Upon recent blog housekeeping, I realized I never shared my post about our first Disney Cruise Line vacation aboard the Disney Dream. Time to fix that oversight!
A year ago Bruce, Torran and I escaped aboard the Disney Dream with the Disney Cruise Line for a five night, four day cruise to Nassau and Castaway Cay. Despite the unseasonably not-so-warm shores, the trip was a Dream! There is so much to talk about and I intend to show you more. For now, here’s are brief Disney Dream hints and review.
Check in at the Airport : Orlando International Terminal B Level
Although there are hotels near the cruise terminal, we opted to stay in Orlando so I could visit fellow urban fantasy author K.K. Allen. As soon as we stepped out of the hotel shuttle at Orlando airport, Disney’s helpful staff took care of everything, including our luggage. We rode the Disney Cruise Line bus for 50 minutes from Orlando Airport to the Port Terminal, at a cost of $70 USD return. Luggage was delivered to our stateroom by 5:30 pm. Check out the live Port Canaveral webcam with audio. When we caught sight of the big, beautiful ship, and her signature red funnels, we were hooked. She’s a floating palace that promises heaps of fun!
HINT: Pack a day bag with swimming gear to have fun on the ship before you leave port. The restaurant is open for lunch and you can swim in the pools, let the kids zip the Mickey slide, or try out the Aquaduck watercoaster before the ship leaves port.
By the way, shops don’t open until after the ship leaves port, except on the pool deck level. Keep the basics with you for a day of relaxation on board because you won’t see your luggage again until the early evening, even though they open the hallways for the staterooms at 1:30 pm. But don’t rush to line up to get into the halls when they open! The landings by the elevators are stuffy with everyone wanting to get into their room right away.
HINT: Pack your camera in your day bag! Characters show up at the Port Terminal for photo ops. If you forget, don’t worry, Disney has you covered. They use facial recognition technology to organize their photographer’s pictures, which you can purchase before you leave on your last day.
A Cruise is a Wish Your Heart Makes
I don’t know whether growing up with episodes of The Love Boat influenced me, but I’ve always wanted to do a big boat cruise. In this Disney Dream Review, you’ll see that the Disney Cruise Line didn’t fail to live up to my expectations. Even this short trip makes every member of the family feel like the trip is catered for them, starting off with a big cast off party with singing, dancing and familiar Disney characters. At the end, the ship sang to us. I loved the cheesy magic!
During the cruising days, Disney has secured drop off areas for infants/toddlers, another for children 3-12, and separate lounges for Tweens and Teens. There’s also several adults-only zones, bars and lounges. You can hire in-room babysitters if you need a private night out. At Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, there’s a quiet adult beach and spa at the far end of the island and a “hidden” teen hangout.
HINT: If the line up at the Port Terminal is too long, you can register your child for the kids areas once you are on board the ship. On embarkation day, the children’s areas are Open House only (this means you can’t drop the kids off).
Entertainment at Sea
The question isn’t what can you do on the Disney Dream; it’s what can’t you do on the Dream? The Disney Dream hosts two theaters, one for movies (Buena Vista) and the other for live stage performances (Walt Disney Theater) featuring dancing, flying actors and pyrotechnics. We watched Villains Tonight and Believe, impressive musicals the caliber of which we’ve seen in the Disney Theme Parks or in Toronto’s theater district. The performers didn’t seem bothered at all by the sea swell. Talk about good sea legs!
HINT: If you can’t make the live show, catch the shows in your room on the in-house theater channel while dining to 24-7 Stateroom meal service.
Movies shown on board are contemporary and old Disney classics. PremEAR screenings of new release films happens the same night as on land! We loved the Funnel Vision, a giant screen right on the red funnel that plays movies and shows throughout the day and into the evening right above one of the swimming pools on Deck 11.
Thursday night, the entire ship dresses up as pirates for dinner, then dances on deck for Pirates in the Caribbean party with Captain Jack Sparrow. What else could cap such a fun night? Fireworks! (10 pm – too late for our wee man). We spent most of our later evenings in the cabin letting Torran maintain his regular schedule even though the kids’ areas are open until late at night. However, we weren’t bored! On the Dream, the TV has Disney and Hollywood movies on demand for free. If you’re an adult flying solo, there are several adult bars and entertainment areas, as well as Remy and Palo, adult exclusive fine dining. We’re planning those meals for future!
The ship has three large shops on Deck 3 open after you set sail, except when in port at Nassau. Activities on the ship include family-oriented programming in the D-Lounge, such as bingo, trivia and towel folding lessons. Great fun! Torran’s been folding towels ever since, and now we fold towels for overnight guests. If you thought that was enough to take in, you’re wrong. Mini-golf and basketball are some of the activities on Goofy’s Sports Deck, as well as more traditional deck games like shuffleboard on the longer side decks. Cruise staff organize a full day of programming for families, teens, single adults and couples both on the ship and at Castaway Cay. There’s also Mickey’s Detective Agency, an interactive game located throughout the main decks of the ship. The ship doesn’t have a casino, but there is an arcade (the Arr-cade). In addition to the water slide and aquacoaster, the ship has age-restricted and family pools (this is a cruise, so we didn’t expect Olympic sized pools), and Nemo’s Reef, a splash area for wee tadpoles.
HINT: If you’re seeking a quieter area to relax, try the Outlook Lounge on Deck 14. Access it from select elevators in the forward funnel, above Edge (the Tween lounge). Outlook boasts a wide uninterrupted view overlooking the front of the ship. Most passengers don’t know about the Lounge. We took our son there for a quick peek during the day because it was empty, but I wouldn’t advise taking kids at night. It may also be used for private functions.
HINT: Docking at Castaway Cay and activities on the island are weather dependent. Mickey Mouse has a lot of influence, but he still can’t bargain with Mother Nature. Our day at Castaway Cay was not as enjoyable as we’d liked because of the wet, cool weather. There aren’t many large buildings to host indoor activities in bad weather on the island. Ship staff work on the island at the same time as we docked there, so activities on board were not as numerous.
HINT: We loved looking for hidden Mickeys and officer Pin Trading night!
Food, Glorious Food
It doesn’t matter what you eat, the staff on board the Disney Dream will take care of your dietary needs. There are allergen risks, which they try to address at the beginning of your stay. The ship has three large table service restaurants through which you and your family will be rotated: The Royal Court, The Enchanted Garden and our favourite, the Animator’s Palate. To fill up our table, we were paired with another family from New Orleans and they were lovely! Our waiters followed us for every dinner service in the main restaurants. They remember our preferences, drew Mickey Mouse with sauces, entertained the kids with magic and tricks. The first night, our waiter cut Torran’s steak so I could eat a hot meal! The earlier you complete your ship booking, the more likely you can get your dinner seating at 5 pm or 8 pm. But that’s not your only choice! All meals are offered in buffet style at Cabana’s on Deck 11 (conveniently pool side). This is also where we had lunch on our first day. During the cruise there are tonnes of choices including lighter fare from Flo’s Cafe, and soft serve ice cream at Eyescream/Frozone Treats (Deck 11). Coffee/tea and fountain drinks are available on Deck 11 all day and night. If you can manage waking early for the sunrise, I highly recommend it. A peaceful way to savour a cuppa on deck.
HINT: If you need to have a quiet meal in your room, room service food is free 24 hours a day until 1:30 am on your last night at sea. You just throw in the tip!
HINT: If you have The Animator’s Palate two nights in a row on your dining rotation, don’t despair, and don’t skip it! We were going to, but our waiter suggested otherwise. This restaurant has charm and the Disney Imagineer wow factor. The walls come to life and characters from Finding Nemo swim among the passengers and talk to them. Crush the sea turtle kicks off dinner with an interactive lesson in Turtle Talk. You’d have to be a pretty big Grinch not to get a kick out of Bruce the Shark coming by to say “Hello.” If your second night is Pirate Party night, the walls of the restaurant rotate through pirate themed drawings (Pirates of the Caribbean anyone?) which just wouldn’t feel right anywhere else.
HINT: Disney is one of the few cruise lines which allows you to bring your own alcoholic beverages on board. You can bring your wine to the table at dinner, opened for a nominal corkage fee, or drink it in on your own schedule. There are alcoholic beverages for sale as soon as you get on board, so if you forget to grab your tipples, don’t worry. There are 11 bars on board in which you can purchase alcohol.
Be Our Guest
Finally, the customer service was impeccable. All the staff we spoke to made an effort to smile and meet our needs in every way. I slipped on water with my hot tea one morning and the deck staff immediately rushed for a first aid kit and salve. We have no complaints about the Disney staff and the ones we chatted to truly enjoy working for the company (even though they work very hard 7 days a week!).
(and I didn’t forget the spa – that’s going to be a separate post!)
Should you do a Disney cruise? If you can save up your pennies for this top of the line cruise, then yes, absolutely – even if you don’t have kids!
edit: The Dream has new enhancements including expanded Star Wars themed kids’ zone and a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique!