Family time on the Disney Dream

The 2018 cruise season started off with a 3 night family cruise aboard the Disney Dream.   Our group consisted of myself, my wife, my four year old daughter, and my two year old son. It would be my son’s first cruise, as well as everyone’s first time sailing on Disney Cruise Line.  We booked this trip about a year in advance and by booking early we got what I consider a great price for a Disney cruise.  The price only went up from when we booked, so I was happy we had booked early.  This trip was obviously more focused on the kids, and since my wife and I have  a couple more sailings this year without them, we really tried to do what they wanted and didn’t dedicate very much adult only time.   Let’s jump right into our trip!

Pre-Cruise

Since we were trying to limit time off from work for this trip and the fact that it was the middle of winter,  we decided on taking a late flight on Thursday evening (7:50pm) from Hartford to Orlando.  This allowed both my wife and I to work Thursday and for us not to have to fly down the day of sailing, during a time of year when snow is prevalent.  Southwest is usually my go to airline, with good prices and no bag fees.  However, they just didn’t have anything that fit both schedule wise and price wise for this trip.  As it came down to time to make our flight reservations, it was looking like we would have to go with Spirit Airlines.  I’ve heard the stories and I was concerned, but I have to say I was really happy with the experience on Spirit and it was at a great price point.

The late flight down was either going to be a brilliant idea or an epic fail when it came to the kids.  I figured my daughter would do well since she has flown so much, but I wasn’t sure about my son.  He ended up sleeping half the flight and it worked out perfect.  We were scheduled to land around 10:40 pm but we ended up getting in closer to 10:00 pm.  Winning!  We quickly got our rental car and we made the trek over to Port Canaveral.

With our late arrival, I wasn’t really wanting to spend much on a room for the night.  Fortunately, I was able to utilize my Choice Hotel rewards points and book a night at the Comfort Suites Cocoa Beach.  Not that we had time to take advantage of its close proximity to Cocoa Beach but it’s location was great and I really have no complaints about the property.  The next morning we enjoyed the free breakfast, ran a few errands, and returned our rental car.  Next up, the Disney Dream!

Day 1 – Embarkation

We arrived to the terminal around 11:00 am.  We handed our two checked bags to the porters and headed for the security line and check in.  Upon making our way into the terminal, my first thought was one of pure chaos.  I did not have high hopes for a quick and painless boarding, especially being newbies on DCL.  We got our Key to the World cards and found a seat in the waiting area.  We were given boarding zone 4 and I figured we were in for a wait.  Much to my surprise, they started boarding just moments after we sat down and in the matter of minutes they were onto zone 4.  We quickly boarded and it was painless.  I’m still confused as to why the hundreds of people sitting in the waiting area before us appeared to have later zones.  I guess I will never know!

Pre-cruise, I did some research on lunch options upon boarding.  I really hate heading to the buffet on embarkation day because it is so busy and crowded.  With the kids in tow, I really wanted to avoid this.  One of the three main dining rooms, Enchanted Garden, is open on embarkation day for lunch, starting at noon. Therefore, that is where we headed.  We had about a 5 minute wait for them to open and we were quickly seated.  We enjoyed a nice laid back lunch and we were off to find something for the kids to do.

We made our way up to the pool deck and the kids quickly noticed Nemo’s Reef (splash pad for kids 8 and under).  For this exact reason we had put the kids bathing suits in our carry-on bags.  We changed them and let them play for an hour so until our room was ready.  This ended up being one of the kids favorite things on the ship.

At 1:30 pm we headed down to check out our cabin.  We were in what is called an inside deluxe stateroom.  It is a little bit larger than a regular inside and it has a split bathroom.  Having one room with the toilet and one with the shower made it a little easier on a family getting ready.  It was also equipped with a “Magic Porthole”, which provides a live feed from outside the ship.  For an inside this cabin was super spacious.  Even with the four of us in there, we never felt crowded.  I was really happy with my choice to go with this cabin, it comes highly recommended.

Soon muster drill was upon us.  We had a nice location for ours in the adult nightclub “Evolutions”.  My son managed to sleep through the whole thing, even the loud blasts.  We were just happy he got a nap in!  After muster we spent some time in the pools and before we knew it , it was time to get ready for dinner.  This was actually the only time we went in the pool the whole trip.

Dinner tonight was in the Royal Palace.  I would have to say the food and service were average and the menu lacked much of anything my wife really liked.  It wasn’t a bad experience by any means but it just didn’t wow us like we were expecting on Disney.  Dessert made up for it a little bit, for me anyways, as the Grand Marnier soufflé  was the best I’ve had at sea.

After dinner we brought my daughter to the Oceaneer Lab and my son to the nursery.  My daughter was super excited as she loved Camp Ocean on Carnival previously and my son was absolutely terrified to go to the nursery.  To make a long story short we got a call about an hour later that my daughter wanted to be picked up.  She seemed like she was a little intimidated by the experience.  Disney has a large age range for the Oceaneer Club and Lab (3-12 years old), where on Carnival Camp ocean breaks up the age groups a bit more.  She said she did have fun during the structured activities but I think she didn’t know what to do when it was just free time.  We picked up our son shortly after and he was all smiles and had a blast.  It was ironic because it was completely flip flopped from what their expectations were going into the night.

We stayed up late to get a Mickey meet and greet around 10:00 pm and then called it a night!

Day 2 – Nassau Bahamas

First thing on the agenda today would be a meet and greet with Elsa and Anna.  We had 9:15 am tickets but arrived around 9:00 and were let in with the first group.  The kids really enjoyed these meet and greets (We would do a princess meet and greet on Day 3).  We didn’t really have any set plans today in Nassau and my daughter had an 11:00 am Bippity Boppity Boutique appointment so we decided we would get off the ship after that around Noon.

With both kids in tow today, I wasn’t sure what we would do in Nassau.  My two year old son would never make the walk to Junkanoo beach so that took away one of my go tos.  With rain in the forecast, we decided we would stay close to the terminal and just go to Senor Frogs for lunch.  For those of you who follow me know that I love Senor Frogs in Nassau, so why would I not introduce my kids to it at an early age?  I generally don’t eat at Senor Frogs so I wasn’t really sure what to expect from their food quality.  I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised with how good the food was.  While we were having lunch it was down pouring outside.  We were getting a little concerned about walking back.  Fortunately it slowed down to more of a sprinkle for our walk back to the ship.

While the kids rested in the cabin this afternoon, I took the opportunity to go try out the Aquaduck.  It is a water coaster for those that aren’t familiar.  It is like a water slide except that you are propelled at different points throughout the ride.  I was trying to get my four year old daughter to go with me but she refused.  Since many folks were still off the ship in Nassau the line wasn’t too long.  This was probably one of the things I was looking forward to the most sailing on the Disney Dream.  Every time I saw her in port while on another ship I always thought to myself, can I just go on real quick and ride that thing!?  I was not disappointed, it was super fun, and got some cool views of Nassau and the other ships in port.  My only regret on this trip was not riding it more!

Tonight’s dinner would be in Animator’s Palate.  While I would say that service was still on par with other cruise lines, the experience had a little bit more of a wow factor tonight.  The interactive screens really held the kids attention, especially when Crush (Turtle from Finding Nemo) spoke directly to our table.  The menu was also an improvement and we enjoyed the dining room experience overall tonight.

After dinner, the kids again went to the Oceaneer club and the nursery.  We again got a message  about an hour and twenty minutes after we dropped my daughter that she wanted to be picked up.  Same scenario as last night, she got bored when the structured activities ended and felt alone and got sad.  We took her up to the pool deck and watched a little bit of the movie they had playing before we picked up our son at 9:30 pm from the nursery.  He had another fun night there and was all smiles when we picked him up.  We had a little time to kill before the pirate night party and fireworks, so we went and got some ice cream from Vanellope’s.  We felt the small surcharge was reasonable for the specialty ice cream and gelato.

We capped off the night with the pirate party and fireworks up on the pool deck.  The kids had a blast running around and dancing while the DJ played.  Since Disney is the only cruise line allowed to have fireworks, I had not experienced them at sea before.  I have to say this was one of the few areas where I was wowed.  The display went on for far longer than I expected and the quality of the fireworks were impressive as well.  If you love cruising and being on the open ocean like I do, I would say you need to try Disney at least once just for this experience.

Day 3 – Castaway Cay

When it took over an hour for us to dock around midnight I had a feeling the weather was going to be less than spectacular today weather wise.  It was cloudy, windy, and a cool 70 degrees out.  Since we had never been to Castaway Cay and the fact that the kids were set on playing in the sand, we decided to venture off the ship anyways.  I was happy we did, simply for the photo ops of the ship and the island itself.  We spent about an hour on the beach just letting the kids play in the sand at the family beach area.  We then explored the rest of the areas of the island.  We  had lunch on the island and were back on board around 1:00 pm.  It wasn’t the greatest of beach days but we still managed to have a good time.

We had been wanting to see Coco (New Disney movie) in the Buena Vista Theater and the 2:00 pm showing was perfect since we were already back on board.  My son slept through about half of the movie.  This was probably a good thing since I doubt he would have sat still for the duration of the show if he was awake.  The rest of the family really enjoyed the movie itself as well as the movie theater experience on board.

I finally convinced my daughter to do the Aquaduck with me this afternoon.  I was super excited, although Mom may have promised her a visit to Vanellope’s to get a candy if she did.  We go put our bathing suits on and head up to get in line.  The attendant measures her and she is about 2 millimeters too short.  I was so confused because we had checked the first day and she was tall enough.  We later realized she had shoes on that first day.  I think I was more bummed than her.  It was more of a sigh of relief for her!  Of course we still had to go get candy because she agreed to go.

Dinner tonight was in Enchanted Garden.  Again I would say the service and selection was average tonight.  As I mentioned on night one, it wasn’t a bad experience by any means but we just were expecting some wow factor when it came to dining.

The kids again went to their respective kids clubs after dinner.  I wasn’t sure my daughter would want to go again after her experience the first two nights, but she did.  However, we again got a call about an hour later from a counselor saying that her stomach hurt.  We picked her up and she was fine.  I’m sure her experience would have been a little different if her brother was old enough to join her.  She most likely would have been fine with the down time between structured activities if he was there.  We will obviously keep that in mind for next time.

Final Thoughts

We had some great family time together at sea.  While the weather wasn’t ideal, it was certainly better than what we have at home in the northeast this time of year.  We enjoyed the Disney Dream and the DCL experience, however, we didn’t think it was quite the “bang for your buck” as compared to other lines we have sailed on.  I guess the big question is would we sail with DCL again?  I think the simple answer is yes, with some conditions.  It would have to be off season like this one, for the somewhat reasonable price.  Also, it wouldn’t be at the frequency we sail other lines.  Just as I would say with any cruise, it’s best to form your own opinions and see what fits you and/or your family.  I would certainly suggest giving DCL a try and see if it fits the wants and needs you are looking for!

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