The hourglass-shaped Ocean Plaza is a glass-enclosed central area on Deck 5 that has a coffee shop, patisserie, ice cream stand, sushi bar, full drink bar, music and dancing, and computer access. It opens on either side to covered outdoor areas just off the wide, uncovered promenade. Four elevated whirlpools, two on each side, hang over the edge of the ship.

The plaza's computers are part of the Fun Hub network that has 36 access points throughout the ship. The network, which provides Internet access and a look at the ship's daily activities, also offers a social networking option for each cruise.

New stateroom categories add two options for passengers. Deluxe oceanview staterooms can sleep up to five people and have two bathrooms. The second bathroom has a shower, sink and a junior bathtub, making it perfect for kids. Cove balconies on Deck 2 are cut through the hull, putting passengers closer to the water. But in rough weather a watertight panel may be closed over the balcony door, leaving Cove occupants with an oceanview room. On the two-day cruise, the Dream encountered waves around 25 feet with 65-mph winds and the Coves remained open.

For dinner, passengers have the choice of traditional seating (same time and table nightly) and anytime dining (from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.) in both main dining rooms. The food on the three-night visit varied from excellent to below average.

The Chef's Art steak house-styled restaurant is an alternative for dinner. The restaurant carries a $30-per-person charge.

The Gathering buffet on Deck 10 features two full lines, a 24-hour pizza stand and stations for made-to-order burritos, pasta, Mongolian stir-fry and tandoori. Free, 24-hour room service is also available.

While the size of the Dream allows for some innovations, it also creates lines. The passenger-to-crew ratio, never a Carnival strong point, ticks up some on the Dream.

But perhaps the biggest topic for Carnival regulars on the Dream was the muted color scheme throughout the ship, including deep reds, blues and golds. While some liked the change, many missed the over-the-top schemes of other Carnival ships.

Sometimes it's the smallest things that shape reality.

IF YOU GO

Carnival's Dream

The 130,000-ton Carnival Dream, the cruise line's largest ship, will call Port Canaveral home year-round. It carries 3,646 people double occupancy; 4,631 with all berths full. The Dream will sail seven-night cruises to the eastern (Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; St. Maarten) and western Caribbean (Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico) beginning Saturday .

To get more information or to book a cruise, go to www.carnival.com or call a travel agent.

The good

Hidden delight: The made-to-order pasta station hides at the top of a stairway at the back of the Gathering up one level.

Aft pool deli: Delicious pressed sandwiches, including ham and cheese and pastrami.

Pop art: Hallways on cabin decks are decorated with unique art panels.

The big chess: A board with 2-foot-tall pieces was available on the promenade.

Atrium: A half-circle bar with a three-level spiral staircase rising above. A bandstand hangs above the bar.

The bad

Dining in the shadows: If you find yourself at a table under the stairs in the aft Scarlet dining room, try to move.

Power outage: The spacious rooms have one flaw: There are only two outlets, one by the desk and one above the sink. Pack a power strip.

Atrium elevators: Narrow entrances make it more difficult than normal to enter and exit when the car is full.

Signs: The dark-gray ship maps outside the elevators are difficult to read, and listing venues next to the buttons inside the elevators would help. Pink neon labels in hallways pointing to many venues are hard to read.

Atrium noise: If you're not going to party late into the night, avoid rooms near the atrium. The noise from the bar, band and dance floor travels up the atrium like smoke in a chimney.

Kyle Kreiger can be reached at kreiger@sptimes.com.