There is a monthly plan that also has a 49.95 set up fee. The one year plan has a two week free trial PLUS a 97 day money back guarantee, and the setup fee is waived.
I understand that during the current signup process a valid credit card is required and that it is checked at that time, although the plan is not charged to the card until the trial period expires.
Although there is a free domain registration included in the package if you choose to register a domain name during the trial period you will have to pay for it at the time of registration, and this is not refundable, however this can be credited back when the charge for your hosting services is made (the end of the trial period). Even if you don't end up choosing dreamhost and cancel before the trial period is up, you can still use the domain name elsewhere by pointing the nameservers elsewhere, so there really is no loss that domain registration is not refundable. Another alternative if you just want to try out dreamhost is to create a free .dreamhosters.com sub-domain to try it out.
As far as night and weekend customer service goes, like anyplace else urgent issues are dealt with urgently. Routine queries are most likely going to wait until the next business day when more people are around. That's no official word.... I'm just a customer....