I was one of several fortunate Disney Earmarked travel agents to sail on the Disney Dream during the Magical Preview Cruise from January 23-26, 2011. The ship was well below capacity sailing with approx 1250 people on board - to the best of my knowledge there was the Earmarked Conference going on, media- especially radio, and some cast members.
Even though I have sailed with Disney several times before this was the first time I had taken DCL transfers from the WDW Resort to the port- efficient, well organized. We arrived at the terminal around 11:00 am and the line for check in wrapped well around the terminal- but again, well organized and the line moved very quickly.
Talking about pure aesthetics, the decor is simply first rate. Beautiful and timeless artwork- as well as the interactive artwork could easily fill an afternoon looking at and exploring. The atrium is exquisite and the look and feel of classic ocean liners of the early 1900's is definitely there from the signage to the small touches. Mosiacs are absolutely stunning- especially the Nemo wall in the Cabanas dining area.
We had a lovely stateroom with verandah on Deck 10 and they are a step up from the Magic and the Wonder- however, we were disappointed to see storage space disappear from the bathroom in shelving. The split bath concept is still executed beautifully, and I loved the tub. In some of the other staterooms we had an opportunity to tour- the tub is circular, which was also quite interesting and functional. The closet doors open rather than slide, as they do on the Wonder which creates a traffic issue if someone is in the bathroom and opens the door while the closet door is being opened. You must use your key card to turn on lights. The bed was HEAVENLY. And I loved it was on posts so that you could easily store luggage and other items under it. Great tech touches like the two way phones, iPod docking stations, etc.
We did not try either Remy or Palo- we've done the latter and just weren't up to the $75 cover for Remy- however, several of our fellow TA's raved about both.
Spa was exquisite and rainforest quite soothing.
Kids areas were even better than on the Magic and the Wonder and while we were touring, the younger ones were being treated to a hula lesson with counselors, Lilo and Stitch. Plenty of spaces for quiet activities, making new friends or learning something new- the kitchen/cooking facilities would make adults happy to make something there. Andy's Room is just like in Toy Story films and I am sure is going to be a source of many memories for the young cruisers who experience it.
It's A Small World Nursery- decorated just like the ride- bright, warm and comfortable surroundings.
I've seen a few critical remarks on the Aqua Duck which I just don't understand- the ride had to appeal to ALL ages, so having an extremely fast moving water coaster was not going to make sense if kids and parents are going to experience together. I thought it was just right and honestly, on the straightaways if you went any faster, you could really miss that opportunity to look out and around. It's got a little punch with two small drops and that was just enough as far as I was concerned. It's the one thing I have been asked most about since getting back and I gave it a 10 out of 10- we rode it four times in a row.
The shoppes, which are quite lovely did not sufficiently carry enough merchandise- almost all of the inagural merchandise in sizes M and up were gone after the first hour. The specialty stores carried some handbags, accessories and other clothing items but I wasn't exactly wow'ed. I'm hoping that they keep a better inventory of relevant merchandise for future savings- I desperately wanted a Dream jacket hoodie but they literally had nothing left and we hit the store the first night as soon as they opened.
By far, Animator's Palate was my favorite of all the dining experiences. It's been given a more cozy, intimate feel with all sort of special experiences and getting to interact with Crush as we ate dinner was an experience I will never forget. Royal Palace was very beautifully designed with exquisite chandeliers and paintings of the princesses- cute touches such as pumpkin coach bread baskets. The traffic flow though didn't seem to work very well and both in there and in the Enchanted Garden, we felt shoved in with the masses- which is odd given it was not even half full every time we ate. Speaking of Enchanted Garden, the color schemes beautiful, the green iron work throughout reminded me of the queue at The Mad Tea Cups. Cabana's was excellent- thought the food was great and the walk up concept to the different sections works so much better than Beach Blanket Buffet- that place always gave me claustrohphobia.
I found that the adult pool area really was neglected in terms of design. Poor deck space- not much of it to speak of and it almost feels crammed in like an after thought and much prefer the Cove Pool on the Magic and Wonder.
Only show we saw was Believe and it was superb. Classic music and score along with great characters and laughs for adults as well as children. We skipped the other two- having seen them before.
Given we were sailing before the maiden voyage, I know there were last minute details and issues that were being attended to- several window panels had been cracked evidently due to rough weather when the ship came from Germany- I hope they get those issues fixed promptly.
Our stateroom attendant was lovely, however, dining room service was probably the worst I had ever had on a Disney ship. Could be they were still working on it and improving and as I certainly appreciated the opportunity to be onboard before regular sailings, it wasn't a huge issue- but if I had paid what folks after me had, I probably would have taken it up with the Head Server. Our assistant server was twice as friendly as our server but made more mistakes. However, service everywhere else was very friendly- especially the British cast members I encountered in the shops- lovely, lovely interactions.
This ship is immensely bigger than the Magic and Wonder and it's layout is more complex- which I was okay with given that I got used to that cruising with other cruise lines- however, DCL loyalists may really find issue with the fact that on some decks you truly cannot get to point A forward to Point B midship or aft without some serious navigation. Signage for gangway points was virtually non-exsistent and complicated.
Castaway Cay was brilliant as usual and the family cabanas, albeit pricey are a nice addition to those who wish to use them. Cookies BBQ was fantastic.
I did have an opportunity to tour concierge- I found it incredibly tacky that these hallways were sectioned off by gates. The concierge lounge lacked an intimate quality and coziness. The Roy Disney Suite was luxury for sure but I've stayed in better spaced and appointed spaces in hotels for half the cost.
All in all, I've been telling folks the Dream is a must do despite the few things I've mentioned. It was an amazing trip that I will remember always and I can't wait to return. I'd give it overall a 9-9.5 out of 10.