Disney Dream Cruise: Magic for the Whole Family

Magic awaits aboard the Disney Dream.

Though a cruise was never on our bucket list, when I was invited by Disney Cruise Lines to take a trip on the Disney Dream, it was hard to say no, if not for us, for the 4-year-old that had Disney on his mind. What we found was an awesome vacation with quality accommodations, a superb and friendly staff, and integrity that comes with the Disney name.

With Captain Mickey (Mouse) and Admiral Donald (Duck) as hosts; loads of character friends onboard, including Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Chip and Dale, Captain Hook, Jake and a dreamy cast of princesses; theaters; Broadway-style shows; interactive youth activities and nonstop food and beverage choices; and a deck-side fireworks show, the Dream is a magical vacation at sea.

On Deck

slide_315.pngWithin an hour of boarding the Dream, my 4-year-old son had taken photos with Pluto and Goofy, and was sliding down the big yellow waterslide by Mickey’s pool on Deck 11. The slide is a great for kiddos like mine who aren’t quite tall enough to ride the AquaDuck, the shipboard water coaster. A flume ride that features twists, turns, drops and river rapids through a clear tube that circles high above the ship, the AquaDuck is a huge hit with kids and kids at heart (like my husband), so be prepared to wait 20 minutes at least up to more than 45 minutes to catch a ride.

There are two pools on Deck 11 by the slides, plus Nemo’s Reef, a fanciful water-play area (think sprayground) for little ones who like splashing in puddles and with a small slide for small tykes. Sundecks by the pools are lined with chairs for relaxing in the sun, or for watching a Disney movie on the giant Funnel Vision LED screen. My son and I enjoyed an afternoon break with a soft-serve cone while watching Pixar shorts on the big (make that humongous) screen from the Eye-Scream ice cream shop also on Deck 11.

Though Deck 11 is the main pool hangout, there is also a designated adults-exclusive pool and special tween-teen pool. So if you have a tween or teen, let them go play the day away at their pool, while you soak up some rays and read a book in kid-free zone. Wave phones, much like walkie-talkies, enable you to keep up with your sea-faring crew throughout the day.

Kids’ Clubs

Disney knows what it’s doing when it comes to creating youth activities that entertain different age groups’ interests, as well as give Mom and Dad a minute to themselves without worry. My son joined in the fun with Disney characters, interactive games, dance parties and more at the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab. Entrance to the Oceaneer Club is done with the Oceaneer Band that is an electronic identification bracelet that connects your information to your child. Children cannot leave the Oceaneer Club without a parent showing their key card and giving a secret password that is synced to the child's bracelet. All youth activity counselors are specially trained and experienced in child care and have undergone background checks, so you can feel safe leaving them to play while you enjoy a date night at one of adult-exclusive restaurants, Palo or Remy, or exploring The District — a nighttime entertainment neighborhood with clubs and pubs. There are also kid-only activities during the day that allows them to have fun jumping and dancing around, while you steal a moment to yourself in the sauna at Senses spa on Deck 12.

The Edge on level 13 is the tween-only hangout, and teens also have their own hideaway, appointed with video-editing software, WiFi, video games and a movie theater. Infants and toddlers are cared for and entertained with toys, books, crafts and games at It’s a Small World Nursery, where all staff are trained and have child care experience.

Dream Dining and a Show

Each night guests rotate to one of the three restaurants onboard: Enchanted Garden, Animator's Palate and Royal Palace. Your very own personal servers also rotate with you to the themed restaurants. Midway through our meal at Animator’s Palate, Crush, the sea turtle from the Disney-Pixar film "Finding Nemo," began popping up on screens around the room, naming and conversing with guests dining that night, just another personal touch per the Dream Imagineers.

After dinner, we went to a couple Broadway-style shows at the Walt-Disney Theatre. Special effects, princesses, villains, and song and dance entertained. You can always opt for a first-run release or Disney classic movie at the Buena Vista Theatre.

By the time the show wrapped each night, my family was ready to call it a night. Returning to our Deluxe Stateroom, complete with a queen-size bed and sitting area with a couch that converts to a twin and top bunk tucked away that could also convert to a bunk bed, was a nice place to retreat and recharge. The chocolates on the bed each night were a bonus.

Four days at sea seemed fast, but enough for my family to get a taste of what makes a Disney cruise so great. My 4-year-old is already booking us for the trip again next year.

For full details, availability and pricing, visit disneycruise.disney.go.com.

Michele Huggins is the editor of Charlotte Parent magazine and mom of Henry, age 4.

At Port: Castaway Cay

castawaycay_500.pngThe Disney Dream sails from Port Canaveral, Florida to Nassau, Bahamas and then Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. While at Castaway Cay, you can parasail, go on a glass-bottom boat, pet stingrays, or ride bikes around the island. Children with Oceaneer Club bands can join in planned activities like digging for whale bones, a good option if you have a bigger kid who might enjoy a bigger adventure with you elsewhere on the island.

Get-wet fun includes water slides and water cannons at Pelican’s Plunge, located within swimming distance from shore. We purchased a shovel for $10 that made for a good souvenir, and then our little guy had fun digging and building sandcastles with a new-found friend.

DON'T MISS: Be sure to try the ribs at Cookies II, one of the island restaurants. There's all-you-can eat self-serve ice cream and drinks, too.


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