Our Very MerryTime Cruise on the Disney Dream 2015: Travelogue Day 1
So we’ve been back from our Disney cruise about 72 hours now and we’re still recovering from our vacation, LOL! We had a phenomenal time and our trip couldn’t have been any more perfect. I know many of my friends have questions about the Disney cruise experience so I decided to do my best to chronicle, daily, our experience and include some tips along the way…. I hope you enjoy these posts!
We booked our Very MerryTime Cruise for the first week in December which is a great “off season” time to travel. We were scheduled to board the Disney Dream ship for a 4 day cruise with an itinerary of Nassau, Castaway Cay (Disney’s private island) and one day at sea. After a hectic morning dropping off Thanksgiving guests and cleaning house we finally made our way to the port. This morning was a somewhat windy, beautiful Florida day and the skies were as sunny as our spirits. As we neared Port Canaveral on the highway 528 the girls started squealing with glee as we caught a view of the Disney Dream docked in the distance.
Arriving at the port we were greeted by helpful and friendly parking staff who helped us to coordinate the drop off of luggage curbside (a benefit unique to Disney’s port and invaluable to parents traveling with kids) and directed us to the parking areas ( for the 4 night sailing the parking fees at the port were $75 for the parking garage and $95 for premium parking which was a lot right next to the walkway into the cruise terminal). We left our luggage with a capable porter at the curb and then parked our cars.
Check in at the port was handled competently by the staff. I just love Disney’s port; it’s so modern and airy it feels like a more luxurious travel experience from the beginning, in comparison to the other ports I’ve visited so far. Our family was directed to a check in staff member after a very brief wait in line. It truly helped having all of our travel documents easily accessible and the required documents signed and reviewed beforehand.
After check in we decided to skip the lengthy line for pictures with Sailor Goofy and headed up the gangway to board the Disney Dream. Disney cruise lines has a very special boarding experience which features a personalized welcome by the cruise staff and lots of applause. It may sound corny as I describe it but it truly makes you feel special, as if the staff has been waiting just for you and your family to join them on this journey.
The Disney Dream has a gorgeous, classically styled atrium with a massive, stunning chandelier as the focal point. As this was a Very MerryTime Cruise the entire ship was flawlessly decorated for the holiday season.
There was even a real gingerbread house in the main lobby, just off the atrium! Though we were very excited to get to the fun (and the food on the top deck) we stopped for a moment to marvel at the beauty of the ship that would be our home for the next 4 days.
Before heading up to the pool deck buffet for lunch we split up to handle some tasks. Joel and my in laws took the girls up to the Oceaneer Club and Lab to complete the check in process for the girls and I headed to the designated area to schedule an appointment to meet Anna and Elsa as well as the for the general Princess meet and greet. This whole process took about one hour which was annoying compared to our experience on Disney Magic earlier this year; on the Magic we were able to make appointments and dinner reservations in about 15 minutes total, including wait time in the line. Disney Dream is a considerably larger ship so it stands to reason that there are many more passengers on board to work with. Tip: Most of the character photo ops are at no cost and do not require reservations. You can find a daily character appearance schedule on the free Disney Cruise App or in the Daily Navigator. Because of the popularity of Anna and Elsa and the Princess Gatherings (3 or 4 princess gather for individual photos in the atrium) complimentary tickets are required. The ticket system is used for crowd control, ensuring that the lines are never too long.
Tickets in hand and with the kids both checked into the Oceaneer Club/Lab system we all headed up to the buffet on the pool deck called Cabanas. Walking into the restaurant we were met by a friendly crew member who was offering antiseptic hand wipes to all passengers headed in to eat. A quick conversation with this woman (and a glance at her name tag) revealed that she is from Guyana which is where my husband’s family hails from. We spent a few minutes chatting with her about the going’s on back home in her country and her upcoming vacation leave which fortunately is happening right in time for the Christmas holidays.
Inside Cabanas we were immediately greeted by another cast member who immediately began hunting down a table in his section for the 6 of us. He found one quickly and we were relieved that we were finally able to sit down a rest a bit. We really appreciated his attention to our needs, even without us asking at all. Compared to our last experience on the Oasis of the Seas in the Windjammer buffet, the Cabana’s experience was much better. We enjoyed a great meal and with all parties satisfied we headed to our staterooms.
It was nice to be back in a Disney verandah state room again. We had originally booked a GTY verandah rate which is a special, lower cost rate cruise lines offer when someone is booking close to the sailing date. GTY rates are basically a guarantee of whatever type of room you select; you book knowing that you wont be able to choose your specific stateroom but there is also a slim chance that you will be upgraded to a higher category if your GTY room category sells out. Because we booked less than 30 days prior to sailing we were able to take advantage of the special pricing with the understanding that we would not be allowed to choose our own staterooms. When I was booking the trip I made a special request that our reservation be linked with my in laws and I also asked that if possible our rooms could be assigned close to each other, fully understanding that this could not be guaranteed. I was beyond pleased to find out upon our arrival that not only were our rooms assigned right next to each other (with a connecting interior door) but we had also been upgraded to a higher verandah room category! #winning
We didn’t have long to spend in our stateroom before it was time for the muster drill. Our muster station this time was in the Walt Disney Theatre which was different than our last cruise where we had to stand outside on deck in the sun and heat for the entire drill. We sat through the safety drill and then headed up to the pool deck for the sail away party. The pool deck was packed with swimmers and dancing cruisers but we were able to find a spot on a higher deck, overlooking the pool area. In some ways I actually preferred this location to view the party as we had an open view of the ship leaving port Canaveral as well as all the festivities happening one deck below.
Dinner came shortly after the Sail Away party and we dragged ourselves back down to our staterooms. We were all so entirely exhausted from the excitement of the day and the busy holiday weekend prior that we barely made it out to dinner that night. We were scheduled to dine in Animator’s Palate that evening and we didn’t want to miss if possible.
Animator’s Palate is different on the Disney Dream in comparison to the Disney Magic. The Magic featured a general fairy tale theme on it’s animated screens, enhanced by an elaborate show and opportunities for cruisers to watch their own animations come to life. On the Dream the Animator’s Palate features a Finding Nemo theme with underwater animations lighting up the screens throughout the restaurant. Diners can interact with Crush and Bruce from the movie through some pretty slick technology, carrying on conversations with the animations. We enjoyed our meal there and our serving staff were great. They even had child friendly cups of water waiting at the table when we arrived with our kids names on them and cute little doodles! It’s these little touches that really make an impact on your experience.
Dinner was really good but we were all quite tired and the kids were nearing melt down mode. Our 4 year old kept asking us repeatedly when she could go to the room and go to bed and our 7 year old was feeling a little woozy from the gently rocking ship. After dinner was completed the in laws took the girls back to the room ( hooray for connecting staterooms!) and Hubby and I wandered down the the tree lighting ceremony in the main lobby. As you can imagine the area was PACKED beyond reason; we actually went up two flights to view the festivities from a higher level but we still had difficulty getting a good view.
The Tree lighting was short and sweet, featuring Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy along with the cruise director as MC and lots of music and singing. After a count down the tree was lit and the crowd erupted in cheers and applause. Shortly thereafter the crowds began to disperse and we headed back to our room to call it a night.
Our first day on the Disney Dream was absolutely fantastic and we were very excited to visit Nassau then next day. I should have the next travelogue post up in a few days… Have any of you been on a Disney Cruise yet? Or do you have one planned in the near future?