4 day Disney Dream October 23, 2011
After 28 cruises onboard most of the mainstream cruise lines we decided it was time to test the waters at Disney Cruise Line. We are an unmarried childless couple in our mid 40's, so why cruise on Disney? We both love Disney and usually visit Disney World about once a year. We also love to check out new ships. Also, since we used Disney Vacation Club points the cruise was much cheaper for us than published prices.
There has been much theorized about the value of using vacation club points to cruise. I think each vacation club member values their points in a different way, so it is up to them to determine whether a cruise is a good use of points. I think the most important aspects of using points to book the cruise are the limited availability and loss of flexibility. There are a limited number of cabins released to be booked using points and once booked a reservation is not easily altered. I booked this cruise with my points back in February 2010.
We flew nonstop from Minneapolis to Orlando on SunCountry Airlines Saturday morning, arriving about noon. We had arranged a ride ($58) to our hotel with Cocoa Beach Shuttle and found them easily after collecting our luggage. As soon as we were loaded onto the shuttle we left the airport, we didn't have to wait for anyone else. We spent Saturday night at the Radisson Resort at the Port ($88). We had stayed at this hotel in February 2010 and were pleased with the room and location, so we decided to go back. The rooms are comfortable with sleep number beds, a microwave and mini fridge. The hotel has a nice pool and hot tub, pool bar, restaurant and gift shop. We got to the hotel about 1:30, our room was ready immediately. After a relaxing drink at the pool bar we took a walk to a gas station a block away to get some beer to bring onboard with us, which is allowed by Disney Cruise Line. At 4:00 we took a cab to Fishlips, we had plans to watch the Saturday ships leave, meet some of the folks on our roll call and get something to eat. Fishlips has a nice upper balcony dining room and bar that is the perfect place to watch the ships sail past. We enjoyed the food including; raw oysters, fish fingers, calamari, French dip sandwich and hog wings all at very reasonable prices.
Finally it was Sunday morning and time to head to the port. We had a port arrival time of 11:00. When Disney built a larger ship that holds about 30% more people they didn't expand the port terminal. In August DCL began assigning a port arrival time to alleviate crowding in the port terminal. We didn't encounter extreme crowding so it seems to be working. We arrived at the port at 11:00 we were checked in and on board by noon. Initial boarding is into the ship lobby and they announce your name as you enter. Our room wouldn't ready until 1:30, we went directly to the buffet for lunch before it got really busy. This was the only time I ate in the buffet, everything I tried was delicious, especially the lamb chops, but other favorites were the chicken fingers and macaroni and cheese. After lunch we went to the adult pool area and used that area as a base point for exploring other areas around the upper decks until our room was available.
Our room was an aft balcony on deck ten; 10664. We booked the room as a 6A, but the room has since been upgraded to a 5E. I booked an aft balcony based on my past experience that usually aft balconies were bigger and I wasn't disappointed. We paced off the balcony at about 18 feet deep and the width of the room about two thirds covered, so it was cooler in the sun and protected during rain. There were two lounge chairs, two upright chairs and one side table on the balcony. This was our first experience with the split bath. I understand how the split bath would be useful when bathing kids, but it wasn't necessarily advantageous for the two of us. The shower did incorporate about a half size tub, so for a cruise ship shower it was pretty big. There were two closets, one with a safe and the other had some shelves, and next to the closet was a small bureau with three drawers and shelves over and the ice bucket on the counter. The bed had a small bedside table on either side with one small drawer. The bed was the smallest we have encountered on a ship; we found it uncomfortable to sleep together in this bed. The room was set up to sleep four using a fold out sofa and bed that folded down from the ceiling. The sofa was next to the balcony doors with the desk across from it and a trunk like coffee table that worked great as a dirty clothes hamper. There was a fridge built into half of the desk and the other side had more drawers. The fridge worked great, kept anything inside very cold, not just chilled. The top drawer had a hair dryer that worked great. All the drawers had a soft close mechanism, just gently push the drawer and it takes over. I did miss the bathrobe provided by other cruise lines. Our stateroom host was satisfactory, not outstanding and not bad, the only thing I could really complain about was that our room wasn't made up the first day until afternoon. He did keep our little cooler filled with ice, as I find the little ice bucket provided inadequate. It was nice having a room near the aft elevators; they seemed to be considerably less busy than the mid ship and forward elevators.
The muster drill was pretty easy. Our muster station was in the Evolution Lounge. They need to scan only one card from the room, then the usual life jacket instruction and its over. After the muster drill we went back up top for sail away. After sail away we got ready for dinner, we had late seating for dinner so we went to the early show. We don't usually go to shows anymore, but it's Disney so we made an effort and made it to two out of three. We saw Golden Mickeys and Villains, I liked Villains the best. Sometime the first evening I went to the gift shops and got my Dream Inaugural Dooney and Burke purse, it was even on sale.
The rotational dining was new to us, we had ERAA rotation. The Enchanted Garden dining room was the least memorable, but that might just have been an over load of everything new throughout the day. Our dining room serving team, Chris and Michal, were the best we have had in all our cruises. Chris always offered his recommendations, Michal made sure we were never thirsty and dinner moved at an enjoyable pace. We were also lucky enough to share dinner with three other couples, all about the same age and traveling without kids. We made six great new friends! Night two in the Royal Palace dining room was delightful. I love the uniforms the servers wear in this dining room. I wish they sold the bread baskets in the gift store. The Animator's Palate dining room was the most fun to dine in, there was so much to look at and it was always changing. We weren't seated next to a screen so we didn't get to talk to Crush, but there was still plenty going on. I'm glad we got to eat two dinners and our last breakfast there. I don't remember everything I had for each dinner, but I do remember that I enjoyed it all.
Only once during the entire cruise did we encounter a crew member that was not helpful, it was at guest services. It was either the first night or the next morning, we went to guest services to sign up for the tastings we wanted to do. The crew member who was 'earning her ears' was not able to locate the list of available tastings for the voyage. Another crew member approached her attempting to help, but she waved them away. So we walked away without booking anything. We went back later, at that time we were helped by a crew member that knew how to find the list and we were able to sign up for the tastings we wanted that hadn't been sold out yet.
Our first day we were in Nassau, we've been there several times on other cruises, so our plan was to stay on board and explore the ship more. Funny thing about our stop in Nassau, all our documents said we would leave at 6:00PM, but we didn't leave until 2:30AM. I'm not sure why this is such a secret. We got a plate of breakfast food from Cabanas to eat on the balcony while we backed up to the pier. The aquaduck opened at 9:00, that was our first stop, and then we spent some time at the adult only pool. There are nice padded lounges by the Quiet Cove pool, but there isn't much sun unless you sit in the pool. The Quiet Cove is a nice space except for the placement that causes a lot of through traffic. I got a chicken sandwich from Flo's for lunch; it was okay, not great, not much flavor. After lunch it was time for my champagne tasting. The champagne tasting was held in Pink. Pink is a small bar that is designed to seem like you're in a champagne bottle. The tasting was conducted by Gonzalo, the head sommelier; he grew up on a vineyard in Portugal. Gonzalo did a great job teaching us about champagne and helping us appreciate the different types of champagne and sparkling wine. When I left the tasting I discovered it had started raining. So I spent some time on our balcony, since it was two thirds covered there was plenty of dry space to enjoy it when it was raining. At 4:30 we went to the martini tasting, it was held in the Meridian Bar that is on deck 12 aft between Remy and Palo. We had 4 or 5 small martinis, while Anya told us about the history of the martini and also all about gin and vodka. It was a lot of fun. After the martini tasting it was time to get ready for the show and dinner. The Villians show was tonight, I liked this show better than the Golden Mickeys, it featured many well known Disney Villians but it wasn't scary. Dinner was in the Royal Palace dining room.
Our second day was at Castaway Cay, the Disney Cruise Line private island. Again we ate some Cabanas breakfast on our balcony as we backed up to the pier. Once we noticed passengers disembarking we went down. We didn't have to wait long for a tram to take us to the transfer point, then another short wait for a shuttle to the adult only beach. We spent the entire day here on the beach. The water was nice. We ate lunch at Cookies 2. There was a lot to choose from, my favorite was the rib eye steak, seasoned and cooked just right. After lunch the tide had gone way out revealing a new sand bar that we had to go explore. We stayed at the beach until about 3:00, when we took the first shuttle to the transfer point then walked the rest of the way so that we could shop along the way. But I didn't find anything to buy. This evening we found the Outlook Bar on deck 14 in the smokestack. It's only open at sunset and not many find it. But it's a nice place to watch the sunset. Then we watched the Mickey's Pirates of the Caribbean before going to our first dinner at Animators Palate. The only time I felt crowded on the ship was during the two different Pirate Night Parties. Since our first night in Animator's Palate was Pirate Night the screens had ever changing ship and pirate scenes. After dinner we went back up top for the fireworks and pirate show, again this was the only time I felt crowded on the ship, it was really hard to find a place to view the show. The fireworks were very cool though, a new one for us. I did notice several cruise ships hanging out off the starboard side of the Dream so that if their passengers knew to look they could enjoy the fireworks too.
Our last full day was a sea day. We went straight to the Aquaduck and rode it several times right after it opened and had a very short wait. Then we spent some time at the Quiet Cove adult only pool. For lunch I had some wraps from Flo's, the Greek ones and the chicken ceasar ones are my favorite. This afternoon I visited the shops again to make sure I got all the keepsakes I wanted. In the afternoon we tried the Midship Detective Agency. It's a fun way to see a bunch of the interactive art around the ship and solve a mystery along the way. Today at 5:00 we went to the tequila/margarita tasting. During this tasting Oscar taught us about tequila and margaritas, we sampled three types of tequila and enjoyed two kinds of margarita. Today I should have gone to the show at 3:00, between packing and wanting to spend as much time as possible with our new friends we didn't make it to the show. The Outlook Bar wasn't open today for sunset; instead we found a nice table on the smoke free side of the Currents bar to enjoy our last sunset. Tonight we ate in Animator's Palate again, this time with its traditional menu and the Crush show on the screens. We were too far from the screens to interact with Crush, but I liked to watch the screens during dinner. After dinner we all went up to Meridian for after dinner drinks on their balcony. They have two nice balconies off this bar one for smokers and the other smoke free, they are very nice spaces and under utilized. Although the disembark instructions say that your bags should be out by 10:30, I found it hard to dress for dinner without my bags. When we went back to our room there were still bags in the hall, so I put mine out between 11:30 and 12:00 and they took them.
On disembarkation day we eat breakfast in the same dining room as the night before; since we had late seating breakfast was at 8:00AM. Everyone at our table made it to breakfast for one last meal together and good byes among ourselves and our wonderful dining room servers. We got to enjoy one last meal of delicious food, wonderful new friends and fantastic service. Since we were spending a couple nights at the Beach Club Villas after the cruise I booked transfers for us through the cruise line ($70). They run two batches of transfers one at 8:00 and one at 9:00, since we had breakfast at 8:00, we would take the 9:00 transfers. Disembarkation and the transfers went very smoothly, from ship lobby to sitting on the bus took probably between 10 and 15 minutes, and then we probably sat on the bus about 15 minutes before it pulled out of the port area. The bus stopped at the Beach Club first so we didn't have to ride around to different resorts either. We got to the Beach Club about 10:30, our room wasn't ready yet but I was able to drop our bags with the Bell Desk and then we were ready to head straight to Epcot for the Food and Wine Festival.
Some general observations follow.
The amount of kids on board seemed to be about the same as a President Week cruise or a peak Spring Break Cruise on most other cruise lines. It seemed like the average age of the kids was younger than I've experienced on other cruise lines. It also seemed like Disney did a better job of containing the kids within the kids' area. On other cruise lines I've seen packs of tweens and teens roaming the ship because they weren't interested in the ship board activities provided for them. The only times I encountered crowds and lots of kids were walking through the main pool area and during the Pirate Night festivities.
Some comments about our room. Again the bed was small; it seemed more like a double than a queen. The split bath was nice. While I don't think we were ever using both at the same time, it did allow for a larger shower than is found on most cruise ships. I liked how the room key scanned without having to insert into a slot, all I had to do was wave my evening bag in front of the reader to open the door. Also the card slot to activate the power in the room wasn't much of a hindrance as I had kept one of our room keys from our precruise stay to use so we wouldn't forget our room key in the slot when we left the room. I wish they sold the red pillows in the gift shop also; it would be a wonderful keepsake. A word of warning regarding viewing your onboard account on the TV in your cabin, I tried this and found that our actual bill was about three times the amount shown on the TV. The TV access is not accurate at all.
While I would normally spend all day at the pool I didn't spend as much time at the pool on this cruise primarily because I wanted to spend more time exploring the ship but also because there is little sun at the Quiet Cove adult only pool. I did find that there weren't many activities offered that interested me between noon and 5:00.
It was nice to be able to bring some liquor on board with us without having to smuggle it. With free pop and juice available in Cabanas and the drink stations we were able to enjoy drinks on the balcony. I found the price of the drinks on board to be about 20% higher than on the other cruise lines we have been on recently. Our bar bill was higher than I thought it would be considering we were able to bring our own stuff on board.
I chose to do one load of laundry one evening. I brought a Purex 3 in 1 sheet with me so I didn't have to purchase detergent or a dryer sheet. Each wash and dry cycle is $2.00 and is charged to your on board account using your room key. It was easy to figure out how to start each machine; my difficulty came with opening the washing machine. The instructions say to hold the key button for three seconds, but after several attempts without it opening I had to call for help. The crew member that came to help me held the stop button first then the key button. Maybe someone that has used one of those new HE machines would know this, but I still have an old fashioned washing machine. So this difficulty did extend the time it took for me to complete my wash.
It was nice to have towels readily available on the pool deck and also as we exited for Castaway Cay. Other cruise lines make you check out a towel or else you have to take the towel from your room and make sure you bring it back to the room.
Will we cruise with Disney again? I hope so. But the price is a limiting factor. I'm not sure we will ever be able to do a 7 day cruise, probably just 3 or 4 days. We will probably only cruise Disney when we can work it into our Disney Vacation Club plan, because I don't see us paying the cash price of a Disney Cruise. I'm hoping that over the years Disney will cycle different ships through the 3 and 4 day itinerary so that we have a chance to try different ships.