All of us in the travel business have read about the excitement swirling around the arrival of this ship and the many articles about all of its new and innovative features. The closer it got to set sail time the more excited my husband was getting. He was reading all about the ship in my travel magazines and actually said to me, about a month before we went, "I don't think we're going to have enough time on the ship to do everything we want to do!" Wow, who is this man and what did you do with my husband? Would the ship live up to its promise and expectations? I heard amazing things in general about DCL so I had my expectations set high, but were they too high?
Since I was traveling with my family and another family of friends this was a vacation, not a working trip. In this respect, there were features I was unable to experience on this brand new ship of three weeks, such as specialty dining restaurants and spa. Also, I am not a professional writer or food critic - just a wife and mom with a passion for travel and loves sharing experiences with others.
When we arrived at the Port Canaveral cruise terminal at 11AM, our driver indicated that of his many, many times driving to the cruise port he had never had to sit and wait in line to just drive through the gate. It was very crowded, a holiday week (it being President's week) and the Disney Dream holds another 1600 passengers than the Wonder and Magic.
We had utilized the pre-cruise online check-in before our travel began, so check-in was uneventful. We had been given a ticket that showed our boarding number. Once they began the boarding procedure we were to assemble as our appropriate number was called. This was something I had not experienced before and it seemed to work pretty well. A new number was called about every 10 minutes. While awaiting our embarkation number to be called we were directed to the wait area. There was minimal seating available; families were sitting all over the floor with legs and carry-on bags everywhere. All I noticed amongst the throngs of passengers was a few contemporary wavy-type purple "couches". In fairness, the cruise documents did indicate that we shouldn't arrive before 1:30PM, but there should be seating for the passengers. With the people and bags scattered about it would not have been good had a fire or emergency alarm gone off within the building.
Once they called our embarkation number and walked in through giant mouse ears, it didn't take long until we were walking unto the Dream. Several staff members were announcing guests as they entered the lobby area on Deck Three "the Disney Dream welcomes the Gunkel family". The staff clapped and cheered as we gave Mickey a high-four. The three-story lobby looked just stunning in golds and blues with a huge two-story curving staircase carpeted in deep blue. The staircase, we would discover later in our cruise, was the perfect spot for the Princesses to make their grand entrance to their adoring young fans. A bronze Admiral Donald Duck set atop a stone base proudly stood at the bottom. Standing in the Lobby area looking up toward the overlooking second and third floors were embossed gold-colored metal horizontal scenes of Disney characters that were lit from the top of the artwork. The lattice-style looking railings sat atop each length of artwork piece; that and gold fluted columns gave the area a very dramatic look. Bon Voyage is a lounge just off the Lobby area. The front section of the bar is back-lit gold marble - also a very dramatic look. All in all - GORGEOUS!!
In the lobby area is an electronic sign listing all of the Disney Princess and Character's appearances, a lot of them located in the lobby area. The listing of appearances is also located in the Personal Navigator, the ship's daily newsletter.
We were able to go right to our cabin and drop off bags by 2 PM. Our aft cabin, #7192, Category 5E Deluxe Ocean view Stateroom with Verandah was decorated in reds and blues - very comfortable, family friendly and nothing over the top. The balcony was over-sized and generous. There was a double closet and ample drawer space for the three of us with a desk/vanity area and large mirror. There was also a coffee table/storage trunk in front of the sleeper sofa that was great for storage as well. Our cabin had the split bath arrangement; one bath with a tub/shower and sink and the other with a sink and toilet. For my family, personally, it wasn't helpful one way or the other, but a young family with a couple of small children I'm certain would appreciate it. We attempted to turn the lights on in the cabin and couldn't. After some discussion and testing of several ideas we realized it was a European-type lighting set-up - someone's Key to the World (room card) had to be inserted in a slot next to the door. It would have been helpful if our cabin attendant could have explained it as our traveling partners were explained by their cabin steward. They were explained the lighting system and Wave Phone system. The Wave Phones (two in our cabin) were situated on the desk with one in a charger and one in a leather stand. Guests were welcome to use them around the ship and also on Castaway Cay to keep in touch with family and could be used for making calls or texting. I think they would have been very convenient and helpful to use, but the two 14 year old girls we had with us said they were too bulky to carry around. My husband and I (as well as the couple we were traveling with) both thought the bed was very comfortable and it felt more like a King size, rather than the Queen it is said to have. Once settled we headed off for lunch.
Cabanas Food Court is has the usual luncheon buffet, but with some added surprises such as raw oysters, jumbo shrimp cocktail and crab claws. The food was organized nicely with many choices, all well labeled and it was never difficult to locate anything we looked for. There were designated areas for items such as salads, entrEe foods, desserts, etc.
There was a Sailing Away party with Mickey and the Gang on the Deck Stage at the pool area on Deck 11 at 2:45 PM with the mandatory lifeboat drill at 3:45 PM. Our friends joined us on our balcony as we set sail at 5:00 PM and headed for Nassau, Bahamas. I've always loved the blast of the ship's horn as we set sail on our cruises, but the Disney Dream has a musical ship horn blast featuring six different tunes. It was hard not to smile and look forward to our next several days on the Disney Dream.
Disney Cruise Line has a unique dining experience they call rotational dining. You continue to dine with the same people every night and with the same wait staff, but you rotate dining venues. You're still able to get to know the staff that serves you personally but also enjoy different dining experiences. Since we were on a four-night cruise and the ship offers three main dining rooms (Royal Palace, Enchanted Garden and Animator's Palate) we were to double-up on one of them determined by the cruise line. There were pre-printed tickets in our cabin upon our arrival indicating our Dining Room and table number that first evening. When we arrived at our first designated dining assignment, the Royal Palace, (a French-inspired restaurant) there was another family at our table. After some confusion on the part of the Assistant Waiter he noticed the tickets of the other family were misprinted. He showed them to their correct table and we waited at our table for the assistant to reset the table; the other family had been sitting there, napkins on laps, silverware, bread and butter and ice water served to them. My husband asked him if he could please reset the table with clean tableware but the waiter didn't understand what my husband was asking. In the upcoming days we found the assistant waiter to be an extremely helpful, friendly and happy young man, but his English skills perhaps needed some additional work. In any event, the other family showed up and we sat down and enjoyed our dinner.
I had noticed earlier in the Personal Navigator there was to be a Disney pin-trading event in the Preludes Rotunda beginning at 7:45 PM. I must admit I brought all of my Disney pins not even knowing if they traded pins on their ships. I was amazed at all of the people, some with literally books of pins and everyone in their trading glory!
We all met up at the Walt Disney Theatre on Deck 3 for the Golden Mickey's show. There were usually three shows scheduled: 5PM, 7PM and 9PM. If you have early dining you must attend the later show and vice versa. I was actually surprised to see that they actually asked to see your Key to the World card to make sure you were attending the correct show time. The Theatre is as elegant and sophisticated as the lobby area with plenty of seating to hold 1340 people. The Golden Mickey's, Disney's version of the Academy Awards, had songs from different Disney movies such as Tarzan, Mulan, Arielle, Corella Deville, Toy Story, Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and of course Mickey and Minnie. I must say I had my hopes set extremely high for the entertainment on board and this show did not disappoint. If you enjoy any of the animated movies Disney has made over the years, you're sure to find your toe tapping to at least ONE of these tunes. They also feature Villains Tonight and Disney Believe - each show lasting just under an hour and a delight for all.
After the show we took a quick stroll through The District, an area in which four adult-only lounges are located: Pink, their champagne bar with its back-lit bubble-looking walls; 678 Lounge; Skyline Lounge with its changing window scenery and cozy faux fireplace and Evolution. There was also an area within the District offering snacks throughout the night serving chicken, sandwiches and the like.
Back to our cabin for the night, I was pleased to see a towel animal when we walked in. Why do I like them so much? Not sure, but I do - they always make me smile!
We arrived in Nassau at 8:30 AM, ran up to Cabanas for a quick breakfast and headed into town. We had been to Nassau on numerous occasions so we didn't plan for any activity other than walking around in town and exploring the shops.
We returned to the Dream for lunch and then headed straight for the family pools - Mickey's Pool and Donald's Pool. I'll talk about them in my deck-by-deck description.
My husband and I decided we better take on the Aqua Duck before everyone else comes back to the ship. It was a wait of approximately 15 minutes and the line moved along nicely. I had read by one of the writers of a Disney Dream article that he thought it was too slow-moving. I was quite surprised to realize that it wasn't slow as far as I was concerned. Personally, I thought it was fast enough for it to be exciting and exhilarating, but slow enough that you could see people sitting down below by the poolside. Most of the Duck is clear tubing, so the views were awesome, especially when you KNOW you're over the side of the ship, 150 feet above the water. It was pretty cool, in the words of my daughter. They did have Mickey's water slide in the pool area for those kids under 48" and unable to ride the Aqua Duck.
As they began to play a poolside bingo game to determine which movie they would show on Funnel Vision (the poolside big-screen movie screen), I decided to grab my camera and ship deck plan already circled with all the places I wanted to see for myself. I headed straight to the top and planned to work my way back down to the Lobby area on Deck Three.
I checked out Goofy's Sports Deck basketball court and Goofy Golf, a nine-hole mini putt-putt golf located on Deck 13. Located on the greens are over-sized animated style items such as a pair of eye glasses with a golf ball stuck in the lens, sand castle, books, etc.
Tween Club for ages 11-13 called Edge is actually located in one of the two ships' funnels. The Aqua Duck travels around Edge and there are a few portholes looking out to the water coaster from Edge where riders can be seen floating by.
There is a private sun deck area enclosed within frosted glass for those guests in the Concierge or Suite Levels. Surrounding this Private Concierge Sun Deck area is an additional outdoor space with upgraded lounge seating overlooking the Quiet Cove Pool. As in the Quiet Cove Pool, it is marked Adults Only 18 Years and Older. There is Currents Bar located in this area too to keep the adults' thirst at bay.
Waves Bar is located under Goofy's Sports Deck. It features bar seats, tables with teak chairs and curved banquette cushioned seating. This area was somewhere I would have loved to enjoy with a beverage and book. I noticed on my several walks through this area that it was just about always near guest-less.
Concierge staterooms are located on Deck 12 (and some located on Deck 11 as well). The hallway immediately tells you that you're someplace special (if you failed to notice the gate you needed to walk through to get in); the high-gloss clear lacquered cherry walls with deep blue carpeting makes this space look gorgeous. There is a private Concierge Lounge located here as well.
Remy and Palo restaurants and Meridian also on this deck were restaurants we were unable to experience this particular cruise, but much has been written about them by others able to experience them.
Senses Spa & Salon offers the usual services, Senses Fitness Area and Rainforest Room. There is also a special Spa area for teens-only services.
The Donald and Mickey pools are two pools located side-by-side and considered the family pools. I was honestly surprised when I first saw them because they seemed very small. There were 1000 kids on this ship the week we were on it. There were so many kids IN the pools, they weren't even swimming - they were basically standing in place and splashing around still having a great time with lots of smiles. Some hung out in the hot tubs off to the side. I must say that I never overheard a parent complaining about the space, but it was simply my observation. There was also Nemo's Reef, from the film Finding Nemo, which is a shaded and covered splash water area complete with Dory and friends. They had lots of space and fountains for the smaller ones to run and jump on and a small water slide down the side of Mr. Ray, a giant smiling Manta Ray. I noticed that while some of the children in Nemo's Reef were wearing water shoes, not all kids were so I believe they are not required.
Quiet Cove Pool is the adults only pool area. There was a Caribbean band playing there and although they were very good I thought it was the QUIET Cove Pool, but I guess they mean No Kids. The pool was quite small, but there was sufficient seating in and out of the pool area along with a pool bar that will happily refill your tropical beverage without having to even get out of the pool.
Flo's cafe, Tow Mater's Grill, Fillmore's Favorites and Eye Scream are all located outdoors on this deck as well. If you're not up to going to Cabanas or don't feel like waiting to dry off, head to one of these places for a burger, salad, fries, ice cream.
I as walked down from Deck 11 to Deck 10, I decided to take the stairs and seek out the Enchanted Art. Disney developed framed scenes of their animated features that will literally come to life as a guest moves past them. Also, there are kiosks called Midship Detective Agency, where the kids and families can sign up and be able to use the Enchanted Art to solve one of two mysteries - a stolen painting or stolen puppies.
The Buena Vista Theatre seats 400 and is where Disney shows their first-run movies on board. They showed their new Gnomeo & Juliet in 3-D, Tron: Legacy in 3-D, and Tangled in 3-D. They also held Bingo, port and shopping shows here as well. My family and I enjoyed this feature very much on more than one occasion.
There is never a time that I'd ever wish to be a teenager again, except for on this ship. Teen Vibe is an amazing space for kids ages 14 - 17. I thought it was actually a difficult space to find, but once I located it I thought that it's "hiddeness" was also part of its "coolness". I don't know if it was planned to be that way, but in any event it was an awesome space. I entered Vibe through the handicap entrance because that's the only one I could find and when I left I ended up going through the jogging track. In Vibe a teen can come here and hang out either inside in one of their living spaces or chill outside on a lounge chair, one of two hot tubs, play ping-pong or join one of their organized activities such as Crowning of the Couch Potato, Pump It Up Boot Camp, Gender Wars and Dance Party. They also hold an excursion when visiting Castaway Cay called Teen Wildside.
Also on this deck is It's a Small World Nursery for children under three years. There is a charge for this service of $6 per hour, per child; Disney's Oceaneer Club for kids ages 3 - 7 featuring a Magic Play Floor, Andy's Room (from Toy Story), Monster's Academy from Monster's, Inc. and Nemo's Submarine; Oceaneer Lab for kids ages 7 - 10 evolves around a giant compass including a ship simulator game where the kids can pretend to steer the Disney Dream, a pirate game, crafts section and more.
The D Lounge is located just before The District and is a large circular room which holds informative meetings and presentations, some character events, family crafts, towel folding classes, etc.
Just beyond the Lobby and Bon Voyage I spoke of earlier are the shops: Mickey's Mainsail; Sea Treasure and Whitecaps. Here you'll find the standard personal items you may have failed to pack or you can treat yourself to jewelry, perfume, or name-brand purses and bags. Of course they also offer Disney items such as t-shirts, photo albums, plush animals, pins, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, pirate-wear - I could go on forever. I loved walking through these shops many times and always came across items I didn't see the first (or second) trip through. I recommend you avoid this area during the pre and post dining and show times when these shops are jammed-packed. They totally empty out, however, once the late or early dining and/or shows begin. Just beyond the shops is the Walt Disney Theatre.
As it was getting late in the afternoon I ended my "tour" and headed back to our cabin to shower and dress for dinner. Tonight was the Animator's Palette. When we arrived at our table, setting on it were over-sized pencils and brushes - even our butter knife looked like an artists' paintbrush. Once everyone is seated, the room turns into a scene from Finding Nemo, with Crush the Turtle swimming around the room on giant video screens and actually interacting with people seated at various tables. Other Nemo characters as well are shown swimming around, periodically stopping and smiling at you, then continuing on. The food (which was very good), at this point, is secondary to the excitement of the dining room - I was having too much fun watching the screens. I was the one Crush chose to speak with at our table - luckily I was video-taping at the time so I got the entire conversation recorded.
We attended the Villains Tonight show hosted by Hades from the Hercules movie. Another terrific Disney production filled with comedy, music and the Disney Characters we all love (even if they are villains!).
We joined our friends in the Enchanted Garden for an enjoyable buffet-style breakfast. (TIP: Suggest to your clients the buffet breakfast here rather than Cabanas; they have all of the same food, including the omelet station and the place was empty!) We couldn't wait to get off the ship and head for Castaway Cay, Disney's private island and beach experience. The 1000 acre island is located in the Bahamas with its beautiful sparkling clear blue waters. No need to tender here - the ship is docked making it very quick and easy to disembark. There are several different areas you can enjoy on the island with complimentary tram transportation for easy on and off at all of the stops. The beaches had plenty of seating with lounges, chairs and beach umbrellas all at no charge. There were several beach-style shacks with beverages, shopping, bathrooms, etc. Also available for rent are private cabanas. I rented snorkel equipment for $25 and headed for the water. Disney has a certain area for snorkeling and marked with buoys to indicate where you can find "sunken treasure". There were also many lifeguards on duty as well, even out far where I snorkeled. It took awhile to get out that far, but the variety of fish was amazing and well worth the swim.
They served an amazing BBQ lunch serving ribs, burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, coleslaw, fresh fruits, desserts and they also had self-serve beverages and ice cream. Chip and Dale were also on hand for beach-side crab races. Carefree days like I experienced here is why I love going on vacation with family and friends.
We dined at the Enchanted Garden for dinner that evening. DEcor-wise, this was my favorite. Very welcoming with it's French-garden looking entrance, center water fountain, and atmosphere. Since we had eaten breakfast in here earlier, we could appreciate the fact that it has now changed into a dusk setting. The Chef, Iggy, walked around briefly checking on tables and the food quality. He stopped by our table and was very happy to talk with us. We all agreed that was a very nice touch - something we had never seen on our many cruises, especially during the main dining time.
There was no "family show" in the Theatre that evening. Instead Disney presented Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean - a twenty-minute celebration of everything pirates on Decks 11 and 12. Disney covers Mickey and Donald's pools with flooring and it becomes an area for standing and viewing the show. This is later followed by Buccaneer Blast at 10:30 PM that is Disney's Fireworks show. Disney Cruise Line is the ONLY cruise line permitted to set off any type of fireworks on their ships. It was remarkable. After the fireworks display was over they opened the Aqua Blast for one last run of the night. My daughter said it was scary and awesome because all the lights on the Aqua Blast were on and flashing - she loved it.
Our only day at sea was a relaxing one. There were many character events scheduled (28 in all JUST THIS ONE DAY alone!) through out the day at various locations as well as many adult options as well. The activities scheduled at the various kids' clubs were plentiful as you can imagine. The six main Disney Princesses appeared in the lobby area for a greeting that afternoon. This event, as well as all of the Character appearances, was so well organized. If a child had an autograph book, it was taken by a staff member and handed to the Character for signing. The child had a chance to speak with the Character, have a professional photo taken as well as the parent being able to take a photo with their own camera. It can't be an easy job organizing and running something like this with so many kids, but I must say they did it quite effortlessly.
We were scheduled to dine at the Enchanted Garden. Chef Iggy again that evening stopped by our table; he even disappeared for a moment and returned with a Chef's hat for our friends' five year old.
The final show, Disney's Believe, is a new Disney production. It tells the story of a father's journey (guided by Genie from Aladdin) to show him that anything is possible if you just believe.
Disembarkation - We opted to carry our bags off that morning rather than put them out the night before. We enjoyed our last breakfast at the Enchanted Garden where we were asked to be at 6:30 AM. Late dinner guests were asked to be there at a later seating. We took the elevator to Deck 3 and quite easily walked off the ship.