Disney Dream was Disney's first new ship in 12 years when it debuted in 2011, and it represented the company's step into bigger, bolder and smarter ships. So it's not surprising that the 128,690-ton, 2,500-passenger vessel (4,000 max occupancy) -- and its near-twin, Disney Fantasy -- is 40 percent larger and two decks taller than the company's previous ships, Magic and Wonder. And while Disney kept the same classic design inspired by the ocean liners of the 1920s and 1930s, this ship is far from the same-old; a closer look reveals many innovative features and spaces.
Innovative uses of technology throughout the ship include virtual portholes in inside cabins and "Enchanted Art," digital paintings that come to life as you admire them. Families can pick up a packet at the Midship Detective Agency and use the digital works to solve a mystery. Interactive 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, as well as receive messages from the youth staff.
If you're a huge Disney fan (or your kid is), you don't need to be convinced to sail with one of the best family entertainment enterprises around. If you're not -- or have never seen a Disney ship -- you might have the mistaken impression that this line is only for families with little kids who love Mickey Mouse and princesses. Sure, young Disney fans are the line's bread and butter, and they always have been. Princess meet-and-greets take place daily and are hugely popular; the shows feature songs from the Disney movies and character cameos, and the family pools are definitely overrun with splashing, shrieking young-uns.
The influence of the Mouse ranges from subtle to obnoxious, but is always 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. And a few areas on the ship were definitely overlooked. The adults-only pool area and sun deck seem to be an afterthought on Dream; they're unimpressive and easy to miss. The "sports" deck offers a cute mini-golf course and a basketball court but nothing strikingly innovative or athletic.
But, Dream does offer evidence that a Disney cruise is not only for kids or overgrown Mouse fans. The art deco decor onboard is elegant and jazzy and imparts an old-world luxury, mostly refined, but with a touch of glitz. The groundbreaking tech-friendly kids clubs, with spaces themed on Pixar and Disney movies, have a huge amount of beanbag-chair- and video game-filled real estate dedicated to tweens and teens, a noble effort to better cater to the older-than-8 crowd.
Entertaining dinner shows help keep fidgety youngsters occupied during long sit-down meals. Adults can appreciate high-quality, multi-course dining at Remy, the creative use of costuming and technology in the shows, and grownup activities, such as wine tastings and late-night games. They have access to a pool, a sun deck, bars and lounges, restaurants and even shore excursions where those younger than 18 are not allowed. 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."