The kids had a long weekend in October and we finally took a Disney cruise, something they had been asking to do for years. We sailed on the Disney Dream 3-night cruise departing from Port Canaveral on October 16. We flew to Orlando on Wednesday night (using points and our Southwest Companion Passes) and used a Marriott annual free night certificate to stay at the SpringHill Suites right by the airport, which was convenient since we didn’t arrive until 11:30pm, and took the complimentary shuttle. The next morning, after our free hotel breakfast, we were picked up by Happy Limo and driven to Port Canaveral. I considered renting a car and parking at the port; renting a car, dropping it at the port, then renting another car to drive back to the airport (the cheapest option); or using a limo services (the most expensive option), and ultimately went for the convenience. Happy Limo was $230 round trip, and both drivers were on time, nice, and professional. Highly recommend!
We are big Disney people, but this was our first cruise (Disney or otherwise), and although the kids have seen many, many commercials for the Disney cruise, they didn’t really know what to expect (and I’m not sure we did either). Wow. We were really impressed with everything and it definitely exceeded our expectations. The ship was clean, well maintained, and all of the finishes and décor were high-end. We booked this about 60 days out (ridiculously late for us!), so there were very few connecting room choices left. Disney has family suites that fit 5, but we really prefer to have 2 rooms now that the kids are older. I had wanted a verandah room, but settled on 2 interior rooms on Deck 2. Turns out I’m glad we didn’t spend the extra money for the outside verandah room, we spent so little time in there. Disney’s interior rooms have magical portholes, which look like portholes with video of what you would be seeing. The staterooms are well-laid out. Both rooms had a large bed, a couch that turns into a single bed, and a bed that pulls down from the ceiling creating a bunk bed over the couch bed. Our stateroom attendant had the kids’ room made up every evening when we returned, so we didn’t have to do a thing.
The boarding process was pretty straightforward. We dropped our luggage outside, entered the terminal, and got in line. The line moved fairly quickly and we were at the check in desk in no time. We got our key cards and our assigned boarding group 9. Once they started calling boarding groups it moved very quickly. By 11:30, our group was called and we were getting on the ship. We headed straight to Cabanas restaurant for lunch. The buffet was very impressive. Lots of shrimp, stone crabs, mussels, and other seafood, as well as lamb chops, beef, pasta, and pretty much everything you could want. The restaurant was a bit chaotic with so many people, but the food was good. After lunch, we headed out to the pool area as the kids wanted to try the AquaDuck. My husband and I found a nice lounger for 2 just on the other side in the adults only area, and the kids were off. It was so nice and peaceful in the adults only area! They rode the slide twice before they let us know they were ready to move on. The kids were a little bit hesitant about the kids clubs, but we decided to check out the open houses to see what they were like. Of course our 3 kids spanned the ages of the three different clubs. My oldest was in Vibe, for teens, my middle was in Edge, for tweens, and my youngest (10) was in the Oceaneer’s Club. Of course, since his brother was in Edge, he was fixated on also being in Edge. We asked in Edge if he could use this club and were surprised they said yes, as long as we understood that this was not a sign-in club and he could come and go as he pleased. In the end, the youngest two spent almost no time in Edge. My oldest ended up loving Vibe and spent a lot of time there hanging out with new friends.
After the open houses was the mandatory safety drill. Ours was in the Walt Disney theater. This lasted less than a half hour and then we headed to our staterooms, 2517 and 2519. I really liked the location of these rooms. They were definitely off the beaten path and very quiet, but convenient to elevators and the Enchanted Garden restaurant. I would definitely book these again. The rooms were more spacious than I was expecting and had full bathtubs rather than just showers. Not that we used the tubs but I could see this being very important with small children.
We had the late dinner seating, so our show time was 6:15 and our dinner time was 8:15 each night. You are assigned a restaurant rotation, as well, and up first was Enchanted Garden. The first night show was entitled The Golden Mickeys. We were in the theater by about 5:45 which was wholly unnecessary. We could have come in much closer to start time. We chose balcony seats, which were ok but I wouldn’t pick them again. The view was much better from the main level we determined the following night. We thought this show was ok. The quality was fine, but my teen/tween boys just aren’t that into all of the classic Disney movies anymore and there was nothing particularly spectacular about this show.
Following The Golden Mickeys, we headed to the lobby for the telling of the Halloween story, under a large tree that had been erected for the Halloween activities. A character came out and told the story of Halloween, and invited everyone to deposit “seeds” that had been distributed and then come back on Saturday to see what had happened. Of course, the tree had magically grown pumpkins by the next morning.
After the Halloween story it was time for our dinner seating. Disney takes sanitation very seriously. Hand wipes are distributed as you enter every restaurant. We were assigned to Table 77, and weren’t thrilled to find we were seated with another family. Parents travelling with their 12 year-old-daughter. They were nice enough, but on future cruises I would definitely request a private table (which appeared to be the majority of tables) as we weren’t the best fit with this family (I’m not sure the husband and wife really enjoyed each other’s company) and at times conversation was a little strained and awkward.
My kids absolutely loved that they could order as much of whatever they wanted. They tried all sorts of new foods on the cruise, including escargot. Our head waiter was nice enough, but nothing really exceptional. For all I read about the wait staff getting to know all of your preferences, etc., ours never seemed to be able to keep anything straight. The assistant waiter, on the other hand, was more personable, and treated the kids to truly amazing slight-of-hand magic tricks each evening. Even up close I have no idea how he pulled them off. I would rate the food overall as “good.” A few things were really great, but most were a little lacking in flavor. Nothing bad, just not too much exceptional. I had a Mickey bar from the kids menu for dessert every night, though, and those never disappoint!
After dinner, the kids headed out to the kids clubs and my husband and I headed back to the room. We were beat.
There is no free WiFi on the ship, but we were the maiden voyage of a new texting feature using Disney’s free Navigator app. We did not find it worked that well, however. You would type a message, and it wouldn’t be delivered for some time. Disney does provide 2 “wave” phones in each room that you can use to call or text each other for free, and we did rely on those to keep track of the kids. It would be great if the text feature of the Navigator app eventually works, though as most people would prefer to just use their own smart phone for communicating.
We awoke on our first full day in Nassau. We headed to the breakfast buffet in Cabanas. The selection was amazing and the food was good, but it was very busy and chaotic again. After breakfast, we headed to the Buena Vista Theater, the meeting point for our shore excursion. We had booked a trip to Blue Lagoon Island to do the swim with the dolphins program. This is a pretty pricey excursion, but the kids really wanted to do the dolphin swim and the reviews on TripAdvisor were very good. This did not disappoint and I thought the day was definitely worth the money. I was going to book it just for the kids, but if you have anyone under 12 in your party, at least one adult has to also be in the water. So I did it with the kids and my husband was an observer. He was right with us, however, just didn’t get in the water, and this meant we got some great pictures which was a nice bonus. Of course Blue Lagoon has a photographer there taking photos they will sell you, but the packages were not cheap.
The dolphin swim started with about a 40 minute ferry ride to the island, and then our group of 10 headed out to meet our two dolphins. Our trainer, Roscoe, was very personable, and we never felt rushed. He encouraged questions and did a great job keeping everyone entertained. Each of us got to do a few interactions with the dolphins, which concluded with a foot push where the dolphins push you along. The dolphins seemed happy and well cared for. After our dolphin program, we were able to spend the rest of the day on the Blue Lagoon beach, which was beautiful. It was not crowded at all, and my husband and I found two chairs right by the water with a nice big umbrella providing shade. This was right in front of a big water inflatables area which cost an extra $15 per person, so the kids did that while we enjoyed the beach. We grabbed lunch on the island, which was ok, but nothing to write home about. We caught the last ferry back to the Dream at 4:00, and were onboard by about 4:50. As an aside, I tried to book this excursion directly with Blue Lagoon, because it was cheaper than booking through Disney, but I was told by Blue Lagoon that when a Disney ship is in port they book all the spots so you have to book through them.
Once back on the ship, we needed to get ready for the 6:15 show. It was both “Pirate Night” and Halloween trick-or-treat night. The trick-or-treating was going on in the lobby between 5:00 and 5:45, which just wasn’t a good time for us, but we arrived in our room to find trick-or-treat bags for the kids filled with candy, which was a nice surprise. We also found pirate bandanas for everyone. We all showered and headed to the show called Villains Tonight, with a quick pit stop at the self-serve soft ice cream bar, since we still had several hours until our dinner time. There is popcorn available at the theater, but there is a charge for it. I definitely liked Villains Tonight better than The Golden Mickeys, although the rest of my family didn’t think it was any better. I did like our seats on the main level better, though. I was really surprised how many people were dressed either in Halloween costumes or pirate costumes. Some really elaborate ones!
Following Villains Tonight we had an hour to kill before our 8:15 dinner seating, so we headed to mini golf. Tonight’s dinner was at Royal Palace, and this menu was the most appealing to all of us, although in the end the food was good, but not great. Our dinner companions had opted not to leave the ship in Nassau and had spent the day drinking poolside. They were still pretty clearly intoxicated at dinner which made for a very awkward evening. Did I mention next time I will be requesting a private table?
My oldest son couldn’t get out of there fast enough, and was off to Vibe. The younger two went back to play mini golf, and watched some of the movie showing by the pool, but were back in the room exhausted in no time. My husband and I happily retired to the room after dinner.
We slept the next morning until 9:00 and decided to try Enchanted Garden for breakfast instead of the chaos of Cabanas. Turns out Enchanted Garden was also a buffet, but with a more limited selection and much less of a crowd. After breakfast, we got ready for our day on Disney’s Castaway Cay. I had heard really good things about Castaway Cay and it did not disappoint. Even though we didn’t get off the boat until after 10:30, we had no trouble finding chairs under an umbrella. The kids headed immediately to the water slide area, and found the lines not too bad. After they returned we rented snorkel equipment for the day and headed out to snorkel. Snorkeling was a lot of fun! We spent about an hour snorkeling before we came in for a break and to get lunch. Lunch I provided on the island and is a barbeque featuring ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, corn, fruit, and a few other items. For dessert, they have giant chocolate chip cookies and ice cream. After lunch, the kids headed into the water for a bit while my husband and I lounged on the beach. Soon they were back and we all donned our snorkel gear again and headed back out. This time we spent about an hour and a half in the water. By the time we came in it was 4:00 and you have to be on the ship by 5:00. The island had really started to clear out and there was no wait for the waterslides, so I made several runs down with the kids. By 4:15 they turned off the slide and it was pretty clear they wanted you to start heading back to the ship. We made our way over and were on board by 4:45. Castaway Cay was a really fun day and I can’t imagine how disappointing it would be if bad weather cancelled this day on your cruise. There are so many activities you could pay for on the island, including bike rentals, fishing, jet skiing, parasailing, and glass-bottom boats, and there is no way you could do them all. We were more than happy to just hang on the beach and snorkel. If I had the day to do over I would have gotten up earlier to maximize our time on the island. You can disembark as early as 8:30!
We didn’t think we were cruise people, but we all loved cruising and definitely plan to do it again. We would love to try one of the larger ships for a full week. We have nothing but positive things to say about Disney, but at about 3 times the cost as Royal Caribbean, I don’t think it is worth it for us. If our kids were younger, probably yes, but the boys don’t care about character interactions anymore and the Disney-themed shows don’t have the same appeal that they once did. So we have our sights set on Royal Caribbean for future cruising. The teen club and adventure activities and different style of shows definitely will appeal to us more.