Disney Dream Entertainment
Disney's prodigious stage shows always draw a full house with their intricate sets, beloved songs and captivating performances. You could easily forget youre at sea. The Walt Disney Theater on Dream offers up much-loved favorites like the "Golden Mickeys" and "Villains Tonight," as well as an all-new 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 adopted daughter is refreshingly new.
Character experiences are the backbone of Disney cruises, and like the other ships, there is no shortage of opportunities to greet Mickey and 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. If you miss the formal greetings, you can count on seeing them around the ship, and they'll always stop for a photo.
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 early in the evening for kids called "Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean," followed by "Club Pirate," in which Jack Sparrow rappels off the funnel; a short performance with special effects ensues. The same great fireworks found on Disney's older duo take place between the shows.
For adults, Disney has added more variety. (There are a dozen different places to buy a cocktail, and we might have missed a few). The adult-only "district" is home to the girly (but fabulous) Pink's Champagne Bar, 687 for sports fans and Evolution for wee-hours dancing. Our favorite adults-only spot was the top-deck Meridien; a wine bar, it's tucked between Palo and Remy and has a gorgeous alfresco terrace. Down notes there? The wine is fine but priced accordingly (it would be nice to have a moderate option), and the service was lackluster on several visits.
Disney Dream Public Rooms
One of the most gorgeous atriums afloat, Disney Dream's three-deck central piazza has a golden hue and a winding staircase worthy of an entrance by Cinderella. It's primarily a place you walk through on the way to somewhere else -- restaurants, theaters, shops -- with the exception of the occasional character appearance or cocktail party. But, it sets an elegant tone for the ship -- one that's not easily topped.
As of Febraury 2014, Disney Dream offers a new Connect@Sea program in which you pay for the data you use intstead of per minute. Sample rates start at 25 cents per megabite and increase depending on what you do online. Examples include the small package at $19 for 100 megabites, the medium package at $39 for 300 megabites and the large package at $89 for 1,000 megabites.
While Disney Dream has the usual Internet cafe, the ship also offers access via wireless for those who bring their own mobile devices or laptops. (The Cove coffee cafe is a particularly good place to check your e-mail.)
One of the least impressive areas onboard was the selection of shops with the usual ho-hum merchandise (jewelry, duty-free liquors and perfumes, and logo-wear). But, of course Disney fans will find plenty of fairly pricey memorabilia on which to splurge.
Disney Dream, like Magic and Wonder, offers neither a library nor a casino.
Disney Dream Spa & Fitness
The ship's pool deck features a large, family-oriented area, complete with hot tubs and a pair of pools (Donald's and Mickey's), similar to those on Magic and Wonder. The Mickey pool prevails as the most trafficked area, its spiral slide hosting a constant parade of happy 4- to 10-year-olds. Designers got rid of the hot-tub ears (good call), so it's all open space, and kids don't need to run around the corner to climb the slide anymore -- a minor but much-appreciated fix. Goofy's Pool from Magic and Wonder is Donald's Pool here, but otherwise it's cut-and-paste: five feet deep, offering a front-row view of the 24-foot-tall LED screen that's mounted on the ship's funnel. The toddler splash area has a new Nemo theme, and it's moved to the center of the ship on Deck 11. The new home provides better shade, and huge glass panes mean parents can easily monitor the kids.
The highlight for many? Of course it's 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.
Nemo's Reef is a small water park area for the youngest passengers.
A big letdown for us was the Quiet Cove, Disney's adults-only pool area. It pioneered the concept (now followed by lines like Princess and Carnival), and it's gorgeous on Wonder and Magic. On Wonder, it's small, too shady and really rather dismal.
The Senses Spa is beautiful and offers the usual range of treatments, from salon-oriented haircuts and manicures to more exotic fare like hot-stone massages and mud baths. Kudos to Disney for introducing Chill, a spa just for teens that's within the Senses facility.
The Fitness Center offers the usual treadmills, stationary cycles and the like. Classes in yoga and Pilates are taught; there's an additional fee to participate.
We've noted that the Sports Deck is less than a stellar option for recreation (particularly when you compare it with facilities on lines like Royal Caribbean). Expect a sports court that can be adapted from soccer to basketball, and there's mini-golf. Oddly, the Ping-Pong tables are out in the open air (good luck trying to hit a decent shot while at sea), and there's a walking track for fitness buffs.