DSC_8324
A little while ago, I had a friend ask about my experiences on the Disney Dream. So, instead of just making a list for her, I decided that someone else might benefit from it as well. Later, I’ll also publish an article about our most recent time at Walt Disney World. All information relates to the Disney Dream. They’ve added some extra amenities last fall which I haven’t gotten an opportunity to experience yet.

Things To Do Before You Go
It’s important that you find a travel agent who you trust and will listen to your requirements. I love my agent. She has given me countless tips and helped me to find the best cabin in just the right location (midship, deck 8 for me). Here’s her information if you need someone:
Glynis at Mousetales Travel

Download the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) app. Once you are onboard, you will have wifi access to the app only for free. You will be able to use the app for an online version of the Personal Navigator and to text others with the app.

Be sure to complete your online check-in as soon as you are allowed to do so. While you are there, you can also schedule a fun call from Goofy or Mickey. I usually schedule mine for the time period that we are driving to the port. It helps to build the excitement.

What to Pack
You can find lots of information on what to pack for the cruise online. I usually try to select mix and match outfits that can use the least amount of shoe changes to save room in the luggage. As mentioned elsewhere, laundry facilities are available and usually on each deck. The bed in the room is elevated enough to slide all but the largest of suitcases underneath. Although I never measured, other websites have listed the measurement as 13 inches. One thing to bring that is often not thought of is a highlighter. It is great for showcasing on the Navigator what you’re interested in doing the next day. Although the app has an online copy of the Navigator, I still like planning from the paper copy that you receive in your stateroom the night before and have heard it is a little more accurate. Also, don’t forget your camera so that you can try to capture all the great memories you’ll make. Just like in the Disney Parks, feel free to ask the photographer to snap a picture with your camera as well. Most are more than willing to do this for the asking.

There are a few things that you should not pack. Irons, power strips, and extension cords are not allowed. I’ve read that these items will be confiscated by your stateroom attendant. Also, I’ve read warnings not to bring over-the-door organizers since they scratch the door and you will be charged for any damage. You also don’t have to pack towels. Towels are provided not only at the pools, but also on Castaway Cay. It is also not necessary to pack seasickness medicines. They are available onboard. In fact, we don’t find them necessary in our family. We generally take one Bonine at the port (half for the children) and have no trouble after that.

Embarkation
There is a parking deck right beside the port. The current rate is $15 per day. There are other off-site options, but we have been happy with the convenience of parking at the port. Upon arrival at the port, you will be directed to an area where you will leave your checked baggage with porters. A tip of at least $1 or $2 per bag is appropriate and appreciated.

After dropping your checked baggage with the porters, you will proceed to the parking area. Note that you can enter the terminal via the first floor (near where the porters were) or a covered walkway on the third floor. We have taken the third floor options both times and have found that the lines to have your identification checked move somewhat quickly. You will then move into the actual terminal. Enter the check-in line after picking up a form to declare that you and your party are healthy. Upon check-in, you will be issued a Key to the World Card (KTTWC). It allows you to enter your cabin, charge items (including charges for the use of the onboard washers and dryers), and also controls the lights in your cabin. Disney doesn’t provide lanyards on your first cruise. Therefore, you might want to bring one from home if it’s your first time. The cast members will process your paperwork and you will receive your boarding group numbers.

While you are waiting for you group to be called, you can enter another line to finalize registration of your children for the kid’s clubs. I’ve found this line to move rather slow, but I’m also thankful that they take the time to address any individualized questions and concerns such as allergies or medical conditions. Note that you can also make arrangements at the kid’s club entrance on the ship if the line in the terminal is very long. The terminal also contains a cool ship model and commonly has characters that are ready to greet you and pose for pictures. Restrooms are located at the right of the terminal. Also, try to find a copy of the Navigator (the listing of events detailing times and locations).

Once your hear your boarding number, you will be allowed to proceed to the gate at the back. Your KTTWC will be required, but it is not necessary to remove it from your lanyard pouch. After the KTTWC has been scanned you’ll be directed to a line for an embarkation photo. It is a photo in front of a blue background that has Disney Cruise Lines printed on it. After standing in several lines, my family wasn’t really in the mood for a photo and it showed when we saw the print. So, we chose not to stand in line to take it the second time. Politely ask the cast member if you can skip the photo and they will direct you towards the right where you can then proceed.

After crossing the gangway, get ready for a magical moment. A cast member will first confirm the pronunciation of your family’s name. You will then be announced on the intercom and welcomed by applause by several sharply dressed crew members as you enter the impressive atrium. Enjoy the moment!

Disney Cruise

Also, take a moment to look around. Frequently, there are characters scattered around the entire atrium. The first time we cruised, we were able to walk right up to characters for pictures and autographs. These encounters are cherished memories.

Once you get onboard, lunch is likely to be being served. You can go to the buffet at Cabanas or have a sit-down meal at Enchanted Garden. We are a big fan of going to Enchanted Garden. It gives us a non-hurried place to enjoy a yummy lunch and get a game plan together using the Navigator. While looking at the Navigator, see if tickets are required for certain interactions. For example, meeting Anna and Elsa and also meeting all the princesses together were ticketed events on our last cruise. The tickets do not cost extra, but need to be secured as soon as possible. The Navigator will detail the place and times that these tickets can be found.

As with all cruises, a life drill takes place right before the ship leaves. Please make sure you know how to get to your muster station and be on time. You don’t want to be that person that everyone is waiting on. Please note that wearing the life jacket to the drill is no longer necessary.

Characters
Did you know that if you bring a souvenir from home, Guest Services will get it signed by the Fab Five or Princesses (or both) for you? Simply put the item and selected pens in a ziplock bag and write your name, cabin number, and instructions on the front. Present the bag to Guest Services on the first night. They will give you a form to fill out indicating who you would like to have sign the item. You will receive the completed item in your stateroom on the last night of the cruise. It’s a great way to soften the blow of realization that you are soon to be leaving this magical place. The first time we cruised, we sent in pillowcases and sharpies. They are years old now and still in good condition, but I’d supply fabric markers if I did it again. The kids still enjoy using them. The last time we cruised, we sent in photo mats.

Pools
The Dream has family pools, adult pools, and slides. The kids really enjoyed the Mickey Slide and AquaDuck. Let’s be honest, my husband and I enjoyed the AquaDuck too. I can still hear the giggles of my kids on the way down the slide. The line can get a little long sometimes, but it’s worth it. I’m less of a fan of the pools. Mickey’s Pool is shallow and usually crowded. I’m not a particular fan of the corners in the pool. Donald’s Pool is directly in front of the FunnelVision. It is 5 feet deep and is rather small for the population of the ship. Since Mickey’s Pool is shallow, it was very crowded on our last trip. After getting accidentally kicked and ran into several times, the kids wanted to try the “big” pool. I got in the pool as well since my youngest isn’t a strong swimmer just yet. I stood in the middle on my toes to help them if needed. On at least 3-4 occasions I had other children either grab onto me or ask me for help since it was over their head. A lifeguard was watching closely to be fair, but I can’t imagine why those children’s parents were nowhere to be seen. I guess my point would be to please watch your children around water and be aware that the high bather load could cause trouble for them if they are not watched closely.

We chose to stay on the ship while it was docked at Nassau. This was a good time to enjoy the pools, especially earlier during the day. It is also a good time to enjoy programs at the kid’s club, explore the ship, or watch a movie (some of which are first-run movies).

Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”)
DSC_8302
Wow, where do I start? I love the beach here. Just the thought of that crystal water and those awesome beach hammocks calm me and make me smile. In addition to the beach, there are kid’s activities, food, shopping, excursions, and bike rentals. I would definitely recommend getting some bikes to explore the island. There are less crowded parts of the island to be found on the bike paths. We even ran into Captain Jack Sparrow on one of the trails. You’ll find a few water stations along the way. My only warning would be to make sure you have adequate sun protection that you’ve tried before. I received a horrible sunburn here after using another brand of sunscreen than my old standby. Keep applying it regularly since it’s easy to lose track of time while you’re having fun. There is also a slide offshore if you’re interested.

Cookies BBQ on the island provides tasty buffet with plenty of choices. They also have lots of workers who are happy to help. One cast member navigated the buffet with my youngest, prepared her plate for her and found us seating. That was a great! There is also a huge fruit bar available. Make sure to eat before they shut it all down around 2. Also, be sure to purchase any Castaway Cay-specific items you have your heart set on. I don’t think they are available on the ship.

If you’re into running, you can sign up for the Castaway Cay 5K. It takes place early in the morning of the day the ship is docked at Castaway Cay. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to run this race. I didn’t want to run it alone, but it is held before the kid’s club opens. To complicate things, they don’t allow runners under the age of 12. So, unless you want to run alone, parents of younger children don’t really have an opportunity to participate.

There is a post office just off the ship on Castaway Cay. You will need cash to buy a stamp there, but it makes a great souvenir to have a Bahamas postmark. We mailed a post card back to ourselves at home. It came well after we returned home and served to remind us of our happy times on the island.

Food
The food onboard is very good. In fact, the steak at The Royal Palace is among one of my all-time favorite meals. If you ask my kids, their favorite food onboard is the ice cream. It is available at all times. Some of our best memories are heading up to get ice cream at different times (sometimes even though we just had some ice cream a few minutes earlier). Sodas, coffee, and tea are also available at all times on deck beside the pools.

If you have food allergies, make sure to let everyone know, including your travel agent, at check-in, kid’s club check-in, and even confirm when seated. We don’t have any food allergies in our family, but I saw several occasions where a chef was leading travelers though the line explaining what was included in each dish and whether or not it was allowed given the guest’s food constraints. From everything I’ve read and heard from others, Disney does a phenomenal job in accommodating all different diet restrictions.

Unlike some other cruise lines, most drinks are free with DCL. Notable exceptions are bottled water, smoothies, and alcohol. You should also know that any drink ordered at a bar is not included in the price of the cruise, including soda, coffee, and tea. However, there are usually free mini desserts at the adult coffee bar for the asking.

DCL using rotational dining. That means that while the location of your restaurant will change each night, your servers will not. We had exceptional servers on our last cruise. The interactions with them made tons of great memories. The kids still talk about them. Each restaurant is themed differently and has their own charm. The kids probably enjoyed Animator’s Palate the most due to the funny jokes provided by Crush from Finding Nemo. They also enjoyed the pictures made by the school of fish. Enchanted Garden was a nice place, just not our favorite. My favorite, by far, was The Royal Palace. I loved dark, rich wood decor and the food was wonderful! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! Definitely try the steak. I should also mention that DCL is very accommodating at dinner. If you can’t decide on a dessert, they’ll let you have a taste of both. If you’re unhappy with your dinner, let your server know and they will bring you something else. If your child wants to try something off the adult menu, just ask if it’s possible. In our case, they were happy to oblige our requests. Obviously, I would not take advantage of their generosity, but special requests are ok.

There are options for food pretty much all day long, mainly up on deck at Cabanas or at the several food stations near the pool. The pizza is good and there’s always ice cream to be had.

Room service is free while on the ship. You only need to tip the delivery person. I have friends who order coffee and fruit at night for the next morning. I’ve also heard of some ordering Mickey Bars. We’ve always been full from everything else, we’ve never taken advantage of this.

Another option that I have not taken advantage of is that if you have late seating for dinner, you can arrange for cast members from the kid’s club to pick your children up about 45 minutes into the dinner seating to go play. This would allow the adults to enjoy a leisurely dinner. This option doesn’t appeal to me, but it is available nonetheless.

Kid’s Club
Disney does a good job with their kid’s clubs. I consider myself to be an overprotective mother, but I felt ok with letting my kids enjoy the club since they were both in there together (and after reviewing all the rules, yet again, that surround them being away from us – much to my children’s exasperation). The kids are kept in the club by a gate that is monitored. My kids didn’t really want to stay in the clubs that much since they preferred to stay with us at the pool or working on the Midship Detective Agency (MDA) game. (MDA is a scavenger-like clue game that involves gathering clues from various parts of the ship. My kids loved this and it was a great way to explore the ship. You can start the game by learning about your mission on deck 5, midship at the self-serve kiosk. Try this out.) Perhaps the kids would take advantage of the clubs more if we took a longer cruise. We did enjoy time in the clubs during open house. The kids enjoyed showing us the area and working on crafts or playing video games. Their favorite activities included a cooking class and science experiments. They also enjoyed getting a pillowcase at a pajama party there. You should note that any allergies or medical concerns are visible to the cast members on the child’s bracelet since they receive a different color button than other children that don’t have any alerts.

Rooms
Disney Cruise

There is a slot beside the light switch as you come in that requires you to insert your KTTWC to enable the electricity to work in the room. You might want to bring an old Disney gift card to put in the slot to keep the electricity on instead of having to pull your KTTWC out of a lanyard each time you enter the room. Recently, I saw an idea of adding a magnetic strip to an old Disney gift card and sticking it to the wall above the light switch (since the wall is metal) so that it’s always available. Here are the instructions I saw:
Light Switch Tip

Although my family has never participated, many cruisers participate in hanging something called a Fish Extender from their door that gets filled with trinkets, small toys, candy, and other items from other cruisers that have agreed to participate (you will be responsible for giving the others in the group something as well). Months before your departure, you’ll need to signup online in order to participate. This website covers this topic if you’re interested:
Fish Extender Basics

Even if you use the app on your phone for the Navigator and keeping in contact with others, you’ll need to make sure that you keep the Wave phones in your room charged. If you allow them to run out of battery, you may be kept up by it’s warning beeps.

Your travel agent can help you with deciding on the best cabin for your needs. We have chosen a verandah room both times and enjoyed it. The best part of having a verandah room for us is having a warm place to wait on our turn for the shower after visiting the pool or Castaway Cay. We’ve also enjoyed hanging out on the balcony before and after dinner or while gazing at the stars. In my opinion, it’s worth the extra money.
DSC_8149

Cabins in DCL are larger than the ones I’ve had at other cruise lines. The use of bunk beds are fun for kids and space-saving during the day. The couch turns into a bed and the stateroom attendant pulls the top bunk down from the ceiling while you are at dinner. The top bunk features art that looks like the stars. My kids argue about who gets to sleep on the top so we had to make a schedule to keep the peace.

Shows
The Broadway-type shows are professionally done and entertaining. We loved attending the big show each night on our first cruise. You should know that the show also airs on the TV in your cabin. Since the shows had not changed since our first time, we skipped the shows on our second cruise and really enjoyed having the ship practically to ourselves. I’d say 95% or more of the guests were either at dinner or the shows.

Pirate Night
Disney Cruise

Pirate Night is loads of fun. Go ahead and dress up for the occasion. You will see everything from people just donning the bandanas they leave in your room to people in full pirate regalia. The most important part is just to have fun! Pirate Night is also an opportunity to meet Captain Jack Sparrow. Check your Navigator for times. Following a theatrical show, complete with dancers and a surprise entrance from Jack Sparrow on the pool deck, the guests are treated to a spectacular fireworks show. My favorite place to view them are on the starboard side, on deck 12. Then join in the huge dance party on deck.

Disembarkation
Now here’s the sad news: all good things must come to an end. For all the pampering and magic that you’ve experienced, reality is headed straight for you like a freight train. However, there are things you can do to ease the pain. One thing I find that makes things easier is to pre-pack our checked luggage before dinner on the last evening. That way, you can spend more time dancing and enjoying your last night instead of packing to have you luggage outside your cabin door.

Room service will not be available on disembarkation morning. Your choice for breakfast is either go to Cabanas or attend a super-early breakfast. Your servers will tell you the time the night before at the last dinner service. We have done this both ways and prefer the seated dining. (As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of the huge buffet at Cabanas. The food is tasty, but it can get too crowded for my taste.) Our children fell in love with our servers on our last cruise and wanted to see them one more time. Note that you will have to take your carry-on luggage with you to breakfast, so only leave the essentials for that morning.

After breakfast, you’ll probably be cleared to leave the ship. You’ll head towards customs to pick up your bags (don’t forget what character is on your tag so that you can find your luggage easily). Once you have your bags, you can proceed to customs. This part is very quick as the customs agents keep you moving. You’re then cleared to claim your car from the parking deck and make the best of the drive back home while dreaming of your next cruise!
DSC_8130