Walt Disney Theater (Deck 3 and 4): Disney's prodigious stage shows always draw a full house with their intricate sets and costumes, beloved songs and captivating performances. You could easily forget you're at sea. The Walt Disney Theater on Dream offers up much-loved favorites like "Golden Mickeys" and "Villains Tonight," as well as its signature show: "Disney's Believe," directed by Broadway veteran Gordon Greenberg. A host of old-time favorites make an appearance, including Peter Pan, Genie from "Aladdin" and Cinderella, but the story of a workaholic single father who reconnects with his young daughter is refreshingly new.
Buena Vista Theater (Deck 4 and 5): Dream has license to show first-run Walt Disney Studios movies in its theaters -- and not just the PG-rated animated shows. A lineup of four or five movies will play in rotation; check the daily newsletter or the screen outside the theater for show times. On a short cruise, you might find it difficult to fit movie-watching time into the packed schedule of more appealing daily activities. The counter outside sells popcorn in souvenir buckets and smoothies in souvenir cups -- for an added fee, of course. Extra-cost soda and beer are also available there. (Keep in mind that soda is free elsewhere on the ship. To save a few dollars, head up to Deck 11 to fill a cup or two with Coke before you hit the theater.)
Character experiences are the backbone of Disney cruises, and like the other ships, there is no shortage of opportunities to greet Mickey, the princesses and the rest of the crew onboard. This vessel affords kids a much more intimate experience than the parks do. Instead of paying the high cost of character dining or waiting in insanely long lines just to snap a mediocre shot, the characters are accessible, typically in the Atrium or the D Lounge. If you miss the formal greetings (times are outlined in your daily newsletter), you can count on seeing them around the ship, and they'll always stop for a photo. The ship's photographers are available to take professional shots of your kids (or you) with the characters at all scheduled meet-and-greets. The photos are available for purchase later in the sailing.
The D Lounge on Deck 4 is also the main venue for all-ages games and activities, such as family karaoke, bingo, Disney trivia, animation classes, and more. Live music in the Atrium can lead to impromptu dance parties.
For a DIY scavenger hunt, stop off at the Deck 5 kiosks to access the Midship Detective Agency. You will search the ship for clues, hidden in the "enchanted art" onboard (digital pictures that come to life via motion detectors) to solve a Muppets-themed mystery.
The popular "Pirates in the Caribbean" party has become two separate events, happy news for parents unable to keep little ones up late. There is a sing-along and Mickey-led deck party early in the evening for kids called "Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean," followed by "Buccaneer Blast," in which Jack Sparrow rappels off the funnel; a short performance with special effects ensues and ends in Disney's famed fireworks display.
There is no casino onboard.
Disney Dream Bars and Lounges
There are a dozen different places to buy cocktails onboard, but the hub of the adult action is the adults-only "district" on Deck 4, with its multiple venues: Pink, 687, District Lounge, Skyline Lounge and Evolution. During the day, the space is used for all-ages events; kids are kicked out at 9 p.m.
Bon Voyage Bar (Deck 3): Just off the atrium, the Bon Voyage might be the first place you can access alcohol on your cruise, and it's the place to pick up a beverage on your way to someplace else.
District Lounge (Deck 4): This is the spot to hear live music in an intimate setting. It's on the main thoroughfare through the District and hard to miss.
Pink (Deck 4): The girly (but fabulous) Champagne bar is done up in pink bubble decor. (See if you can spot the tiny Dumbo who appears at times in the bubbles.) Toast your cruisemates with a bottle of the ship's exclusive Pink Champagne.
687 Pub (Deck 4): Sports pub 687 (Dream was the 687th ship built by Meyer-Werft shipyard) is the place to kick back with a beer and watch the game. If you're not interested in a televised game, grab a board game from the stack, and hold your own competition. Pub grub is also available there; formerly gratis, these bites now carry price tags that range from $8 for chips with a trio of dips to $18 for tempura shrimp.
Skyline Lounge (Deck 4): A giant screen behind the bar displays images of five big-name cities, as if you're in a high-rise bar at night looking out on the skyline. Every 15 minutes, you're in a new city. The art on the wall changes, too -- it's enchanted, after all -- but the martini bar stays the same, so you can order a Chicago-inspired drink while gazing out at Rio's rooftops.
Evolution (Deck 4): This caterpillar-to-butterfly themed nightclub is the place to dance after you've dumped the kids at the Oceaneer Club. Evolution also hosts late-night adult events, such as Match Your Mate or '80s Music Challenge.
Cove Bar (Deck 11): Not quite a swim-up bar, the Cove Bar does have stools set in the shallow wading area of the Cove Pool. There, you can enjoy your pina colada in peace and quiet, away from the kid-thronged midship pools.
Meridian (Deck 12): Our favorite adults-only spot is the top-deck Meridian, a wine bar tucked between Palo and Remy. Inside, it's got a travel theme; outside, there's a gorgeous alfresco terrace.
Waves Bar (Deck 12): This open-air bar is tucked away behind the big screen and under the sports court, but it's the closest thing to a pool bar Dream has. Otherwise, you can grab your poolside daiquiris and buckets of beer from roving waiters or conveniently placed drink carts.
Currents Bar (Deck 13): Currents is an adults-only bar on the adults-only sun deck above the adults-only pool.
Outlook (Deck 14): This top-deck venue is used for onboard weddings and as a quiet getaway for passengers (despite its location just above the tween club). It has limited hours; when we stopped by, the door was closed and locked.
Disney Dream Outside Recreation
The ship's pool deck (11) features a large family-oriented area, complete with hot tubs and a pair of pools (Donald's and Mickey's). The Mickey Pool prevails as the most trafficked area, its spiral slide hosting a constant parade of happy children. Donald's Pool is five feet deep, offering a front-row view of the 24-foot-tall LED screen that's mounted on the ship's funnel. Behind Mickey's Pool is the toddler splash area with a Nemo theme, plenty of shade and huge glass panes so parents can easily monitor the kids (8 and younger) frolicking inside. This is the only water play area that allows tots in swim diapers, but just like in the main pools, it can get pretty crowded, so new walkers will likely need supervision.
Quiet Cove, Disney's adults-only pool area, features a subtly Mickey-shaped pool with a deeper section for soaking, a shallower section for wading and a splash-up bar with stools in the water. A hot tub is set against the windows overlooking the sea.
The highlight for many is the AquaDuck, the first-ever watercoaster at sea. Clearly visible atop the ship, the coaster features a transparent, acrylic tube that propels riders along on a raft, up and down four decks of the ship, at one point swinging out 13 feet off the side, 150 feet above the ocean. While not a scary ride by any means (adults expecting an intense thrill will be disappointed), there is a 42-inch height requirement, so prepare younger siblings. The entrance is on Deck 12, and there are nearly always lines.
The Deck 13 Sports Deck pales in comparison to the extensive outdoor play areas found on other lines' newest ships. Expect a sports court that can be adapted from soccer to basketball, and a whimsical Goofy-style mini-golf course. Oddly, the Ping-Pong tables are out in the open air. (Good luck trying to hit a decent shot while at sea.) Foosball tables and golf simulators are there, as well.
The promenade on Deck 4 is a great place to walk or chill out old-school style on wooden loungers. For the most nostalgia, engage in a game of shuffleboard.
The pools on Deck 11 are flanked with basic metal loungers, as well as tables and chairs for alfresco dining. Deck 12 has additional sunbathing spots, overlooking both the main pool area and the Quiet Cove. During the ship's refurbishment, Deck 13 forward was transformed from an unnamed adults-only sun deck into the Satellite Sun Deck and Falls, which now boasts shade structures and a water feature. There, you'll also find loungers and some cushioned wicker seating areas. In the center of this area, blocked off by glass walls, is the exclusive sun deck for Concierge passengers, featuring even more plush seating, including clamshell sunbeds.
Disney Dream Services
The guest services desk is found on Deck 3, just off the main level of the atrium. Deck 4 is home to the Internet help desk, future cruise sales and the shopping consultant, as well as the photo gallery and art gallery. The photo shop, Shutters, puts a new spin on the old "look through hundreds of photos to try and spot your own" approach. Passengers can either use their key cards to look up photos connected to their cabins at computer terminals or find their photos in books assigned to them and identified by color, character and number.
The shore excursions desk is on Deck 5. Across the atrium are the conference facilities.
Disney Dream does not have a typical Internet cafe and only offers wireless for those who bring their own mobile devices or laptops. (The Cove Cafe is a particularly good place to check your email.) With its Connect@Sea program, you pay for the data you use instead of per minute. Sample rates start at 25 cents per megabyte and increase depending on what you do online. Options include the small package at $19 for 100 megabytes, the medium package at $39 for 300 megabytes and the large package at $89 for 1,000 megabytes.
The shops on Deck 3 are a combination of Disney Store and the usual cruise ship duty-free merchandise (jewelry, duty-free liquors and perfumes, and logowear). If you forgot your princess ball gown or pirate clothes, you can pick them up there. There are also smaller shops on the pool decks, where you can buy souvenirs, as well as glowing accessories for the various deck parties.
A medical center is located on Deck 1, and self-serve launderettes can be found on all passenger decks, though their locations aren't noted on deck plans. It costs $2 per washer load and $2 per dryer load, and you can charge the fees to your cruise card.
Note that there are no ATMs onboard or on Castaway Cay (Disney's private island), so be sure to bring enough cash for tips and on-shore purchases that can't be made with your Key to the World card.