Last week, my wife and I took a 4 day Bahamian trip aboard the Disney Dream. I am the first of the fanboys to have sailed aboard the Disney Cruise Line, so I suppose it’s up to me to provide a review. You will also find a fuller trip report in 2 weeks on the podcast, so please check that out as well!
I booked the cruise well over a year ago with Pixie Vacations. I’m happy to say that the fanboys don’t just do an obligatory ad read at the beginning of each show for Pixie Vacations – I’m aware that at least 2 of us have used their services and couldn’t be happier with the service and attention we’ve received. My travel agent really took care of all of the details for me so that I didn’t have to spend that agonizing time on hold with the Disney Cruise line or with any of the resort hotels we stayed at.
Anyways, we stayed at Art of Animation the Wendesday that we arrived. Art of Animation really just is a very colorful value resort. Aside from the extremely tacky (but fun for the kids) decoration inside and out of the rooms, there’s not much to speak of. The lobby bears a lot of sketchings in various styles of Disney and Pixar films. As I’m sure all of our readers have read and seen, the lobby, shop and food court are extremely colorful, and really far more interesting than the rooms. My only real complaint with Art of Animation is that the comforter on the bed is really like a soft piece of cardboard. I grant that the room we stayed in was just a little more than 2 weeks old, and I’m sure those value resorts aren’t pouring money into the rooms the same way they would a new moderate or deluxe resort, but the comforter was so stiff and uncomfortable, we simply pushed it to the floor before we went to sleep. I did notice that the pool area at Art of Animation looked much better than the other Values I’ve stayed at. It was much larger than other value pools, seemed to have better theming, and from what I understand, it even has underwater interactive features. I’d like to put on a pair of swim shorts if we go again to check it out a little further.
We received a note in our room the night before our cruise telling us what time we should show up at the lobby for the Disney Cruise Line bus to leave. Now, I was a little apprehensive at first about spending an extra $140 to have a Disney bus haul my wife and I to and from Port Canaveral, but my mind was put at ease instantly once we started off. The hour and a half ride seemed like a matter of minutes as screens aboard the bus distract you with classic Mickey Mouse cartoons and other promotional material telling you what activities await you aboard the cruise ship. The anticipation that built up as we approached Port Canaveral was rewarded by the first sight of the ship. The bus rounds a road that affords guests the first glimpses of the ship’s towers, and you finally crest the top of a hill to see the enormity and beauty of the ship. If you’ve ever seen a Disney cruise ship in person, it really is a stunning sight. As you approach the ship, you walk through a security screening much like one at an airport, then are carried up an esclator to the terminal, which is really beautiful and has a lot of character itself. Finally, after checking in and getting the key to the world, you are ushered up the gangway onto the ship. I know that Disney ships each have their own art style, and the Dream is sort of a merge between art deco and art nuveau. The lobby aboard the ship is extremely beautiful and is immaculately clean. Now, the other details really matter much – we had to do a safety drill as required by the US Coast Guard, so we’ll move on to the things that really do matter.. Food.
The ship boasts a really eclectic assortment of food options and on the first day, guests are all sent to Cabanas on the main deck (deck 11) for lunch. I ate veal, crab legs, mussels, swordfish, salmon, and some other unimportant stuff like fruit and vegetables. Disney also breaks the mold from other cruise lines by offering free soda, coffee, tea and milk all day on the main deck. Cabanas was actually a really nice place to sit down and have a really relaxing meal for the entire cruise. You could eat inside or ouside on the deck right next to the railings that overlook the ocean, which was extremely nice when the wind was calm (which wasn’t very often during our cruise). After the safety drill, we spent some time wandering the ship and found a myriad of theaters, bars and lounges.
Disney also breaks the mold from other cruises by offering rotational dining, as opposed to eating in the same huge restaurant every night. Additionally, your servers follow you to each restaurant, and get to know what you like and don’t like. For our first night, we dined at Animator’s Palate. I don’t recall much of what I ate that night besides the veal trio for my main course. The presentation of veal within pasta was interesting, but I think I’d order something else if we returned to the same ship in the future.
For night entertainment, you’ll often find live music throughout the ship, karaoke, nightclub activities, so on and so forth. We headed up to the Meridian bar, which is wedged right between Remy and Palo, the two exclusive dining establishments on board. The Meridian bar almost seemed to be a tucked away treasure on the ship. At the time we arrived, the bar was hosting a whiskey tasting which was accomplished by sequestering guests in beautiful Chesterfield style leather chairs. The bartenders were some of the friendliest, most social cast members on board. Aside from some finer drink options, one could find a small sampling of cigars to purchase and bring outside to the small deck adjacent to the bar. If you’re dressed appropriately and are looking for a quiet, intimate experience away from the bud lime and coors light served across the ship, head to the Meridian bar at night time. It really is a gem.
When we awoke the next morning, we headed towards Cabanas again for breakfast. You can get your breakfast in the morning at Cabanas or any of the 3 main rotational dining restaurants. The buffet options are virtually the same, so don’t expect anything special if you head to one of the restaurants on board in the morning. After consuming more than any man ought to eat for breakfast, we headed out to Nassau. I’d post pictures of Nassau, but I’m not sure we took many. Honestly, I was not impressed with the island and would not disembark the ship again if we returned. We stayed on the island for a whopping hour and walked back to the ship. We assumed that the lure of the neighboring Odyssey would draw guests from the ship so that we could enjoy the Aquaduck, the onboard water coaster, uninhibited. This simply was not the case. While we squeezed in a few rides on the Aquaduck, the ship seemed just as crowded as when we were at sea. My advice if you go on the same cruise is to wait until your Castaway Cay day if you’re waiting to do things on the ship that have been otherwise crowded. Everyone seemed to disembark for Castaway Cay at around 10 o’clock, at which point the ship was virtually empty. You can ride the Aquaduck all you want, then head to the island yourself if you like.
The evening we disembarked from Nassau we also ate at Enchanted Garden. I was informed that the restaurant was supposed to be modeled after Versailles, but I didn’t see any peace agreements occurring on board, so I don’t believe them. I would post pictures of the food we ate, but this isn’t instagram. If you’re really interested in what food we had and what we thought of it, feel free to email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you some more information. The day we were at Nassau, I should note that Ashley and I also attended an event focused on Animation. I thought we were headed to a sort of history of Disney Animation Studios lecture, but it turned out to be a family event where they teach you how to draw Donald Duck. Fun as this was, I felt a little misled. If you are on the ship and have any questions at all about what a certain event entails, please please please go to Guest Services and ask for more information before you go.
On our final day, we visited Castaway Cay. All I can say is that Disney did a phenomenal job with the island. From my understanding, there was an airstrip that was on the abandoned island when Disney purchased it. They have since converted that airstrip to a tramway that connects the ship’s docking area to the beaches and shops that make up the island. The adults-only beach was quiet, peaceful and beautiful and the food service on the island, Cookie’s BBQ, was really quite good. It’s my understanding that the Cookie’s on the 18+ beach actually has more food option than the family beach. I had plenty of food, but the ribs there were actually pretty good. I would have gone back for seconds if they weren’t closing as I was finishing my lunch. On that night we finished the dining rotation at Royal Palace, which was probably my favorite restaurant in terms of theming. I had some stuff and things to eat, including caviar. If you’re looking for the finest dining, this is the place to go. I do recall that I had aged beef of some variety and my wife ate wild boar, so the menu is somewhat eclectic and interesting.
Finally, calling the cruise we went on a “4 day cruise” is deceiving. In reality, we took the Disney bus to the port and arrived at around 2 o’clock. We weren’t on the boat until 2:45 and in our room until about 3. On the very last day, the announcement that US Customs had cleared our ship started just before 7 am and started piping through every speaker on the boat seemingly every 15 minutes. I think the aim was to annoy people enough to push them off the ship as early as possible. We had to eat breakfast at 8 and were basically off the ship by 9am. True, our feet were on the ship for 4 days, but we were really only able to participate in the ship’s activities for around 2 and a half days. I was a little annoyed that we were basically pushed off the ship so early in the morning, but it did allow us to get to WDW earlier so that we could ride the monorail loops and explore the Magic Kingdom resorts.
It was my intent to keep this as brief as possible just to give you a summary of our experience aboard the Disney Cruise Line. If you do have specific questions or comments, either email me directly or post your comments below. I’d be happy to discuss our experience with you or to share some advice.
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