Thursday, July 3, 2014

Disney Dream Cruise Report!

Disney Dream at Castaway Cay
Disney Cruise Line and Disney Aulani just won "Best of"  awards from Travel + Leisure this week, and it reminded me that I never posted my cruise report! Now that two months have gone by and we have no current vacation plans, it was really rough to get pictures together for this post. I want to be back on a boat where there is ice cream and hot dogs any time I want them! 

Francis and I were both huge cruise skeptics before this trip,  but agreed to try a three day cruise because I wanted to be able to recommend the Land & Sea vacation packages honestly. If you read Craves,  Caves, & Graves, you know that we are spontaneous,  road-tripping people and our main worry was feeling trapped on a cruise.

Daily Princess Meet & Greet
We have the utmost faith in Disney when it comes to vacations,  though, and knew that Disney beats all when it comes to food,  entertainment,  and service.  On the flight to Orlando and all through our 4 Park days,  we overheard veteran cruisers evangelizing about Disney Cruise Line and the myriad ways they beat the competition,  so that was reassuring.

Nassau, Bahamas 
I have no other cruise experience to compare it to,  but I will say this: we were so exhausted from the parks that we happily stayed on the ship the first day instead of venturing onto Nassau,  and the Disney Dream was full of people with the same plan. We were docked between the Carnival Sensation and the Norwegian Getaway, and the difference was shocking. We later found out from a seasoned cruiser in our dining party that the Carnival ship has a full day at sea after Nassau,  while the Disney Dream stops at the private Island,  Castaway Cay, so that is why their ship looked deserted. Still,  I think it speaks volumes that there is so much onboard entertainment on a Disney ship that many,  many people see no reason to spend extra money on shore excursions.

Another thing I appreciated that first day was that our inside stateroom,  while small,  was so comfortable,  and our stateroom attendant so attentive,  that we happily spent many hours there,  just watching TV. I know that sounds weird on vacation,  but vacation is a break from our "kids" : two cats and two dogs who are all attention whores.

 The inside staterooms have "Magic Portholes", which are flat screen monitors built into the wall that show the camera view of the outside of the ship. It keeps the room from feeling claustrophobic,  plus there are visits from animated characters to break up the monotony of "at sea". We saw Winnie the Pooh,  Tinker bell,  Kevin from Up, the Emperor and Pacha,  and a few others.

Castaway Cay Serenity Bay
Castaway Cay Mount Rustmore
Day two,  we visited Disney's private island,  Castaway Cay. We're not really beach people, but we wanted to explore,  and the BBQ lunch at the adults only beach was excellent. The adult beach,  aptly named Serenity Bay, was very quiet and relaxing. The island also has several gift shops,  plus rentals for all kinds of activities and water sports. They even have an island 5K in the morning,  as well as yoga classes on the beach.

Castaway Cay Pelican Plunge
After lunch we went back to the boat,  because we knew that there were so many people on the island that the wait time for AquaDuck would be drastically reduced. AquaDuck is an amazing water ride through a tube that runs all the way around the ship, and I think the best part of this whole vacation was Francis giggling behind me on that raft. The whole pool deck, especially the adult-only decks,  were another reason we were happy to stay on the boat.  One thing we learned on the Keys to the Kingdom tour is how Disney uses music to set the mood, and this technology is put to good use on the ships. You can walk between the all-ages area,  which is like a party boat, to the adult area,  where the music is subdued, or the total silence of the upper adult deck,  and be blown away by the use of speakers and acoustics. The adult area is so quiet you could fall asleep (and we did).

I didn't get a lot of pictures of the dining rooms or food, but everything was EXCELLENT, particularly our solo dinner at Palo on the last night. Everyone should dine in a restaurant with a wall of windows on the top deck of a cruise ship at sunset once in their life. Make that happen for yourself.

The other dining experience I highly recommend is Artist's Palette. Our rotational dining group was all adults traveling without children and I know everyone at our table had as much fun as the families did in this restaurant. All those "pictures" are video screens that come to life and interact with the guests. It's AMAZING. There is also "Enchanted Artwork" throughout the ship!

Now that we are in the "Castaway Club", which gives you early booking privileges for Castaway Cay cabanas, Palo, the spa, and shore excursions, PLUS we never got around to seeing any of the shows, so now I feel like we have to go again. Who's with me? :)

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