Back from the Disney Dream. 9/6-9/9
We just returned from a fabulous cruise on the Disney Dream. We sailed with a large group ranging in ages from 5 mos-76yrs. No one had sailed Disney before. This was my 20th cruise. I've sailed on NCL, Carnival, RCCL, Princess, HAL, Celebrity, MSC, Norwegian and now Disney. We have been waiting to try Disney for some time and finally we got a really good price (for Disney) so we seized the moment.
Overall impressions- I wondered if Disney would be worth it. The price difference was significant, about 2x what we would have spent for a comparable cruise on another line. In the end it was. I won't be regular, but if a great deal presents itself, I'd definitely sail again. If you have kids under the age of 7, I'd definitely suggest you cruise Disney at least once.
One thing that kind of surprised me was the number of kids on board. Yeah I know it's Disney. However, kids are in school, I thought there would be only a handful. I don't think I'd want to sail when kids were out of school. It would be like a Saturday at Chuck E Cheese. The pools were teeming with people. Yuck! As a former health inspector that is just unsanitary. I didn't allow DD to get in until Castaway day when it was nearly empty.
I haven't been on a 3 nighter cruise in a very long time. I will be in no hurry to take one again. It just wasn't long enough to do everything we wanted to do on this ship. We rushed around the ship trying to get it all in. We didn't come close. We missed a lot of things that we wanted to do.
Pre-Cruise- We drove down from Atlanta 2 nights before the cruise. I knew it would be a long drive, longer with 2 small children. I tried bidding on Priceline for Port Canaveral area but my bids were rejected. That was when I got the idea to stay in the Orlando area. We figured we'd spend a full day in Orlando and then be rested for the cruise the following day. My bid was immediately accepted at the Radisson on International Blvd 3* for $41 a night. We had thought about going to Disney World but we didn't arrive until 3am and by the time DH and I got settled and got the kids to bed we knew there would be no Disney World. The hotel was in a great location, a mall, restaurants, shops and many activities all within walking distance. We spent the day at the pool, the world's largest McDonalds (it has a huge play land inside) and poking around the shops.
Embarkation- Smooth. The drive from the hotel to the pier took about an hour. We arrived about 11:15 for our 11:00 check in time. We left the car at the terminal ($60). Then we walked right through security and up to check-in. We had completed our paper work online, so the only thing we had to do was get our key to the world. The guy told us in another hour the line would be long. I'm glad we arrived when we did. I loved having them call your name as you enter the ship. It was a definitely a great touch.
Cabins- Staterooms were not ready until 1:30. We went by anyway to set down our pack and play and lots of other baby gear. The cabins were really nice, spacious by cruise standards. We booked an 8D guarantee and we were upgraded to a balcony 5D (Cabin 6022). Normally I avoid balconies with small children. I'm just not comfortable. But, who can turn down a free upgrade? Besides, when I was told that Disney has the balcony lock at the top of the sliding glass door, I thought we'd be ok. The other thing was that our balcony overlapped the balcony below us. So, if DD somehow managed to fall she would be on the huge balcony of the cabin beneath us. The separate bathrooms were an unnecessary but nice touch. I liked the subtle mickey details. Some of the more thoughtful inclusions were great touches. There was the top latch on the balcony, the nightlight on the vanity, and the height of the bed which allowed for great storage underneath. The wave phones with texting features. The coffee table was a storage ottoman. Definitely some useful cabin features.
Food- I was impressed. The food quality may have been on par with the other major lines but I was impressed by the selection. We had crab legs, large shrimp, lamb and steak on the buffet lunches in the Cabana. Every day there were crab legs. At least we could see where some of the Disney premium went. Of course, they had the traditional buffet fare but the addition of seafood was great. I also appreciated have soda and lemonade alternatives without paying extra fees. This was one of the first cruises that I did not dine in the fee restaurants. I was looking forward to trying Palo but 3 nights was just way too short to get it all done. I liked switching dining rooms too. It gave you something new to look forward to. Animator's Palate was my favorite. The food was comparable in all three but the animation entertainment made that one more fun.
Service- We got great service on this cruise. We loved our room steward Nichole from Jamaica. Our dining servers were nice. This was the first cruise were the head waiter really made a strong impression. He helped me manage so much with my 5 mos old. This was the first cruise I'd sailed where the photographers allowed you to stand behind them and shoot a picture. This was a great way to capture photos with all the Disney characters without having to buy all of their shots. The front desk was very helpful to my Dad getting him off the ship to dialysis. Even my unused OBC on Disney was refundable.
Entertainment/Shows- I was disappointed with the shows. I guess I heard so many raves that my expectations were too high. They were more like plays then Vegas style shows. I'm glad I took my oldest daughter (5yrs) to the kids club for Villains. The skull and other scary characters would have terrified her. I wondered why they would find this great entertainment for kids. True DD frightens easily, but certainly with so many young children she can't be the only one. As it turns out we didn't stay very long. I found it to be boring and we walked out about 15min into it. Believe (the better one) wasn't that appealing to me either. However, my 5 yr old loved it.
The pirate/fireworks show was exciting. It is fabulous what they can do on a ship nowadays. Loved the Aquaduck, rode it 5 times. When the ship is in port and late at night are the best times to ride. We were able to go over and over again with no wait. Other times the line was about Â½ hr- to an hr. Note that they will close the Aquaduck if there is thunder or lightening. The first time we waited about 30 minutes was 2 or 3 rafts away from our turn and they closed it. I also loved all the character meetings. I thought my daughter would faint when she saw Tinkerbell. I thought I would faint when I met Minnie Mouse. :)
Disembarkation-This was a little messy. Maybe I missed the instructions but there seemed to be no real order. They announced that the ship was cleared and we could disembark. I think everyone went at one time because the lines were really long. We sat down in the lounge and waited for the line to die down a bit and then we left.
Kid's Club- I thought the kid's club was great. I'm not sure my daughter liked it better then Camp Carnival, but she did seem to enjoy it. The facilities were really creative and definitely among the largest at sea. I liked the kiddie lo jacks (the electronic devices to scan your kid in an out of the club). It seemed like they had a good mix of structured play and free play. If I had a younger child though, I wouldn't have liked the mix of ages in one space. I didn't use the nursery. We travel with grandparents instead. Although, I did speak to some who used and were very satisfied.
Nassau- I've been to Nassau countless times, twice last year alone. I have a niece who lives there so we see more of Nassau then I ever care to. It seems everyone felt that way because the ship was so crowded. You would have thought it was a sea day. We got off briefly to shop for knock off handbags. Then it was back to the ship. It was nice to see the straw market had finally moved indoors. It seemed like they had been building that forever.
Castaway Cay- It was around 1pm before we even got off the ship. We explored, rode the Aquaduck several times. The swimming pools were virtually empty. It was the perfect time to stay onboard. I do think Castaway is a little nicer than the other private islands. We had lunch at the BBQ, spent a little time on the beach and it was time to return to the ship.
Again it was a great cruise. I wish we had longer on the ship.