The second part of our recent family vacation was our first trip on the Disney Cruise Line. The cruise itself is one discussion, as is the impact the schedule had on our preceding trip to Walt Disney World. Let’s begin with the latter before we get into the experiences on the boat itself.
For our first time, we decided to book a 3-night cruise (Thursday afternoon- Sunday morning). In retrospect, we could have easily enjoyed another day on the Disney Dream, however it would have to be alongside a minimum 3 days on land. Since we were leaving on Thursday, the stay in Walt Disney World was the first without a trip to animal kingdom. Overall the combination of six nights was a bit longer than most of our time in the Disney theme..which the cruise complemented the land very well.
As expected, we knew that we would have plenty of time at the pool and the beach, as well as a good amount of characters on board. This enabled us to spend an extra hour in the park each morning (at the expense of time we usually spend in the pool/beach area of Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Beach Club) and pass on any waits for Character meets while in the 90-degree heat of Florida. We focused our stay in WDW on our major attractions as well as any sentimental favorites. WDW Restaurants were selected to complement the dining of the cruise for each evening, with our only Character Dining to see the Disney Junior characters not available on the Disney Dream. We planned our first part with an eye on the expected activity of the cruise.
On Thursday morning, after our last jaunt into Epcot, we set out for Port Canaveral. The embarkation process was a bit of a worry for us, but the cast members working at the port made the entire arrival smooth. Within 30 minutes from parking we were being introduced as we entered the lobby of the ship (a tradition that kicks off the family adventure). Being our first time on a Disney boat, we began to take in all of the details, blending elegant cruise look with disney theme feel. The first hallway on deck 3 that we traveled had framed drawings of each of the princesses leading past two of the restaurants on board, generating just a bit more curiousity. After taking the elevators up to deck 11(the pool deck) for our first cruise lunch buffet we headed to our stateroom. (Since our room was on deck 9 we were able to consistently move back and forth from the pools and snack bars using the stairs with ease.)
Our first glimpse at our family stateroom with a verandah was exciting as we entered to see the unique split bath, the queen bed, sofa and balcony, the room was well sized to our family for a cruise ship, with the split bath being pleasantly surprising. After settling in, we took in our first trip to the pools where got our first good view of the Aquaduck water slide. In whole, the pool deck was quite impressive and wrapped in a Disney spirit.
The first dinner was soon after, located in the Enchanted Garden. The food was excellent and our wait staff was exceptional…..especially with our children. After dinner, we went to our first show on the Disney Dream, the Golden Mickeys. The theater was incredible and the show was the first of three great experiences for our oldest son, who always enjoys shows at Walt DisneyWorld. The night ended for our crew after the show, ready to start our first full day on Friday.
Friday morning brought sunshine to our room, which started with birthday wished for both my daughter and my wife. After a quick breakfast up at Cabanas buffet, we went down to the main concourse to greet the Disney Princesses. The majority of our group stayed for chance to meet several favorites, while my youngest son and I decided to go claim a spot by the family pool. Having decided to stay on the boat for the day, we enjoyed a great morning at the splash play area, Nemo’s Reef….as well as the birthday girls getting the first chance to go on the Aquaduck. Reviews of the water slide came back with huge thumbs up (which I did get to ride later with my daughter)..capping off a fun day pool side.
Friday was also “Pirate night” on the boat…with the kids (and adults) being encourage to dress up in pirate gear for dinner and pirate show. Dinner was in the Royal Palace, with glass slipper chandelier above us. Once again, the meal was excellent, topped off with a birthday celebration from the wait staff for the girls. Afterwards, we enjoyed the Pirate Party up on the pool deck…before heading down to see “Villians Tonight” in the Walt Disney Theater to wrap our evening.
Saturday morning began with the Disney Dream pulling into Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. We gathered our beach gear and headed off the ship for the first time since departing from Florida. The island was quite large…with Disney providing a tram to different parts (a throwback to the parks as well). We hopped off at the second stop, putting us near a family beach, the pirate plunge play area, and refreshment area. Nearby was one of the main dining areas as well as small beach shops. The time on Castaway Cay was fun for all…a beach day in the beautiful water of the Bahamas…yet again with a Disney feel.
Our final evening dinner began at Animators Palate, a tribute to Disney Animation. The atmosphere was great..truly unique that could only happen on a Disney Cruise. After dinner we went down to the theater once again to enjoy Disney’s “Believe”. The show was possibly the best of the three, with the final stamp of approval coming from our son, the theater fan. With the end of that show, we set on back for our last night in our stateroom.
Sunday morning came soon enough ..with our first ever Disney Cruise coming to an end. We departed the boat…climbed into our car..and set off to drive back to Connecticut (with a planned stop overnight in NC).
In the end, the addition of the Disney Cruise to our family vacation this year helped us extend our trip with more days of Disney fun. While we won’t be back on the Dream every year, the adventure gave us wonderful new experiences and memories for years to come.