Living the Disney Dream - Review and 500 pics!
500 photos documenting practically every public area of DISNEY DREAM, including Personal Navigator's and Room Service can be found at the following link:
All photos are labeled so you know what they are
My partner and I are avid Disney fans and travel to Disney World almost every other month with our annual passes. I'm a ship enthusiast having sailed on over 90 cruises on a great variety of cruise lines. Disney Cruise Line (DCL) for me is like heaven on earth as it satisfies my love of Disney and cruise ships. We don't have children so being confined on a ship with a thousand screaming kids is always a concern. For this reason we will only consider a Disney cruise during the off season when kids are in school. Of course there are always going to be a lot of kids on Disney, but they are not so abundant during the off season. This cruise was a late January 2012 sailing, for 3-nights on the DISNEY DREAM. Our ports were Nassau and Disney's private beach island, Castaway Cay. Our cabin was a standard balcony, cabin 7650, category 5C. This was our second Disney cruise, the first one being a couple years ago on the DISNEY WONDER.
Rather than write a complete review, I took notes during the cruise about all the things that really stood out about DCL and the DREAM, so that is how I'll present my experience. Let me just say up front that I'm very a detailed oriented person, so I tend take notice of little things that others may overlook. For me it's all about the little details that really add up to an exceptional experience, and in this respect no one beats Disney. This cruise was awesome and actually exceeded all my expectations. DCL is not an inexpensive vacation prospect, but I found it was worth every penny just like our last DCL experience. As they say, you get what you pay for!
So here we go ...
- DCL has a wonderful custom designed cruise terminal at Port Canaveral. We parked at the pier and were onboard within 15 minutes. We arrived around 12:30pm and there was a short wait to check in and no wait to board the ship. Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy were in the terminal and set the stage for the fun that awaited onboard. There is a wonderful cut-away model of the DISNEY MAGIC located in the terminal. It's not to be missed! (see photos)
- When you board a DCL ship, your name is announced by the cruise staff in the Atrium. It's a personal touch that I've never experienced on any other cruise line.
- Key to the World Cards (your cruise card and cabin key) don't have to be swiped on DISNEY DREAM. You just tap them to the scanner when entering or exiting the ship or your cabin. Again this is a first for me that I haven't seen on other ships and it saves times when dealing with thousands of passengers.
- Just a few words about the DISNEY DREAM herself. She is gorgeous! One of the most beautiful ships I've ever sailed on. If you love art deco like I do, you will be in heaven. The ship is kept in immaculate condition with not an ounce of rust or dirt to be found. She even smelled new. It was hard to believe she was a year old, as she looked like she could have been delivered from the shipyard just days ago. The entire ship just exudes quality. From the carpets to the fixtures, drapes, furniture, etc, everything is custom designed and everything is of the highest quality. More than anything I think this is what impressed me most about DISNEY DREAM.
- There is no Internet Cafe on the DISNEY DREAM. The entire ship is wireless including cabins. If you don't have a laptop, Disney will loan you one. I used my iPad which worked perfectly. 100 minutes was $40, and unlike other lines that charge a one-time "connection fee", DCL does not do this.
- Overall there is almost no nickel and diming on DCL. There are not constant announcements begging you to attend revenue producing events or a constant nagging to buy something. DCL does not place endless advertising flyers in your cabins like most other lines. This was a refreshing change to the typical mass-market experience and even the premium lines.
- In our cabin we had some gifts waiting for us as Silver Castaway Members (DCL past passenger club). A logo tote bag, a DCL key chain, two logo water bottles, and two rice crispy treats shaped like flip flops. It was a nice welcome to the cabin.
- Soft drinks are free on DCL! There are self serve beverage stations on deck and in Cabanas Buffet, and you can order soft drinks at any bar and dining room at no charge.
- The fit and finish of the cabins is exceptional. There is even crown molding in the ceiling. There are Disney details all over if you look close enough. The towels, sheets, pillow cases, bed throw, and even the decorative pillow are all Disney logo items. Even small things like the light switches and a/c control have the DCL logo on them. The coffee table in front of the sofa opens and is a great storage chest. We used it for dirty laundry. Other amenities include a refrigerator, safe, multiple outlets, iPod docking station & clock, and two cell phones which can be used anywhere on the ship or Castaway Cay. There is a ton of closet and drawer space, more than you will ever need on a 3-day cruise. There is also nightlight and interactive TV.
- Our stateroom service team were exceptional. Everything was kept immaculate and everything worked perfectly. Turndown service consisted of the traditional chocolate treat on your pillow and of course a towel animal!
- The bed was extremely comfortable with a pillow top mattress and high thread count sheets. Something unique to DISNEY DREAM is that the beds are true queen size beds. They do not separate into twins. The bed is very high off the floor so there is plenty of space underneath for luggage storage.
- The Interactive TV is one of the best I've encountered. There is a very good selection of channels but it's the movie selection that really got my attention. Movies, animated features, and Disney classics all at no charge. In fact there are no pay-per view movies like on most ships. Everything is free. You can also start and stop your selection as desire, and resume when ready. Like many ships there is the live view from the bridge and the ship's route map with navigation info. You can also check your shipboard account at anytime.
- Split bathrooms are standard in all cabins except insides. They are very nicely finished with real tile unlike most cruise ship bathrooms which are just a single plastic pre-fab unit. One unit is a small tub/shower and sink, and the other is a sink and toilet. This is great for families and even we enjoyed it as one person could be showering while the other shaves in the second unit. The sinks have a silver basin which again was a nice quality touch, and the layout is a hidden Mickey. Instead of the commercial soap and shampoo dispensers many cruise lines use in the showers, Disney still uses individual bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. Even the shower curtain is custom to Disney as well as the lovely DCL logo towels. I can't remember the last time I saw logo towels in a cruise ship bathroom.
- Dyson vacuums are used on DISNEY DREAM (see photo). I've never seen that before. Knowing how much they cost it sort of surprised me. I supposed only the best will do for Disney!
- Housekeeping carts are actually disguised as steamer trunks (see photo). Just one of those little Disney details that most people would overlook. I was constantly amazed at how much thought and detail went into every aspect of DISNEY DREAM.
- Hidden Mickey's -- Those that know Disney know what I'm talking about. There are hidden Mickey's everywhere on DISNEY DREAM. From the shower curtains to the housekeeping carts, you will find hidden Mickey's just about everywhere. Even the elevator call buttons have Mickey ears on them.
- Something unique to DCL that people will either love or hate is the "Disney Immersion" as I like to call it. It can be subtle like the hidden Mickey's, or much more visible like the many Disney character sightings or even the Disney music that is played 24/7 in all corridors, foyers, and public spaces. The music is even themed according to the daily events. For instance on Pirate night you will hear "A Pirate's Life For Me" being played in the corridors. Personally I love it and find it adds to the entire experience, but if you are not a fan of Disney you may find it annoying.
- There is a Deck 13 on DISNEY DREAM. I suppose Disney doesn't believe in bad luck!
- Animation Art & Midship Detective Agency (see photos). Again something exclusive to DISNEY DREAM, Animation Art is scattered throughout the DREAM in many foyers. When you stand in front of it, the art comes to life. It's pretty cool. Certain pieces of Animation Art are part of a fun game called the Midship Detective Agency. You activate a badge and pick up a detective casebook and use the Animation Art to solve a mystery. It's really a lot of fun for adults and kids, and it's also a great way to explore the entire ship.
- DISNEY DREAM has the best gift shops of any ship I've sailed, basically because of the extensive selection of DCL logo merchandise which I love. On so many ships today the logo merchandise is exactly the same from ship to ship, with just the name imprinted being different. On DCL it's exclusive merchandise you won't find anywhere else, and Disney owns and operates all the shops on DCL. It's not concessioned out like on many ships. True to Disney, there is no discounting and prices are not cheap. Often times the gift shops are packed, just like they are at the Disney parks so obviously discounting is not necessary. I guess I'm not alone in my love for all this logo merchandise. Don't expect the bargain basement tables selling tee-shirts, $10 watches, and inch of gold, because it doesn't exist on Disney (thankfully!).
- Disney is an entertainment company first that just happens to operate a cruise line. For this reason the entertainment is probably the best of any ship I have sailed. ALLURE and OASIS OF THE SEAS come close. There are an unprecedented three full scale production shows on a 3-day cruise. The production shows are first rate and like everything Disney does, they "tell a story" with the clever use of Disney characters and music. The costumes, enormous production staff, and special effects are all impressive and live up to the Disney reputation. The Walt Disney Theater is also a beautiful venue and I don't think there is a bad seat in the house. The three shows are The Golden Mickey's, Villains Tonight, and Disney's Believe. Believe was my favorite of the three shows, but I enjoyed them all. In addition to the production shows, there are parties on deck with all your favorite Disney characters, and even an amazing fireworks display (complete with music -- again telling a story) that you can only find on DCL!
- The Personal Navigator is the daily program on DCL. It's unique in that it looks like a TV Guide in the way it's designed (see photos). It's divided into "The Main Event", "Fun For All Ages", "Just For Adults", and then the various sections for kids including the Oceaneer Club, Oceaneer Lab, Edge, and Vibe. This setup makes it extremely easy to find the activities suited just for you.
- People often ask me if you can enjoy a Disney cruise with no kids. My answer is absolutely! If you appreciate quality, innovation, detail, great food, great service, and awesome entertainment on a gorgeous ship then by all means it's likely you will enjoy a Disney cruise. Of course it helps if you also enjoy Disney in general as there is that "Disney Immersion" I spoke about earlier. It's actually quite possible to enjoy the DISNEY DREAM with minimal exposure to kids. First thing is to cruise during the off season when kids are in school. There will still be kids as this is Disney of course, but they will be less abundant than during the summer or school holidays. There are many areas dedicated to adults only, and unlike many cruise lines they are enforced on DCL. The Senses Spa, Quiet Cove Pool & Bar, Cove Cafe, Remy, Palo, Meridian Bar, adult sun deck, and The District Entertainment area are all adults only. Remy and Palo are specialty dining venues. We did not try either specialty restaurant on this cruise because we wanted to experience the three main dining rooms.
- The District is the adults entertainment area. It's quite extensive and was heavily attended during my cruise which probably indicated there were many adults without children on this sailing. Included venues are the main bar and lounge with a solo singer and live band each evening, Pink which is a lovely champagne bar, 687 which is the Sports Bar, Evolution which is a dance style nightclub, and Skyline which was my favorite spot. Skyline is an elegant bar with a backdrop that changes to various cities every 15 minutes. Even the music changes to match the city. Rio, NY, Chicago, Paris, and Hong Kong are the cities currently displayed. The display is actually several high resolution flat panels, so the city scenes actually have movement such are cars driving and lights flickering. It's really cool!
- The Sense Spa is another adults only area, and it's one of the nicest spas I've seen on any ship. There is a beautiful thermal style suite that includes jacuzzis, steam rooms, saunas, heated loungers, and multiple shower experiences all with a gorgeous view. There is a charge to use this facility. In addition there are a couple Spa Villas which are really stunning and a great place to receive your spa treatment. In each changing room there is a steam room that you can use free of change. The fitness center has all the latest equipment and two trainers that provide a lot of free classes as well as personal training sessions that are at an additional cost.
- We dined in the three main dining rooms, each of which is themed. Even the waiters uniforms change to match the venue. The venues are Enchanted Garden, Animator's Palate, and the Royal Palace. Our favorite was the Royal Palace. DCL is unique in that they offer rotational dining. You will be assigned a rotation which will be indicated in your stateroom. While you have the same table number for all three nights, the location of your table is different in each venue. The great thing is that your dining room server team follows you to each venue. I was very impressed with our service in that we were greeted by name the first night and each subsequent night! I haven't even had that kind of personalized service on Silversea. The Head Waiter stopped by each night and not just the last (tip night) like on many lines. The entire dining staff always asked if there was anything they could do better to enhance our enjoyment. There was absolutely nothing more they could do, but it sure was nice they kept asking. The food was also quite good. Perhaps not exceptional but all very tasty, well presented, and of a high standard. Disney does not have tables for two, but they will none the less try to accommodate this request space permitting. On both our DCL sailings our request was granted, and we enjoyed a four-top but with just the two of us.
- Special mention must be made of the entire crew on DISNEY DREAM. They are really an enthusiastic bunch that is obviously held to a very high standard. Most of the crew we spoke with have never worked for another line except Disney, and I have a feeling Disney prefers it this way. No bad habits to break. All the crew spend almost at week at Disney World prior to joining the ship and attend "Traditions", which Disney's indoctrination program for new employees that teaches them all about Disney culture, history, and that famous guest interaction that makes Disney the envy of all other service companies. We did not encounter one rude or indifferent "cast member" and this certainly can't be said for most cruise lines.
- Castaway Cay is Disney's private beach island. Personally I think it's the best of the lot and I've been to them all (Coco Cay, Princess Cays, Great Stirrup Cay, Half Moon Cay, and Labadee). Castaway Cay is cleaner, prettier, has nicer beaches & beach furniture, better shops and bars, and of course all the Disney touches that set it apart from the rest. One of the great things is that DISNEY DREAM actually docks at Castaway Cay and does not tender. This saves valuable time and is much more convenient. I love the fact there is an adults only section called Serenity Bay, complete with a beautiful beach, bar, private cabanas, and barbeque grill with ice cream and soda fountain. Take note of the large palm tree sticking up near the center of the island (see photo). It's not a palm tree at all but a cell tower so your cabin cell phones will work on the island. Clever!
- A useless tidbit was that Bruce Vilanch was on this cruise along with several friends, one of which is a DCL production supervisor. For those that don't know Bruce, he is a writer in Hollywood for some very popular actors and shows, such as the Oscars. It was interesting seeing him around the ship, and he is a person that is not hard to miss if you have ever seen him.
- No review of DISNEY DREAM would be complete without mentioning the AquaDuck. What a fun experience! It's open to midnight every night, and I suggest hitting it around 10am or 11am the morning of Castaway Cay. There will be no line. It's also fun to ride at night and there is usually no line after about 8pm.
- Disembarkation was a breeze, and like many things Disney beats to it's own drum. Instead of endless announcements stating that this color or that number can now disembark, DCL doesn't do any of that. There are no numbers or colors. Basically if you have first sitting dining, you have breakfast at a set time in your set dining room and table then simply disembark after eating. The same applies to second sitting. I thought it would be chaos but there was absolutely no line to disembark the ship at 8:30am when we left. We simply walked off.
I hope you can tell that I truly enjoyed this experience. If DCL were adults only it would probably be my favorite cruise line. As it is, the DISNEY DREAM is now one of the very best ships I have ever sailed, and we can't wait to book 7-days on the DISNEY FANTASY ... off season of course! LOL If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask and I hope you enjoy the extensive photo collection.