In 2014 we cruised with Disney Cruise Lines for the very first time. We enjoyed a 3 night Disney Magic sailing from Florida with a then 5 year old and 5 month old. We knew as we disembarked that ship that it would be the first of many Disney Cruises we would enjoy. The service, the accommodations, the entertainment, the food – ALL were top notch.
This year we found ourselves on our 2nd Disney cruise, this time aboard the larger Disney Dream. Please make sure you make it to the bottom of this review post where I share our thoughts when comparing the two ships.
As I mentioned above, we sailed on the Disney Dream this year. The Dream is one of two larger ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet (the other large ship being the Fantasy). The Dream has undergone some renovations since our cruise, including the addition of a Sweets Shop (modeled after the movie Wreck-It Ralph) and some Star Wars themes are now on display in the Oceaneer Club (Kids’ Club).
We cruised in February this year, boarding the ship on February 20th. Our 3-night cruise ran from Friday to Monday. We enjoyed a few days at the parks prior to cruising (the opposite of what we did last year). The weather was gorgeous during our entire cruise. It was warm but not super hot and we lucked out and had clear blue skies.
We drove from PA to FL and drove from the parks on a Thursday to Cocoa Beach, FL. While last year we surprised our kids with the Disney trip, this year they knew where we were going (er, at least, Lily did. LOL Landon was about 16 months old on this trip so besides getting excited to see Mickey, I doubt he actually “got it.”) We spent Thursday night at the Country Inn and Suites (9009 Astronaut Blvd, Cape Canaveral, FL 32920) which was literally right down the road from the cruise ship terminal.
Our boarding time was around noon but since we were cruising concierge level this year (more expensive but came with many perks), I knew we would be among the first cruisers on the ship so we aimed to arrive at the port late morning.
We arrived at the port and just like the year before, everything was entirely seamless. We had to show our passports to gain entry into the parking area. You can park in the parking garage or in a closer priority lot that is literally right next to the ship. We tried the priority lot last year and thought the convenience was well worth the up-charge. I believe it was about $20 more to park in this lot versus the parking garage across the street.
The First Few Hours
There are a few things you should do as soon as you board a Disney Cruise Ship. We took care of those things immediately after we got on the ship. We dropped off our souvenirs to be autographed first (Guest Services Desk).
Then there are a few ticketed events on the Disney Dream including 2 character meet and greets (during our cruise anyway). On our cruise there was a Princess Gathering (3 princesses, see below) and a Frozen meet and greet with Anna and Elsa. Both events required tickets which can be secured immediately after you board at the Port Excursions Desk.
When you board the ship, lunch is available immediately up in Cabanas, the buffet restaurant. We did make it there for lunch eventually but were too excited to check out the other areas first. We passed by the Walt Disney Theatre where a nightly show is performed.
We ran into Belle who was only too happy to stop and chat with the kids for a few minutes.
I fell in love with the decor on the Dream the second I set foot on the ship. Beautifully decorated with some of the most intricate details does not even begin to explain it. I tend to think cruise ships have tacky decor. I could not have felt more different about the Dream. It was absolutely STUNNING.
Cabin (#12506, Forward, Deck 12, 1-Bedroom Suite)
I wrote an entire review post of cabin 12506. Check it out to see a bunch more pictures than the ones below!
Last year we stayed in a Deluxe Family Stateroom with Verandah.
A fun fact: When you’re on a Disney Cruise, the tv in your cabin plays Disney movies. ALL SORTS OF DISNEY MOVIES. At any given time, we were able to find popular flicks like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Finding Nemo, Mary Poppins, The Lion King and more on tv. In addition to ABC, Disney Channel, Disney Junior and ABC Fam, there were also some newer movies for adults. Saving Mr. Banks, for instance, was available on demand when we cruised.
It’s hard to know where to begin! First of all, keep in mind, the Dream is a larger ship than the Magic or the Wonder. HOWEVER, it didn’t really seem that they had a ton more features. Definitely some, yes, but instead it seemed like the bigger size simply accommodated more passengers. More cabins, bigger restaurants, bigger theatre, bigger kids’ club, you get the idea.
Adults Only Area – In addition to standard features like a spa, gym, jogging track, etc, the Dream has some really fun spots that are well worth checking out. On the very front of the ship is an adults-only area. There is a pool and lounge area, along with a little coffee shop called Cove Cafe.
Pools, Toddler Splash Zone and AquaDuck Water Ride – A big drawback that we have found on other cruise ships is a huge lack of water entertainment for the non-potty trained kids. Disney is the complete opposite! Not only is there a fun kid pool with an elaborate splash-area and twisting water slide for young children, there is a toddler splash zone specifically for anyone in a swim diaper.
Bob and I both took Lily for separate rides on the AquaDuck – it was REALLY fun!
There is a huge movie screen on the funnel by the pool that plays Disney movies all day and all night!
The Dream has a photography area where you can look for pictures taken of your fam throughout the trip. There are a couple of gift shops brimming with Disney merchandise. The prices in the gift shop didn’t appear to be too inflated (if at all) than what you’d pay at the parks. One store is pretty much a giant Disney store with plush, character toys, dresses, etc. The other store has all sorts of DCL branded merch.
O.M.Gee. By far, the food that we had on the Magic rivaled some of the finest restaurants that we have ever dined at. The Dream DID NOT disappoint. The food was absolutely delicious. From the buffet to the options for adult-only, reservation-only gourmet dining, we were never so happy to pack on a few extra pounds. LOL
There are a bunch of places to eat on the ship.
Quick Eats – For quick food on-the-go try Frozone Treats for Smoothies – by the kids’ pool area. Also near the pool is ice cream at Eye Scream and Flo’s Cafe which serves burgers, chicken tenders, pizza, fresh fruit, salads and sandwich wraps..
You can stop at Preludes before entering the Walt Disney Theatre to grab popcorn (flavored or fresh-popped butter), drinks, etc.
Room Service – Available 24 hours a day (except on the last night of your cruise), if you’re hungry, just pick up the phone! We ordered from room service a couple of times and it always came quickly. Don’t forget to tip your waiter a couple dollars – it’s always appreciated! Hot tip: You know those premium Mickey Mouse ice cream bars that are all the rage in the parks? You can order ’em from room service even though they’re not on the menu. FOR FREE. :D Hotter tip: Order a Mickey bar and 2 of the Big Island Extra-Large Chocolate Chip Cookies. Put the Mickey bar between the cookies for an INCREDIBLE ice cream sandwich!!
Here is a pic of the Room Service Menu on the Disney Dream. Pic was taken Feb 2015.
Fine Dining – The Dream has two fine dining restaurant, Palo and Remy. For $85 (Remy, French Cuisine) or $35 (Palo, Italian Cuisine) per adult (gratuity INCLUDED), you can enjoy a swanky dinner (some sailings now offering brunch as well). We made reservations months in advance for brunch at Palo on the day our shipped docked at Nassau.
We were so very excited for this lunch. Lunch at Palo was the very first time that we enjoyed a kid-free dinner TOGETHER away from home since before Landon was born! We dropped Lily off at the kids’ club and then dropped Landon at the It’s A Small World Nursery. He cried when we left which made me feel terrible. I hoped and prayed that he’d rally!
Our lunch at Palo was luxurious, succulent, mouthwatering and everything in between. I had tilapia which tasted better than any seafood I have ever eaten in my life. Bob had veal which he made me try – it literally melted in my mouth. I don’t know how, but we saved a little room for dessert which was served in buffet form. IN.CREDIBLE.
Appetizers (buffet form):
We made it through brunch, through dessert and were JUST about to have some strong and tasty espresso when this popped up on our wave phone. LOL Check please! We went and grabbed Landon, took him back to our cabin and got him down for a nap. But yes, Palo, UNBELIEVABLE. We both felt that it was worth every single penny.
Table Service Meals – There are 3 different restaurants on the Dream. On your first night on the ship, you head to your assigned restaurant (main seating or late seating). We chose main seating at 5:45 pm because last year Lily fell asleep by the end of a couple late seating meals. You are rotated through the three restaurants during your trip and your waitstaff (waiter, assistant waiter, head waiter) travel with you! We loved this. It gave us the chance to check out each unique restaurant on the ship while enjoying the camaraderie that comes with having consistent waitstaff each night. For the kids – each night the kids can choose from the same menu of kid-friendly foods.
We were so excited to eat dinner at AP because it was our very favorite restaurant on the Magic. A word of warning, the experience at AP on the Dream was nothing like the Magic. It was fun, it was entertaining, the food was good. But by the end of dessert at AP on the Magic, the music and lights were swelling, Mickey appeared, cheering, excitement. On the Dream, the set up is VERY similar to that of the Turtle Talk with Crush show at Epcot Center. Crush (turtle from Finding Nemo) and other characters from that movie swim around the restaurant via big screens. They interact with different tables. It’s very fun but we just kept waiting for “something more” thanks to the year before on the Magic. In fact, as we sat there on the Dream, Bob and I were saying to each other, “Is that it? Do we leave? Or are we going to miss some sort of finale?” Nope, no finale. So I’m sorry to say, we were not fans of AP on the Dream. It was so much more exciting on the Magic.
We ended up at Animator’s Palate on Pirate Night, so the kids were all decked out in their best pirate finery. I also succumbed to a total upsell – a few bucks for this light-up fairy straw. LOL
That being said, let’s talk about food.
Here is the menu from Animator’s Palate:
I had the Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, Black Truffle Pasta Purseittes, Herb Crusted Veal Chop
For dessert I had the “Make Your Own Pie.” I wasn’t all too impressed with it. It definitely sounded cooler than it was.
Royal Palace: Dinner in the Royal Palace Restaurant was inspired by Cinderella (note the Pumpkin Coach bread basket!) and featured French Cuisine.
I devoured the Breaded and Deep Fried Brie (with an orange and cranberry chutney). YUM!
Next up was some Leek and Potato Soup followed by Lobster Macaroni.
For dessert, it was a delicious Strawberry Shortcake Sundae.
Lily had her first Mickey bar of the cruise. It came complete with sprinkles to decorate.
Enchanted Garden: The third and final restaurant in dinner rotation on the Dream was called the Enchanted Garden.
This restaurant was on our last night of the cruise. Lily wanted to hang out with her new BFF in the Kids’ Club all night and Landon was about ready for bed. Bob and I still had to pack up most of our stuff so we opted for in-room dining since we had the suite and that is a perk that comes with the bigger cabin.
I did snap a pic of the menu. I had the Lobster Ravioli, Applewood Smoked Bacon Wild Mushroom Tart, Heirloom Tomato Soup, Slow Roasted Prime Rib and an Apple Cinnamon Crunch Sundae.
Itinerary – 3 Night Bahamas
Since our cruise was so short, we didn’t get a traditional “day at sea” that most 4+ night cruises have on their itinerary. Instead we made a stop each day before returning to Port Canaveral on Day 4.
Nassau – Meh. Blech. We aren’t fond of Nassau. It’s ridiculously crime-ridden and can even be dangerous if you wander on your own. We have stopped in Nassau on other cruises – been there, done that, don’t ever feel the need to do it again. Also, we were on a DISNEY CRUISE and weren’t going to get a day at sea to play on the ship. So that’s what we did! We stayed on the ship and Lily enjoyed the kids’ club, swimming in the pool and more. We ate our delicious brunch at Palo. The ship was only partially full as many of our fellow cruisers were off the ship.
Disney does offer a bunch of Port Adventures for Nassau, so if you’re looking for a beach day, day trip to Atlantis Resort, etc etc, there are plenty of choices for you to choose from.
Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island paradise) – Okay, picture it: sandy beaches dotted with umbrellas, gorgeous (clear!) turquoise water, just ready to be swam, snorkled and floated in…slight warm breeze, sun shining down. That was our day on Castaway Cay (Cay is pronounced “Key” btw). We had perfect weather for a day on the beach. Our ship had a nice long port of call in Castaway Cay – from about 9 am until 5 pm.
You get off the ship and walk a short distance to a tram stop. The tram takes you to the family beach where you can find loungers, chairs, umbrellas and a beach paradise that’s yours for the day. The island has a tiny post office (cash only!) and a couple of shops selling Castaway Cay branded merch, sand toys and other beach supplies, etc.
Floats, tubes, bikes, snorkel equipment and more can be rented for the day if you so desire. Castaway Cay even has an extension of kids’ club, called Scuttle’s Cove. Kids can stay and play as they wish. There are organized games and activities for them to enjoy all day long. There is also a splash area just for toddlers.
You are handed a beach towel as you get off of the ship so there’s no need to bring one of your own. You can return your towel before you re-board.
Castaway Cay is comprised of three different beach areas. There is a large sprawling family beach where most people settle in for the day. A little further down the beach there is a roped off area with family cabanas that can be rented for the day. The fee is rather steep for these cabanas but the perks are pretty amazing. They can be split between multiple families and are very hard to attain because they are so popular.
Set back behind the family cabanas is another set of cabanas on an adult-only beach.
Your day on Castaway Cay can be entirely cashless – EXCEPT for the post office which is cash-only. Purchases in the gift shops and beach equipment rentals can all be charged using your Key to the World cards. Lunch is served for several hours midday at two different locations on the island. All food and drinks (even soda!) are included, except for alcohol. The spread for lunch was great – it’s a typical summer picnic spread. Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, various salads and some delicious desserts.
Of course, the whole day that you spend on Castaway Cay is with your Disney cruise ship docked in the background. This works as a great backdrop for your pictures!
In the large Walt Disney Theatre there is a Broadway-esque show each evening. Your showtime depends on what dinner seating you have. Late seating for dinner watches the show first, then they go to dinner. Main seating for dinner eats first, then goes to the show.
Believe it or not, we didn’t make it to a single show. HOWEVER, we DID catch 2 out of 3 in our ROOM on the TV! They broadcast every show live in your cabin television! So yup, Golden Mickeys… in bed.. with popcorn and hot chocolate. Awesome!
Also on the ship was a movie theater that played first run Disney movies. The Buena Vista Theatre was playing several throughout our cruise. Daily showtimes are plastered all over the ship – on your daily schedule, on the ship’s app, outside the theatre, even on your stateroom tv.
We caught most of Into the Woods one night while Landon snoozed next to us in the stroller and Lily partied in kids’ club!
Oh, how fun! On most of their Caribbean sailings, Disney cruise ships have a pirate night. This night was so much fun, we couldn’t help but get into the spirit. I brought a pirate dress and boots from home for Lily. Landon wore a pirate costume that I picked up the fall before at a JBF sale!
On pirate night you will see every single level of pirate-wear on your fellow cruisers. There will be hardcore-in-complete-pirate-regalia kids and adults down to people wearing nothing pirate-themed. You can choose your comfort level and go with it.
When you stop into your cabin after turndown service on pirate night, you will find a Mickey-pirate-themed bandana for everyone. Look for various picture opps with Disney characters in pirate garb on Pirate Night! We saw Captain Hook, Jake, Minnie and Mickey as we walked around.
There is a Pirate Deck Party after the 2nd dinner seating. The party starts around 9:45 pm and there is music and dancing with various Disney characters up by the pool. Right around 10:15 pm there is a fireworks display right off the side of the ship!! Stand midship (by the pool or above it), in front of the smoke stack, to have the best vantage spot for the fireworks. This party and the fireworks are late, but worth it. We made it to the fireworks and then headed straight to bed.
One of the huge (HUGE) bonuses of a Disney Cruise is that there are character meet and greets all day/night long! You get plenty of advanced warning regarding where and when you can find specific characters, which makes it easier to plan for your kids’ (or your!) favorites. Look on the daily Navigator schedule (paper or app format) to see exactly when and where characters will be. For characters that Lily was REALLY REALLY hoping to meet, we got in line about 10 minutes or so before the meet and greet was scheduled to begin and never had trouble getting to meet anyone.
Don’t forget that (on the Dream at least) SOME of these events are ticketed events. Get your tickets AS SOON AS you board at the Port Excursions Desk.
Youth Activities and It’s a Small World Nursery
Like other cruise lines, Disney offers an extensive program for all ages – babies through teens can find activities and facilities that cater specifically to them. Landon spent a couple of hours in the nursery and the staff was SO wonderful to him! Even when he got upset and was ready for his nap – they notified us and did their best to snuggle him and get him to smile and calm down. The nursery needs to be reserved ahead of time (you can actually book time from home up to a few months before you cruise). The nursery comes with an extra fee – $9 an hour for the first child in a family, $8 for each additional child. The nursery will take kids up to age 3.
Lily, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed some time in the kids’ club. There are two huge play areas in the Youth Activities zone – the Oceaneer’s Lab was very hands on and jam-packed with educational crafts, presentations, etc. Kids can learn about animation, work on a craft activity, use computers and more. Lily especially loved the crafts and the organized games and activities.
Over on the other side is the Oceaneer’s Club which has several different themed areas – Monsters Inc, Pixie Hollow, Finding Nemo and Toy Story. There are computers, dress up costumes, art activities, counselor-led games and more.
On our first day on the ship, we got Lily her identification bracelet for the youth activities. This bracelet held more than met the eye – it actually contained a tracking piece that allowed the counselors to CONSTANTLY monitor kids’ whereabouts for safety, current location, etc. When we went to pick her up from her activity the counselor could immediately pull up her current location within the kids’ area so that we knew where to go get her from. It was a fantastic piece of added security. Make sure you return your bracelet before getting off of the ship – otherwise your shipboard account will be charged a fee for keeping it.
If we thought gettiing on the ship was a easy, getting off the ship was a complete cakewalk. We had to put our checked luggage outside of our cabin by 10:30 the night before where it was collected for debarking. On the last morning on the ship, we ate breakfast in the Concierge Lounge. Each of the three main dining restaurants are also open for breakfast that morning.
After that, it was time to leave. Getting off the ship was simple and organized. You simply walk off the ship, scanning your ship card as you leave. When we made our way down to the baggage claim area, we were met by friendly porter who offered assistance with our bags. He helped to gather and transport our luggage through customs and right to our car. This service probably saved us about an hour of luggage hauling. (Don’t forget to tip your porter! Customary tips are $2-$4 per bag, at your discretion.)
Just like our first Disney Cruise, our second was just amazing. I can’t believe how many activities and how much fun we were able to pack into three nights on board. There was so much to do, all the time. We were never bored and our only complaint was wishing that we had more time on the ship. Three nights is a great way to experience the magic of a DCL vacation but I will warn you, it will leave you begging for more!
Magic Vs. Dream
My answer might surprise you. But I have thought long and hard about my take on both ships. I asked Bob for his input too and he agreed with my line of thinking.
The food was great on both ships. The service was great on both ships. The accommodations were great on both ships. The same could be said for the entertainment, itinerary and amenities.
But at the end of the day, if I had to choose one ship over the other, I think the Magic won over the Dream. Not by much, but yes, the we liked the Magic better. There were a couple of reasons. First of all, the Dream is a bigger ship. It also carries many more passengers. While our wait staff in the dining rooms was lovely and polite and friendly, we never developed a real rapport with them because they didn’t spend much time at our table. Our food took a long time to arrive each night (punctuated by Landon melting down from exhaustion as bedtime crept closer and closer). It seemed like the waitstaff was spread thinner than on the Magic and waiting on more people, giving them less time to interact with us.
I already described our disappointment with Animator’s Palate on the Dream. Don’t get me wrong – it was cool. But AP on the Magic was so INSANELY OMG AWESOME that AP on the Dream was simply underwhelming after that.
Would we cruise on the Dream again? Yes, emphatically YES. We most definitely would. Even though we liked some things better on the Magic, the Dream was still a gorgeous, fun, well-run ship and we would certainly return!
This trip was in no way, shape, or form sponsored by Disney. It was funded by our own piggy bank and all opinions are 100% our own.
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