This summer, we got to check three things off our bucket list, all in one fell swoop: Visit the Bahamas – ✔️! Go on a cruise – ✔️! Go on a Disney cruise – ✔️✔️✔️!!!
Disney Cruise Line has raised our expectations for family vacations, that’s for sure
The hubby and I have been itching to go on a cruise for a while. After tons of research and schedule wrangling, we settled on a 3-night cruise on the Dream sailing out of Port Canaveral. Destination: the Bahamas, with stops at Nassau and of course, Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. We went in with pretty high expectations— it is Disney, after all. That, and people we know who’ve cruised with Disney before just rave about it. And I mean on and on and on.
The general consensus among our family was that everything Disney Cruise Line had to offer on the Disney Dream was amazing and oh so magical, and here we’ve narrowed down a list of our top 10 favorites things about the experience!
That grand welcome upon embarking the Disney Dream
As you board the ship, your family is welcomed in a really big way. You enter the main atrium to the sound of your arrival being announced and the resounding clapping and cheers of smiling, enthusiastic cast members, all of whom are sporting big ol’ Mickey gloves, of course!
Oceaneers Club facilities and counselors
Part of why we chose Disney Cruise Line for our first cruise is the feedback we always hear and read about their kids clubs. With three kids currently ranging in age from toddler to tween, we wanted to make sure the cruise we chose would have entertainment and programming engaging enough for all of them.
The facilities are clean, fun, and of course, secure. There were plenty of counselors to handle all the kids, and every single one we met was warm and friendly.
With this being a 3-day cruise with no full days at sea, the kids didn’t spend too much time in the kid’s club, but they enjoyed it!
Our amazing Family stateroom, and our stateroom host
That turndown service though! Disney’s staterooms are roomy, modern, and nothing if not tastefully appointed.
As a family of 5, we opted for the Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom w/Verandah, and we stayed in a category 4D stateroom, 6136. Let me just tell you— I freaking LOVED this room. It was roomy, impeccably clean, and the Queen bed was oh-so-comfortable. There was the perfect amount of space beneath the Queen size bed to store our suitcases, too. And that balcony. That balcony was icing on the cake. Totally worth it to have a little extra room to stretch out in private.
24-hour room service and our dining room team
Included in your fare is room service, whenever you want it. As if you didn’t already have enough eating options what with the main dining rooms and quick service. I read a tip somewhere about the amazing chocolate chip cookies and how you ought to order milk with them. We did that and it was marvelous.
I’m not sure anything runs as smoothly as the massive operation comprising the dining rooms and kitchens on cruise ships. Our assigned servers, Arcana and Irvington, were a dynamic duo of attentive, engaging, and super accommodating professionals. Arcana even entertained us with a few magic tricks— much to our collective delight!
Castaway Cay— especially Serenity Bay
Castaway Cay is a seriously well-oiled machine, and we marveled at how clean and pretty everything looked! Then we dropped the kids off at Scuttle’s Cove, and we moseyed on over to Serenity Bay.
What a difference! It’s definitely worth it to let the kids enjoy Scuttle’s Cove for a bit— if only to give parents a chance to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of this adults-only beach paradise.
Adults-only dining at Palo
The meal we enjoyed here was the best meal I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. It has set a bar so high that I’m afraid I’ll need to forever approach “fancy” meals with insanely low expectations, lest I am sorely disappointed.
Our server, Alexa, was such a treat, and the restaurant sommelier, maître d’, and head chef stopped by to say hello, too. Way to make us feel special, Palo staff!
I can’t wait for when we return so we can hit up Palo again and try Remy, too.
The live stage shows
There’s lots of entertainment on the ship— but the live shows truly take the cake. It truly is Broadway-quality entertainment on the sea, and I highly recommend making time for at least one, if not all, of the live musicals that take place during your Disney Cruise.
We loved the medley of music and performances featured in The Golden Mickeys and Believe! If you grew up on Disney movies, then you’ll be hit hard with the nostalgia feels.
Videography and photography are prohibited at the live shows, but here’s a taste of other entertainment available on the Disney Dream:
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique + Pirate Night
The cast members at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique really made the toddler’s night! For Pirate Night on the ship, they decked him out in full pirate regalia, complete with costume, arghh-ccessories, and makeup.
Pirate Night culminates with a high-energy show, fireworks, a family dance party, and a special pirate night buffet!
Buena Vista Theater playing first run movies!
The movies featured included Cars 3 and the latest in the Spider-man and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. We didn’t get a chance to squeeze a movie in all together, but the older 2 kids caught Cars 3 while the hubby, toddler, and I chilled out in the stateroom.
It’s definitely a novelty experience to be able to say, “hey, I watched this movie on a ship!”— at least if you’re 11 years old. Catching a flick on ship was on my pre-teen’s planned agenda, and the look of satisfaction on his face after was priceless.
The genuine care, attention to detail, and excellent customer service
Disney’s business philosophy all goes back to their common purpose of creating happiness. (I can go on and on about CX— the Disney Institute training courses are amazing, by the way.) Oh, and create happiness they do. Every single cast member we encountered was genuinely warm, kind, and enthusiastic— from the retail shop to maintenance to dining, and everyone else in between! That Disney difference? Oh yes, it exists, it is strong, and it translates really well in an all-inclusive leisure cruise experience.
As with most ships, the Disney Dream is full of some of the most hard-working individuals you’ll be lucky to meet in your lifetime. They work their butts off so that guests have a truly magical experience, and they are to be commended!
Thoughts on booking our next Disney Cruise Line adventure
On the 3 night sailing, you effectively get 2.5 days of actual cruise time. You gotta factor in sleep, right? Maybe?
We felt obligated to our wallets to squeeze as many magical experiences as we could out of the weekend. The result? Post-vacation hangover— totally not alcohol induced!
Though to be totally fair, I can’t attribute the exhaustion only to the hustle and bustle of a weekend-long cruise. We had road-tripped it from New York down to Florida, and, having taken our own car down, road-tripped it right back up again. More on that in another post, perhaps.
I booked through Expedia, and while there weren’t any issues with my booking, next time I’m going to explore the option of booking through a travel agent that specializes in Disney vacations. Then I found out later that booking through a travel agent can have certain advantages, including unpublished onboard credit offers and even free gifts. Of course, this was after paying our balance and well after any sort of grace period to make changes or transfer the booking— oh well!
That said, the booking process was totally painless, and my reservation info was available on the Disney Cruise Line site shortly after.
I’m 110% positive our next Disney cruise will be at least 5 nights long
—preferably 7 or 8 nights, but I’ll take 5. If we had just another day or two on the cruise, it would have been significantly more relaxing, allowing us to savor, rather than devour, the experience.
Next time, we’ll spring for a stateroom on a higher floor, if possible. Being on the Deck 6 on the Disney Dream, we were smack dab in the middle of everything. Trying to catch an elevator was a pretty un-fun experience when we wanted to head up. We were happy we didn’t keep our luggage with us for debarkation because the wait for an elevator with our luggage would have been painful. (How about Fastpass for the elevators, Disney? jk, jk.)
And for the love of all that is good, if the port is more than a 3 hour drive away, we will fly there. That 16 hour drive home after the cruise was an oppressively humid smack to the face.
Disney Cruise Line Quick Tips
Notes to self, for future planning purposes:
- Pack everyone an extra pair of sandals, and make sure you pack the nice closed-toe kind. They should be versatile enough to go from the beach to the main dining room.
- Book those character appearances that require tickets! This includes picture opportunities with Cinderella, Tiana, Elsa, and a few others— the créme de la créme of Disney character appearances. I booked exactly zero, eating a big pang of jealousy as we passed those who had. My kids didn’t care, but gosh darnit, I wanted my photo with them! [chokes back a sob]
- The cabanas on Castaway Cay? Probably way worth it on a longer cruise. Adding this to my future cruise prep to-do list.
- Take advantage of the BYOB allowance. Beer and wine are hella expensive on a cruise, so if you plan on partaking in some mid-afternoon lushness, bring that a few beers on board with you. (Check with Disney Cruise Line beforehand though to confirm the limits)
- Bite the bullet and get a quality waterproof camera for vacations that’ll involve a lot of time in the water. It’ll be absolutely worth not having to worry about losing or ruining your phone or DSLR/interchangeable lens camera. The Olympus TG-5 looks might nice. (wink, wink hubby, if you’re reading this)
- Carry on as little as you possibly can. That means ID and travel documents, medications, and any absolute essentials for the little ones. Oh, and the beer. Don’t forget the beer.