Dream Cruise for Our Family: Disney Dream Cruise Review by NooYawkMama
Overall Member Rating
Dream Cruise for Our Family
Embarkation: Port Canaveral (Orlando)
As a first time cruiser, I didn’t really know what to expect during our 3-night Bahamas cruise on the Disney Dream. We had done lots of online research and had an excellent travel agent, but the actual experience itself was a big question mark. I boarded the ship at Port Canaveral along with five family members (two adults and three children, ages 8 and 10). Little did I know how many pleasant surprises lay ahead.
#1: DISNEY ROCKS THE LOGISTICS . . .
We flew down to Orlando on Thursday, staying overnight at a budget property on premises at Disney World. It’s helpful to get to Florida the day before departure. Weather and transportation can always get tricky. I took the Disney Magical Express bus from the airport . . . very convenient, with baggage handling done by the Disney folks. After checking it for the flight, the first time I saw my big suitcase again was when it was delivered to my hotel room. That beat More lugging it through MCO.
When we boarded another Disney bus for Port Canaveral the following day, our large suitcases had already been picked up from the hotel and shipped straight to our cabins on the Dream. The trip to the Port took slightly over an hour. Our driver pointed out the ship in the distance as the bus approached the final crossing. The Dream was big! (The ship accommodates about 4000 guests and has 1500 crew members. I was impressed by the staff-to-guests ratio.)
*** Hint: Use the Disney Magical Express buses to travel from Orlando to the Port and back if you can. The buses are comfortable, air conditioned and a no-brainer . . . why not start relaxing right away instead of renting cars, grabbing a taxi or driving yourselves and searching for the right exits? Folks who drove themselves liked being able to arrive and board earlier in the day. You decide. * * *
#2: HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU NEED?
We separated into two connected Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms with Veranda: one for mom, dad and the kids and a separate one for me (grandma). The five of them managed very well in their Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Veranda digs. There are beds that come out from a sofa, down from the ceiling and out from the wall Murphy-style. The kids loved sleeping in their own beds, and their parents had a comfy queen bed all to themselves.
Having my own identical cabin was a wonderful luxury, one for which I had saved up. Others may view this as an extravagance, and I respect that. The cabin photos I had seen online were very helpful. You can make your own judgments about whether you need a veranda, an oceanview or an inside cabin. For me, a veranda was a necessity. It was also delightful stepping out in the middle of the night to look at the ship’s wake or read outside in a quiet place during the day. (Note: As on most cruise lines, the DCL single supplement is hefty for a solo cabin. It’s expensive. Be prepared to pay for having the cabin all to yourself.)
* * * Hint, especially to newbies: Room with a travel companion if privacy/solitude isn’t important or you’re on a tight budget. Book as far ahead as you can, and use an experienced cruise travel agent who specializes in Disney if possible. * * *
#3: FAMILIES RULE . . .
Cruising on the Dream was so much fun. I enjoyed every minute . . . but I realize that some of that was due to the shared experience with my family. Those days were irreplaceable! If you head for any of the Disney ships, be prepared for lots and lots of kids under varying degrees of parental supervision. Most of the kids were surprisingly well behaved on our February cruise. My guess is that holiday times (Christmas, etc.) could be a madhouse under the wrong circumstances.
Someone asked if I would recommend DCL for adult-only travelers. After considerable thought the answer is no, unless they’re Disney aficionados . . . this is a place perfectly designed for multi-generational family travel. That really is the good news. Kids can go and enjoy, with lots of optional activities available for young children, tweens and even a few teens (if they’re not too jaded). Parents, grandparents and assorted relatives can cruise knowing they will enjoy delicious meals/snacks the entire trip, they can relax with or without the children, the kids are happy, and the bartender even makes a mean mojito. Teens may not enjoy the kiddie vibe . . . your call.
There is an adults-only section with lots of quiet, a hot tub, a small pool and a spa/salon where the grown ups can relax in comfort. I spent a little time there and found it all a little perfunctory. Family members did a massage and a haircut, both well received. There was a good exercise room for those who were so inclined, and the spa bartenders made absolutely wicked smoothies. Adult bars and dance clubs are also available every evening. I didn’t partake in those.
#4: THE DREAM IS BIG AND BEAUTIFUL . . .
You’ll get plenty of exercise just walking around this beautiful ship. The Dream is relatively new, and they keep it sparkling. Clean, clean, clean! I don’t know how they do it with so many kids aboard. It’s clear they take pride in their work.
Caveat: Be prepared to wait for elevators at key evening times (after big shows, etc.). Lengthy delays, while understandable, can be annoying. Lots of folks used the stairs instead.
* * * Suggestion: If you do a shorter cruise like ours, consider saving one day to stay aboard and just enjoy the ship instead of booking an excursion. The ship is less crowded when many people are ashore sightseeing. * * *
#5 ABOUT THE FOOD . . .
One word: YUM. With a few exceptions such as alcoholic beverages and the two optional, upscale adult restaurants, your cruise includes your delicious meals and even free room service. About the room service . . . prompt delivery (generally within 30 minutes) from a limited but completely satisfactory menu, with no upcharge for delivery or gratuities. The soup is even hot upon arrival! I ordered a bedtime snack every evening without one error.
Note: I have read a negative review or two here on Cruise Critic about scarce outlets for food and drink on the Dream. One reviewer also slammed the food quality. I respectfully disagree with both assessments.
* * * Hint: When you board, get the Disney Cruise Line app on your cell phone. The app includes schedules, menus and more useful info than I can describe here. You can use the app onboard through the ship WiFi without charge. Be sure to set your cell settings properly. * * *
More about the grub:
During the 3-night Dream cruise to the Bahamas, we rotated among three primary restaurants for dinner. They were all excellent! There are also limited gluten-free and vegetarian options available for those who are so inclined. They are marked on each menu.
Dress for all restaurants in the dinner rotation was suitable casual. Wear slacks and a decent top, and you’ll be fine. Avoid flip-flops, bathing suits and cover-ups.
Night one was Royal Palace. It’s a bit fancier than the other two, felt more formal, but not at all stuffy. Night two was Animator’s Palate. The décor is more casual (think Minnie Mouse colors), with fun Dory animated clips. Bruce the shark swims around on screens throughout the room and does some special things. No spoilers here! Night three was Enchanted Garden. It’s lovely. Table numbers remain the same from one night to the next.
Decisions, decisions: early or late seating?
We did the early seating for dinner (about 5:45 as I recall). There are more kids in the mix, but eating at that hour frees up the evening for other activities. Commentary: IMO, there is one drawback to the early seating. On the final morning, the early shift eats breakfast at 6:45 a.m. and debarks by 8:00. Yikes! The later shift has breakfast at 8:00 that morning as I recall. Other than that, early worked out fine.
Thankfully, our superb service staff rotated with us every evening. More on these special folks later.
Breakfast fare: The dress code at the Cabanas buffet on deck 11 is very liberal. Just wear shoes and a cover-up with your swimwear here. Buffet fare was consistently fresh and delicious. Used plates are scooped up from your table promptly by Disney staff members. Cabanas is open at various times throughout the day, but we went there mostly for breakfast. Want a fresh omelet? No worries. Toasted bagel and lox? Got you covered. Cereal and fresh fruit? Absolutely. Seating at the buffet is open.
Snacks are available continuously at various outlets around the ship. Tell a ten-year-old that there is unlimited ice cream onboard, and the rest is just details.
Consult the Disney information for more details on each restaurant. It will also explain rules for bringing alcohol onboard.
* * * One caveat: Soda is free, but the Dream charges for bottled water. If you prefer bottled H2O, one reasonable deal available onboard is a soft, circular cooler with the DCL logo that contains six bottles of water . . . and you get to keep the cooler as a souvenir. Price was around $19.00 total. Word to the wise: make sure upon that the cooler doesn’t leak as the ice melts overnight; if it does, they will gladly bring you a replacement cooler. It was nice coming back to ice cold water in the cabin after time at the pool or ashore. * * *
#6: ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES . . .
I went to two Broadway-style evening shows with the family. Both were Disney-centric and perfectly adequate. Lots of color, music and fun. (Don’t expect Hamilton here. Just go, relax and enjoy.) Theater popcorn, etc. is not free. Various Disney movies were also offered throughout the cruise at assorted times. I tried unsuccessfully to make it to the recent Star Wars movie, but there were so many other things to do.
Look for contests, child-friendly activities (including some supervised by Disney staffers for a fee), screenings, shopping options, extra excursions, etc. Lot to consider!
Pool time: The two centrally located primary pools on deck 11 are open to everyone. Both are small and dominated by children. The pools looked very clean. Lots of deck space with ample chairs, too. I suspect there are two smaller pools instead of one big one because children of so many ages are onboard. These pools are covered with a hard floor surface for the big parties held on deck 11.
Our cruise offered the Disney Pirate Party. People loved it, with both adults and kids showing up in costume. Pirate Night included a pre-party screening of Pirates of the Caribbean, live entertainment, music and fireworks high into the night sky.
* * * Pirate Party Hint: When you arrive on deck 11 for the Pirate Party, ask a crew member which side of the ship you should choose to see the fireworks best. Some people stand up on level 12, too. All the deck chairs will be stored by this time, so places to sit will be few and far between. A group of older folks grabbed some regular chairs from the tables over near the bar and placed them just inside the railing by the central portion of the deck. Nobody seemed to mind as long as the chairs were out of the way. * * *
* * * Activities hint: A one-sheet daily summary of activities and locations will be provided in your cabin. Keep it with you, and use it often. Along with the app, it’s the simplest visual cue for where to go and when. * * *
#7: DISNEY’S SECRET INGREDIENT: THE CREW
I cannot say enough about the Disney employees we encountered along the way. Their patience with the small number of unruly children (and the number of kids in general) was impressive. Not only was the service excellent, but the connection between staff and guests was palpable. We were valued guests . . . we felt embraced as individuals. Not one Disney staff member made us feel less than welcome. That’s amazing. Their crew members come from all over the world. The quality of Disney employee training? The best.
SPECIAL THANKS TO:
Dining Room Server – Eak Phumjun
Assistant Server – Ruben Zelaya Dario
Eak and Ruben were friendly and always professional. They had a way of anticipating our needs before we even recognized what we wanted. The kids responded to their warm welcome, as well. Nice guys, exemplary employees. It sounds hokey, but I’ll miss them . . . would love to meet again on another Disney cruise.
Stateroom Host – Sigit Bali Pramono
In addition to addressing cabin needs twice a day, offering pleasant conversation and thoughtfully icing up my souvenir cooler without my having to ask, Sigit saved the day for me on the last night of the cruise. I had checked my large suitcase directly to my return flight (an optional service through Disney). My suitcase had already been picked up from the hallway when I realized that a medical item had inadvertently been left inside the bag. Panic! Sigit immediately hustled down the hallway and retrieved the suitcase from storage for me. I was able to grab what I needed and send the bag right back on its way. Thank you, Sigit! (A genial man of many talents, Sigit can also fold towels into stingrays and monkeys. I must learn how to do that.)
I can’t write much more here. If you’re up for a wonderful cruise with the family, the Disney Dream is aptly named. We loved it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Less
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