“Welcome to the Brooks’ Family”! Our own personal greeting is announced over the intercom as we walk down a pathway created by crew members into the grand atrium. You can’t help but notice the extraordinary chandelier dripping with crystals and fit for a Disney Princess’s ballroom as you enter the Disney Dream. Children might ask if they are walking into a fairy tale.
We know the October 18th, 2012 cruise will be too short for our liking – just 3 days to the Bahamas and back. We’ll have to get started right away exploring and enjoying the Disney experience.
For us, this cruise is piggybacking off our travel agency’s annual convention held at Coronado Springs Convention Center at Disney. Therefore, we were able to experience the transfer system Disney uses to whisk guests from Disney World Resorts over to the cruise port. This is travel made easy. We’re loaded onto one of Disney’s Magical Express buses, with comfortable seats and TV screens to test our Disney trivia along the way. The ride is about an hour long and we’re delivered to the door to check in at the port. After going through security, we’re on the ship in 15 minutes or less.
Since our cabin won’t be ready until about 1:30, it’s time to catch our first lunch at sea in the buffet. Unlike most cruise lines, Disney includes complimentary soft drinks at all meals. This is a plus for the Cola lovers! And yes, there will be soft-serve ice cream available throughout the cruise – very important for our family. After a leisurely lunch with friends, our cabin is ready, so we’re off to explore.
Disney Balcony Cabins:
Upon entry, you’ll slip your key card into the pocket on the wall to control your electricity. Disney has implemented an energy saving program. When you grab your key to leave the room, the lights will automatically shut off. We experienced this on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic as well, so luckily we were able to figure out how to turn on our lights!
One of the first notable differences between Disney’s Deluxe Balcony and most other cruise line cabins is the split bathroom. You’ll find two bathrooms: one with a tub/shower, sink and vanity area, and another bathroom with the toilet, sink and vanity area. This makes it very convenient for two people to get ready at the same time and also provides much more storage space. The small tub would be perfect for bathing young children.
On the dresser/desk, you’ll find Disney’s “Wave” phones which are provided to all families. If you have family members going to different events on the ship, this is an easy way to keep in touch – simply dial your room number with a 1 or 2 afterwards and you’ll be able to track down your family in no time! That is if they’re good about answering the phone!
The cabin is tastefully appointed and you’ll find ample storage. Even the coffee table opens up like a chest where you can stash your possessions if you happen to struggle with the art of packing light. Not that I’d know anything about that problem!
Ok. We’ve explored the cabin; now it’s time to complete a quick ship inspection before we settle down to enjoy the cruise.
Children’s and Teen Programs:
The children’s and teen programs were open to the public during the ship inspection time. Stepping into these fantastical rooms could make any adult want to step back in time to childhood. If traveling with children, there will be no need to worry about entertainment for the kids. Video games, arts and crafts, and Disney animation throughout will make your children feel like the world revolves around them if just for a little while.
Tip: Families should be sure to join in the fun of the “Solve the Mystery Game”.
Dining and Entertainment:
Disney has implemented a unique rotational dining program on their ships. Guests are assigned to a dining time and wait staff, but each evening all of you (including your original wait staff) will rotate to a new dining room. Our first night we ate in Art Animation where the animation just might come to life if you’re lucky. The décor of this bright and cheery room will delight young and old alike. However, if you like a quieter atmosphere this might be the night to visit a specialty restaurant. Due to the noise in this dining area, we found it difficult to hear others while making conversation. The two other dining rooms are the Enchanted Gardens, think soothing surrounding fitting a princess, and the Royal Palace which boasts a French inspired menu. We missed our dinner at the Royal Palace, because we opted to try out one of the specialty restaurants that night, although we did enjoy a sit down breakfast one morning. Palo, one of two specialty restaurants, was well worth it. We were seated directly in front of the windows in Palo where we enjoyed a beautiful view of the ocean. The service was impeccable, the atmosphere was quiet and relaxing and the food hit the spot.
Disney is all about putting on a good production, so be sure to go to the evening shows. Remember, you’re experiencing a Disney product, so the costumes alone are worth the time.
Tip: You have the ability to experience the shows in two completely different ways depending on the seating you choose. To enjoy the special effects from the typical audience perspective be sure to sit in the main lower seating. Get there early as the theater can fill up. You’ll be caught up in the story and amazed by what you see. If you are someone who has a true interest in theater – props, setting, special effects, etc., you may want to take in one of the shows in the balcony. From this view you’ll get a glimpse of how some of the effects are created from the stage floor, and it’s interesting on a whole different level.
There is also a theater where you might decide to view a Disney movie. One of the choices on our trip was Nemo in 3D.
Late Evening Entertainment for Adults:
The Disney Dream has an adults-only lounge and bar venue called ‘The District’. You’ll find a sports bar with big screens to scratch that game itch, as well, as lounges where you’ll find karaoke, musicians and various entertainment.
No review of the Disney Dream would be complete without a review of the “AquaDuck” waterslide. With see-through walls that jet over the edge of the ship on one curve, this is a must-do for everyone. Expect to wait in lines. I’m guessing an average 45 minute wait.
Tip: We experienced the AquaDuck the first afternoon right after sail-away. I think we beat some of the crowds. I would suggest going straight to the AquaDuck after viewing your cabin on that first afternoon BEFORE sail away for the least crowds.
Fireworks at Sea:
Pirates are alive and well onboard the Disney Dream. On Pirate night, get in touch with your inner swashbuckler, don your eye patch and join in the fun. Do NOT miss the show on the top deck under the stars on this evening. First, you’ll experience a Pirate Play on the pool stage that leads into the only Fireworks at Sea. I doubt you’ve ever experienced fireworks this close before.
Tip: Best viewing area to avoid obstructions by the AquaDuck – Deck 12 starboard side directly over the pool.
Castaway Cay – Disney’s Private Island:
Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, has got to be one of the most well-laid out and comprehensive private islands visited by cruise ships. After stepping foot on the Arrival Plaza, you’ll need to choose between three main areas:
- Scuttle’s Cove, the children’s program areas where your children will be entertained while you scuttle over to the adult-only area,
- Castaway Family Beaches, where families enjoy a beautiful view, a swimming and snorkeling lagoon and the “Pelican Plunge”. Even though we were traveling without children, we made our way over to conquer the Plunge. Fun for children of all ages!
- Serenity Bay – an exclusive beach area for adults 18 years and older. You’ll enjoy your own lounge chairs, umbrellas and water chairs. Massages are available in ocean-front cabanas.
Use the tram to travel between areas and check the entire island out. You also might want to consider renting bikes to explore on your own. Everyone is served a delicious hot bar-b-que on the beach, hopefully with plenty of sun on the side.
Who should consider a Disney Cruise?
1) People with children who want an intimate Disney experience. You’ll have much easier access to characters on the ship than at Disney World.
2) Multi-generational families – plenty of options for all age groups who want to travel as a family
3) Disney Fans of any age
4) People with food allergies. This one might sound a bit funny as a recommendation, but we were traveling with a friend who has food allergies. Disney bent over backwards to accommodate her dietary needs including delivering a special meal to her at the Castaway Cay bar-b-que.
Disney Cruise Lines – a magical experience!