This review is geared toward adults who are considering trying a Disney cruise without having family with them. We sailed on the Disney Dream on September 22, 2013 on a 4 nights Bahamas cruise. This was our first Disney cruise. My husband is 67 and I am 58, and we were sailing without kids or grandkids. We had thought about doing this for years to compare the Disney cruise experience with our previous 26 cruises on six other cruise lines, but Disney prices have always been much higher than other lines. We had also been reluctant to do a Disney cruise because we thought it would not be much fun to be around a gazillion kids without having our own grandkids with us, but had been told many times that there are plenty of adult areas and activities. We appreciate the magic of Disney, so when a fairly decent deal came up, we decided to hop on board, compare, and relax. We booked with an open mind, realizing that this cruise will cater to children and it would not be a sedate experience. That is true. There were great things about the cruise (the cabin), and some not-so-great things (the food). Like any other cruise, ship, or line, there are pluses and minuses.
EMBARKATION: Our assigned time to board was 12:30 p.m. Unfortunately, only one security scanner was being used, so the line was very long. When we finally got through security, there was another very long line for check-in. The process took us well over an hour total. The line for previous cruisers, Castaway Club members, didn’t look any shorter.
DINING: We headed to the Cabana for lunch as soon as we boarded. The seafood bar was a most pleasant surprise; it include mussels, shrimp, and crab legs and the other food choices were good. The salad bar and other choices weren’t as extensive as we have seen on other cruise lines, but we found it to be a very good lunch – killer French fries! Breakfast has some good choices as well, including more seafood such as smoked trout, smoked mackerel, salmon, and lox. The pineapple-guava-passion fruit drink is delicious. Several varieties of soda are also available at no charge, unlike on many other cruise lines. Ice cream is also served in Cabana’s.
The fruit at breakfast every day was not fresh at all, but other choices remained fairly good. Lunch was consistently good.
Room service: We ordered room service on the last night because we weren’t impressed with the dining rooms, and it arrived promptly. It was very good.
Dining room: The first night, we were assigned to eat at the Royal Palace. We requested a table for two, but there are no tables for two on this ship, so we were seated with three other couples. We have grown to prefer eating by ourselves after a few bad experiences and now we enjoy that time together, but we decided to make the most of it and socialize. The tables were all rectangular, so we could only chat with the couple sitting next to us due to the long table and extensive noise in the dining room. We were quite close to the serving station, so that created noise, plus, of course, the amount of children present amped up the noise level extensively. Obviously, children are to be expected on a Disney cruise – that’s what it is all about. It was impossible, however, to chat with anyone else at the table. The tables in the Royal Palace are also extremely close together; in fact, the waiters had great difficulty walking behind the table on either side because they are really crammed in there. There is not much room at the table, either – it is very tight.
It took 55 minutes to get our appetizer, and the rest of the courses took a long time to arrive. The assistant waiter was very apologetic, but the service in general was a bit off. We had to ask for our one refill of water. We are not picky eaters, but the quality of the food was somewhat poor. The herb bread was dry, as was the pesto. My husband’s salmon was undercooked even though he had asked for it to be well done. My salad was warm even though my husband’s salad was chilled. Overall, this wasn’t one of our better dining room experiences. We had been advised by several people to go to Palo or Remy, but we are usually happy to eat the meals in the dining room so we decided to pass on the specialty restaurants. If you are looking for a really good evening meal, it is probably a good idea to skip the Royal Palace.
The second night we were assigned to the Animator’s Palate. Our waiters, who traveled with us each night to the different venues, did not have a strong command of the English language and some things got lost in translation. The food in the Animator’s Palate was better, but by no means superb. There is an interactive talking turtle on a large screen on the wall, which is very cool and also irritating because he talked very loudly throughout the meal with only short breaks. So, the noise level in Animator’s Palate was worse than in the Royal Palace. The seating was the same – long tables. We felt like we were in a chow hall.
The third night in Enchanted Garden was better. The service was faster and the food was good – not great, but good. The ambiance was not any better than the previous two dining rooms. It felt like a Disney theme park cafeteria type restaurant. We decided that we would go to the buffet, Cabana’s, on the final night, but it was not open, much to our disappointment.
The outside grill, Tow mater’s, serves the usual grill food and the quality is good – especially the pizza. The Cove Cafe in the adults-only area is small and intimate, serving pastries, alcohol, and specialty coffees. There are free ice cream and soda machines on the pool deck, which I’m sure saves families a ton of money.
We were quite surprised at the short hours for each meal in the major dining areas. Cabana’s was open from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. while in Nassau. Because we had to leave the ship to find Internet, we missed the lunch in Cabana’s. This is probably the shortest lunch window we’ve ever seen.
OUR CABIN: Wonderful cabin! We had a balcony on deck 10 forward, and the location was ideal except for the moving of lawn chairs one deck above us in the mornings. (We had no choice of location because we booked this cruise so late.) This cabin easily compares to a mini-suite on Princess or a Junior Suite on Royal Caribbean in terms of amenities (minus the second TV). There is plenty of storage, a king size bed (no two-bed set-ups) that was very comfortable, soft linens, and a fabulous bathroom. Actually, the bathroom is split into two rooms. One has a sink and a tub/shower with a lot of room and counter space, and another right next to it with a toilet and sink with plenty of counter space. What a great set-up! Toiletries are provided and they are large sizes with quality, whereas other lines have eliminated them in favor of a single dispenser in the shower. The bathroom set-up, large tub/shower, and amenities were the finest we have seen in the balcony category on any ship we’ve been on.
There is a digital clock/ipod docking station in the room, blow dryer, nice size refrigerator, nightlight, and safe. Telephones are included that you can use on the ship or on shore. We didn’t try those, but they are a nice touch. There are also TWO closest – what a treat – and a very long desk. They really hit a home run on the cabin design. The only issue was that the room was extremely cold on the first night even though we had the thermostat turned up to high heat. We had engineers in the cabin two time for lengthy periods. They explained that the sensors were put in the wrong place – near the refrigerator, which affected how the thermostat was working. They turned the refrigerator up and the temperature in the cabin was finally controllable by the third day. This was quite an inconvenience and discomfort. Cabin service was friendly and prompt in all respects. One high-tech feature that is cool and irritating at the same time is having to put your cabin card into a slot while you are in your room to activate the lights and television. Not fun if you leave your cabin without remembering to take the key out of the slot, which is easy to do because you have to leave it in the slot to keep the lights and/or television on while you are in the cabin.
THE SHIP: The ship is very nice. It is understated and there are no spectacular features except for the mosaic murals, which are beautiful. The public spaces are not glitzy or glamorous, but it is really well kept, extremely clean, and comfortable. The main lobby is spartan – almost sterile. There is no “sense of cruise community” in the public areas, which have lack of seating, gathering places, and light. It doesn’t really have a “wow” factor anywhere.
The Disney artwork displayed throughout the ship is impressive, especially the “animated” artwork, where the art comes alive with sound and movement. The elevators are small, but we never seemed to wait too long for one. The Disney tunes played by the ship’s horn when arriving and leaving ports are absolutely delightful. We stayed away from many of the public spaces due to the large amount of children, and gravitated toward the quieter areas of the ship. We love kids, but remember, we did this cruise to compare and to relax. There is an adult pool/spa area, but it is very closed in with no air flow, and during typically busy pool deck times, you might not find a chair. The area is a bit small.
The water tube slide, “Aqua Duck” looked like much fun but we did try it. The ship’s Internet was irritating while docked in Nassau. It bumped me off every few minutes, yet the clock kept running as it gobbled up my expensive minutes. I actually had to get off the ship and go to Starbucks to get some required work done. I got bumped off in Castaway Cay as well, but not as often. During the sea day, I kept getting bumped off again. Finally, I inquired with Guest Services and they informed me that the only two “hot spots” on the ship were in the Vista Café and the Cove café, where I did find reliable Internet. Guest Services couldn’t have been nicer about the issues with the thermostat and Internet. Their friendliness and follow up by far beat every other Guest Services experience we have ever had on a ship.
There is an entertainment “district” for adults that has clubs and bars, but we did not visit those other than to do a “walk through” during the day, so I can’t comment on the quality of drinks or entertainment.
A few negatives: Smoking is allowed on the balconies. Need I say more? If you smoke, it’s great; if not, it is unpleasant and of course we had a smoker next to us. That definitely diminishes the balcony experience for non-smokers. Also, the print on the ship’s map and in the daily activities schedule, the “Personal Navigator” is tiny, tiny, tiny – not designed for older eyes. Our reading vision is perfect with glasses, but we still couldn’t see the print.
ENTERTAINMENT/ACTIVITIES: The “Golden Mickeys” show was enjoyable for any age – very nostalgic. The “Villians” show had a few funny lines but was mostly “fill” – dull and uninteresting. The illusionist was very good. I skipped other entertainment. The band playing mid-ship was mediocre at best. Adult activities seemed very limited with less choices than on other cruise lines. However, the fireworks on “Pirate Night” were great!
CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES: We did not travel with children, but of course, there were many, many children’s activities and character appearances. It is heartwarming to see the little children meet their heroes. Unless your children are really into Disney, though, it appears that there is just as much for them to do on Royal Caribbean. Royal Caribbean ships are hard to beat with climbing walls, flow riders, zip lines, and skating rinks. Smaller children would likely have much more to do on Disney, but probably from ages 9 – 11 and up, it would be worth closely comparing the Royal Caribbean ships for a much better price and wide variety of activities. Carefully read details and reviews about children’s programs before making a decision.
ITINERARY/SHORE EXCURSIONS: We stopped in Nassau the first day, Castaway Cay the second day, and then had a day at sea before ending the journey back in Port Canaveral on Thursday. We have been to the Bahamas numerous times so we did not do any shore excursions in Nassau. We parasailed while in Castaway Cay and had a great time. Castaway Cay is probably one of the better private island experiences. It is full of beautiful landscaping, has all the typical beach activities, beautiful beaches, and a quiet adult beach.
SHOPS ON BOARD: The shops offered – what a surprise – Disney merchandise, jewelry, costumes and many other treats for children, and the other usual gift shop items.
DISEMBARKATION: Extremely efficient! We were assigned to eat breakfast in the dining room where we ate the previous night. A nice breakfast is served, and they announced when we were cleared to go ashore. We were off the ship, through customs, had our luggage, and were in our car within less than 30 minutes from the time they cleared us to disembark.
OVERALL: The experience on the Disney Dream was good. The cabin and the service in all the ship’s areas were stellar. The options were limited in some areas, including food and activities for adults, as well as entertainment.
If you love to cruise and try new cruise lines, it is worth sailing on the Disney Dream, especially with family. If you are couple who likes to cruise, but don’t want to be around a lot of children, think carefully. The cruise might feel like it’s more about a Disney experience than a cruise experience. This is not a complaint by any means. We are glad we tried it and had a great time. Our dinner mates didn’t have children with them either. They are hooked on all things Disney and would not even consider trying another cruise line and several couples we met sail over and over on Disney, without or without their families. So, if you love really love Disney enough, you will probably enjoy the cruise. If you are not that “Disney” person, however, consider whether a really nice cabin, great service, and being in the Disney environment is enough for you. If it isn’t enough, this might not be the cruise for you. If you want to try it anyway, try the 3 day Bahamas cruise. Enjoy!