Despite being big Disney fans, we'd never taken a Disney cruise. However, hubbie came home from the 2011 D23 expo armed with a 2012 cruise brochure, and that just set planning into motion! We knew we wanted to sail on the newest ship (at the time) Dream. Prices during late Jan/early Feb seemed to be lower than normal rates. And Castaway Cay (CC) just looked amazing. So in order to maximize our time enjoying the ship and get two stops at CC, we decided to book a back-to-back 4 night/3 night Bahamas. This review covers the 2nd half (3 night).
Hotel Info (if any)
N/A since this was 2nd half of a b-t-b
Travel To Port of Embarkation
N/A since this was 2nd half of a b-t-b
So even though we were on a back-to-back and in the same cabin (otherwise what's the point really?), we did have to disembark sans luggage. We got off at 9:30am at the end of the rush, walked through customs (wish there had been a no-luggage express line!), and headed right back up the escalator to the registration area. Now officially Castaway Club members, we were ushered over to the folks processing the back-to-backers - about 15-20 of us. Then we were directed to the priority embarkation waiting area where we had about 45 min to wait, taking advantage of cell service to catch up on social media. Then about 10:20am we were allowed back on board, with the caution that most shipboard services were closed until general boarding started. We hung out on the pool deck watching the cruise staff do some rehearsals, then headed back to our cabin to change into swimsuits and coverups so we could be ready for Aquaduck when it opened at noon.
Note: Since you reboard before "real" boarding starts, you don't get the family name announcement again.
I have not sailed in an inside stateroom since our very 1st cruise, but I was willing to do so again on Dream only because 1) Disney's inside staterooms have as much sq footage as most of our Princess balcony staterooms if not a little more 2) the Magic Porthole! and 3) it was a way to offset the premium you pay for a Disney cruise.
We definitely had enough room for the type of cruise we were doing, and I don't think having a balcony for a Bahamas cruise is a must have. I just wish the "magic" was more often - we'd catch something out of the corner of our eye, turn to look at the porthole, and then stand there for a few minutes waiting. But when we did see an animation, it was really neat!
Prior to this cruise, the best bed we'd ever had was on Celebrity Equinox. Now the best bed title goes to Disney Dream. Perfect pillowtop mattress, comfy pillows & linens, and a normal rectangular bed shape (foot of bed was curved on Equinox and if you're tall and laying on side of bed, your feet can hang off).
The split bathroom was nice. Hubbie had his stuff in the shower one, I had the toilet one. This allowed us to unpack most of our toiletries and not be cramped for space getting ready.
Nitpicky items: The closet area could have used a few more cubbies for underwear/socks, and the nightstands definitely needed more drawers to be truly usable. The clock radio has an intense blue display so be warned if you're light susceptible, you'll probably be turning it upside down so you don't have a day-glo room.
We had high expectations for the Dream - and we were not disappointed!
It was easy to find our way around the ship. Because we don't have kids, we tried to maximize our time in the adult-only areas: specialty dining (see below), spa (see below), Quiet Cove pool, and the District night clubs. On the last night of the cruise, the CD announced that there were 1000 kids on board!
We did not purchase an Internet package for the 2nd half of our b-t-b. We'd caught up on social media on turnaround day and figured we could manage 2 days off the grid.
Again, we didn't spend any time in the fitness center (too much to see & do in a short time period). And of course there is no casino on Disney ships.
The Walt Disney theatre (for the production shows) was nice with comfortable chairs. The Buena Vista theatre (for movies) was absolutely superior to any other cruise line's movie theater - as good as any state-of-the-art movie theater on land.
As I would expect from Disney, there was a wide variety of DCL/Dream merchandise available in the shops, so we spent a little money there!
The daily newsletters were all in color and very nicely laid out. On the first day, they included the schedule of all the production shows, and movies so that was great to be able to plan your future days.
And free pop (or soda for those so inclined) was great - although we wished we had brought along mugs so that we didn't have to keep going back to the pool deck for refills.
Because we were doing a back-to-back, we chose to spread out our participation in activities. For this cruise, we went to bingo, various character signings, and played a round of Goofy Golf. We rode Aquaduck a few times when it opened at noon on embarkation day - definitely an advantage of being a b-t-b cruiser!
On this cruise, we also went to the spa - on Nassau day which we treated like a sea day. We really splurged and did the Couples Choice in the Spa Villas. The Spa Villas is essentially a private suite containing a massage room, shower (which you'd use if you did one of the wrap/scrub body treatments), and the veranda w/ hot tub.
We had a little bit of administrative mixup to start things off. We never got a reminder card - and I expected that just like we got for our specialty dining reservations. Nevertheless, I had my email confirmation printed out, so we arrived about 20 min early. They did have our reservation so we filled out the info forms (marking at the top very prominently NO PRODUCT PITCH) and waited. Finally about 10 min after our start time, I went back to the checkin desk to find out what was going on. One of the two technicians then arrived at the desk saying they'd been looking for us? I was baffled by this since we had checked in already and plenty early.
But things got better after that. After our consultation wherein my husband chose the hot stone massage and I picked the bamboo massage, we had a foot scrub, followed by about 25 min of private time in the hot tub. Then, we had our massages which lasted 75 min. Very wonderful! To wrap things up, we had our choice of hot tea served with fruit (choc covered strawberries, melon, & pineapple) while relaxing on the veranda lounger for two for about 10-15 min.
Our total time spent in the villas was close to 2.5 hrs and as per our request, we had no product pitches. For a special treat, we thought the Couples Choice was great.
Again, we had high expectations because well it's Disney, and those expectations were met. Doing a back-to-back helped too, because we had a chance to form a relationship with our cabin steward and dining servers. If you're only on the ship for a 4 night or 3 night, that's hard to do.
Port & Shore Excursions
For this cruise, we only had two ports - Nassau and Castaway Cay. Since we'd done Atlantis on the first half of our b-t-b, we decided to stay onboard for Nassau and consider it essentially a sea day. We didn't do any excursions on CC - just enjoyed the adults-only beach Serenity Bay.
The most perplexing, frustrating, & annoying part of the entire cruise had to be the buffet. The quality of the food was good, when you could actually get food - the hours were just bizarre and totally unlike anything we'd experienced before. On Nassau day, lunch didn't start until 11:45am. On Pirate Night, it was open for a whopping 45 min for the pirate buffet, starting at 10:30pm (only 30 min after those of us with 2nd seating finished with dinner - hello we're not hungry yet!). If you wanted a little late afternoon snack (especially for 2nd seaters), you were forced into room service (which we didn't try) or going to the Flo's Cafe options (get the chicken tenders!) on the pool deck - which is where you really felt like the ship was crowded and kid overwhelmed!
MDR - We had the dining rotation ERA, and we followed that except for the last night when we went to Palo (see below). EG: My favorite of the three dining rooms decor & atmosphere wise. RP: Nicely elegant - napkins folded like a suit jacket, bread basket in the shape of Cinderella's coach. We had the regular menu in EG (repeat for us from the 1st half cruise) and RP (new for us because we'd had the Pirate menu and missed the regular menu due to our Remy reservation). For the regular menus, we were pleased with the selections and were generally able to find an appetizer, soup/salad, entree, and dessert that we liked. In the case of EG, two desserts!
And then there was Palo. A very nice meal and easily worth the $20/pp charge. Do not miss the chocolate souffle - it is the best dessert on the ship! Excellent service made the 2 hr dinner a wonderful evening.
Again since we were doing a back-to-back, we could pick & choose which entertainment to do this cruise vs. the first half. For this cruise, we went to the Golden Mickeys production show, Disney's Believe production show (best of the 3 shows), Fireworks, and saw Wall-E on the Funnelvision.
Sadly, we had to vacate cabin 6673. We had a final breakfast in Animator's Palate (you eat breakfast in the dining room that you were assigned to last in your rotation) and bid our servers farewell. Since we had a late flight, we weren't in any hurry to get off so we waited until last call for disembark. Then, we boarded a DCL bus for the transfer to Orlando airport and our 2:50pm flight home.
Our 1st time cruising on Disney and we thoroughly enjoyed it as adults without kids. I would certainly recommend a Disney cruise to adults who enjoy going to WDW or Disneyland. If an adult wasn't really into Disney, I think they could still enjoy it for the food, service, and quality, but I would probably recommend they look to another cruise line like Princess or Celebrity.