On May 5, we embarked on Disney Dream at Port Canaveral for the shortest cruise we have taken since we started cruising in 1982. We booked this cruise using Disney Vacation Club points, getting a nice verandah cabin midships (port side) on Deck 6. We have taken 18 cruises and this was our fifth cruise on DCL (previous cruises include two four-day cruises on Wonder in combination with time at Walt Disney World, a 10-day Mediterranean cruise on Magic and the 12-day inaugural Baltic cruise, also on Magic). We are in our mid-fifties, with no children, but we have an affinity for Disney products and appreciate that Disney can provide great experiences for adults as well as families and children. My first review on Cruise Critic last year described our less-than-stellar and very expensive experience aboard Disney Magic for their first Baltic cruise. Fortunately, our adventure on Disney Dream pretty much restored our faith in DCL.
Pre-Embarkation: We did our own flights, as our vacation extended beyond our short cruise on Dream. We also booked our own hotel in the Port Canaveral area. I have traveled to the Cocoa Beach area many times for my job in the past and can highly recommend the fresh seafood lunches and dinners at Grill's, located right at the Port (a great place for watching cruise ships sail out).
Embarkation: We arrived at the port around 1:00 pm and parked in the garage. Because I was using a travel wheelchair due to knee problems, we were able to get an early boarding card number (the wait to board would have been about an hour otherwise). Embarkation seemed a bit chaotic, but we were checked in fairly quickly and immediately boarded the ship. It was a little disappointing to know that after four cruises and thirty days at sea with DCL we were still silver members of Castaway Club, but this short cruise now puts us in the gold category, for what it's worth. The greeting and announcement as we boarded is very nice and we were impressed with the beautiful atrium area.
Stateroom: Our stateroom was available after 1:30 pm. We brought a small bag with us for the cruise and were able to enter our stateroom immediately and unpack. DCL has wonderful staterooms, very roomy with lots of storage. I also like the two bathroom configuration. The bed was extremely comfortable and the room was quiet, considering that we were near the mid-ship elevators. The only complaint about the room was the fact that the tubs are much deeper than on Magic or Wonder, causing some difficulty for me to get in and out of the tub, plus the tub surface was very slick (a bit surprising on a moving vessel). I asked for and received a bathmat to use for the rest of the cruise. Alas, we did not use our verandah very much, but we did sit out there a few times
Elevators: The center-facing elevator banks are a vast improvement over Magic and Wonder and we didn't usually have to wait long for an elevator.
Pool Deck: After seeing our stateroom, we headed for the Quiet Cove area for a beverage. This adults-only area is a bit smaller than the ones on Magic and Wonder, but we liked the layout and the elegant deck furniture, along with the swim-up bar and the larger and very beautifully decorated Cove Cafe (one our favorite hang-outs on the Baltic cruise). We spend a lot of time in the Quiet Cove area, pretty much avoiding the family pool areas. My DH did ride the Aqua Duck on the day we were in Nassau and loved the experience; he had to wait about 15 minutes.
Mandatory Lifeboat Drill: This was a great improvement to previous experiences! We did not have to grab our life jackets. We showed up at our muster station and they checked us off and told us we could leave because I was in a wheelchair. We spent that time exploring some of the public areas and found several of the charming animated pictures.
Dining: Prior to the cruise, I had booked Remy for the second night of the cruise. After boarding, we were able to get a reservation at Palo for the first night. We would then be in Animator's Palate for the third night. On our Baltic cruise in 2010, we had some very disappointing experiences in the dining rooms (although Palo was very good the one night that we ate there on that cruise), so this was the big test. Palo was excellent and we enjoyed the almost empty Meridian bar before our dinner. We both had the beef tenderloin, which was cooked to perfection. Remy was ethereal and definitely worth the $75 charge per person. We admit to being "foodies" and we eagerly shared the courses from the two menus, savoring smoked bison, Wagyu beef, turbot, sea bass, tomatoes done four ways (including a drink that had essence of tomato) and many other delights. The service in Palo and Remy was impeccable, the decor in both restaurants was lovely and the views were spectacular. As we sailed from Nassau, we enjoyed wonderful views of the sunset from our cozy booth in Remy. Remy is on a par with two other Disney gourmet experiences: Victoria and Albert at the Grand Floridian and the Chef's Counter at Napa Rose at Disneyland Resort. We feared that our third night in Animator's Palate would be a let-down, but the food was very good, the service was good (if a bit hurried) and the animation show with Crush and other "Finding Nemo" characters was fun. We did not get a chance to dine in the other main dining rooms or in Cabanas (buffet restaurant). Other dining experiences: We ate breakfasts in the Cove Cafe (pastries, juice and great coffee) and did try some of the items from Flo's Cafe as it was close to the Quiet Cove. The pizza was not very good; in fact, it was usually undercooked. The fries were very good, however, as was the fresh fruit. The walk-up ice cream station is hugely popular, with lots of flavors.
Bars: In addition to the Meridian bar and the Quiet Cove bar, we also found the Currents bar on Deck 12 forward. The bartenders were terrific and we loved the expansive views from this outdoor bar as we prepared to sail out of Nassau and Castaway Cay. This was also a great place to gather for the fireworks. We also tried the Skyline bar in the District, an intimate space with entrancing animated skyline views of New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, Paris and Rio De Janeiro plus a nice wine list. The three-day cruise was too short to try and experience all of the lounges and bars available in the District area.
Service: Service was excellent in all areas (dining, bars, guest services, etc.). Our room attendant also did a great job and responded immediately to my concern about the bathmat for the tub.
Entertainment and shopping: We are not big on going to shows on ships (even on Disney, although they are good shows) so we did not attend any of the shows or go to a movie. We did enjoy seeing some of the characters wandering around. The shopping arcade is quite nice and I splurged on a Nike Disney Dream inaugural cruise polo shirt. Most of the products are Disney-oriented. The Shutters photo shop is done in a very unique way, like a library. The first photo while boarding establishes facial recognition; your photos are found by referencing an on-line database, then finding the book that contains those photos in the library.
Children's areas: Obviously we did not experience these areas, but children appeared to be having a great time. We walked past the Nemo splash area near Cabanas and thought it was adorable.
Spa, Fitness and Recreation: We did not experience these areas, although we did note that folks were having a lot of fun with the miniature golf, located right above Palo and Remy.
Ports and Excursions: Nassau ranks among our least favorite ports, so we stayed on board the ship that day (as did a lot of other passengers). Castaway Cay was fantastic, as usual (this was our third visit), although we wasted $35 each on a glass-bottom boat tour that had as its only redeeming virtue some great views of the Cay and the ship. Lunch at Cookie's BBQ was quite good, we enjoyed some quality time at Serenity Bay (adults only beach) and also hit the happy hour at the delightful Conched Out Bar.
Disembarkation: We had a continental breakfast at Cove Cafe and disembarked just before 8:30 am. Disembarkation was very fast and we were on the road by 9:00 am.
Overall impressions: DCL apparently spent over $1 billion on Dream and it shows. The ship was in almost perfect condition and had beautiful public areas and decor. It was also the quietest ship we have ever been on; most of the time it was impossible to tell if the ship was moving and we never heard thrusters when we were docking. We look forward to banking our DVC points and checking out Fantasy in 2012 or 2013!