It's been more than a decade -- 12 years, in fact -- since Disney Cruise Line last launched a ship. Disney Magic
made its dramatic debut in 1998, followed by Wonder
in 1999, and then ... nothing. The industry has evolved, and today's ships are bigger, bolder and smarter than their predecessors.
So it's not surprising that 128,690-ton, 2,500-passenger Disney Dream (4,000 max occupancy), which debuted in January 2011, is 40 percent larger and two decks taller than Magic and Wonder. Yet, aside from its beefed-up size, at first glance the ship is not show-stoppingly different from its fleetmates. Rather than trying to create a new identity, Disney has kept the same classic design we love. Inspired by the ocean liners of the 1920's and 1930's, Dream has a navy blue hull and bright red funnels, but this ship is far from the same-old -- a closer look reveals many innovative features and spaces.
The first impressions of Dream are grander than those made by its older counterparts. The lobby is large and luxurious and definitely has a "wow" factor. The Art Deco decor is elegant and jazzy, with a colorful glass chandelier, and there's also the requisite bronze Disney statue to greet passengers at the foot of the marble stairway -- this one is Donald Duck.
Deep blues and reds in the ship's public spaces offset rich yellow and impart an old-world luxury, mostly refined, but with a touch of glitz. The influence of the Mouse is subtle, if omnipresent. "Hidden" Mickeys can be found just about everywhere on the ship: in artwork, on railings, on dinnerware, in cabins. What's endearing to some, though, may be overkill to others.
Exploring the ship on our two-night preview cruise, we saw many enhancements to familiar spaces, as well as several Disney firsts: the snazzy new AquaDuck watercoaster; redesigned, tech'ed-up kids' clubs; and a huge amount of beanbag-chair- and Wii-filled real estate dedicated to 'tweens and teens. All reveal a noble effort to better cater to older children, especially the older-than-8 crowd, for whom the signature character experiences may be starting to lose their appeal. And, in an attempt to please adults traveling without kids (or parents looking to escape theirs), the new $75-a-head French dining restaurant, Remy, is causing quite a buzz.
Most of the changes we saw on Dream were successes. There's a great stage production, "Disney's Believe," and innovative uses of technology throughout the ship. (The virtual portholes in inside cabins are genius.) Dream is wired with new technology, which touches most areas of the ship. Paintings and pictures called "Enchanted Art" adorn the walls of hallways and come to life as you admire them. Kids can also pick up a packet at the Mid-ship Detective Agency and use the digital works to solve a mystery. MagicPlay Floors, a ship-limited social network and a sound studio enhance the kids' clubs, and wave phones in every cabin can be used to call or text other passengers. The phones also replace the old beeper system for Oceaneer's -- messages from the counselors now come directly to parents' phones.
But a few areas were definitely overlooked. The ho-hum adults-only pool area, so welcome on Magic and Wonder, seemed an afterthought on Dream, and don't plan on breaking a sweat on the new "sports" deck.
Some people (mostly those who've never cruised on a Disney ship) are under the mistaken impression that this line is only for families with little kids -- kids who love Mickey Mouse and princesses. Sure, young Disney fans are the line's bread and butter now, and they always have been. But, Dream offers further evidence to debunk the myth that a Disney cruise is only
While the scales may not be evenly tipped, there's definitely something for everyone. The experience for children is brought to life through those groundbreaking kids' clubs, rousing stage productions and entertaining dining experiences. And, while not all are hits, the adults-only spaces are largely successful in their own right.
And, that's good, because in the words of Walt himself, "You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway."
Disney is strongly influenced by American and Canada travelers, and its primary market, of course, is families (especially those with kids younger than 8). Its new approach to teen cruisers may help the line appeal to families with older kids, as well. Beyond that, Disney has strong appeal for multigenerational travelers, and its superb spa, bar district and alternate dining facilities mean that adults of any age will find their own spaces onboard.
Dress code, similar to that of Disney's higher-end resorts, is casual during the day and resort casual most evenings. (Think jackets for men, but no ties, and pants outfits or summer dresses for women.) Recently, though, the cruise line tweaked its definition of resort casual to include shorts, which means passengers may wear shorts in the main dining rooms in the evening. However, Disney cruisers love to dress up -- whether it's princess gowns for young girls or tuxes for dads. Specifically, the dress code on Disney Dream's three-night cruises features one night each of cruise casual, pirate night and semiformal. On four-night voyages, there are two cruise casual evenings, a pirate night and a semiformal. And, on five-night sailings, plan on three cruise casual, along with the pirate and semiformal evenings.
Gratuities -- which are given to the waiters, assistant waiters and stateroom attendants (and dining room maitre d' if you've been provided with outstanding service) -- are $12 per person, per day. There's an automatic 15 percent levy for service on cocktails and other beverages.