We are a married couple aged 47 & 40 (but who are kids at heart) with an 8-year old daughter. We've sailed in the past with Princess, MSC, and Royal Caribbean twice (once with our daughter) - we've travelled to Disney World as a family 4 times, and this was our first time putting the two together and embarking on a Disney Cruise.
Embarkation & Sail Away:
Over all embarkation was fairly quick - the terminal was packed, since we had arrived later than we would normally choose to (having taken the Disney Transportation from the resort where we spent a couple of days before boarding the cruise), but it was still only 30 minutes from arrival @ terminal to walking on board the ship. We had done our online check-in and registered our daughter for the children's program before leaving on vacation, so the two stops we made in the terminal went fairly quickly. Our daughter received an electronic bracelet called a Mickey Band (kind of clunky, a bit like a wrist watch, but is important as it contains not only her picture and info, but those of who she's travelling with, and the pre-chosen "pick up password" we had created - nice security features.)
We LOVED having our names announced as we arrived on board, and the Disney Cast Members clapping for us as we boarded! This was one of the magical moments we were looking forward to, having read about it in advance &it didn't disappoint.
Once on board and settled into our cabin, we made sure to hit the deck for the sail away party, and took a spot on an outdoor stairway going from Deck 11 to 12, on the starboard side of the ship to wave like mad at Fishlips, the restaurant that houses the Port Canaveral webcam. We were delighted when just a few minutes after sail away we got a text from family saying they saw us online! It’s a great spot, because so many people are in the main pool area (deck 11), and if you want to be seen, you need to separate yourself from the crowd or carry something the camera crew will notice, like a flag or something sparkly. In fact, if you email the Port Canaveral webcam folks in advance and tell them where you’ll be / what you’ll be waving, they will make a point of finding you and getting you on camera.
Our cabin (7114) was the most spacious cabin we've had across our last 4 cruises, was in a great mid-ship location, and we loved the high bed with lots of room to store suitcases, the double bathroom, and the round tub with the dual shower heads... Top notch accommodations.
Information waiting for us in the cabin included a Navigator (the daily ship-board newsletter), map of the ship, information about which restaurants we would be dining in each night, and the tickets for our pre-booked excursions.
Some unique Disney cabin door decorations could be seen up and down the halls, as we and many other cruisers used magnetic decorations to spruce up their cabin doors. It’s a great way to not only show some spirit but to help quickly find your cabin in the looooong row of cabin doors when you're tired at the end of a long day! The dry-erase message boards some people hung were also a great idea (we wrote several messages to strangers & ended up meeting our "next cabin neighbours" that way)!
Each night we were welcomed back to the cabin with chocolates & a towel animal left by our room attendant Kem, both of which delighted our daughter! The pillow on the main bed that is embroidered with "a dream is a wish your heart makes..." delighted the adults and the ship rocked us happily to sleep each night.
We did a tour of the Oceaneers Club and Oceaneers Lab on Embarkation day, which boggle the mind... so much to do, such wonderful themed areas that were both educational and entertaining - our daughter really didn't want to leave. We asked her to describe her favourite things about the Oceaneer Club and Lab (since we weren’t there to experience them ourselves) and she said that her faves were:
• Hanging out on bean bag chairs in the "mega lounge" watching Disney movies
• An interactive video presentation featuring Stitch, who talked about his favourite foods and movies, responded to the kids as they talked, went crazy when they offered him coffee, and taught the audience how to "act like a monster"
• Making volcanos and slime during the "Super Sloppy Science" presentation
• Dancing & making electronic art using the Electric Play Floor
• Enjoying the computer games in Nemo’s Explorer Pod, and being able to use the periscope in the Pod to view outside the ship (it displays the view from the bridge of the ship when you look through it)
• That the staff were fun & interactive, and really helpful if you needed assistance with a game or weren't sure what to do
We participated in the Mid-Ship Detective Agency as a family as well, helping find the missing 101 Dalmatians and identifying the villain responsible for their kidnapping. Lots of impressive technology on display here, as players use a card with a detective badge on it to bring dozens of paintings in the stairwells around the ship to life so they reveal clues to solve the mystery. There are a few challenges available (I know that an art heist is another one) and it's much like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, for anyone who may have played that before.
On the last night of the cruise when we picked our daughter up from the Oceaneer Club for the final time, we had to return her Mickey Band. Heads up parents: if you forget to have that Mickey Band taken off by ship staff at last pickup and you take it home by accident, your account is charged $250... Staff will help you remember, but we assume that a few people must have walked off with them, for such a policy to be in place.
Our first nights dinner was @ the Royal Palace, which was lovely. The most like a "traditional" main dining room on other ships, it was elegant and not terribly loud (unlike say, the Animators Palate - more notes to come about that). Lots of lovely touches to represent Cinderella, with glass slippers worked into the chandeliers and the bread baskets shaped like carriages. Our wait staff Debora, Didit & the very outgoing Vladimir were kind and went out of their way to ensure we were happy with our dinners each night - a task with some added complications as one member of our party is on a gluten-free diet. Our dietary concerns were always handled respectfully and with care, which was much appreciated. We also met our table mates & marvelled at how well Disney did matching us up... Both of our families were Canadian, stayed at POFQ prior to the cruise, had cabins just a few doors apart, and even shared some similarities in career choice (although we think that last one was a happy coincidence). We certainly hit it off, and spent the rest of the cruise bumping into our table-mates and enjoying their company.
One of the only disappointments of the cruise was our second evening’s dinner, at Animators Palate. The food was great and the service top-notch as always, but dinner @ the Animators Palate wasn't what we had expected in terms of atmosphere. Having researched the restaurants before we booked our cruise, we loved the sound of the black & white walls blossoming into colour throughout the meal, the wait staff's clothing gaining colour as the night wore on, and the occasional appearance by an animated character on the walls that would talk and interact with guests. What we experienced didn't quite match the research, with almost every available wall space having first some sketches in frame-like spaces which fairly quickly became part of the moving and talk-talk-talking show that consumed the evening. It was very, very loud, and with different scenes happening all over the restaurant it was also a lot of visual input... Too much noise and light for us. One member of our party ended up having to leave the restaurant early because a headache brought on by all the stimulation, and we've decided that on our next Disney Cruise that Animators Pallet night would be a good opportunity to book dinner @ Remy or Palo, or order room service.
On a more positive note, we learned about the Dine & Play option offered by the Oceaneer Club, and the kids from our table were thrilled to be picked up by the club's staff at the front of the restaurant at 9:15 pm so they could go play while the parents stayed behind and enjoyed their desserts and coffee (and uninterrupted conversation!) this was definitely a nice addition to our evening routine.
Dinner at our third and final restaurant of the cruise was Enchanted Garden. It was lovely, although we once again found that the atmosphere didn't exactly match the information we had read ahead of time. We were expecting more flowers that changed colour and opened & closed, and many more of the round booths that are all you see in the advertising and when you look into the restaurant. Those tables are only down the centre of the restaurant, so in reality most guests will sit at standard tables behind those. The "sky" is most visible from that centre location in the restaurant as well, so changing the vista from day to evening can pass by unnoticed if you're sitting back a ways. Not big complaints by any means, we were just surprised.
As an aside, we picked our daughter up from the Oceaneers Club one day just as their in-house lunch was being served when she was there. Something to bear in mind for anyone with children who are "mini gourmands" like our daughter... Lunch at the club is very simple (sandwiches with carrot sticks & apple sauce that day). Our daughter went upstairs to Cabanas & picked out sushi, shrimp, & marinated mortadella in balsamic for her lunch... She was much happier being able to choose her own "adventurous" food, and although we realize that her eating habits aren't exactly the norm we thought it warranted mentioning.
Pubs & Lounges (18 +)
In many ways our “at sea” day was the day we were waiting for, because we were looking forward to a "break" from all the non-stop events. Never having been on a Disney Cruise before, we're used to a bit of a quieter cruise experience. Not a complaint for us by any means - but our daughter was complaining a bit about not spending more than 45 minutes straight at the Oceaneers Club since we were so busy with other events! Our “at sea” day was when we planned to give her a few hours there while mom & dad checked out the more adult areas of the ship (& packed our suitcases - boo).
We spent some time on deck 12 aft in the Meridian Lounge area, which allows for a perfect view of the wake of the ship in a beautiful, classically nautical themed environment. The lounge was closed, as were Palo & Remy (the 18+ for-fee dining options) which are located to either side of the lounge, so it was a perfect hide-away for those looking for a quiet escape on what can feel like a crowded at-sea day. We sat outside on the deck watching the wake and the approaching storm (there is nothing quite as amazing as watching such a change in weather approaching when there's absolutely nothing to block your view). As the storm hit we retreated inside to the lounge and watched the rain pound on the windows from our cozy spot inside. After a while we decided to check out another adult-only area of the ship: Quiet Cove on deck 11. Finding the adult-only Pool area to be very crowded despite the rain (another side effect of at-sea days), we retreated to the Cove Cafe, where we indulged in martinis & people watching. It's a nice spot with a great view of Quiet Cove, magazines to borrow, really excellent martinis and comfortable setting, making it another nice 18+ escape.
On our last evening of the cruise we headed off to The District, the collection of 18+ clubs and bars that we had yet to find the time to visit. We aimed for the Skyline Bar after quick tour of entire District - Pink was dead, 687 had the regular crowd of sports fans, the District Lounge was closed for a private event, and while 80s trivia @ Evolution was “the place to be” it was just a bit too loud for good conversation. The Skyline bar is cozy but sophisticated, designed to emulate a top-floor lounge in a major city - the view of the city in question can be seen via the large "windows" that run the length of the lounge, behind the bar. At regular intervals (20 minutes, we believe) the cityscape changes... New York, Rio, Chicago, Hong Kong, or Paris. The menu is broken up accordingly, with cocktails offered to reflect each city... Very cool.
Halloween on the High Seas:
Knowing that this sailing was the first of the Halloween on the High Seas cruises, we wanted to include a couple of notes on the special events included on the Disney Dream for this sailing (and all those occurring until October 31).
First, the Pumpkin Tree series of stories: With spooky lighting &lots of amazing audio effects (hearing the headless horseman gallop around the deck above you!) "The Caretaker" introduced the passengers to The Pumpkin Tree, displayed in the atrium. We were told much of the history of modern Halloween traditions, and guests were invited to give the Caretaker a paper pumpkin seed with their name on it, which would be "planted" overnight. Guests were invited to return to the Atrium the next day to see the result. Anyone visiting the lobby from the next day on would see that the tree had“grown” jack-o-lanterns on its branches. During the final event in the Pumpkin Tree story in the Atrium, hosted again by The Caretaker, we enjoyed an interactive reciting of a Halloween poem, special effects and the pumpkins on the tree lighting up in time to the music from the Nightmare Before Christmas. The storytelling and mood created by the Pumpkin Tree series of events were a great representation of Halloween on the High Seas, and would be great additions to other ships in the fleet.
We had packed our Halloween costumes in anticipation of one of the other Halloween on the High Seas events, Mikey's Mouse-querade Party. With Disney characters dressed in their Halloween finery, passengers out in their costumes & the opportunity to trick-or-treat at staffed stations around the Atrium, our daughter had a blast. Our only criticism would be that there wasn't enough communication re: what to do at the event other than "come to the Atrium", so there was some confusion about where to trick or treat. Clearer instructions would be a good addition for the future.
We were disappointed that by the third full day of our cruise we hadn't been able to fit the Sing & Scream Along with the Nightmare Before Christmas in to our schedule yet- the earlier occurrences were either far too late for our daughter, or were when we were off the ship on an excursion. We were looking forward to being able to see it on our "free day" at sea, and it wasn't scheduled that day at all. As a big Nightmare Before Christmas fan, I was soooooo disappointed. Now we're just hoping that someone from Disney reads our review & decides to bring something similar to theatres around Halloween, or at least schedules it during the sea day for other passengers!
The first performance of our sailing was “The Golden Mickeys”. Upon arriving at the Walt Disney Theatre on deck 4 (it’s on deck 3 as well, but we like the balcony as it fills more slowly and you can generally get a better seat), we were greeted by "reporters" taking pictures & doing interviews much like @ televised award shows ("who are you wearing, darling?"), all of which was streamed live to the large screens on either side of the stage so the audience could watch. The show itself was great... well thought out story line, great sets, amazing costumes & talented cast - the show flew by, as we were singing along and "oohing and awing"... Fabulous first night show!
On the second night of our cruise we enjoyed the show "Villains Tonight". Once again it impressed, with fabulous musical numbers, many, many laughs, and great costumes. It was funny, sassy, and included lots of “in jokes” for the adults, while not shooting so far over the heads of kids that they wouldn’t be captivated too. If you're a fan of live theatre at all, it's worth your time to see the shows - what a fabulous "perk", the quality of the Broadway style entertainment on board is!
Having skipped the magic show on the third evening, Disney's Believe was the final show of our cruise. Funny & heartfelt with a compelling story and a conclusion that left us dabbing our eyes and squeezing our daughter’s hands, it was our favourite production of the cruise, and a perfect way to set the tone for our last evening on board the Disney Dream.
There was much to do during the Pirate Night celebrations aboard the Disney Dream, and we made a point of enjoying as much as we could. Decked out in full pirate gear, we dropped our daughter off for some pirate shenanigans in the Oceaneers Lab, and then grabbed a perch at the Bon Voyage lounge just off the Atrium. We swilled some rum with several other pirates who were clearly having fun with this dress-up opportunity, and had the perfect spot for people (and costume) watching. It was great fun seeing how much effort people put in to their costumes, both the previous night for trick-or-treating and for Pirate Night!
After picking up our daughter up from the Oceaneeer Lab shortly thereafter, we returned to the atrium for photos with some of the ship board photographers. A tip for you: if you have your choice of photographers & enough time, get in line for the woman doing portraits on the solid white backdrop. She was inventive with her poses, used props, and of all the photos we had done, hers were the ones we purchased.
We made a point to visit the Pirate Celebration in the Atrium before dinner for more characters, dancing, singing, and people watching, and then headed up to deck 11 for the rambunctious Buccaneer Blast Fireworks celebration, a rowdy pirate story featuring your favourite Disney characters along with the dastardly Captain Hook. The battle erupts via fireworks shot off the starboard side of the ship (a good thing to bear in mind when you're choosing a viewing location). We watched it from Currents, the bar on deck 12, and while we couldn't see the action on stage once we were up there, we did have front row unobstructed seats for the fireworks display, which was important to us. We stuck around for a while following the show for Club Pirate, where DJ Akshen was spinning the latest hits and some good retro dance tunes. It was a bit too loud for the younger member of our party, so after just a bit of dancing, we faded out for the night with the sound of "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!" in our ears...
Ports & Shore Excursions:
On both mornings where we were visiting an island, we ordered coffee from room service & sat out on the balcony watching our approach, which is a nice perk of having a verandah cabin.
• Nassau: It’s worth noting that if you can get up early to watch the ship sail in, do so – it’s a port which the ship backs in to (and you think parallel parking is tricky!), so it’s fascinating to watch. Inspired by our chocolate-loving daughter, we had booked the Greyciff Chocolatier Tour in Nassau, and were ready to learn how to make chocolate from the pros. Once again impressed with Disney Cast Members, the organization of the tour was excellent - everyone was greeted warmly, we were given a small sticker with a colour coded Disney character on it, and our tour guide carried a small sign on a stick @ all times that had the same colour coded character on it - made it easy not to lose your group amid the hundreds of other people heading off the ship on excursions. Our driver pointed out some of the local sites during the short bus ride to Greycliff Manor, where we were greeted by the outgoing & very enthusiastic Kiki, who was the host for our tour. The tour itself was informative and fun, and we walked out of Greycliff with 4 boxes of chocolates - definitely worth our time & money!
• Castaway Cay, Disney's private island: After arriving at the beach we settled in on loungers along the family beach near the snorkelling area, as one member of our party had reserved snorkel gear for the day, and then went swimming. Beautiful beach, clear Caribbean water, soft sand, and enough space for a ship of thousands to find their own piece of paradise without feeling crowded. Heaven! We had booked the Castaway Ray's Stingray Adventure for one adult and one child, who donned inflatable vests and after an introduction from the marine biologist on staff, touched, fed then swam with these wondrous creatures. The excursion offered an opportunity to snorkel with the rays for no extra charge, but since neither snorkel, they chose not to participate. The other member of our party picked up snorkel gear from Gil's Fins & Boats and headed to the snorkelling harbour for over an hour of exploration. Disney has laid out quite the collection of sunken treasures to find in the snorkelling harbour, so in addition to the many tropical fish swimming about, you can find statues of Mickey and Minnie, sunken ships, and other mysterious items throughout the ocean floor. If you like snorkelling and treasure hunting, it's well worth renting the gear and setting out on this adventure! Lunch at Cookies BBQ was good, with more selection than the beach BBQ's we've experienced with other cruise lines. Great service in the dining areas too, with plates cleared away as soon as you're done with them and someone on hand to help carry trays or drinks if your hands are full. After more swimming and probably a bit too much sun, servers offering piña coladas were a welcome site - a delicious, and refreshing treat while lounging by the ocean. We took our daughter for about an hour at Scuttles Cove (the children's play area) so the adults could hop onto the tram & visit Serenity Bay, the beach reserved for guests 18+. The difference between the family beach and Serenity Bay were most noticeable in the volume... So quiet, peaceful, and uncrowded. We found hammocks on the beach and just swayed in the breeze, listening to the waves (and the thunder rumbling in the distance - a storm was coming, although it didn't hit until after sail-away, thankfully). We returned to Scuttles Cove to pick up our daughter and enjoy one more swim together at the family beach before heading back to the ship.
Pool Deck Amenities:
We took advantage of the fact that many people were off the ship in Nassau to try out the AquaDuck once we returned to the ship, since it had an hour long wait on embarkation night & we weren't willing to put in the time in line. Happy with the 20 minute wait instead (from the half way point up the stairs, in case you want to estimate your wait when you're on board), we thought it was definitely worth doing, especially for kids. The majority of the thrills were during the first half of the ride, while the second half was much slower, reminiscent of a "lazy river" in the sky. We only did it once, but the children of our table mates went back several times.
We tried out Donald’s pool after the AquaDuck, and while our daughter thought it was a blast, we didn't enjoy it nearly as much. Since the Mickey Pool was closed (due to a child wearing a poopy swim diaper in the water, if the rumours around the pool deck were to be believed), everyone seemed to be in this pool - we later compared it to looking like a boiling pot full of children - frantic activity and barely an inch of free space to be had. Not our idea of a good time and we couldn't get out of there fast enough.
We did enjoy lunch on the pool deck picking up sandwiches, salads & burgers at Flo's while watching The Little Mermaid on FunnelVision - another unique Disney experience that we were glad to be able to check off our list!
Knowing that we would need to begrudgingly leave the ship in the morning, we went back to the cabin part way through our at-sea day to pack suitcases - colour coded luggage tags and full disembarkation instructions were waiting for us, which made the process clear and easy to follow. We had been given a time (8:00 am) and restaurant (Enchanted Garden) for breakfast, so after waking up & making sure we hadn't forgot to pack anything, we went for our final walk of the ship. There were announcements being made throughout the morning reminding passengers to please leave the ship once they were done breakfast, so despite wanting to find a quiet corner to hide out in the hopes of staying on board forth next cruise, we made our way to the deck 3 mid ship gangway. The staff lining the gangway waving goodbye with their Mickey hands was a nice touch, a final Disney nod to the end of a great cruise. While we chose not to book another Disney cruise on board (although judging by the lineups at the Future Cruise Sales Desk, plenty of people did), we do look forward to sailing with Disney again.
If you have any questions, please feel free to message us and ask – while we know this review was long, it’s always possible we’ve forgotten something!