Disney Dream Cruise Offers Magic for Everyone in the Family
Though a cruise was never on our bucket list, when I was invited by Disney Cruise Lines to take a trip on the Disney Dream, it was hard to say no — if not for us, for our 4-year-old son who had Disney on his mind. What we found was an awesome vacation with quality accommodations, a superb and friendly staff, and integrity that comes with the Disney name.
With Captain Mickey (Mouse) and Admiral Donald (Duck) as hosts; and loads of character friends onboard (Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Chip, Dale, Captain Hook, Jake and a dreamy cast of princesses); Broadway-style shows; interactive youth activities; nonstop food and beverage choices; and a deck-side fireworks show, the Dream is a magical vacation at sea.
Within an hour of boarding the Dream, my 4-year-old son had taken photos with Pluto and Goofy, and was sliding down the big yellow waterslide by Mickey’s pool on Deck 11. The slide is a great for kiddos like mine who aren’t quite tall enough to ride the AquaDuck, which is the shipboard water coaster/flume ride featuring twists, turns, drops and river rapids through a clear tube that circles high above the ship. The AquaDuck is a huge hit with kids and kids at heart (like my husband), so be prepared to wait between 20 to 45 minutes to catch a ride.
In addition to two pools on Deck 11 by the slides, you’ll find Nemo’s Reef, a fanciful water-play area (think sprayground) for little ones who like splashing in puddles that includes a small slide for small tykes. Sundecks by the pools are lined with chairs for relaxing in the sun or watching a Disney movie on the 24-by-14 feet Funnel Vision LED screen. My son and I enjoyed an afternoon break watching Pixar shorts on the big (make that humongous) screen with a soft-serve cone from the Eye Scream Treats ice cream shop.
Though Deck 11 is the main pool hangout, there is a designated adults-exclusive pool and tween-teen pool. So if you have a tween or teen, you can release them to play the day away at their pool while you relax and read a book in the kid-free zone. Wave phones, much like walkie-talkies, enable parents to keep up with their sea-faring crew throughout the day.
Disney knows what it’s doing when it comes to creating youth activities to entertain different age groups’ interests, as well as give mom and dad a minute to themselves without worry. My son joined in the fun with Disney characters, interactive games, dance parties and more at the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, open to ages 3-12. Admission to the Oceaneer Club is done via the Oceaneer Band, an electronic identification bracelet that connects your information to your child. Children cannot leave the Oceaneer Club without a parent showing his or her key card and giving a secret password that is synced to the child’s bracelet. Youth activity counselors are specially trained and experienced in child care and have undergone background checks, so you can feel safe leaving them to play while you enjoy a date night at one of the adult-exclusive restaurants — Palo or Remy; or exploring The District — a nighttime entertainment neighborhood with clubs and pubs. There are also kid-only activities during the day. Kids can join in storytelling and group activities, and have fun playing in Andy’s Room with larger than life toys from Toy Story. Monster’s Academy includes a play structure for climbing and computers with interactive games, and Pixie Hollow offers a designated craft space. Meanwhile, you can steal a moment to yourself in the sauna at Senses spa on Deck 12.
Tweens can make their own movies with green-screen technology at The Edge on level 13, a tween-only hangout. Teens can hang out at The Vibe, a club-like space appointed with video-editing software and video games, plus a high-tech disc jockey that offers DJ trainings. Infants and toddlers are cared for and entertained at It’s a Small World Nursery, featuring a fully-trained and experienced child care staff.
Dream Dinner and a Show
Each night guests rotate to one of the three restaurants onboard: Enchanted Garden, Animator’s Palate and Royal Palace. Personal servers also rotate with you to the themed restaurants. Midway through our meal at Animator’s Palate, Crush, the sea turtle from the Disney-Pixar film Finding Nemo, began popping up on screens around the room, naming and conversing with guests dining that night. After dinner, we attended Broadway-style shows at the Walt-Disney Theatre, where we were entertained with special effects, princesses, villains, and song and dance. Watch a first-run motion picture release or Disney classic at the Buena Vista Theatre.
By the time the show wrapped each night, my family was ready to call it a night. Our Deluxe Stateroom — complete with a queen-size bed, sitting area with a couch that converted to a twin bed and top bunk tucked away that could also convert to a bunk bed — offered a relaxing place to retreat and recharge. The chocolates on our bed each night made for a nice bonus.
Four days at sea passed by quickly, but lasted long enough for my family to get a taste of what makes a Disney cruise so special. My 4-year-old is already booking us for the trip again next year.
Michele Huggins is the editor at Charlotte Parent magazine.
More to Love About Your Disney Cruise
The Disney Dream sails from Port Canaveral, Fla., to Nassau, Bahamas, and then to Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. While at Castaway Cay, you can parasail, take a glass-bottom boat ride, pet stingrays or ride bikes around the island. Children with Oceaneer Club bands can join in planned activities with activity counselors at Scuttles Cove — a good option if you have an older kid who might enjoy a bigger adventure with you elsewhere on the island.
Get-wet fun includes water slides and water cannons at Pelican’s Plunge, located within swimming distance from the shore. We purchased a shovel for $10 that was good for digging in the sand — and served as a nice souvenir.
My Kid’s Not-to-Miss Top 5 List
1. Midship Detective. Possibly the coolest thing onboard for my child was the Midship Detective Agency. Enchanted paintings, strategically placed for a ship-wide scavenger hunt, are actually LCD screens that give clues to help you solve either the mystery of the missing puppies or the missing artwork. Pick up a personalized QR-code badge (and map) on Deck 5 then hold it up to the interactive art to watch it come to life and provide clues.
2. Goofy’s Sports Deck. Play Goofy’s Golf — a miniature golf course — while gazing out at the blue sea from Deck 13. My son loved it so much we played a couple of times every day. Bigger kids can play basketball, foosball, ping-pong or group dodge-ball matches.
3. Room service. A first for my son, room service for breakfast while watching Disney cartoons is not a bad way to start the day. We were all happy to find warm cookies and milk in our room mid-afternoon, just in time for a little siesta break from all of the activities.
4. Free ice cream. We treated ourselves to free self-serve ice cream all day on Deck 11 at the Eye Scream Treats ice cream shop. You’ll know you’ve found the right place when you see Mike Wazowski from “Monsters, Inc.”
5. The Pirate Party. Though the show doesn’t get started until 10:30 p.m., getting decked out in pirate gear is almost as great as the live-action pirate show on Deck 11 before the Bucaneer Blast fireworks display.