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 "The Golden Mickeys" and new additions like "Beauty and the Beast," 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.)
* May require additional fees
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.
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): Pink, 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.
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.
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.
The Senses Spa on Deck 11 is beautiful and offers the usual range of treatments, from salon-oriented hairdos and manicures to more exotic fare like hot-stone massages and body wraps. There's a men's barber shop, and options for teeth whitening and acupuncture. Look for port-day specials. Sense has a minimum age of 18.
The spa also sells passes to the Rainforest relaxation area, which offers a series of steam rooms and saunas, scented rain showers, heated loungers and hot tubs looking out over the sea. Prices range from $16 for a one-day pass to $42 for unlimited use on a three-night cruise or $56 for unlimited use on a four-night cruise; access is not included with treatments. (Free saunas are located in the locker rooms.) Two couples villas offer a romantic getaway with a lounge/treatment area, open-air shower and private veranda with a whirlpool and plush loungers. Treatments there will run you several hundred dollars. Also, kudos to Disney for introducing
Chill, a spa just for teens with treatments like the "Acne Attack Facial," "Mother/Daughter Paradise Massage" and "Truth or Hair" hair styling.
An exclusive addition to Disney Dream's spa, the Senses Juice Bar, features individual window seating where anyone (even those not receiving spa treatments) can enjoy healthy drinks like smoothies and coconut water for an extra fee.
On Deck 5, you'll find another new addition to Disney Dream: the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. This magical salon transforms little girls and boys into their choice of princess, knight, pirate or captain. Prices for boys start from an affordable $18.95 (hair gel, Mickey hair confetti, sword and shield) and run up to $34.95 (aforementioned hairstyling and costume of choice, which can be taken home). For girls, prices range from a less affordable $59.95 (hairstyling, makeup, nail polish, sash and tote) to a staggering $194.95 (all aforementioned services, plus a princess dress, crown and wand that can be taken home). Toss in an extra $29.95 if your little pumpkin wants shoes to match her dress. Although adults can't make appointments to be turned into princesses, the boutique does keep spots open to make grown-ups over for Pirate Night.
The Fitness Center is small for a new-ish ship, with the group class area out in the open at one end of the gym. You'll find Life Fitness treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers, free weights up to 50 pounds and resistance machines. Fitness classes include yoga, Pilates, group cycling and boot camp; some require advanced signup, and boot camp incurs an extra fee. You can also sign up for personal training or a body composition analysis.
Disney's acclaimed kids clubs are what keep many loyal families coming back. It's not just the innovative, engaging spaces for kids and familiar characters that make them such a success; the counselors are truly extraordinary. They offer far more than smiling faces to greet you at check-in. Indeed, these men and women are experienced, attentive and downright fun, with a keen eye for spotting children who need encouragement, a friend to play with or a major timeout.
The Oceaneer Club and Lab on Deck 5 (ages 3 to 12) are connected on Dream (hooray!) so kids can roam back and forth, effectively doubling the space available to them at any given time. Club activities are geared to younger kids and Lab for older, but Disney's innovative approach of allowing kids of all ages to access both clubs means that siblings can hang out together if they choose, and children can pursue their own interests.
Highlights include the adorable Andy's Room, which has oversized characters like the dinosaur and pig from "Toy Story" for little ones to climb on. Added during the 2015 refurb is an entire area dedicated to Disney Infinity, a series of video games that are activated by Disney-themed character game pieces. In the Infinity section of Oceaneer's, kids will find 10 gaming stations, each outfitted with two controllers, as well as a life-size Infinity gaming station, where people become the game pieces and control the outcome of each competition with their body movements. Kids work in teams of two to rack up points in an effort to beat the highest scores.
Finally, the piece de resistance is the Millennium Falcon-themed Star Wars play area, which simply bursts with excitement and geekery. In the center is a replica of the Millennium Falcon's cockpit, complete with two chairs where kids can sit to "fly" the aircraft via a series of simulations. To the left is a control room that has so many lights, levers and buttons, you'll never push the same one twice. (We're told that when a certain sequence of buttons is pushed, it will trigger additional special effects.) To the right is a likeness of the Falcon's common room, which serves as a seating area for the kiddos. Throw in some movie props, boxes that move when you use "the force," and an R2-D2 replica that beeps, chirps and swivels his head, and it's enough to make adults wish they had an onboard space this awesome. (Don't worry, parents. You can visit the club during select hours to try out the fun for yourselves.)
Dream has a kids club dedicated entirely to tweens, ages 11 to 13. (Yes, 11- and 12-year-olds have access to the Oceaneer Club and Lab, as well as the tween club.) True to its name, the Edge is located in the funnel on Deck 13, far removed from the other kids clubs. What seemed like a decent idea in theory doesn't work here; we didn't like seeing preteens hanging out in the staircase, unsupervised. Inside, however, it delivers, with an 18-foot-tall video wall, video karaoke and computers with access to an intranet-based (limited to the ship) social media app. The 9,000-square-foot teen club, Vibe (ages 14 to 17), has modular furniture, a fountain bar and its own outdoor space (new for Disney) with a sun deck and wading pools. It's located forward on Deck 5.
The kids clubs also have an outpost on Castaway Cay, so parents can enjoy some private beach time while kids hang out with their friends in a supervised setting on the island.
For the tiniest tots, the It's a Small World Nursery on Deck 5 midship is reserved for those from 6 months to 3 years. The price is $9 per hour for the first child, $8 for each additional, and it's open from 9 a.m. to midnight. The nursery offers an age-appropriate playroom, as well as a quiet area with cribs, swings and rocking chairs.
Note that all children enrolled in the nursery and Oceaneer Club/Lab, for which they need to sign in and out with a special wristband, will be charged a $12.95 fee for the band. If it's returned at the end of the cruise, the charge will be removed.
If you want to play with your child in Dream's kids clubs, look for open house hours in the daily newsletters. These are times when the clubs are open for unsupervised (by Disney staff) play, and age restrictions don't apply. You can let your toddler explore Andy's Room or experience the Millennium Falcon. There are also special toddler play hours in the Nemo's Reef splash zone and in the waiting area outside the Enchanted Garden restaurant for safe baby play
For parents with babies and toddlers, the ship can provide Pack 'n Plays and diaper pails in your cabin, as well as high chairs and pureed food in the restaurants. You can buy diapers, wipes, formula and other baby supplies onboard at the Whitecaps store.