Captain Jack Sparrow swings down upon the gang of pirates overtaking the ship. Swords clash before Sparrow calms the rumble. Soon he and his fellow pirates celebrate, a bouquet of fireworks bursting above.
Sounds like a scene from the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” flick? It’s actually a night on board the Disney Dream, one of the latest editions to Disney Cruise Line’s fleet of ships. This take-it-to-the-next-level mentality seeps its way into all aspects of the cruise experience, from dining to childcare to entertainment.
A year after its maiden voyage, the Disney Dream continues sailing along the same course, blending state-of-the-art technology, modern amenities and a heap of Disney magic. The 1,115-foot long ship, which boasts 1,250 staterooms and suites, hauls as many as 4,000 passengers at a time, alternating three- and four- night cruises from Port Canaveral, Fla., to the Bahamas and Disney Cruise Line’s own private island, Castaway Cay.
Although slightly longer four- and five-night voyages are offered during the summer months, it’s a challenge to milk this vacation. Consider the following tips when sailing on the Disney Dream.
Take advantage of the nightly dinners found onboard and included with each voyage. They’re included, and it’s the opportunity to bask in some serious service. Each night you and the occupants of your cabin are scheduled to eat in a different restaurant, but your server is always the same. This personalized touch often includes details such as the names of each child in the party written on top of their respective drink lids. Don’t be surprised if a waiter pours ketchup on your plate in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s noggin.
The set mealtime doesn’t always fit every cruiser’s schedule, but make sure and dine at Animator’s Palace, one of the three main restaurants. Although the Royal Palace has a setting fit for Cinderella and the Enchanted Garden looks like something out of Versailles, Animator’s Palate is arguably the most immersive. Imagine stepping into an animation studio for a bite. Mammoth paintbrushes and pencils are fashioned into columns. Shelves are lined with art supplies, books and character models. The chairs resemble Mickey Mouse’s trademark pants and the butter knives are shaped like paintbrushes. Dinner includes a real-life encounter with Crush, an animated turtle from Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.” Large screens look like portholes and the ’toon turtle chats it up with guests.
Splurge on Remy
Since the main dining restaurants are included, budget minded cruisers may balk at paying for a meal. The adults-only pay restaurants, however, offer a snazzier date night alternative. Palo, an Italian themed Disney Cruise Line favorite, makes a return appearance. However, it’s the French-inspired Remy that gets top billing with its pampering, romantic surroundings and gourmet indulgences. Named after the foodie mouse from Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” Remy easily requires two hours of time for its seemingly endless amount of courses. From apple ginger lobster to an entire course of cheeses, the hits keep coming. After dessert your server hands over a to-go box filled with handcrafted confections. Dinner at Remy runs $75 per person, not including gratuity.
Oodles of entertainment is available, including a full-size movie theater featuring first-run flicks. The nightly stage shows have Broadway-style production value, each with a Disney theme. Although all are endearing, the not-to-miss show of the bunch is “Disney’s Believe.” It tells the story of Dr. Greenaway, an obsessed botanist, and his daughter, Sophia. When Greenaway forgets his daughter’s birthday, he learns a lesson with the help of Disney movie music and a cast of characters, including Mary Poppins and Peter Pan.
The AquaDuck Water Coaster is a favorite. Located on the top deck, it propels guests 42 inches and taller on a 765-foot long ride through a massive acrylic tube up, down, over the side and around the ship. Lines can be long, so ride strategically. The wait typically lessens at night or while the Dream is at port.
A common misconception is that it’s all about kids. Adult options are plentiful, from a full-service spa to an adults-only pool. The District is an entire nighttime entertainment area for those 18 and older featuring a sports pub, live performances, a champagne bar and a dance club. Some guests simply sip cocktails at Skyline, a bar featuring an ever-changing skyline. Technology gives guests a view of Hong Kong one minute and New Orleans the next.
Let the kids be kids
Disney characters, including Mickey, Donald and those popular princesses, are available for photo ops and autographs throughout the cruise. Keeps tabs on appearance times and other special events by reading the “Personal Navigator,” a daily publication available in each stateroom.
Children have their own age appropriate retreats. Each area is overseen by counselors, and parents must go through a strict check-out policy, which makes sure each kid is placed in the right hands. It’s a Small World Nursery is a haven for infants and toddlers ages 3 months to 3 years with hands-on activities, books, games and a separate room for naps.
Disney’s Oceaneer Club caters to 3 to 10 year olds with eye grabbing amenities. Hot spots include playgrounds with Disney characters and the Magic PlayFloor, an interactive floor featuring video imagery controlled by the kids’ movements. Those on the older end of that spectrum may appreciate the adjacent Disney’s Oceaneer Lab with computer games and the Animator’s Studio. The latter allows aspiring artists to create their own work.
Tweens, ages 11 to 13, kick back at Edge, a lounge boasting entertainment including video karaoke and a lighted dance floor. Teens ages 14 to 17 hang out in Vibe, a 9,000-square-foot club with video games, a hands-on DJ station, a movie room, a private sunbathing deck with wading pools and more.
Disney Cruise Line’s private island, Castaway Cay, can be a place where you simply soak up sun on the sprawling beaches. Teenagers and younger ones have their own respective areas just like on the ship. Some opt for a high-end experience such as renting a private cabana or getting up close and personal with stingrays. An affordable way to make the most out of Castaway Cay is to explore the snorkel lagoon. All-day equipment rental, which includes a mask, snorkel, snorkel vest and fins, runs $25 for ages 10 and older, and $10 ages 5 to 9. The snorkel lagoon includes oodles of tropical fish and man made reefs include faux sunken ships and statues of Minnie and Mickey.
If you go
Cruises on the Disney Dream operate year-round. Rates for three- and four-night Bahamian cruises start at $450 per person for a standard inside stateroom, $450 for ocean view and $499 for a verandah stateroom. Each price is based on double occupancy, and excludes government taxes and fees. The drive from Atlanta to Port Canaveral, Fla. takes approximately seven hours and 45 minutes. Those who fly into Orlando International Airport can take the Disney motor coach to Port Canaveral. It’s $35 each way for guests ages 3 and older. It can be pre-booked or scheduled the day of arrival.
For more information and pricing call 888-325-2500 or visit www.disneycruise.com.