Well where to start? This is my 3rd cruise this year, my wife's 5th. We'll also be coming back on the Dream on 12/15/11 for another 3-nighter; just worked out that way...
This is our first time on the Dream. We've been waiting for the chance to go and jumped when it finally came up. We've been on the Wonder probably 5-6 times before, 3-4 times each on Carnival and also Royal Caribbean, once on Princess to Alaska. We're early-50's, both work.
First time experiencing boarding time blocks. You can't just show up at 11am and expect to board. When you do your online check-in, you pick a boarding timeframe. What's still available is what you can choose from and it may be after 1 or 2pm before you can pick your time to get onboard. I see the logic; with 4,000 people to board, if everyone showed up at 11am to embark, it would suck. Don't like it, but I understand it. Based on what I've seen on Travel Channel shows, Royal does the same thing for the Allure and Oasis. Super ships just have to have different controls. We showed up and got onboard without a hitch and noticed others hanging around in the lobby waiting for their boarding time number to be called. Reminded me a little of Southwest Airlines boarding procedures...
First impression upon boarding was that Disney had indeed raised the bar on their level of cruise experience. The ship interiors have a very "high end" feel. You're paying big $$ to take this boat, it looks the part. If you're looking for the "party boat" feel, take Carnival or Royal.
Rooms on the Dream appear to be the same size as they are on the Magic and Wonder, with larger balcony space. Bathrooms are huge compared to the afterthought bathrooms on the older Carnival/Royal ships. THANK YOU Disney for controlling the ship architects and not letting them make every balcony viewable from other balconies with stupid exterior curves and bumpouts! Except for the poor schmucks on the 5th floor balconies that have not on inch of privacy (every room/floor above them can see absolutely everything they are doing out there).
Food was delicious and varied. I've read a few reviewers comments and their age explains their "confusion" about menu offerings. Those with an unsofisticated palate may grow weary with the fancy food. Though, if you actually read the entire menu, you can order a steak and potato at every restaurant. You just want meat and potatoes, you can get it. Of course, NEVER FORGET that you can and should order multiple appitizers and/or entres and desserts! They've already fixed the food folks, if they have it left over, it goes to the fishes. The servers don't care what you order. Don't be shy, taste everything!
Spa experience. Sadly, Disney still charges for the sauna and steam rooms and they are not segregated. It's just not in Disney's nature to give you anything for free.
PALO, still as delicious and special as on the other 2 ships. Do miss the show cooking though. Just a fancy dining room now with an appreciated piano player. Price is $20/per person now.
REMY. Didn't do it. Have heard if you love Victoria & Alberts at the Grand Floridian, you'll love this too. $75 per person, a lot cheaper than dropping $500 for 2 at V&A's. Originally thought this would never last, just too expensive. Guess there's enough "special occassion" celebrants on the ship to keep it going. We may try it on the next cruise. Have a hard time justifying it though. It's the same food as on different parts of the ship, just fixed differently. I've already paid for the food...
Adult Experience. I too have to agree that the adult area design appears to have been an afterthought with much smaller space on the pool deck area. Hottubs are unique but you need more of them. Do like the swim up bar, sort of, the base of the seat is in the water, you aren't. Makes no sense. I would like to see Disney have some "party time" hours there to see if it works. Maybe from noon to 3pm everyday there's actually some party/fun atmosphere with uptempo music. You can go to the upper level above the pool if you want to sleep/read a book. Come on, I'm in my 50's and that place is dull, dull, dull!
The District. With it's varied and unique clubs, they're beautiful clubs. And let me be a little weird here. I've never videotaped a bathrooom before...until I saw the restrooms on the club floor (I made sure nobody else was in there!) Awesome setup and all glass tile work. You've got to see them to believe it.
All in all, the Dream exceeded our expectations; we have very high expectations of Disney to begin with. NOTHING about Disney is cheap and it never should be. Reviews like this and others will help keep Disney on their toes.