Ange and I returned from our latest Disney vacation Sunday night. We took a 4-night cruise on the all new Disney Dream, followed by a 3-night stay at Walt Disney World. It was, in a word, wonderful. Here are some highlights from our trip:
* Check-in was done at the airport. There we got both our Key to the World cards and our boarding groups, so there was really nothing to do once we got to Port Canaveral but wait to board.
* We cruised as part of the WDW Radio cruise with Lou Mongello and MEI/MouseFanTravel. There were nearly 500 of us on this cruise. Between Disney’s own events and Lou/MEI’s events, every day was jampacked with stuff to do, to the point where we were pretty well exhausted every night. Must try to actually *relax* on the next cruise… 🙂
* Our stateroom was the lowest category, and therefore pretty well tiny, but it served our needs. The virtual porthole was fun, and it did have adequate storage space (so long as we didn’t mind living out of our suitcases, which we didn’t). Our stateroom hostess, on the other hand, was PHENOMENAL. Kem knew our names on sight after the first day, made up our beds exactly as we wanted them (for example, the first night, I took off the heavy comforter from my bed and gave it to Ange’s. Every day thereafter, Kem made sure to make up Ange’s bed with the comforter, and leave it off mine), left us fun towel animals each morning, etc. She even folded Ange’s clothes which we both found amazing.
* The food. Oh my god the food. I felt like we were never not eating. From the embarkation buffet at Cabanas to the three main restaurants to room service to the ice cream station on Deck 11 to the random chocolate covered straberries in the Cove Café – food was EVERYWHERE. And I’d say 90% of it was really very good. Our dinner tablemates said on the first night that after they had snow crabs at the embarkation buffet, they were waiting for the “catch”, and were convinced that the food was going to go downhill from there. The next day, they were pleased to report they’d not found a catch. 🙂
* The crew members were, by and large, awesome. First off, I was pretty shocked by how diverse the crew seemed to be. Last year on the Wonder, it appeared that about 90% of the crew members were from the Bahamas or Caribbean. This time around, the crew was from all over the place. North America, Latin America, Eastern and Western Europe, the British Isles, Australia, the Middle East, the Far East, several African nations, etc. It was great talking to them. They were all polite and friendly and sociable. On more than one evening, Ange and/or I simply sat and conversed with crew working at the bars in the District. It was great having conversations with so many different people with so many different backgrounds.
* Lou Mongello and the MEI/MouseFanTravel team had some incredible events for us. Scavenger hunts, door decorating contests, word scramble / word search, the group photos, ice cream meets, flag creations, pin trading meets, stateroom tours, and lots more that we didn’t even get a chance to do. Plus the events contained a couple Magical Moments, as first Lou was a conspirator in a surprise engagement between two of the cruisers, and then the winner of a 6-night vacation in Walt Disney World shocked EVERYONE by coming back on stage, handing the winning raffle ticket back to Lou, and saying “I want to donate it to Make-A-Wish”. The guy got a standing ovation for that. It was amazing.
* Two of the three shows in the Walt Disney Theater were outstanding. Golden Mickeys was an updated version of the show on the Wonder last year, and is even better than before. Disney’s Believe is an all-new production that capped off the cruise. Disney definitely saved the best for last. It was a great story, wonderful effects, and terrific musical numbers. My next cruise, I’m tempted to see both the matinée and the regular showing later that night.
* The Buena Vista theater showed current and recent movies (all in 3D, of course), including Gnomeo & Juliet, Tron: Legacy, Tangled, and I Am Number 4. And after Toy Story 3 took Best Animated Picture at the Oscars, they decided to have an encore showing of that movie as well. Plus the in-room TV had a selection of at least 50 Disney movies to watch on-demand if you actually wanted to stay in your room for some reason…
* I really like the set up of The District, the adults-only bar/lounge area. There are 5 distinct bars: The District Lounge, Pink, The 867, Skyline, and Evolution. The area is set up so that each bar has (at least) two doors, with each door leading to one of the other bars. So rather than just going to one specific bar, you kinda walk through all of them on the way to your destination, getting a feel for all the different options. And each one has a very different mood to it.
* The fireworks show, Buccaneer Blast, was very cool. Fireworks were set off from both ends of the ship, at one point looking like they were two pirate ships doing battle with one another. Definitely something you won’t see on any other cruise line (unless, of course, your ship happens to park itself near Disney’s in the middle of the ocean…)
* I rented snorkeling equipment at Castaway Cay. I found the sunken Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, as well as statues of Mickey and Minnie. (Well, when I say “found”, I mean “swam to”, since their locations are easily marked with buoys…) I also found an incredible number of fish who felt absolutely no qualms about coming right up to human beings. I have no idea if the pictures I took with the underwater camera will come out or not. 🙂
* Ange and I also rented bikes on the island, and rode along the two bike paths. For whatever reason, this was more fun than I expected it to be.
* I was very happy with the rotational dining system, as it meant our server and assistant server only had to get to know us once. After the first night, they had us figured out pretty well (ie, Ange likes a kid’s menu, I tend to order two entrées in order to get a sampling, etc). Our assistant server even remembered our drink orders from the previous night and asked us if we wanted them again each night. Very cool.
* Nearly all the CMs in the gift shops were wearing pin lanyards for trading. This was a huge improvement over last year, when there was no pin trading going on due to Swine Flu concerns. They even had an “officer Pin Trading” night, during which several of the ship’s officers were available for pin trading in the Walt Disney Theater rotunda.
* The enchanted art throughout the ship is pretty awesome. One little bonus that took me by surprise is that the art doesn’t “reset” back to its initial state when the animation is done. Instead, it freezes at the end of its little skit, and when it next animates, it picks up from there. There are even two pairs of art pieces that interact with each other. Plus there’s the MidShip Detective Agency game in which you get to interact with the enchanted art in a KimPossible-like game. It involves walking all over the ship, finding about 10-15 different pieces of art. There are (currently) two different games to play, which makes me think the game will be very updateable and repeatable.
As you can see, I had an absolutely fantastic time on the cruise, and in fact Ange and I have already put our deposit down for the next WDW Radio Cruise to sail sometime in Fall 2012. For those that will be sailing on the Dream sometime soon, however, I will go ahead and list the few (fairly minor) problems/concerns that we experienced during the trip:
* There were a couple minor problems with our shipboard accounts. Once I explained the issues, Guest Services was able to fix them no problem. But I would recommend getting a print out of your current charges/credits on the 3rd night or so, as I expect them to be easier to fix before you get off the ship.
* I don’t think the AquaDuck lives up to the hype. It’s over very quickly, and has only two dips/hills. The rest is a very slow moving lazy-river style attraction. While that’s cool, from the build up, I was expecting something closer to Crush N’ Gusher at Typhoon Lagoon. Plus the wait time never seemed to fall below 25-30 minutes. The times of the day when it would have been less crowded – it was closed.
* Villains Tonight, in my mind, is a klunker. I didn’t find it funny or interesting. Maybe it was designed more for little kids, and they’d enjoy it more? That’s at least possible and mostly understandable if true.
* Dinner does take a while. This was pointed out to me before I left, so I was ready for it. But if you’re expecting to finish dinner within an hour or so, you’re going to be disappointed. Relax, consider it a “dining experience” rather than a dinner, and take time conversing with your table mates. Our dinners typically lasted between 1.5 and 2 hours each night.
* While Room Service is 24-hours, not everything Room Service can bring is included in your cruise fare. For example, Ange found out that they’d be happy to bring her some chocolate-covered strawberries – but they’d charge something like $2.50 for each one. (She settled for a hot dog and fries…)
* Regardless of which lights you’ve turned off before taking your room key out of the slot, they will ALL turn on when you put your room key back in the slot. This can be annoying if one person leaves and comes back to the room while another is taking a nap.
* The wave phones are GREAT in concept, but hit-or-miss in execution. There’s no way to add your own contacts, they only have reception maybe 50% of the time, and the don’t vibrate well enough to feel them in your pocket. Nor is there any obvious on-screen notification of a missed call or incoming text. Plus, there’s only one charger in the room, for the two phones. Are they expecting us to wake up in the middle of the night to switch the phones so both will be charged in the morning?
* Our in-room clock reliably lost exactly 3 hours every night. I set it before I went to bed, watched the minutes turn to verify that it was working correctly. Then when I woke up the next morning, it was 3 hours behind. Every morning. Don’t rely on it.
After we returned to land on Thursday morning, we took a DCL bus over to Pop Century for our 3-night stay at Walt Disney World. We tried to relax as much as possible during this WDW stay, and didn’t do any commando touring. Indeed, on our Epcot day, I think we did exactly one attraction, and spent the rest of the day doing pin trading and playing the Kim Possible adventure.
We did, however, see the new Magic, Memories, & You show in the Magic Kingdom. OH MY GOD Phenomenal. If you haven’t already, find a video of it on YouTube. It is outstanding. The castle is completely transformed via lights and projectors. Disney’s marketing description of “We’re going to put photos and videos of guests on the castle!” is a complete failure. The photos/videos are not only a minor part of the show, I consider them almost a distraction from the real show. I consider this show worth a trip to WDW this year just to see it in person.
We did the Annual Passholder event at the Animal Kingdom Saturday night. They had Everest and Dinosaur (and Triceratop Spin) open for us for 3 hours after the park closed. We stayed for maybe 1:45 or so, after 3 rides on Everest and one on Dinosaur. Plus there were DJs and dance parties going on. It was kinda cool – at the very least, it was nice to see Disney do something for the passholders.
We went to Hollywood Studios on our last day, to take part in ESPN the Weekend for a little bit. We watched one show of Stump the Schwab, and wandered around the Sportszone (even stepping into the batting cage for a bit). But mostly, we just wandered the park and relaxed before heading back to the airport for our trip home.
All in all, it was a truly wonderful trip. The Dream is amazing. Lou Mongello and Beci and her MEI team are equally amazing. 4 nights is simply not enough to experience all the Dream has to offer – I never even made it to the new Pelican Plunge on Castaway Cay. Clearly, another cruise is in order! 🙂
If you have any questions about the Dream or Disney Cruise Line in general, I’d be happy to do my best to answer them. Feel free to leave a comment here on the blog, or use the Contact Form.