Dream a little dream of me…that’s the song by Mama Cass Elliott of the Mamas & Papas that I thought of when I was on our 4 night Disney Dream cruise recently. My wife & I went on the Disney Dream for my birthday 11/3-11/7. A little back round before I start my review & comments: my wife Teresa & I have now been on 29 cruises, this was our 2nd with DCL. We are new seniors, no kids because we got married late in life.. I am Diamond with Royal Caribbean ( 12 cruises), and also been all other major cruise lines except Costa..these include 6 on Carnival, 5 on Norwegian, and one each on Celebrity, HAL, Princess, and Celebration cruise lines. I will make some comparisons mostly to RCI, since that’s the line I’ve cruised the most. Please keep in mind that food, service & entertainment are all VERY subjective, and these are all my opinions, thoughts & observations only, so please don’t have a cow if you disagree with me. Also keep in mind that the Oasis/ Freedom ships are much bigger and carry more passengers than the Disney Dream, so generally the bigger the ship, the level of service seems to go down, along with the quality of the food, especially in the MDR. I welcome comments, but please remember that if you haven’t cruised various lines, you shouldn’t be making any comparisons, since you have nothing to compare cruises to….nothing bothers me more than people who say, "oh XX is the best cruise line, even though I’ve never cruised anything else”….ridiculous to say something so bias IMO…
Let me start by saying the cruise was fantastic- by far the best service, bedding, shower, buffet area , outside promenade deck area, brunch ( Palo ), private island ( Castaway Cay) ,main production shows, and standard balcony cabin we’ve ever seen/ been in…the ship itself is gorgeous, and relatively easy to navigate. One thing you should know: I was not cold, but the ship is very cold overall- my wife was freezing 90% of the time. I would recommend if you get cold easily, bring a sweater or light jacket. Some were overly dressed I admit…a few passengers looked like they were going to the Arctic Circle with coats, sweat shirts, heavy sweaters…sweaters on a Bahamian cruise? Not too macho guys, LOL….
Embarkation/ Lunch in Cabanas
Embarkation was a little long & it felt like there was some confusion...you get a number and we were group # 7 after you check in...Here's a great thing Disney does: when you actually board the ship, they actually announce your family name, like, "Please welcome aboard the Jones family!", and all the crew members clap & cheer, then one of the staff takes you aside & welcomes you on the Dream...they tell you where you can eat, and what will be happening later today and that the muster drill will be at 4 PM..fantastic!! We even had a staff member take our carry on luggage and put us in the elevator and press 11 for Cabanas- Wow, that's service!! So we ate first in Cabanas, the buffet area on deck 11. Cabins are ready at 1:30 PM.. Food included shrimp cocktail, mussels, pizza, salads, beef, chicken, a wonderful chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto ( fabulous!!), terrific french fries ( best ever on a ship, crisp, not soggy steak fries) , rib-eye steaks, and more. Sodas are included in your fare, so if you drink a lot of soda, that’s a nice perq. I don’t drink much soda anymore, but they did have diet sprite on tap, the only one I ever drink occasionally- thumbs up for that DCL….desserts usually stink ( to me) on cruise ships because there only 6 things that tempt me: chocolate cake, coconut cake, coconut cream pie, key lime pie, brownies & chocolate chip cookies…all very rare to be found on ships…the latter 2 are usually hard & mediocre for me….the Dream did have a chocolate peanut butter brownie that was scrumptious , really yummy ( Big Al Tip: you can find them always in the Cove Café in the adult pool area, and the Vista Café on deck 4 midship..).I found the food here better than RCI’s Windjammer.
We went to our cabin at exactly 1:30 and I was so impressed by it’s size ( 299 SF inc balcony, which was 45 SF, cabin 254)…the balcony was a tad small at 45 SF, a little smaller than RCI’s Oasis D class balcony’s which are 182 SF plus 53 SF for balcony…so the cabin itself is bigger, balcony slightly smaller. Freedom class at 199 SF and 65 SF balcony is bigger …this cabin was more like the Junior Suites on the Freedom class , which are 297 SF plus 94 SF balcony..so RCI wins for balcony size, but Disney wins in standard cabin size. Big difference was the bathroom set up. Disney gives you TWO bathrooms, one with a sink & toilet, the other with sink & shower/ bath. And here’s the goodie: the shower has a hand held shower AND a rain shower right above you! You can turn on either one with a handle …it was also bigger, not tiny like RCI’s. Water pressure was decent, not great, but OK…best ever water pressure was on the Celebrity Mercury- it was like Niagara Falls in there…bedding goes to DCL- most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept on. Pillows could’ve been better.. one thing was weird: the A/C was the quietist ( but efficient & cold) I’ve ever heard ( or not heard)..you could not hear a sound from that unit! Hard to believe it was even on ..TG I brought a sounds radio because I don’t like it when it’s too quiet. Flat screen TV was a tad small, and was 90% Disney channels. Only non- Disney was 3 ESPN’s, 3 CNN’s and an ABC channel. Selection was pretty terrible. I don’t cruise to watch TV, but when I go to bed I like to watch a little late night TV…RCI wins the TV battle…there were 3-4 outlets along the wall near the mirror to plug in cell phones, cameras, etc most cabins on other ships have only 1-2 outlets…also, there are 2 wave phones ( walkie-talkie’s) in the cabin and they are FREE ( unlike RCI that charges you).. ..overall, if you compare the 4B cabin to a D1 on RCI, Disney wins..if you compare it to a JS on RCI, it’s a tie..I like the walk-in closet in the JS’s and I like the bigger balconies and better TV…Disney has better beds & showers…also Disney’s fridge is COLD, while RCI’s was room temp, or barely cool at best.
On Disney, they have what is called "rotation dining”. They have 3 main dining rooms on board: the Enchanted Garden, The Royal Palace, and Animator’s Palate ( my fav). All 3 are distinctively different and all were IMO, very good. Our waiters were Kurt from Jamaica ( yah mon), and assistant Hendro from Indonesia . Both were very, very good..Kurt explained all the entrees and gave his two cents worth when asked. The idea is you go to each of the 3 venues and the waiters follow you to each one. We had a table for 2 ( table 23 ) and Kurt & Hendro were there each night with us…LOVED this concept..much better than going to the same dining room every night. It was so interesting dining in 3 different places in 3 nights, all with a different look, feel, and menu. You get a ticket that tells you where you are dining on what day. Only bad thing is our seating was at 5:45 PM, and that’s about an hour earlier than I like to eat on RCI..there is NO MTD, only early or late dining. I think it’s because of how many small children there are and I think it would cause quite a mess doing MTD. I ate Prime Rib first night, rack of lamb 2nd night and another terrific meat dish the 4th night ( 3rd night was Palo, which you will read next..)..all were very good..all had very good side dishes..DCL wins here for entrees..I had escargots one night, a personal fav, and it was delicious..RCI has been saying for a while now that there is an escargot shortage worldwide- not on the Disney Dream there isn’t….
Palo specialty dinner & brunch
My wife & I ate at Palo’s on our other DCL cruise on the Wonder in ’06. It was only $10 pp then and it was fabulous then. This time we were in for a real treat. It’s $25 now ( we paid $20 and it went up recently)… More important, our waitress, Maria from Romania was THEE best server we ever had on any ship anywhere!! We met her on the private island ,Castaway Cay, at our lunch buffet area ( only for adults at adult beach- very nice!!)…she told us all about Palo’s dinner menu, and I asked if we could ask for her at dinner, and she said yes. When we got there, she had reserved a table for us in a corner with a water view. Maria explained the menu and that began about 5000 calories from hell for us…WOW, what a meal!!! For dinner, Maria brought us anti-pasto filled with prosciutto, braciole, cheeses, and other delights. For the main course my wife had rack of lamb and I had a chateaubriand ( on top of yummy wasabi mashed potatoes,uuummmm!!), both cooked perfectly. While I was eating my main course, Maria brought me like a 6 ounce lobster tail and said, "I thought you might like this”…like this??? That’s like telling the fox he might like going into the chicken house….Maria would keep bringing us little dishes to try on the side- sorbet, pasta, etc…I estimated the cost of all the food in a high end venue ( like a Ruth Chris or Morton’s..) to have been around $200-250 so $46 plus tip seemed like a good deal..not to mention sitting at dinner without hundreds of screaming kids…
The brunch at Palo’s the next morning was simply over the top. Maria greeted us and gave us a tour of the brunch area..it was divided by kinds of foods..I had heard about the chicken parmagiana from many Disney cruisers..I thought, "chicken parm at a brunch? How pedestrian- what is this, the Olive Garden? I can get chicken parm anywhere ..” Boy, was I wrong- I ordered it along with eggs benedict, and then went to up to check out the brunch buffet. I had shrimp cocktail, crab legs, smoked salmon, anti- pasto, and the BEST hot sticky buns I’ve ever had..I told Maria to have a medic standing by after I tasted it…after regaining consciousness, I had the chicken parm & eggs benedict put in front of me. I took one bite of the chicken parm and I can tell you it was the best chicken parm I ever tasted…hot and crispy, not soggy or overly drenched in oil… In the two meals , barely 15 hours apart, we must’ve consumed 6000 calories alone…I felt sooooo full..I was afraid if I went to the pools, a lifeguard ( Disney has lifeguards now around main pools) , might throw a harpoon at me…it was by far the best 2 meals back-to-back I’ve ever eaten- on 29 cruises, that’s a lot. I love Chops, Portifinos and the 150 Park Café on RCI, but this better, IMHO…
Entertainment & shows
Until I went on the Oasis in early 2010, I thought the production shows on the Disney Wonder in 2006 were the best shows we’ve ever seen. Yes, they were Disney themed, but the singing, dancing & music were just…well…magical!! I’ve always have had issues with production shows , because I feel doing 45 minutes of an off Broadway play that NOBODY knows is usually boring…I once sat next to a man whom I struck up a conversation with, who decided to leave 20 minutes into the show. I asked why he was leaving, and he said, "I lived 40 years in NYC, saw perhaps 100-150 plays, and I never have heard of any of these songs or music- why can’t they chose better musicals?”. I have agreed with this statement for several years now, until I cruised the Oasis ships.The new shows on Oasis & Allure are much better because they are not doing unknown musicals anymore- they got smart and all 3 I’ve seen, "Hairspray” ( best IMO), "Saturday Night Fever” ( on Liberty OS) and "Chicago” are all outstanding.
Disney Dream had 4 shows- "The Golden Mickeys” was the first night, a timeless tribute to Disney & Mickey going back into history. I thought it was very good…grade- A-....2ND night was called "Villains Tonight”, a tribute to, naturally, all the Disney villains. I thought it was awesome- A+ all the way- great singing, great music ( even a little scary for very young kids..), and 3rd night was an illusionist & magic show, Kyle Night & Mistie, a husband/ wife act that were much better ( probably the best ) illusionists than any others I had seen..4th and final night was "Disney’s Believe”, a wonderful story about a father scientist who doesn’t believe in magic, and isolates himself from his teenage daughter, who believes in magic. Again, top notch effects, singing, dancing, a wonderful show for all. Grade- A even A+…some guests do not go to shows for whatever reason, but let me tell you if you saw these and didn’t like them, you ARE entitled to your own opinion, but I would send you to the nearest MRI center and check your head out. Big Al tip: seats are roomier on the lower floor, rather than in the balconies & all shows were PACKED, so get there 20-25 min early!!…
Other entertainment included a nice duo in the atrium that played all kinds of music. There are character appearances by Disney characters every day in the atrium and it was so cute to see all the children taking pictures with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, etc. There is an adult section called "The District” which consists of 7 bars/ lounges including a sports bar ( 687 Pub ), a champagne bar ( Pink ), a martini bar ( Skyline Lounge ) that it’s skyline on the wall of 10 cities or so, changes every 15 minutes- very cool place..The D Lounge has live music and had a British trio there..they were very good, except I didn’t like the songs they played…perhaps they could use another 2-3 more venues back there including a dedicated Karaoke Bar, instead of the family one they have. The have a Pirate show on the pool deck with terrific fireworks- tip: get there early as if really gets crowded..after the fireworks, there is a party & buffet at the pool. Capt Jack Sparrow is the lead character and he’s dead ringer for Johnny Depp…entertainment compared to RCI’s Oasis class is a tie, both super…. Big Al tip- on deck 12 aft, check out the Meridian Bar, go there at sunset for SPECTACULER views of the sunset..you can sit outside or inside..it is in between both specialty restaurants, Palo & Remy’s, great place for a drink- I had a B-52 ( Kahlua, Grand Marnier, and Bailey’s)
Ports of Call
There were only 2 ports of call on this 4 night cruise, Nassau & Disney’s wonderful private island, Castaway Cay. It was windy & cloudy in Nassau, and the authorities put the red flag up, meaning "no swimming” so after some consideration, we went back to the ship after driving to the Sheraton Cable Beach. We’ve been to Nassau about 10 times, and I don’t need my hair braided (LOL), so no big deal…Castaway Cay I always believed was the nicest private island I ‘ve ever been to ( HAL’s Half Moon Cay 2nd, and I’ve been to all the P.I’s..). This 2nd trip confirmed that, as it is simply stunning. There are 3 main beaches , including Serenity Bay, an adult only area. The island is so big, they have trams taking you to each designated area. The adult Serenity Bay is magnificent with clear, crystal water, hammocks, cabanas, umbrellas with lounge chairs AND smaller chairs you can place in the sand by the water’s edge ( I did that- wonderful!!)…there is an adult only buffet area that serves the standard fare: burgers, dogs, chicken, AND rib-eye steaks, salads, fruit, and soft ice-cream. It was better than all the other PI buffets I’ve eaten at…Castaway Cay gets my thumbs over all others, including Labadee & Coco Cay.
Disembarkation went smoothly, and we were off the ship by 7:15 AM...
I think that should do it…any questions / comments, please give a shout…If you’ve never tried Disney cruises before, and always thought to yourself 1) Disney cruises are too $$, and 2) I don’t have kids / my kids are too old, or 3) Is the service/ food/ shows really that good on Disney? Remember the Disney Fantasy, a sister to the Dream has a 98% approval rate on CC, and was voted recently as the best mainstream cruise ship in the world. The Dream is at 84%, similar to the Allure…Next up for us is the 2014 Halloween cruise on the Oasis, a special 5 nighter, which is a birthday cruise for my wife..….Have a magical day!!!!
IMO,Castaway Cay is the nicest private island I've been to, with HAL's Half- Moon Cay 2nd. There are 3 separate beaches, and Serenity Bay is the one we went to, It is exclusively for adults ( 18+) and also has it's own buffet area. there are also hammocks to the right as soon as you get on the beach. Speaking of which, CC is so big , you can take a tram ( highly recommended unless you want to walk 30 minutes in the heat) that drops you off at the adult beach. Water is crystal clear, and there are umbrellas & lounge chairs for all. There are even chairs you can plop down at the water's edge in the sand, which was very relaxing. There are waiters going back & forth to serve drinks...there is also a bike route with a bicycle rental shop near by....Disney has truly got a gem here!!