Our background: early 40's, no kids, fairly experienced travelers with very little cruise experience
We arrived at Port Canaveral via car and used the Park & Shuttle option from Country Inn & Suites at the Port. Great hotel, efficient shuttle drivers, big complimentary breakfast, large parking lot. We paid about $150 for 1 nt in a King room (really a suite) including our parking during the cruise. Sometimes you can get a room there via Priceline, but with three cruises shipping out the same day, that wasn't an option for us. The hotel shuttle runs several times a day to the ships. (See my note at the bottom, however, about reserving a shuttle time).
We arrived at the port shortly before our 11am embarkation time, and felt the process went smoothly. We ended up in boarding group 6, so we were on the ship before noon.
We immediately headed for the top deck for lunch and the Aquaduck water coaster! Note: While appearing thrilling, the second half of the ride is tame. Try it at least once! After a couple fun rides with little wait, it was time to check out our cabin. TIP: Dinner hours on Pirate Night are excellent times to get multiple rides on the 'Duck.
We booked a 9B Deluxe Oceanview on Deck 2. I would not hesitate to book this room again! (In fact, we already have!) It was very convenient to mid-ship elevators, the Enchanted Garden restaurant, and Deck 3 services and activities.
The cabin was larger than we expected, and for the two of us at least, it had a ton of storage: two closets, many drawers and cabinets, plus underbed storage. In addition to our luxurious, comfortable queen-sized bed, there was a sofa bed plus a pullman bed in the ceiling, so technically the cabin could sleep 4. We loved the split bathroom, where the commode plus a small sink are in a separate room from the bath/shower combo and a larger sink. We had plenty of shelf space for the two of us in the baths. I think for 3-4 people you'd need to devise something for more toiletries storage.
After getting settled, we headed back to Deck 11 and Senses Spa to purchase a 4-day Rainforest Pass ($99 for two people). This was our favorite spot on the ship by far! With only 40 passes sold per cruise, we never had to compete with others for space in the heated tile loungers, the two hot tubs, the three saunas, or the four aromatherapy showers. If you're looking for daily relaxation, this is it! You can take a free tour of the Spa and they can show you how it all works if you're unsure.
Of the three rotational dining rooms, our favorite for atmosphere was Enchanted Garden, but our favorite for dining was Royal Palace. We enjoyed a cooked-to-order breakfast there two days and lunch two other days, in addition to our regular dinner assignment. (Enchanted Garden serves a buffet for breakfast and lunch. Cabanas on Deck 11 also serves buffet breakfast & lunch.)
To celebrate our anniversary, we booked dinner at Remy, the exclusive French restaurant on Deck 12. It was our favorite experience of the cruise! The food was superb, the service exceptional, and the view -- a rare nighttime view of Nassau (the Dream left port at 2am; it typically leaves earlier in the evening) -- all combined to make it an unforgettable meal. Big time shoutouts to our server, Yannick!
We also dined at Palo one evening. While it was a beautiful setting, it paled in comparison to Remy in both food and service. If doing both on the same cruise, try to do Remy after Palo, or try to book Palo for brunch.
We are Disney fans, so the abundance of Disney-themed entertainment was a big plus for us. The stage shows were Broadway-quality. The movie theater had first-run flicks all day and night. My favorite tip: Stateroom TVs stream Disney movies and tv shows. Take a couple hours one evening or morning to enjoy the movie Cinderella -- it's been in the Disney Vault for years and isn't available on DVD! We watched it for the first time since childhood!
We did not book any excursions on Nassau or Castaway Cay.
We loved Serenity Bay, the adults-only beach at Castaway Cay. It's a huge contrast from the crowded family beaches! We tried the Castaway Cay snorkeling trail with our own equipment. We didn't enjoy it for a couple of reasons: it's a long swim from the beach to the snorkeling area, and the water was murky with churned up sand. While you could see the "reefs" and fish, the water was not clear. We did snorkel late in the day, so if you snorkel the trail first thing in the morning, the clarity might be better. Take your mask & snorkel to Serenity Bay instead!
One fun on-ship activity was the Mid-Ship Detective Agency, in which you use the Enchanted Art throughout the ship to solve a mystery. Even though we don't have kids, we found it to be a fun way to explore the ship. My tip is to get your Case Information early in your cruise, then you have the duration of the cruise to check off the clue locations and solve your mystery. If you wait until the at-sea day of the cruise, you'll be competing with several others for your spot in front of the pieces of art. We found it best late at night.
Wile we hated to leave the ship, the disembarkation process was very smooth, and loved how our luggage was waiting for us in one color-coded spot right before we went through customs.
Since we used the Country Inn & Suites shuttle, we were able to hop right onto one that was ready to leave for the hotel, and we were back to our car in no time. The hotel has two shuttles that run continuously during embarkation and disembarkation. My only shuttle tip is if you must be at the port at a specific time, check into the hotel early for the best selection of shuttle times. They do keep a list of available slots throughout the day, and your preferred time may not be available if you check in late.
As I mentioned, we have already rebooked a cruise for the same ship and stateroom (taking advantage of Disney's 10% off rebooking + OBC offer) and are looking forward to sailing her again!