My thorough review of our first Disney Cruise on the Disney Dream, very lengthy LOL (I took over 600 pictures, but I promise I will not post them all
This was our first ever cruise. Family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children). We traveled during Christmas time so I don't think it would be very helpful if I give you a price because prices will vary depending on when you travel, how many guests, how many days and which stateroom you choose.
We decided to go a day early and stay overnight in Port Canaveral, spent some time at Cocoa Beach, did some shopping, had breakfast, lunch and dinner, slept and the next morning (day of cruise) while having breakfast is when my 6 year old received her call from Mickey & Minnie (you can schedule a character call, you pick the date and time) , although the call didn’t go as expected she was still very excited. I’ll have to post that video later. We stayed at LaQuinta which was only about 6-7 miles from the port, hotel was a little dated, it was only one night but I don’t think I would stay there again.
Embarkation: Not too bad, very well organized and we didn’t feel like we were waiting around too long, it gave us time to look around the port (not much to see) take some pictures, and get my daughters magic band for youth activities, our Port arrival time was 10:45am, I picked an early arrival time just to give us time to explore the ship while it wasn’t very crowded, we had lunch and it left us plenty of time before the mandatory safety drill that started around 4 pm. (Note: Passports are not required if you are returning to the same U.S. Port you left from, but are good to have just in case there is an emergency). Also, travel insurance isn't required, but just to have a peace of mind, I would suggest you get it.
We picked the late dinner seating time which was 8:15pm each night and it worked out perfectly, we all made sure we downloaded the Disney Cruise Navigator App, that allowed us to text each other while onboard since there was no Wi-Fi, they give you 50MB for free, but you will easily use that up within 15 minutes, or you could purchase one of their plans, I didn’t feel we needed it because we wanted to disconnect from everything and just enjoy this vacation with limited interruptions.
Now let me get to my son (teenager), when he found out about the cruise he wasn’t very excited about it, and I was a little worried that he wouldn’t enjoy it, a couple of years ago we spent 7 days at Disney World and he didn’t have a great time (the only teen I know that don’t enjoy roller coasters), he spent most of his time at the resort pool than the parks. Weeks before we left for this cruise he kept asking us if he could stay with a friend while we all went without him, I wasn’t going to do that, and none of his friends parents wanted to spend the money for them to come along with us. Well, on the first night he met about 10 other teens from South Carolina and a few other states that he spent 98% percent of his time with, I told him he was free to do what he wanted onboard as long as he met us for dinner each night at 8:15pm and for the Pirate Night which is a huge event that they have on Disney cruises, he spent most of his time in “Vibe” a teen only club, us parents aren’t even allowed to go in there (I’m sure there’s ways around it, but I didn’t bother too much), so I didn’t get many pictures of the inside, I was able to get a picture of the teen private pool and lounge area, and of course he didn’t take many pics which was expected LOL, let's just say he didn't return to our room until about 2-4am each morning, he was having the time of his life.
Everything was smooth sailing. We were in stateroom 2044 which was Midship on the 2nd deck, I selected an ocean view room that had a huge port hole and an amazing view, thought about getting a room with a verandah but I didn’t think we needed it since we didn’t spend much time in our room. We were just steps away from the Enchanted Garden restaurant and very close to elevators (we did not hear lots of noise at all). Our room was mostly used for sleeping, shower and to change clothes, Room was spacious by ship standards, but we may go with connecting rooms next time, we had no problems navigating with the 4 of us in there. Queen bed was high enough for all luggage to slide easily under the beds to allow more space, room also had two closets, some shelves, drawers, a safe and there were 2 bathrooms, one with the shower/tub combo and a sink, the other with toilet and a sink. Cabin cleanliness was great, and our room host, Aida, was the best, she greeted us all by name which was very welcoming, our room was cleaned twice a day and we had no issues at all with anything there.
The ship itself is amazing. Everything was clean clean clean, there was never a time when I didn’t see a DCL crew member cleaning something and there is so much to do, we literally only got about half done of what was available (never even made it to several bars, the sports deck, or some of the other restaurants). In the end, that’s marketing genius by Disney, as people will just have to come back again to do it all. I spent most of my time near the pool deck watching movies or on Deck 11/12 in the adult only lounge, just relaxing and enjoying some cocktails.
Food: REALLY good. I was shocked at the quality given it is mass produced. Cabanas buffet for breakfast and lunch is easy, and outstanding, for breakfast we went to Royal Palace and enchanted gardens, as it is still served buffet style, it’s a little more formal, you are seated immediately and didn’t have to worry about looking for a table as you do at Cabanas. Dinner was simply amazing. Here is the key point for a great dinner: LISTEN TO YOUR WAIT STAFF! They will tell you a couple options that you should get. Trust their recommendations. But, if you must, like me, take a chance on something they don't recommend, our staff went ahead and brought what was requested, waited a few minutes, then brought the recommended dish anyway! And of course, they were 100% on point with it. Our server, Ek, was the best! There just aren’t enough words to describe how amazing he was, our laugh every night was during dinner when he made it a point to always bring my son a cheeseburger with whatever he ordered, only because he knew that’s all he really ate during the cruise, he would bring him a cheeseburger as an appetizer, another for dessert and another to-go….it was so hilarious! The wait staff also really took the time to know the family and what we like. For example, the first night my son ordered a lemonade and my daughter ordered chocolate milk. Each additional night, when we got to our table, a lemonade and chocolate milk was already waiting for them with their name on it. That’s service. If there was a dessert you liked from another restaurant that they didn’t have on the menu, they would have it made it delivered to your table if you wanted it. The shows were also well done and the right length for kids.
Here are my excursion thoughts on this particular cruise itinerary:
Atlantis - Bahamas – All personal preference, I wouldn’t waste my time. I did get off the ship to look around at the different shops and to purchase liquor. Otherwise, Stay on the ship and explore everything the ship has to offer, there are still tons to do onboard while the ship is docked. I will say this, when I travel I don't do a lot of sleeping, I was up every morning around 5am just walking around and exploring the ship. When we made it to Nassau some people did decide to go over to Atlantis, I’ve been to a water park before and that’s all it is. For $180 per person for the day on Atlantis, it’s not worth it at all, but if you really feel the need to go, I would recommend booking a room at Atlantis, you will not stay the night there but you will get admission for 4 people when you book an overnight stay. It will be a hassle packing up for the day, getting off early in the morning and then rushing back to the ship by 5:00pm. There is a Casino there if you want to go gamble, I don’t gamble, but I guess if you do gamble and you hit big that would offset the cost.
2. Castaway Cay - Another moment of marketing brilliance by Disney. "Hey, let’s buy an island, turn it into another money maker!" It worked. I do think you should get off ship for this one. Snorkeling is really fun and easy to do, beaches are really nice, plenty of loungers, chairs and hammocks, so we didn’t need to rush to find a spot, the food was great at Cookie's BBQ and Cookies Too. You could go parasailing, rent jet skis or bikes and there are plenty other things to do. Now, I will say…the weather was not the best, after only being on the island for a little while, it began to rain cats & dogs so we decided to get back on the ship, took my daughter back to the kid’s club and we went to the adult only deck and hung out in the hot tub and had some drinks. One of the deck bartenders from Turkey sat and talked with us for about 10 minutes, always came back to check on us and even gave me a rose 🤗. That night when our room hostess came to clean, we noticed that she snipped the rose and placed it in a glass of water for me, small gesture but very thoughtful. I appreciate little things like that.
My kids loved going to the youth clubs, so much for them to do. My daughter could not wait for us to drop her off there each day so she could play, Oceaneer’s Club/Lab was open until 11:30-12am every night and the teen club, Vibe (ages 14-17) was open until 1am-2am, there is another club for youth ages 11-13 I believe (forgot what it was called). It was stress free, great child care, and the adults were able to do other things, check out the lounges, a movie, bars, hot tubs or whatever. It worked out great for everyone, the youth clubs would call or send you a text if your child wanted to be picked up, you will have to have your KTTW (Key to the World) card and a secret password before the child is released to you, teens could go and leave the clubs as they pleased (they have their own private entrance). Before entering and leaving the youth clubs they always made sure you washed your hands, I loved that…they also had staff at the entrance of every restaurant or self-serve stations handing out sanitizing wipes before and after dining.
Character Meet n Greets - Be prepared for long lines (up to 30-45 minutes each character) just to get a picture. It’s crazy, but I set reminders in my phone so we could arrive a few minutes early to be some of the first in line, my daughter loved it, her favorite characters are Minnie, Mickey and Rapunzel! We did see a few live shows and also went to the movie theatre on the ship called Buena Vista theatre to check out the movie, “Moana” they had an early show at 8:30am, so only my daughter and I woke up, had breakfast and went to see that while the fellas slept. Some of the other moves that were showing were, Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, The BFG, Pete’s Dragon, Dr. Strange, Lion King, Pocahontas, etc. Movies will vary based on ship and the time of travel. THESE ARE ALL INCLUDED IN THE PRICE OF THE CRUISE.
A question I get asked often, "Is Disney expensive?" Well, it depends on what you consider expensive, I thought it was worth every penny. But I think overall, if you skip some of the way over-priced excursions and just enjoy the ship and different ports (specifically if it's your first cruise), it is worth it. The only thing you would spend additional money on are: Souvenirs, excursions, port purchases (I only purchased liquor to bring home), spa treatments, the adult only restaurants which were Palo and Remy (approx. $30-55 per person). You can also prepay your tips before your cruise, when you receive your itinerary in the mail it will tell you how much your tips will be per person/per day (children included) any additional tips you would leave in the envelopes left in your room at the end of your cruise. A 15% gratuity is automatically added to your check for alcoholic beverages, and 18% is automatically added for spa services.
Some things that I thought were “must-haves” or just fun to do were the door magnets and fish extenders, most guest decorate their stateroom door with magnets, I was in a fish extender group of only 10 families so I didn’t need to make or bring much, you can choose to join a group of more families if you like, just keep in mind that you have to walk around and deliver these to each stateroom, we delivered ours as soon as we were able to check in to our room which was about 1:30pm, since I had items that could be used for this cruise, I thought delivering early would be best, some people do not deliver their gifts until the last day. I decided to make each family a “Bare Necessities” kit, that included items like (hand sanitizer, tissue, toothbrush, Advil, toothpaste, shout stain remover, wipes, cotton swabs, a very merry time Disney Cruise keychain, close pins for hanging wet swimsuits, etc.) and I also gave each family a “Disney Movie Snack Pack” that had snacks they could take with them to the movies so they didn’t have to spend much on purchasing snacks on the ship. I also took personalized travel cups for beverages since the cups at the fountains are very small, drink fountains are open 24 hours a day. You could eat all you want, the ice cream station was amazing and you could enjoy as many ice cream cones as your heart desires.
Disney standards are second to none. The food and service were exceptional. We were worried about having too many children on the cruise with it being Disney but there are so many adult only areas that we had plenty of time to ourselves. All in all, this vacation was amazing!
This cruise was just plain exceptional. Definitely need more than 4 days, there are simply too many things to do, I can’t wait to be on board again!