This was our 5th cruise...once on the Disney Magic in 2006 and three cruises on Royal Caribbean (Explorer, Mariner, & Serenade). While we enjoyed the Magic, the high cost of a Disney cruise & a desire to do other itineraries led us to RCCI where we found an equally great cruise experience at a much lower cost. What brought us back to Disney again? A new ship & a Bahamas itinerary that included the "double dip" at Castaway Cay....by far, our favorite part of a Disney cruise.
Absolutely beautiful! Clean, new, with every technological advance. It will be hard to go back to an older ship after sailing on the Dream.
After registering online, we were disappointed to get a 3pm boarding time assigned by Disney. There was NO WAY we were getting to the terminal that late. If you have a similar late boarding time, don't worry. It's meaningless. We arrived around 10:45 and were promptly checked in by 11:05. Then the waiting began. True to many of the reviews, the terminal was packed. No place to sit, except on the floor (we did find a small patch of carpet), long lines to see characters, & a ridiculous line to register for the Oceaneer's Club. We had read other reviews to skip this line and just register once onboard. We did that and had no wait. Don't stand in that line!! We were in group "12" to board. It took about an hour and a half. On all our previous RCCI cruises, there was no wait after checking in. Straight on board as early as 11:30!! Disney needs to work on this process!!
The reviews we read of the pools being over-crowded were true, especially on embarkation day and the at-sea day. Kids jumping in virtually on top of other kids in the water. After getting banged, bumped, pushed & kicked, our daughter opted to go to the Oceaneer's Club instead. We liked the misting seats at the adult pool but agree with other reviews that the adult area was lacking in theming & design. Pretty boring. The hot tubs which were situated by the windows had a glass bottom section that looked straight down to the ocean. Wow!
On the Magic, the Mickey Pool was actually 3 separate parts, 2 for the ears & 1 for the face. Unfortunately, they designed this pool on the Dream as a single pool in the shape of Mickey's face. Where the ears join the face, there are triangular concrete points that jut out into the swimming/playing area. On the first night of our cruise, our daughter hopped in the Mickey pool after riding the Aqua Duck, pushed herself to the side, and gashed her forehead on one of these points. 5 stitches, $500, & 2 days without getting her cut wet. What a way to start a cruise ? BEWARE OF THIS DANGER IN THE MICKEY POOL!!
We enjoyed watching classic Disney movies on the big screen at the family pool. We didn't have any problem finding chairs on the upper deck on the at-sea day, though we did hit the pool pretty early. Also, a seat under the Aqua Duck provides some shade up there!
Lots of fun, though the waiting time was 45m at times during the day. Definitely worth a 15-20m. wait though. Kids have to be 54" to ride alone. Our daughter was easily 54" at Universal Studios two days before the cruise but came up a little short according to the Dream's measuring stick. Maybe it was the lack of shoes or the stick was measured too high. She was frustrated to be able to ride all the big roller coasters and then have to ride this little water ride with Mom or Dad.
The RCCI ships that we've sailed on had "enough" kids...our daughter never lacked kids to play with. The Disney ships are a bit more"overrun" with kids, particularly younger ones.
We did the catamaran snorkel. Though the reef was nice, we didn't see many fish. The day was dark & gloomy (though no rain) and the sail was boring. We did several catamaran sails in the southern Caribbean with RCCI that we rated "outstanding". This one was just "ok". Wish we had just stayed on the ship instead.
Fabulous! It was just as we remembered. Huge, white-sand beach, clear, calm water, great lunch buffet. Fun play areas for kids (no additional cost ---unlike RCCI), plenty of chairs & umbrellas. We stayed all day. The snorkeling is ok... a long swim out and only a few fish. Our daughter struggled with the vest and finally gave up. The 2nd Castaway day was windier, with the water not as clear. Still, it was our favorite beach excursion on all of our cruises. We took the shuttle over to the adult-only beach. It was very quiet, actually a little boring. We did not snorkel there. It appeared that you would need to walk about a really long way to get out of knee-deep water.
The lunch on embarkation day was very good. After doing a couple of breakfasts there, we decided we'd rather have room service to get a quicker start. In RCCI's quick service restaurant, the food was in many different stand-alone stations, so that you could pick up different foods without standing in a line. At Cabanas, everyone seemed to go right and line up in a massive line (cafeteria-style). We walked around to the back and found the same food, with no line. Certain things like fruit & desserts were not self-service which was frustrating. We enjoyed the cooked-to-order eggs on RCCI but didn't find this on the Dream.
Flo's V8 Cafe on the pool deck
GREAT food...pizza, burgers, hot dogs, wraps, fruit, cookies. We ate there instead of going to Cabanas for lunch. RCCI has nothing like this on the ship's we've been on.
We went once to each of the rotational restaurants. Our favorite was Animator's. What a great show with Crush! The food, to our pleasant surprise, was good. Really, not better or worse, than on any of our other cruises. In fact, I would rate 2 of my chicken dishes as "very good". We experienced only 1 night where the service was very slow. On the 2 other nights, the timing was perfect.
With a fair amount of shipboard credits to our account, we decided to splurge and try Remy's. It was definitely a dining "experience". We opted for the wine pairings for each course. It was fun, but doubt we'd ever do it again. Some of the courses were a little "out there" for our tastes.
We dined at Palo on the Magic and found the best food & service we'd ever had to that date and since. While Palo on the Dream was very good, it didn't live up to that first experience. Our waitress on the Magic was apparently exceptional.
Please note that if you can't find any open reservations on the website, go to the Palo/Remy desk which opens at 1pm on embarkation day. We had plenty of reservations to choose from.
We read a number of reviews which complained about the service on the Dream. We found quite the opposite. Service was outstanding. From our stateroom attendant (always greeted up by name), waiter & waitress, room service, doctors in the Medical Center, cast members you passed in the hall. Everyone was terrific!!
Disney has outdone themselves on the staterooms! With the dual closet, split bath, plenty of drawer space, under-the-bed storage, we actually had UNUSED space (with 2 adults & 1 child). We had an extra-large deck with 4 chairs. Instead of just a cramped shower, we had a bathtub with a shower. It came in handy to bathe our daughter after the stitches in her head (see "pools" above).
With 2 specialty dinners & a full day at Castaway on the last day (and needing the evening to pack), we were only able to see the "Villains" show. It was good. I wish we could have seen "Believe" instead. We did not care for the entertainment on the RCCI cruises.
The pirate night party on deck was ok...too short. I wish the fireworks had been earlier than 10:30, though. As we prefer to get up early, staying up for 10m worth of fireworks wasn't worth it.
Oceaneers Club & Lab:
Our daughter (age 9) enjoyed the club very much. On our Magic cruise, Disney was much stricter about keeping the age groups separate. On the Dream, the kids could wander between the Club & the Lab. This was fine for an older kid, like ours, but I would have preferred more structure if I had a younger child. She also enjoyed the club on Castaway and chose to go there instead of swimming on our last afternoon. RCCI also had very a very good kids club. However, on most nights, it closed from 5-7pm. Very annoying if you wanted to dine at an adults-only restaurant prior to 7pm.
A breeze. After breakfast, we walked off the ship with minimal waiting, found a baggage person to get our bags, and we were off.
Our daughter enjoyed playing the mid-ship detective agency game which took us all over the ship for clues. Awesome technology!
We also loved the Dream's photo store. No more, wandering around searching through hundreds of photos to find ours!
We found a cozy bar on deck 14, BUT, only 1 elevator goes up that high. Most go to deck 12 only. Check it out for a quiet drink & a spectacular view!
Lots of waiting for elevators..we chose the stairs most of the time.
Pool bars served great Caribbean drinks!
We brought our IPAD2 to check home & work email daily. You either pay by the minute or buy one of the packages. Was a little slow, but worked fine. There is no internet cafe on the Dream as there is on the Magic & Wonder.
Overall, we enjoyed our cruise on the Dream. The crowded pools & embarkation process kept us from giving our cruise 5 stars. As for future cruises, we will probably go back to RCCI mainly due to the lower cost. If Disney was comparably priced, we'd stick with Disney...but it's not.