Just got back from a 3 day cruise on the Dream. This review is intended for the ADULTS Only- traveling without children type of cruiser....so, if you are curious about how much the little ones enjoyed this cruise- the answer is "I have no idea". I am also including recommendations for times, food, entertainment etc.
Check-In: Use the Disney Planner ahead of time, show up with your verification form and be done with it. The terminal is BORING and you do not want to waste time there filling out forms. We paid for preferred parking ($60, which was $20 more than the parking garage) and I could only guess it was worth every penny when we walked 20 feet to our parking spot from the terminal when disembarking with our luggage- you can pull straight up to drop off luggage when you arrive to depart on your cruise. Our check in time was 11:00 but you typically don't have access to the ship until closer to 1:00 so I suggest selecting a 12:00ish check in time- again...use your Disney Planner. We are repeat cruisers so being a Castaway Club member does allow you to join a separate line that may go a tad bit faster than first time cruisers. Realistically, it is a quick process- and while waiting, take the photos with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto-whichever character is at the port because the lines move quickly and you are waiting around anyways to board.
The Ship- Gorgeous! You will suddenly turn into a cruise snob when you pull into port and see all of the other brands of cruise ships lined up nearby and how unexciting they compare to the beauty of the Disney line - Queen Mary here I come! Take time to ooh and aah over the beauty of the atrium, art, and hidden Mickeys- top of the line decor in every nook and cranny. A welcome greeting with family name called out by cruise personnel is a lovely touch as you board. You are encouraged to go straight to lunch at Cabanas once you board. I would do so in order to get an indoor table with a water view. Food reviews coming up soon... There is a very short cruise tour (1:00 P.M. or 2:00 P.M.- about an hour long), if you have never cruised with the Dream- take the tour- the tour guides are fun (especially Frankie- love his tongue in cheek jokes referencing Carnival Cruise lines) and it's a great way to learn more about the ship. The ship is HUGE, 40% larger than the other two ships, so there is a lot to explore. I did not have any issues with sea sickness (I did on the Wonder) so I think the smooth sailing could be attributed to the size of the ship.
Dining- Prepare to eat more than humanly possible over the next three days! (ie. pack your stretchy pants) There are three main restaurants to rotate through during your cruise evenings. I suggest the later dining time at 8:15, there are less children during that time and the dining room is also less crowded. You will see the earlier shows (6:15) based on your later dining hour. There are two adult only restaurants- Palo and Remys, we chose Palo because the up charge was only $25 per person verses the $75 up charge at Remys. Choose either option- it's worth it (more about Palos in a second)!
Day 1 Lunch at Cabanas- Lamb chops!!! Eat them- they are soooo good! And, who splurges on lamb chops for lunch anyways?? The rib eye was also very tasty, asparagus cooked to perfection. This is also the only day that you will have a full seafood buffet offered for lunch (crab claws, shrimp, etc).
We ate at the Royal Palace night 1 (you will most likely share a table with other passengers- we were fortunate to dine with two other couples traveling without children and they were very fun). I think our servers even felt left out when we clinked our glasses with cheer and broke out in laughter. I have heard that you can request to have a table to yourselves- but you must speak to the restaurant manager and it's based on availability. If you want to change your dining rotation schedule- like we did, you can also see the restaurant manager, they are very accommodating. Back to Royal Palace... Thank goodness my husband doesn't mind my fork invading his plate because I had to try a bite of everything. Try the escargot- I was pleasantly surprised by the salty/garlicky flavor and it was perfectly served with a warm skinny miniature baguette which was perfect for dunking and dreading in the buttery dish. Don't leave the table without taking a bite of the grand marnier souffle- you may have to wait on it, 5-10 minutes but it is sooo worth it. Warm, with a chocolate sauce that tastes just like Ghirardelli.
Night 2- we skipped Animators Palate and chose Palo's instead. It was also Pirate Night so the menu at all three restaurants is the same. Hint: If you don't enjoy the pirate themed menu, save room for the late night upper deck open buffet (10:30), we didn't have room to eat again that late at night but our server at Palo's suggested that we take the crepes back to our room and eat them for breakfast. The late night Pirate buffet also serves the turkey legs found in the theme parks. We learned about this from our dining partners the following evening. Palo's is amazing! We started with a simply and beautifully prepared anitpasto- served table side... I could have died and gone to heaven! The shrimp prawn appetizer is perfectly prepared- grilled and not overcooked. My husband had the tomato and mozzarella salad, nothing special. I had the beef ravioli- obviously hand rolled pasta (as recommended by my server- the best service of any cast member on our cruise!) and my husband had the rack of lamb- gorgeous dish, both were fantastic- BUT, as a nearby patron ordered the lobster parpadelle and I caught a glimpse as it floated by, I secretly wished I had changed my order. The lobster was perfectly prepared in shell and brought out on a steaming plate, then tossed tableside in hand rolled pasta with some sort of butter lemon sauce. Truly, I could have ordered both main entrees but then I would have to sleep in the restaurant because there is no way I would make it back to my room. In all restaurants you can order any items you wish, so if you wanted to order just appetizers and dessert you may choose to do so.
Night 3 we ate at Enchanted Garden- it is beautiful the way the lights in the distant garden change from daytime hues to evening. The garden theme is feminine and peaceful. The food was "meh", maybe I was ruined after Palo's?? The date pudding at the end was lovely- sticky and sweet and there was a chef's confection of chocolate fudge and passion fruit chews that were yummy- we took the plate with us to the theatre to snack on in lieu of popcorn.
Lunch: In lieu of the buffets, we opted for the table service lunch at Royal Palace on day 2. Try the cold soups- they are fantastic! I was also happy that they served meatloaf- one of my favorite comfort foods. The green beans served with it were snappy and perfectly prepared. My husband was pleasantly surprised that they served Haagen-Daz chocolate ice cream.
Room Service- It's 24 hours, and you can call ahead and request a delivery time. Because our dinner time was 8:15 we called in an order for the cheese plate and had it delivered to our room when we were getting ready for the evening show- perfect "hold me over" snack.
Beverages: Bring your own bottled water and alcohol. Although, we did order the wine package and had a bottle of wine with dinner each evening. My husband ordered two Stella Artois's during lunch on our first day, and by dinner time our mini fridge was filled with Stella (Disney difference...).
There is an abundance of counter service on the pool deck, soft serve ice cream, pizza, burgers- skip it and leave it to the kids. Go to the Cove Cafe- adult pool deck and try the specialty (and no extra charge) pastries- specialty coffees cost extra.
Entertainment: Adult Pool-, if you want to lounge around in the adult pool areas- go to the very top- above deck 12 and you will find a hidden oasis of circular lounging covered seating with a spacious and undisturbed view of the ocean. No kids passing through the Cove on the way to the Aquaduck or teens trying to pass as adults in order to use the jacuzzi- no fooling the cruise staff- kind of entertaining to watch them get caught :)
Go to all three shows! They are amazing and you will be sorry if you missed any of them- Disney talent and entertainment cannot be matched anywhere, land or sea!
Bars- pretty empty when we visited, but go to Pink (champagne bar) just because it is the prettiest bar I have ever been in.
Bingo- expensive for a short game, get off the boat at the Bahamas and go to Atlantis if you really want to try your luck.
Castaway Cay- We did the 5K that morning, correction- my husband ran the 5k and I skipped the second loop so that we would finish the run about the same time so we could go back to the ship for breakfast. People who run in the 5K are pretty much the first ones off the boat and you can pack a bag and not return to the ship if you choose not to- I suggest packing a banana or something if you choose that option. Regardless, get off the ship early, take the second tram to Serenity Bay. Swim, float, tread water to the sand bar- perfect shot for a panoramic photo. Try the Mahi for lunch, and in the topping bar where you find pico de gallo and olive oil and herb pesto you will discover the most amazing white sauce. Similar to the white sauce at Kobe, pour that stuff over everything, it is addictive!
First run movies! Yes, that's right, we saw Maleficent at the midnight showing. Loved it! Shown in regular and 3 D and I felt like I was saving movie theater money. Theater seating- upper level middle are the best seats. We also caught Captain America: Winter Soldier just because I missed it in the theaters.
Disney cruise lines is hands down the most spectacular way to cruise. Yes, it is costly, but worth every penny. It is also not just a cruise for children. We took our kids a few years ago, loved it. But, we had a totally new and different experience traveling without our kids. This will definitely be happening again in the near future- just got to start filling the piggy bank!