This is a trip review and lessons learned all about the our trip on the biggest Disney cruise ship in an unbiased way! I'm going to share with you how we chose the itinerary, what our planned agenda was, and finally the execution of the plan and my review of ALMOST everything the Disney Dream had to offer a new cruiser!
When we planned our Disney Cruise, it was actually scheduled as an after thought. We had never been on a cruise before, but somehow had some pre-conceived notions that we would not be fans.
We never thought we would be cruise people. It turns out, it was one of the best parts of our double Disney adventure because it let EVERYONE have fun, including the parents! While we LOVE our kids, we sometimes needed a small break so we could have some couple time. The Disney Cruise that we went on did just that.
Our Disney Cruise adventure was scheduled right after our Disney World experience. Since Disney World was less than an hour drive to Port Canaveral, it would be an easy transition from Orlando. So here is my trip report with lessons learned along the way!
Table of Contents
Disney Dream Cruise Details
- Date Sailed: February 08 - 11, 2019
- Ship: Disney Dream (newest one at the time)
- Itinerary: 3-Night Bahamian Cruise
- Ports: Port Canaveral | Nassau, Bahamas | Castaway Cay | Port Canaveral
- Category 5A - Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah
- Stateroom #: 9566 and 9568
- Deck #: 9
Choosing the Disney Cruise Itinerary
I honestly made it without much research. I knew I wanted to plan out the Disney World part in detail, but I thought the Disney Cruise portion wasn’t as important. Our goal was to have a short trip that would be long enough to be fun, but short enough so that we weren't going to be home sick. I chose the Bahamas knowing that we wouldn’t get off the ship at that port (I’ve just heard too many things about the port, and I didn’t want to deal with four kids wandering around aimlessly).
The reason why I had even considered tacking on a Disney Cruise after the Disney World vacation was because I had heard amazing things about Disney's Oceaneer Club and their It's a Small World Nursery. (Hint: They lived up to their expectations and more.)
Lesson 1: For your first cruise that includes a Disney World vacation, a 3 night cruise was perfect! If we had just done just the Disney cruise, I think it would have been way to short. However, because we had tacked this on at the end of a Disney World trip, it was a great way to end our vacation. The timing of February made the water a little too cold at Castaway Cay, but the pool water was perfect on the ship!
Cost of the Disney Cruise
Okay, so I didn't realize how much I may have overpaid for the cruise. On average, Disney Cruises are about TWICE the amount of a cruise on any other cruise line. I will say that when the ships docked next to the cruise lines, like Carnival, Disney's ship look spectacular as compared to the rusted Carnival cruise we were looking at.
After taking this cruise, I researched the next closest cruise line, and I found that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line might be our next cruise experience. It's half the price and has ships that also have top quality entertainment!
Choosing Location of Cabins on the Disney Dream
After research and a few phone calls, we realized that there would not be a cabin that would fit our family of six. Ryan was also adamant about having the verandah view, which we knew would cost a lot more. We also wanted a connecting room so that we could keep it open for the kids. Everything we read said that be near the mid-ship elevators and on a floor that was smack in the middle. These recommendations were spot on! Our cabin on the 9th deck was incredible.
Lesson 2: Cabins mid-deck and mid-ship are amazing for convenience. Being a couple flights from the kid's activity areas and the upper deck where all the fun is will enable you to not be required to use the elevators! The verandah view was amazing, even for a short trip. Note: Now that I’m smarter and wiser, I found out that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line does have the ability to fit six people in one room, as long as one of them can fit in a pack and play under the age of four AND the room has an upper berth to fit five!
Planning the Disney Cruise Onboard Ship Details
Our agent, Sarah from Mickey travels, took care of all the onboard activities. I had research all of the offerings on the ship and knew what I wanted to do while on the ship. As far as planning when the activities would occur and grabbing spots for any ticketed events. I loved that she was able to do this for us!
Lesson 3: Having an agent can help you plan optimal timing for all your onboard and on-shore activities, to help coordinate all the special details like getting made up before photos! If I had planned it, the girls would probably have been in pajamas for the Princess Gathering! Travel agents do not cost any additional - they get their commission from Disney baked as part of the package already!
This was my agenda for the Disney Cruise portion of our trip:
|Departure for Port Canaveral
February 8 - 11
|Time||Date Information||Thursday, February 7th|
|9:05 AM||Cape May Breakfast reservations|
|Day 1 - Embarking the Ship|
|10:00 AM||Arrive at Port||Once you get onboard most people head up to Cabanas for the buffet to eat (go to Enhanced Garden). Usually a restaurant is open for lunch as well or head over to the pool and grab a bite to eat there.|
|Find the penny machine pressing for a souvenir.|
|Get Disney Cruise Photos linked!|
|Oceaneer's Club Open House||Visit "It's a Small World Nursery" and "Oceaneer's Club".|
|4:00 PM||Muster Drill||On the first day of the cruise, typically around 4 pm, all passengers must attend a 10-minute muster drill and learn what to do in case of emergency. Plan to be in your stateroom at least 15 minutes before the drill. You'll find directions to your drill station on the back of your stateroom door. Attendance is mandatory.|
|4:15 PM||Sailaway Deck Party||Sail-Away Celebration is a Disney Cruise Line deck party on Embarkation Day. Crew Members and some favorite Disney Characters join in the festivities.|
|5:45 PM||Dinner at Royal Court||Afterwards, visit the D lounge.|
|Day 2 - Bahamas/Ship Day|
|9:00 AM||Aubrey Bippity Boppity Boutique until 9:45am||Kids love the pampering Crown Package, which includes choice of a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique hair style, plus shimmering makeup, face gem, nail polish, princess tote and princess sash.|
|9:15 AM||Ansley Bippity Boppity Boutique until 10:00am||Kids love the pampering Crown Package, which includes choice of a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique hair style, plus shimmering makeup, face gem, nail polish, princess tote and princess sash.|
|10:15 AM||Princess Gathering|
|11:15 AM||Frozen Meet and Greet|
|1:30 PM||Lorelei Nursery (until 4:00pm)
Kids Go to Oceaneer Club
|2:00 PM||Swedish Massage|
|4:30 PM||Conrad Turn into Pirate (until 5:00pm)||Guests are transformed from landlubber to buccaneer—just in time for Pirate Night festivities—with the First Mate Package, which includes choice of pirate facial effect, sword & sheath, bandana, pirate earring & eye patch, pirate tattoo and unique coin necklace.|
|7:30 PM||Pirate Deck Party and Fireworks|
|5:45 PM||Dinner at Animator's Palate|
|7:00 PM||Plan/talk about next cruise if interested.|
|Day 3 - Castaway Cay|
|Send Postcard from Post Office|
|5:45 PM||Dinner with Kids|
|6:00 PM||Oceaneer's Club with Kids|
|6:30 PM||Lorelei Nursery|
|7:00 PM||Dinner at Palo Deck 12||Palo on the Disney Dream is an intimate Adult Exclusive restaurant located on Deck 12, Aft that boasts Northern Italian cuisine for dinner nightly. Along with its rich cuisine and upscale atmosphere, Palo offers sweeping ocean views and an elegant décor—a perfect romantic setting for Guests 18 years of age or older.
Dress Code at Palo: Guests are asked to preserve the ambiance of this fine dining venue. We recommend dress pants, slacks and collared shirts for men and a dress, skirt or pants and a blouse for women. Jeans may also be worn if in good condition (no holes). Please no tank tops, swimsuits, swimsuit cover-ups, shorts, hats, cut-offs, torn clothing, t-shirts with offensive language and/or graphics, flip-flops or tennis shoes.
Traveling to the Port Terminal
Our goal was to be at the port at around 10:00am, as we had marked that we had wanted to arrive earlier in the day to avoid the large crowds that would appear around the lunch hour. As we got closer to the port, the kids got excited when they saw the beautiful ship.
We found that the hardest part about getting to the port was turning on the right roads even though we were using Google maps. It took us a few wrong turns, but we finally found all the signs led us to the right port. We were greeted in our van two different times, the first one was to check our IDs at the entry point of the garage. The second time was to greet the porter who took our bags. We tipped him about $2 a bag as he gave us some hints on where to park so that we would be on the same level as the walkway to the terminal. At some point during our journey into the garage, we paid for parking. I can't remember where that actually happens. What I do remember was that it was less expensive than I had planned. Parking was actually really simple!
Lesson 4: Follow the signs rather than your phone when getting to the terminal!
Arriving inside the Port Terminal for the Disney Dream
After getting our day bags out of the car, we headed towards a walkway to the terminal. I remember an escalator as we got on the right level. Right away, we saw Mickey Mouse in front taking photos. We didn’t get in line right away for photos, but I kick myself now for not doing that because I didn’t realize how long the character lines would be on the ship! We did get a photo with Goofy though!
Once everyone was ready, we got in line to check in. We went up to guest relations and they pretty much looked at our passports, and gave us plastic cards that were called “Keys to the World.” At this point, I also kicked myself for not bringing plastic lanyards to carry them.
Lesson 5: Bring lanyards for the adults to keep the cards in. You'll use the cards more often than you think you will. And wait in that line for a photo with Mickey.
Embarking the Disney Dream
I don’t remember waiting in line to embark at all! We somehow knew pretty easily it was our turn, and headed towards the Mickey entrance. The cast members took our Keys to the World and passports again for validation. I remember having to put my carry on backpack into a conveyor belt for a security check and a cast member asking for our family name. They took another photo at this point of the family. As we entered, the cast members announced us onto the ship. It was so awesome!
Onboard Activities Review on the Disney Dream
Here are my reviews of all the things we did onboard the ship. We tried ALMOST everything!
Open House for "It's a Small World Nursery" and Oceaneer's Club
I would highly recommend visiting the open house right when you embark so you can see the space your kids will love being in! It will also give you a chance to get their cruise bands. You have the option to keep the magic bands for a fee; I kept the bands because they had the Disney Cruise Line emblem on them.
"It's a Small World Nursery"
Once my 18 month old stepped into this nursery, she was in love! It was a small and quaint space! My kiddo was always happy when she came back to us. The teachers were super sweet. Even on our first day at the open house the nursery did, my little one didn't skip a beat playing with all the toys. I didn't hesitate to use this service at all (I probably abused it). At one point, they took a picture with her with Donald Duck!
The Oceaneer's Club was incredible. My kids never wanted to leave. I know what you are thinking - I'm probably just saying that. But it's totally true. I remember my oldest daughter would continue staring at me while she was furiously trying to finish coloring before she had to leave with us! The Oceaneer's Club also get character visits that you would typically have to stand in 30 minute lines for. One night, they got to do a craft that involved coloring a pillowcase - and we used that throughout the trip to get autographs from all the characters. Characters they met while in Oceaneer's Club include: Pluto, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and Stitch!
Lesson 6: Go to the open house as soon as you embark to get their magic bands!
Everyone has to go to the drill. You won't forget! If you do, just know that everyone in your area will be mad at you. Don't arrive late. We had a family that was 15 minutes late, and they were called out. Don't be that family. The cast members make it as fun as possible!
Logistics for Food for Large Families on Disney Cruise
There was so much food!! We couldn't stop eating. There is even room service, which we didn't use (and we should have for breakfast). Windjammer was where we went to get quick meals that the kids could eat. We often went up there for breakfast and brought it down for the kids. We were suprised to see how amazingly thorough the staff was at giving everyone hand wipes before getting food! Disney seriously takes cleanliness to a whole new level. We grabbed a table, which wasn’t hard. What was hard was getting everyone food. With four kids under 7, one parent would get up and get food for EVERYONE, while the next parent was able to get food.
Sail Away Party
It was really busy up at the Sailaway Party. The kids had a blast either way. They weren't able to see the stage, but the large screen on the deck projected to every part of the deck. It didn't even matter because our kids were dancing next to the cast members who were dancing on the platform right next to us.
Lesson 7: If you really want a good view of the stage, get there early to be in front OR stand on the deck above to get a view.
Formal Dinner Rotation on the Disney Dream
If I'm being honest about the cruise, the food wasn't that great. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad. I just had higher expectations. The rotations were great. Since there are three main dining rooms, and our cruise was a three night cruise, we were able to experience all of the dining rooms. The wait staff follows you around to every restaurant and provides you recommendations. You could order as much food as you wanted to!
Royal Palace - We experienced this the first night and got a table right by the port hole. We were able to see the sunset during our 5:30 dinner.
Animator's Palate - The kids had mac 'n cheese every night while Ryan and I ventured with our menu options. I loved this restaurant because of the interaction in the Crush, the turtle. Even Ryan got into it!
Enchanted Garden - We had a Palo reservation, so we didn't visit this for dinner. We did have breakfast there on our last morning, and it was delicious!
Room Service - We didn't use it because we didn't realize it was included in the price of the cruise (notice I didn't say free!). I wish we would have for breakfast, that would have made things a little easier for us!
This was an additional cost dining experience. While it was a very elegant meal, we completely felt out of place. When the hostess started our seating with explaining the blown art on the ceiling, we kind of chuckled to ourselves. When he brought out the sorbet for cleansing our palette, Ryan smirked at me from across the table. The food was okay here as well. Nothing really stood out in terms of meals on the ship! If you do this experience, make sure you schedule it during the day so you can have a view!
Man, these lines were longer than I had envisioned. I would recommend getting there 5 minutes earlier than what your daily itinerary states because these lines are so long!! Especially for Mickey and Minnie. I would recommend getting these when Mickey is in his captain outfit! Note that the last character meet of the trip does NOT have a photographer. Word to the wise!
Lesson 8: Captain Hook and Jack Sparrow come out only a few times, so make sure you line up early for these character meets!
Bippity Boppity Boutique
This was a fun experience for the older girls. They got the middle package which was around $70. They wore their princess dresses from home, but as part of the experience, they got to get their hair, nails and make up done along with a wand and crown!
They absolutely loved it! The only problem was that our littles got really fussy, so the husband couldn’t be there to experience it with them.
Our travel agent was able to plan all of our activities for us, so she was awesome in that she planned the Bippity Boppity Boutique right before the princess gathering so that the girls were all made up photos! It was awesome!
Frozen Meet and Greet
This is the only chance to meet Elsa and Anna. The cast members were in great character. It was well organized.
The massage was okay. I know it depends on what therapist you get, but I didn't really like how mine was. She was super friendly, I just don't think I liked it as much as other massages I've gotten on land. At the end, she tried to up sell me on some oils. That was kind of annoying when I was paying over $120 (including tip) for the 55 minute massage.
Pirate League Makeover
Our only boy got a Pirate makeover! It was totally worth it. He was transformed from landlubber to buccaneer—just in time for Pirate Night festivities—with the First Mate Package, which includes choice of pirate facial effect, sword & sheath, bandana, pirate earring & eye patch, pirate tattoo and unique coin necklace. Conrad pretty much almost fell asleep, so I would recommend doing this early if possible.
Lesson 9: Schedule makeovers right before photo moments and ensure the kids get a nap in!
Pirate Night was okay, only because it was kind of cold and rainy. The kids weren't able to make it to the fireworks, but it was way past their bed time.
This thing is AMAZING. A waterslide that goes around the deck while you can watch the island while the ship sails away as you hear your oldest daughter giggling in front of you. I will never forget that moment!
State Room Details on the Disney Dream
This section is all about our state rooms on the Disney Dream. We got two ocean view verandah rooms mid-level and mid-ship. It was absolutely PERFECT in terms of location. The rooms were awesome!
While this wasn't formally part of the Disney Cruise, I was able to find a Facebook group with our sailing. There were a couple of admins who set up Fish Extender groups, which allow you to bring and exchange gifts for people on the same cruise as you. The kids absolutely loved the surprises!! Learn more about fish extenders here.
Our stateroom attendant was awesome! He made us so many animal towels and was so helpful during our stay. We would literally be gone during the day, and when we came back, our room would be made. I have no idea how he knew when we would be there! We used bunk beds for our kids and every day, he would turn them back to sofas and provided turn down service. EVERY. DAY. He also opened up our connecting wall verandah cabin so that we could have a bigger balcony!
Having a verandah was amazing. Honestly, I thought we were wasting money (Ryan was the one that wanted the view).
In addition, I thought it would actually be scary having four kids and a balcony from the ship. However, the walls were really high and I was worried needlessly. Overall, I thought it was worth it!
Castaway Cay is Disney's private island in the Bahamas. Based on everything I read, everyone said to run and try to get a chair on the beach. It turns out, I shouldn’t have done that. It wasn’t that busy.
We totally missed out on the Mickey picture in the beginning because I was set on getting a spot! I also had on the list to mail out a postcard, but the post office was closed, which was a bummer.
Lesson 10: Take your time and take those photos!
The beach was good! It wasn't the best beach I've ever been to (re: St. John's Trunk Bay). It had sticks in it, but overall, the kids loved it - it was the first beach they ever went to. There were chairs everywhere!
My oldest and the husband went out on the ocean waterslide once, and it was enough for her. They had a blast!
Scuttle's Cove on Castaway Cay
The kids went to the Scuttle's Cove on Castaway Cay. They said they had fun, but from the outside looking in, it didn’t look to appealing, so we got them out of there within a 40 minute window of dropping them off.
The food on Castaway Cay was delicious!! BEST food on the trip overall. I would highly recommend eating here!
On the last night, we packed and had our luggage outside of our door. They gave us tags and told us the color to look for when we disembarked. We had breakfast at the Enchanted Garden and were then on our way.
Once we disembarked, it was a breeze to find our luggage. Next, we had to go through customs. They had it down to a science. I don’t remember the kids getting too crazy, so that means the process wasn't too difficult! And sadly, that was the end of our cruise.
I loved how relaxing the Disney cruise was as compared to going to the Disney parks. Food was always available, kids were entertained all the time, Ryan and I got a chance to be by ourselves on vacation. Every morning, we woke up to a different port - and could choose whether or not to experience it. It just felt overall more relaxing.
We had such a great time, that I think we are going to become avid cruisers - it might not necessarily be Disney Cruise Line, but it will definitely be a cruise!
Let me know if you have any questions about a Disney Cruise!
Other Travel & Cruise Posts You Might Love
If you liked this post about comparing the Symphony of the Seas and Disney Dream, below are some other posts you may love:
- When to Plan a Disney Cruise
- Gifts for Someone Going on a Disney Cruise
- Disney Cruise Expectations versus Reality
- Summer Vacation Ideas for Kids
- Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas versus Disney Dream for Families with Young Kids
- Dad Hacks for Disney World