Sailed aboard the Disney Dream with some friends during college spring break and had a wonderful experience. This was my first cruise with Disney (after having sailed with Royal Caribbean and Holland America in the past), and I would absolutely cruise with Disney again. Here is a break-down of my vacation.
From the moment we landed in Orlando International airport, Disney made our arrival as pleasant as it could possibly have been. After claiming our luggage at baggage claim, we walked over to Disney's Magical Express. They immediately took our bags from us, and within 20 minutes we were sitting on a bus riding towards Port Canaveral. Check-in at the terminal went fairly quickly (and for those who have sailed with Disney before, they have an even quicker check-in line for returning customers). We landed in Orlando around noon, and were on the boat no later than 2pm (and this included a 50 minute drive to the port).
Once we boarded the ship, we were immediately greeted in typical Disney fashion. Our names were announced as we boarded the ship, a pianist was playing Disney classics in the stunning atrium, and Peter Pan was taking photos with guests. Characters were very accessible throughout the cruise. The navigator in the room lists all the times and locations where characters will be taking photos, but throughout the first day i took multiple photos with characters who were just aimlessly walking around, such as Goofy and Peter Pan.
Although there were plenty of dining options open, they were all pretty packed. However, it took less than 5 minutes to get food, and there were still a few tables available. The food and dining on the cruise was done to perfection. Tons of variety and everything tasted great. The rotational dining system in the evenings was absolutely brilliant, and a nice change from some of my prior cruise vacations (for those who aren't familiar with this, Disney rotates you between 3 different main dining rooms each evening, but your serving staff rotates with you to each location, so you get a change in venue but you don't have to worry about getting to know new servers). Even when we didn't enjoy any options on the menu, our servers were quick to offer us anything we wanted off the menu.
As you walk into any dining location on the ship, you were handed a sanitizing wipe for your hands (adding a nice degree of cleanliness). In addition to the sanitizing wipes, the ship felt very clean and was in immaculate condition. Everything looked freshly painted, clean, colorful, and there was no garbage lying around (and yes, I've been on very expensive ships that weren't so clean, so this was nice to see). In fact, late one night around 2am I saw the crew replacing some of the carpeting on my floor. I was very impressed by how good the ship looked; it truly looked as if it was the ship's maiden voyage.
During the evenings, the entertainment in the Walt Disney Theatre was done extremely well. They had family-friendly shows but with enough jokes/references thrown in for adults that it was enjoyable for any age. The shows were also on the shorter side (about an hour per show), which was perfect for us. Every evening they had two showtimes, one during the first dinner seating and one during the second, so you were always able to see the show during the opposite dinner seating time (and even if you got there as late as 2 minutes before showtime, there were always plenty of good seats to choose from).
In addition to the Walt Disney Theatre, they had the Buena Vista Theatre, which showed Disney movies (both 2D and 3D), many of which were still in theaters (they showed Oz The Great and Powerful on my ship within 2 weeks of its release). In the evenings they also showed adult movies that weren't necessarily Disney (such as Lincoln on my sailing). The ship also has plenty of adult-only lounges and a nice club for at night (mostly located in The District). Although these areas were designed really well, these areas were mostly empty at night and struggled to fill up. Nightlife dies by around midnight, even in the adult areas (which is much earlier than on other cruise lines).
The pool deck was designed well in that it was able to be used for multiple functions. There were two family pools, both of which could be covered to allow for events to take place on the deck (such as the sailing away party and fireworks). There is also a water slide for the kids, and the Aqua-Duck water coaster. The Aqua-Duck was a lot of fun, but had long lines for the most part and is not worth a long wait. I would suggest using it during off times, such as right before or after dinner, or early in the morning as soon as it opens. They also have a giant screen playing Disney classics throughout the day (anything from Finding Nemo, to Toy Story, Jungle Book, Tarzan, Lilo and Stitch, and many more Disney movies). Anytime I found myself with nothing to do, I'd always check out what was showing on the pool deck. They have seats on the deck specifically designed to face the screen, providing everyone with a great view. The pool deck also had plenty of dining venues open going late into the evening, and had self-serve ice cream machines. There were plenty of towels to go around and there were no hassle finding them (you just take them from the designated areas and return them as you please).
The biggest disappointment I found on the pool deck though was the lack of pools and hot tubs. I found all of the swimming areas to be immensely packed and busy, especially during our day at sea. There were only two hot tubs in the adult-only swimming area (but they are side by side, so it really serves as only one hot tub), and only a few others by the family pools. When we were at port there was definitely more room on the pool deck, but it was way too crowded during our day at sea, to the point where even if I could find a seat, it wasn't enjoyable to sit up there. They adult-only swimming area was a little disappointing in that it was located in an area where families sometimes needed to walk through in order to access their cabins. However, I was impressed by the crew in that they did ask kids to leave (or parents to leave who were with kids) if they were seated in the adult-only area.
Another disappointment was the start of my excursion to the Atlantis. During our day in Nassau, Bahamas, I signed up for the excursion to the Atlantis, leaving at 9:45am. It took over an hour from the time I checked in for the excursion, to the time I got to the Atlantis (and note that it is only about a 5-10 minute bus ride from the ship to the Atlantis). They had us waiting on the ship before taking us off, then they had us waiting next to the ship before they took us into the port, and then they had us waiting in line to board busses to get to the Atlantis. However, once we arrived to the Atlantis, I had an unbelievable time. The water park is a ton of fun, they provided a meal voucher for lunch, and they had busses departing back to the ship every 30 minutes starting at 1pm (and there wasn't any line for the return trip bus). I would recommend the excursion to the Atlantis, but would warn you that you'll be doing A LOT of waiting around before you get there.
The only other disappointment was the elevators. Although there are plenty of them throughout the ship, they are on the smaller side, take forever to come, and are often jam packed full with people. By the end of the vacation we never bothered to take the elevators and found ourselves always taking the stairs. This was fine for a group of adults, but may become annoying with younger kids.
By far the best feature of sailing aboard a Disney ship was the unbelievable service you receive. Every member of the crew truly wanted to help make your vacation as enjoyable and relaxing as possible. Many cruise lines have a great staff on board, but no one provides exceptional service like Disney.
Overall, we had a wonderful experience aboard the Disney Dream. Definitely more family-oriented than adult-oriented, but given that it's a Disney ship, I think they did as good of a job as they could possibly have done with the adult areas and entertainment. I would highly recommend the Disney Dream to any family (or individuals) who are fans of Disney and are looking for an unforgettable cruise vacation.