Sailing with Disney is such a dream come true that we make sure to do it every year! We are often asked why we would choose to cruise with Disney when we don’t have kids and the answer is simple.We rarely ever see kids on board! Disney has the most amazing kids-only areas that are devoted to their entertainment, so kids are always there having the time of their lives. In fact, we usually only see children in the main dining rooms at night and when we stop at the free drink station which is adjacent to the kid’s pools. And because this is a “family cruise,” most of the adults-only areas are never crowded, thus we find the cruise very relaxing. The entire Disney Cruise experience is absolute perfection and no other cruise line we’ve tried comes close to creating the magical experience that Disney does.
GETTING THERE AND EMBARKATION
Disney cruise line has an excellent website that allows you to get everything taken care of before you arrive to the ship. Not only can you book your cruise, but you can book excursions and fill out pertinent cruise documents. If you will be requiring transfers from Orlando airport to the cruise port, you can also sign up for Disney bus transfers on their website.
Disney bus transfers are the easiest way to get to the port and although it is pricey, it is well worth the cost since you can sit back and relax for the 45 minute drive on an air conditioned bus while watching Disney cartoons and Disney trivia. There is a bathroom at the back of the bus.
If you check luggage at the airport, you’ll be mailed tags ahead of time to place on your luggage and when you check luggage at the airport, they’ll be sent directly to your stateroom on the ship. If you don’t check any bags, they’ll be taken from you once you get to the transfer bus in Orlando and will then be delivered to your stateroom, usually by 4pm.
The bus transfer area at the airport is not as efficient as it once was. In previous years, not only would you check in for your bus, but you could check in for your cruise and be given your Key To The World card and other important information. Then they’d load your luggage onto the bus for you. Now, when you arrive to the bus location, there’s a very unorganized line where workers ask to see your ID/passport and ensure that there are tags on your luggage. They place you in another line where you wait to be placed on the next bus, while all along carrying your own luggage.
But once on the bus, everything’s a breeze. The best part of the Disney bus transfer is driving up to the cruise ship. It’s an excellent opportunity for a picture!
If you prefer not to use the Disney transfers, you can take a taxi, rent a car or limo, or if you have your own car, you can park at the port or there are lots near the port that you can chose to use. Parking at the port opens at 11:00am.
Port Canaveral address:
Port Canaveral Terminal A
9155 Charles M. Rowland Dr.
Port Canaveral, FL 32920
Once you arrive at Port Canaveral, you’re ushered into a large building where you go through a quick security check and then you get in line to check in for the cruise. Boarding beings at 1:00 and ends at 3:45pm. You must be on board by that time.
If you have already been on one Disney cruise before, you’re lucky enough to get in the much shorter line since you are already a Castaway Member. Lines move quickly and employees are professional and friendly. Your picture is taken and then added to your Key To The World Card which is your ID, what you use to get on and off the ship, your room key, and the only form of money accepted on the ship. To purchase anything on board all you have to do is show your Key To The World Card and that item will be added to you onboard account. At any time, you can stop at guest services to see how much you have charged so far.
You’ll also be given a boarding group number and until your group number is called, you can hang out and take pictures with some of the Disney characters who come out. We have never waited more than 15 minutes for our group to be called.
Once your group is called, you walk through the giant Mickey ears where Disney staff will swipe your Key To The World Card to ensure you match the picture that is attached to the card. Then the fun begins because you finally get to walk onto the ship!
If you aren’t ready to eat, you can explore the ship and this is an excellent time to enjoy the pool or ride the AquaDuck which is not crowded at this time. It is a thrilling ride that makes your heart race but isn’t scary since there aren’t any huge drops.
Your cabin won’t be ready until about 2pm so you’ll want to remember to have a Day Bag with you. This is one of the most important things to have with you on day one. Since your luggage is taken from you at the airport or Port Canaveral and won’t be delivered to your cabin until after 4pm, you’ll want a day bag with you. In your day bag should be important items such as ID’s, cruise documents, medication, cell phones, swim suits, sunglasses, Fish Extender (for a detailed review about the Fish Extender Exchange, click here), and a Drink Bottle that you can fill at the free beverage station on the pool deck. Only small cups are provided so a refillable drink bottle makes all the difference in the world.
After eating, you may want to check that your Dining Reservations are what you want them to be. Around 3pm, in an announced location, you can verify your dining options. Some people opt to change their dining rotations and others want to ensure that their request for a dinner table for only their party has been granted (if you are a family of 3, you’ll be seated with another family of 3 and if you’re a child-free couple, you’ll be seated with 3 other child-free couples). Before our sail date we always request a table for just the two of us and it has always been granted. Disney always does their best to accommodate your wishes.
The Safety Drill usually occurs around 4pm and if you are lucky, your gathering spot will be inside one of the theaters where you can sit and relax in the lovely air-conditioning. If you are unlucky, your gathering spot will be outside in the hot sun where you have to stand in lines, packed tightly with sweaty strangers who don’t know how to follow the simplest of instructions.
After the Drill there is a Sail Away Party. We attended this on our first Disney Cruise and never found it necessary to participate again since it only appeals to young children. Now days, we enjoy sitting at the very back of the ship as the ship begins to sail away.
Day one is also the best time to take a Tour the Spa and Gym as they will be empty and you get to see all the rooms in the back, plus you can sign up to win spa giveaways such as a free massage or free entrance to the Rainforest Spa. (For a detailed review of the Rainforest Spa, click here.)
Like most of the brand new ships, the Disney Dream has stabilizers that keep the ship from rocking too much. You’ll feel a little movement on the first day of the cruise but once you get your sea legs, it’s not that noticeable. If by chance, you happen to feel sea sick and didn’t bring any Dramamine with you, the guest services desk will give you some for free. You can also get ear plugs for free.
MY GUIDE CARD
The Disney Dream is massive and unfortunately lacks interactive maps all over the ship that help you find your way around. I have always found it helpful to make my own little guide card where I write what is on every deck from FRONT TO BACK of ship. This is the guide card I made for our recent Royal Caribbean Cruise.
Along with deck information, I also include important details such as cabin number and dining time. I use a small piece of paper that fits easily into my husband’s pocket and he can keep it with him at all time. Once I have written all the important information on it, I do a cheap lamination of clear packing tape over the back and front. It is very helpful. Here is what I include for the Disney Dream.
Cabin number 2222
Dining-second seating 8:15pm
Deck 1- Health Center, Tender Lobby
Deck 2-Enchanted Garden midship
Deck 3- Walt Disney Theatre, Shops, Guest Services, Royal Palace midship, Animators Palette.
Deck 4-Walt Disney Theatre Balcony, Buena Vista Theatre, Vista Café, Shutters midship, D Lounge, Adult District
Deck 5- Vibe, Buena Vista Theatre Balcony midship, kids deck
Deck 6-10 Cabins
Deck 11-Senses Spa, Adult Pool, Cove Café, Pool Food, Kids Pools, Arcade, Cabanas Buffet aft
Deck 12- Concierge Lounge, AquaDuck Entrance, Waves Bar, Remy, Palo, Meridian
Deck 13- Sun Deck, Currents Bar (WATCH FIREWORKS), Edge Teen Club, Sports Deck aft
APPEARANCE OF THE SHIP
The Disney Dream is almost 50% larger than their older sisters, the Wonder and Magic, and carries 4,000 passengers. Though this number of people may seem like far too many to squeeze onto a ship, we never found any area of the ship to be too congested except for the pool deck and midship elevators. The Disney Dream is a gorgeous ship, as it should be since it is only 4 years old. No matter what time of day or where you are on the ship, you will always see someone cleaning which is why, to this day, the ship still looks brand new.
All cabins are decorated in a festive color scheme of red and blue with Disney touches scattered throughout. Each cabin has a fridge, TV, comfortable bedding, storage under the bed, a large closet, sofa, desk, and a safe.
The bathrooms actually have ample space in comparison to other cruise lines and come with a good quality hair dryer, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion.
Staterooms aboard Disney ships are larger than staterooms on most all other cruise lines. Even the inside rooms are comfortable and spacious.
Be sure to pay attention to what is above your cabin when selecting a stateroom. For example, it’s a terrible idea to get a room that is directly under the gym or pool deck where a great deal of noise is made but it’s an excellent choice to be below the spa or other cabins which are usually quiet.
Disney Dream has an exciting new feature in their inside cabins called a virtual porthole that we truly love. This virtual porthole shows you a live feed of what is happening outside the ship and occasionally a Disney character will swim by!
Another plus to inside rooms is the bed layout. When you enter the room, you first walk through a mini living area with sofa and desk and the bed is located at the back. We really prefer this layout to the other stateroom types that have the bed at the front of the room and the sofa and desk at the back by the window/verandah.
There are a few different types of inside cabin. The cheapest only has a single bathroom. This bathroom has a sink, toilet, and small bathtub – it is an actual bathtub instead of those horribly tiny upright stalls found on other cruise lines.
The next level of inside cabin is very popular because even though it is the same layout as the aforementioned room, it has a few more square feet plus the added bonus of a split bath. In the picture below, the bathroom to the right has a sink and bathtub, and the bathroom to the left has a sink and toilet.
These have a large circular window with the same floor plan as the room above and with the split bath. I personally do not recommend this room because by the second day of the cruise, our window became foggy from the outside and we could barely see clearly out the window for the remainder of the cruise. These pictures are from the Disney Wonder, which is an older ship but has the exact same floorplan minus the updated decor.
These rooms are a nice splurge if you are going to spend an adequate amount of time using it. The room is slightly larger than an outside room and has the split bath design. We only ever stepped out onto our balcony to see the sunrise or moon so the added cost didn’t seem worth it for us. If you book adjoining verandah rooms with the intent of opening the sliding wall between your two verandahs to create one big verandah, be aware that these walls only slide back halfway.
When we booked our recent cruise on the Disney Dream, we selected an inside cabin, guarantee category, and were assigned 6001 which to our surprise was an accessible room. The room was so spacious that it was like a suite and the bathroom was huge compared to the bathrooms in the other cabins.
Thankfully, Disney has begun limiting the areas where smoking is allowed. According to the Disney Cruise Website, here is where it is permitted:
Deck 4, port side, aft, on the outside Promenade Deck from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM
Deck 12, port side, aft, the outdoor area accessible through the Meridian Lounge at any time
Deck 13, port side, forward, near Currents Bar, at any time
PIRATE NIGHT AND FIREWORKS
On a Disney Cruise, most people take dressing up as a pirate seriously! While some people like dressing in their pirate attire for dinner (there is a special Pirate Menu in all dining rooms), others prefer to dress up after dinner. The Pirate Night Party is held on the pool deck and is worth seeing only once. If you are child-free, you won’t be too impressed because it consists of Disney Characters dancing around in pirate costumes and you have to deal with all the parents pushing you in order to get their kids a better view. The real treat is the fireworks show that takes place after the Pirate Party.
Disney is the only cruise line allowed to set off fireworks at sea and it is a show not to be missed. The best place to see the fireworks is Currents Bar which is at the front of deck 13. There are tables with comfortable chairs and you don’t need to order a drink to sit at the tables. The view from this spot is uninterrupted and the fireworks light the sky right above you. We always head there right after dinner (we do second seating dinner). You’ll need to arrive at least 45 minutes before the fireworks show if you want to get a table. As you can see in the picture below, we are seated at a table against the railing and there are a lot of people on the deck below standing around waiting for the fireworks.
Most passengers are in their late 40’s with kids but there are always some child-free couples who are easy to meet since you will be seated with them in the dining room. Disney does an excellent job of seating you with other child-free couples who are near the same age as you. For the most part, these other couples are friendly but forced small talk on a nightly basis is not something we particularly enjoy which is why we always request a table to ourselves when we book our cruise.
Disney Cruise line has more foreigners sailing their ships than any other cruise line. You will hear a variety of languages and accents. The only problem that arises because of this is that most foreigners do not seem aware of American customs, especially the concept of personal space. Quite often, non-Americans will stand too close to you and squeeze themselves (along with their baby strollers) onto an already full elevator.
Here is where you can get beverages for free:
The drink station on the pool deck has sodas, juices, lemonade, tea, coffee. Remember to bring a refillable bottle.
The dining rooms offers sodas, juices, tea, and coffee for free but you will need to pay for alcoholic beverages and the special drinks that are listed on the menu.
The buffet has free sodas, juices, tea, coffee, milk. Alcohol can be ordered for a fee.
Here is where beverages are not free:
The Cove Café charges for any beverage ordered.
All bars will charge you even if you order a soda.
On the pool deck, if you order from a server, you’ll need to pay – even for sodas.
The Theatres charge for all drinks.
Sodas ordered from room service are not free.
On the last night of the cruise, you will receive small envelopes in your cabin with the names of all the people who served you. Inside are cards with the recommended amount of gratuity. Keep it as is or adjust it by going to guest services. At your last dinner, simply hand these envelopes to your dinner servers. The envelope for your stateroom host can be left in your room if you don’t get a chance to give it to him/her in person.
Even if you fail to do this, you will still be charged the recommended amount of gratuity.
The staff on every Disney cruise ship we have been on has provided the best customer service we have ever experienced. They are so kind and go out of their way to make your vacation perfect. They deserve every penny of the recommended amount.
Disney does a fantastic job of having food available around the clock and most of it is free. Besides Cabanas buffet, there are also the free quick service food options throughout the day on the pool deck and all this food is free. If you don’t want to sit out in the heat of the pool deck, you can take your food into the adjacent buffet. Even if the buffet is not serving food, you can still sit in there and the drink machine in there is still available for use.
Hot dogs, burgers, chicken fingers, and fries.
Sandwiches, panini’s, wraps, and fruit.
Cabana’s Buffet is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At dinner time it becomes table service dining. We have always found there to be a wide variety of good quality food offered. Indoor and outdoor seating are available.
Vanellope’s, named after the character Vanellope von Scheetz from the movie Wreck-It Ralph, is a gorgeous ice cream and sweet shop that makes you feel like a kid again! We were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices of gelatto and ice cream. I got a small cup of ice cream and my husband got a small cup of gelato for a total of $5.45. Both had an excellent flavor although the gelato had a much more creamy and smooth texture.
Room service is free but there’s a limited menu. You can ask for things that aren’t on the menu as long as they are similar to something already on the menu. For example, they offer a fruit bowl but we asked for a bowl of grapes only and they were happy to oblige. Sodas are not free when ordered from room service. When your food is delivered, you’ll need to sigh for it and even though it is free, it’s nice to tip a dollar or two on the slip.
Cove Café, which is adults only, has a variety of coffee type drinks for a fee and a small selection of desserts that are complimentary – no drink purchase necessary.
The Vista Café is similar to Cove Cafe except children are allowed. You can buy coffee type drinks and the pastries are free although they never seem fresh or all that appealing.
Most people only dine at the buffet for breakfast because they are unaware that they can go to one of the main dining rooms for a buffet breakfast where you are shown to a table and provided with table service. It’s nice not having to deal with the buffet crowd. Breakfast can also be ordered from room service.
There are three fabulous dining rooms that you rotate through while on your cruise called Animator’s Palate, The Royal Palace, and Enchanted Garden. You dining servers will always remain the same since they rotate with you. Each dining room has a different theme and menu and not only is it the best cruise food we’ve ever had but also the best service. (For a detailed review about the three dining rooms, click here.)
There are adults-only restaurants you can dine in for a fee that offer dinner and brunch. Palo and Remy are very popular but we personally can’t understand why considering that every time we’ve been there we found the food underwhelming and the service abysmal. (For a detailed review about Palo Brunch, click here.)
Every evening is an opportunity to have your picture taken by a professional photographer. There is no sitting fee but if you like the picture, you can buy it at Shutters which is the photo shop. You can have your picture taken with a pretty backdrop or pose with a Disney character. Each night, different characters come out and the lines can get fairly long, especially for Princesses. Don’t be afraid to pose with the characters if you are a child-free adult!
A photographer will be roaming the dining room each night and you’ll also see them throughout the cruise. You can politely say no or if you want your picture taken they will always ask for you Key To The World Card so the photo can be added to your portfolio at Shutters. You do not pay for photos until you go to Shutters and pick the ones you want. You aren’t obligated to buy anything if you don’t like them.
You can buy individual pictures or purchase a package. Do not wait until the last day of the cruise to go to Shutters because it will be completely packed with people.
There are a few stores aboard to spend some money or just do some browsing. The shops are always closed whenever the ship is in any port. Sea Treasures and Mickey’s Mainsail have all sorts of Disney themed clothing, picture frames, mugs, hats, stuffed animals, and Pirate stuff to wear on Pirate Night.
White Caps sells toiletry items such as shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, tampons, deodorant, etc. You’ll find a small variety of medicine including Tylenol, Zantax, Midol, Benadryl, Nyquil, and Dramamine but remember that you can get dramamine for free at guest services! There’s also chapstick and a selection of sunscreens. White Caps also has more expensive items like bottles of alcohol, perfume, and Coach handbags.
Whozit’s & Whatzit’s is located on the pool deck and has swimsuits, beach towels, flip flops, and such.
LAUNDRY is self service and there are a few laundry rooms around the ship that are very hard to find. The iron and ironing board are free but you’ll need to pay to use the washer and dryer.
It is best to book excursions early on the Disney Cruise website. If you wait to book excursion until you arrive on the ship, you’ll be disappointed to find that most everything is already sold out.
Online booking windows are different depending on how many Disney cruises you have taken. When your window arrives, stay up until midnight and book what you want online immediately. Here are the different Castaway Club member levels and when you can begin booking excursions, spa appointments, and adult restaurants:
If this is your first Disney cruise: booking opens 75 days before your cruise
Silver Castaway member: after 1 cruise – begin booking 90 days before your cruise
Gold Castaway member: after 5 cruises – begin booking 105 days before your cruise
Platinum Castaway member: after 10 cruises – being booking 120 days before your cruise
Once you arrive on the ship, Disney handles the rest. You will receive tickets the night before your excursion telling you what time and where to meet on the ship. Then you and you excursion group depart the ship together and a Disney staff member will lead you to your excursion transportation. Even though booking excursions through Disney, or any cruise line for that matter, is more expensive than booking directly through the excursion provider, it is better because the ship will not leave without you if you are late getting back to the ship after your excursion.
For a detailed review about Nassau, click here.
For a detailed review about Castaway Cay and the Adult Cabanas, click here.
ONBOARD ACTIVITIES FOR ADULTS
There are a myriad of activities to choose from if you are child-free. Each night a navigator will be delivered to your cabin which shows all the activities taking place the next day. The navigator can also be found on the Disney Cruise Line app. You can connect to the onboard wifi for free to use the app (you’ll have to pay if you want to do anything other than the app). With the app, you can select items you want to do and save them to your favorites.
We love relaxing at the adult pool and have always been able to find chairs. Chair hogging is not allowed on Disney and you’ll always see staff removing items from a chair that have been left alone for too long. The only time the pool is ever crowded is on sea days.
There is usually a fun adults-only drawing class and we have learned how to draw Mickey and Pluto.
There is a towel folding class where you learn how to make all the cute animals that your stateroom host leaves in your cabin.
Bingo may sound like an activity for grandmas and grandpas but Disney really makes it a fun event. There are lot of chances to win because between each bingo game, prizes are given away such as on-board credit, entrance to the Rainforest Spa, or a free 8×10 photo. Every time you are one number away from winning Bingo, they have you stand up, do a little shimmy to fun music, and remain standing until someone yells Bingo. It’s very exciting! And it’s a real treat when B11 is called because the staff does their Beyoncé dance (B11 in Spanish sounds like the word Beyoncé).
The Buena Vista Movie Theatre plays Disney movies during the day and there’s always plenty of seating. All snacks and drinks at the theatre are not free. You are welcome to bring in drinks and snacks from the pool deck. In the evening there is usually a brand new movie showing but the theatre gets extremely crowded so you’ll need to show up early.
A cooking demonstration for adults-only usually occurs in the afternoon or you could pop into the gym for a workout.
The Spa and Salon is a nice way to relax.
In the evenings there are musicals that are worth seeing once. They are not the highest quality shows you’ll ever see but they are certainly entertaining. Villain’s Tonight has a lot of funny moments sprinkled throughout the show that are geared towards adults. The Golden Mickeys also had some enjoyable moments where many of the classic Disney characters appear. Disney’s Believe was dreadfully boring with an embarrassing moment of cultural appropriation at the beginning and the only moment of interest is when all the princesses come out towards the end. The main floor of the theatre fills up quickly but if you show up 10-15 before the show, there is still plenty of seating available on the upper level.
D Lounge hosts an adults-only show in the evening that is similar to the Newlywed Game and it shouldn’t be missed. It’s hilarious and afterwards they play dance music.
The Adult District is open to all ages during the day, but in the evening it is exclusive to adults. It includes the following areas:
District Lounge is a piano bar with live music but it is always dead and seems like wasted space. There’s usually only one or two couples there.
Pink, a visually striking champagne bar, is another space that is mostly unused. In all our sailings with Disney, we’ve never seen more than a handful of people in there.
Skyline, on the other hand, normally has a decent crowd because it is quiet and intimate while also having the most unique design. There are screens that change every so often to feature different skylines from around the world and if you pay attention, you’ll notice that the music also changes to reflect the music style of that country.
Evolution is the dance club that sometimes draws and crowd and sometimes doesn’t. It completely depends on your cruise. On most of our Disney cruises, there have only been small crowds in the club but during the Halloween cruises we’ve been on, the club was packed.
687 Pub is a great place to hang out. There are comfortable chairs, sports on the giant TV’s, board games, and throughout the day there are trivia games such as movie trivia, Disney trivia, sports trivia, 90’s music trivia, and so on. The Disney staff member running the trivia always puts on a fun show. Late at night there are free and tasty appetizers located right outside of 687 Pub.
(If you are looking for ridiculous entertainment such as a Belly Flop Contest or World’s Sexiest Man Contest where chunky guys dance around like fools, you’re better off sailing with Carnival or Royal Caribbean. Some appreciation for Disney culture is required to enjoy this cruise.)
DEPARTING THE SHIP
On the last night of the cruise, your stateroom hosts will provide you will all the necessary paperwork to be filled out for disembarkation and they’ll also give you instructions about how to leave the ship. You can either choose to walk off the ship or disembark with a large group of people who will all eat breakfast together.
Breakfast option: If you choose this option, you must place your luggage outside your cabin door on the last night of your cruise. Staff members will collect your luggage that night so be sure to keep your day bag with you that has your paperwork and ID in it and a change of clothes for the next day. Far too many people forget about an outfit and have to disembark the ship in their pajamas. At your last dinner, your server will tell you which dining room to go to for your last breakfast and you’ll be assigned a time to show up. After finishing breakfast, you must disembark the ship and enter the big customs room. Before getting into the customs line, you’ll need to locate your luggage which is easy because luggage is placed in different areas based on color and an assigned Disney character. Then you get into the quick moving customs line. They look at your paperwork and ask a few questions about what you bought on the islands, and then you are free to go.
Walk off: If you choose this option, you will not leave your luggage outside your cabin on the last night. You need to keep your luggage with you. In the morning, you must disembark early, usually as soon as the ship docks which means you skip breakfast. Simply have all your paperwork filled out and exit the ship. Once you are back on land you’ll be ushered into a long but quick moving line to go through customs where they look at your paperwork and ask a few questions about what you bought on the islands. Then you are free to go. We always choose to walk off no matter what cruise line we are on and have found it to be the quickest and most efficient way of disembarking.
Bus transfers to airport: If you have already purchased bus transfers, simply walk outside following the signs to the bus area which is the same place you were dropped off for the start of the cruise. Staff members will be everywhere to direct you. You’ll be told which bus line to get in and the bus driver will take your luggage from you and put it underneath the bus. Recently, a few of the bus drivers we’ve had have been pretty tacky and stand by all the luggage with their hand extended. Basically, they are rudely asking for tips. Tips are not required, especially if they display that type of behavior.