staircase to the second level, the mood in the air definitely seems to change. 

Upon walking into one of the bedrooms where Annee made herself a widow, I literally feel as if someone has tossed a wet blanket over my head.  There is a "heaviness" in the room, and a slight chill, on an otherwise hot and balmy afternoon.  Being a bit of a disobedient tour guest, I have walked into this room a few moments before the rest of the group.  As I stand, taking in these emotions, I "feel" someone walk up behind me... obviously the other visitors.  However, as I turn around to make space for them to view the room, there is no one there, and I can still hear the guide's voice two rooms away. Perhaps it was a visitor of a different sort... 

The Rose Hall Great House is a beguiling property, and they offer both day and night tours, complete with a visit to Annee Palmer's grave.  For anyone interested in history, architecture, and a good ghost story, your visit to Montego Bay will not be complete without an exploration of the Rose Hall Great House!

For more information, visit the Rose Hall Great House online, or call (876) 953-2323.

And just a few minutes away from the Rose Hall Great House is yet another historic plantation property, with yet more infamous residents.



Built in the 1700s, Cinnamon Hill is best known for its endearing, celebrity inhabitants.  Once owned by the family of the 19th century English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, this plantation house has been lovingly restored to its former grandeur. 

However, the resident that gains the most notoriety for calling this his second home is the last person to actually live at Cinnamon Hill, although the house remains in his family, as part of his estate.  Cinnamon Hill was the private retreat belonging to Johnny Cash, and it is questionable if his spirit has ever left.

When walking through the rooms of Cinnamon Hill, it is almost like Johnny and June have just left for the weekend.  Family portraits hang on the walls, and personal mementos line the shelves.  An alligator that Cash personally killed is skinned and displayed on the wall leading up the stairs, and his shoes are by the back door, as if he may walk in at any moment to grab them before going on a long walk on the spacious, beautifully landscaped grounds.



If the expression if "walls could take" might ever apply, it would be here.  Although in this case, I believe the proper phrase would be "if walls could sing".  Upstairs, home videos line a cabinet, and one can not help but wonder if a sing-along at the piano downstairs may have been captured, or if material that has never been heard might grace these recordings. 

Exploring Cinnamon Hill is utterly surreal, as closets remain untouched, with the contents of Johnny and June's wardrobe still intact. Four decades of memories still remain, displayed in a way that can not help but elicit emotion from all who witness them.

This was quite obviously their personal retreat from the hustle and bustle of their high profile existence, and the feeling that lingers is that of peace.  For some reason, it feels like the presence of June Carter takes center stage at Cinnamon Hill.  Often when looking at a photograph or a keepsake, it feels as if she may just be looking over your shoulder, happy that someone is finding enjoyment in the things that she treasured. 

While the main goal is to preserve this great house in the manner in which it was kept, group tours are reserved by appointment only. When visiting Montego Bay, one may not even realize that such a musical tome exists on the island.  So make it a point to explore this magnificent home for yourself.  It will be the highlight of your Jamaican adventure!

For additional information, visit Cinnamon Hill online to begin planning your tour today.



 Delroy Dennis of Sunny Tours Jamaica inside Cinnamon Hill

You may be wondering just how to get from one amazing attraction in Jamaica to the other.  It can be confusing and stressful to rent a vehicle, and often driving on unfamiliar roads can prove to be unsafe. 

The obvious way to visit locations in Montego Bay, Falmouth, and Negril is through Sunny Tours Jamaica! 

Sunny Tours specializes in Cruise Ship tours, but they also offer all types of excursions, airport transfers, and transportation services. 

With so many tour companies to choose from, the process may be a bit overwhelming.  However, the guides and drivers of Sunny Tours are licensed, knowledgeable, and best of all... personable!  I have used many tour companies in my travels, but I would be hard pressed to find another organization to be anywhere near as accommodating.  While they offer a plethora of tours, anything may be customized to your liking.  They are also experts in somehow intuitively knowing what to suggest to their customers that is of particular interest to them, while still staying within their budget. 

When visiting Montego Bay, ask yourself how precious your time in port truly is.  Don't waste hours of your day visiting places of no interest, just because they are part of a large bus tour that might include just one attraction on your "must see" list.  You have invested not only money, but invaluable vacation time, so be sure to make the most of it by seeing what you want to see, when you want to see it!

For more information, visit Sunny Tours Jamaica online to view their extensive services.

When planning your day in port in Montego Bay, be sure to "Visit Jamaica" online for tips and information on all that Montego Bay has to offer!

Whenever even thinking about cruising, be sure to research the ports of call, and choose the itinerary that will provide the vacation of your dreams! Typically, several different cruise options may sail from the same port, so explore your choices thoroughly on Carnival online, or call 800-764-7419 to speak to a friendly representative.

Carnival Photos Courtesy Of:  Andy Newman Photos - All additional Photos By:  Tim Ash