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February 15, 2011

Dad's Look at the Disney Dream Kid's Clubs

by AllEars® Team Member Fred Bock

As a father of 2 girls ages 6 and 10 who have been on the Disney Wonder 5 times I was interested in seeing some of the changes that Disney had made with the Dream.

As I walked on the ship for the first time I couldn't get a number of things out of my head. As an adult, it's hard for me to admit that I wanted to see the kids room probably more than anything else. During the cruise I had some time to wander about and see all of the many thing the ship had to offer.

Let me preface by saying that gone are the age groups that used to split the kids into different areas depending on their age. Disney has decided to blend the area for all kids aged 3 to 10. I would imagine that this came from them listening to feedback from parents with multiple children who may not want to be separated. I know that my younger daughter has some separation issues so we always had a problem dropping her off at the kids club unless they would allow her to go with her older sister. That's no longer an issue. I was also advised that this is the case on the Disney Wonder and Magic now.

The first place I would go to is the Oceaneers Lab. Located on Deck 5 midship, this area is for kids on the older side of the 3 to 10 range and has a lot to offer including video games that allow kids to interact with each other and flat surfaced tables with touch sensitive games. There's even a place where they can make their own hand drawn or computer animation.

Upon entering you are greeted with smiling faces of cast members in yellow shirts. After signing your child in, the first assignment is to wash your hands. Now we aren't talking about handing out a washcloth or pumping some hand sanitizer into your hands here. This is an experience all itself. Disney has new hand washing machines that automatically do the deed for you.

Before you is a box with two holes in it. You stick your arms in and wait a second for the process to automatically start. Before you know it, warm water jets start spinning around your hands. After about a minute or so it stops and you then take your hands out and dry them with a paper towel. I'm told there is also hand sanitizer mixed in with the water so you can rest assured your hands are really clean. My only confusion is that you dry your hands with paper towels. I would have expected to see a machine that did that for you too and wouldn't be surprised if we saw that coming soon. The best part of this is that it was fun and easy. So much so that kids actually comeback to use the machines again throughout their time in the area. Can I take one home with me?

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Then when entering you walk into a colorfully themed area with lots of activities to keep even the oldest child busy for hours. (Yes me included!) The first thing I saw was bean bag chairs! I remember having one of those when i was a kid. Wow they were big and looked super comfy! Too bad all were taken by kids watching a movie on the 103 inch plasma or I would have had to try one on for size. (Errr make that take one home with me.)

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In the center of the room there is a lit up dance floor but not with just ordinary lights, there are televisions in the floor making it possible for animations beneath your feet.

Then there is the wheelhouse. Here kids of all ages can drive any vehicle type they want including a ship (yes a Disney Ship!!) submarine, an airplane and more. Not sure how interested my kids would be here as the wait seemed long and there weren't that many terminals so I saw a lot of kids run off to do something else. Graphics were wonderful though and the game play sure seemed to satisfy.

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In the Animator's studio I saw kids making their own comic books and character story scenes similar to a sticker book but here you drag and drop items onto your scene. I also saw a child working on his own comic book story which allows him to drag characters and items into each cell and also decide what text will go in the bubbles. Very cool!

What really caught my eye was the fact that you could also sit at the table and draw on this circular disc of paper similar in size to a cd or DVD. In each of the cells on this pallet you would draw a similar items but make slight changes to each drawing to create your own animation. Then you would put the paper into a device like a a classic ViewMaster but with a wheel that spins with mirrors in it. When you look through the viewfinder you see your animation right before your eyes. Again, the room was full or I would have taken a turn at making something.

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Outside of the animation room I saw several table top games but there were no moving parts or pieces to lose. Here these games used touch kinda like big touch sensitive tv screens built into a table. I was told that the games can change and there are many to choose from.

One of the most interesting parts of this area was a place where kids can play games against each other in real time. Here you have a number of computer terminals with a stool and in front there are several large screen televisions. I'm told that there are games here based on the movie Pirates of the Caribbean where they split the players into two different ships and they battle against each other. The social aspect of these games is anther wonderful way that kids can make friends here.

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I did confirm that there are no places in the kids area where internet access is available so parents can rest assured knowing that the games they play are safe and for certain supervised.

There were also areas where kids can make music of their own and an arts and crafts area where kids can go back to simple craft and creation. There were lots of supplies from what I could see and the room was filled with children and one cast member. Mind you, most of the kids in their are young girls so I'm certain my kids would love this. This is a great place if the technology and video games are not for you. There is literally something for everyone to do. I even saw a mom getting in on the action.

I should note that parents are allowed to participate with their children. I can also say that security is taken very seriously. Cast members advise you that you should not be taking pictures of other children that aren't your own and technically no adults are allowed in the kids area unless they have their one children in there.

One other point to add is that there are also activities that are held outside of the kids area and around various parts of the ship. One game is done in D-Lounge and it's called Mirror Mirror and is controlled by a game host, and they also do a Kim Possible style game.

Right about now I am walking through a interactive classroom style area that leads to the younger kids portion of the kids club. Here kids make things like flubber and do other scientific experiments. Then right next door there is a cooking class style area where kids make and decorate their own cookies and cupcakes. Fear not parents, there are no ovens to be found here. When it's time to bake, the items are taken to another part of the ship to be baked then returned to the kids area when completed. That's when the decorating part comes into play and the kids love it. (I didn't notice anyone saving their cookies and cupcakes for parents. Shucks.) This is another fun activity area that I am sure would be enjoyable for my own kids.

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As I venture into the next area I am greeted by what looks like a submarine and inside there are banks of computers with colorful keyboards. On the screens there are games like Disney's Dumbo, Daisy's Fireworks, Disney racers, Air hockey, Smoothy sailing, and lots more. The keyboards are color coordinated which I think makes it easier for kids to learn how to interact with the computers. I found out the colors stand for different areas of the keyboard. Numbers are red, vowels are orange, consonants are yellow, and all computer function keys like enter and space bar are green.

Moving into the pixie hollow area there are more games and appear to be targeted towards girls. There are games to dress your own princess and adventure and roaming games. The area is very well themed with leaves coming out of the ceiling and seats that look like mushrooms growing out of the ground. There are also arts and crafts being done in this area including coloring and painting.

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In the monster academy there is a jungle Jim style play area for those kids that want to run around a bit but there are also more computer terminals here with games. The area is themed from the Monsters Incorporated movie and again looks amazing in detail.

Lastly there is a room devoted to Toy Story where your child can go into Andy's room and be toy size. Everything here is life sized and makes you feel like you are the same size as the other toys from the movies. You can sit on Rex and go through Slinky Dog like a tunnel. There are a few toy boxes with lots of toys to play with and even a large drawing pad attached to the wall in case you feel like coloring and drawing. This area appeared to be very popular.


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Lunch and dinner is served in the lab as are snacks and beverages throughout the day.

Overall I feel that Disney has done it again. Taken a great idea and plussed it up while providing educational experiences along with the vast amounts of fun that are to be had. You wouldn't believe how much space they devoted to the kids area. It's really big! You can run, sit, play, watch TV, create, and pretend. I certainly can't wait for the day that I bring my own kids aboard and let them have it at. As I said, there is something for everyone to do from ages from 3 to 10. Heck, my wife may have a hard time getting me out too!

Fred Block never went to Disney World until his honeymoon in 1998. Since then, he's been there countless times and has sailed on the Disney Wonder over 5 times and most recently on the Disney Dream. He's best known for being the man behind the plan for MagicMeets Disney Fan Gatherings but is also a technology geek through and through. He and his family live in New Jersey.

January 29, 2011

Disney Dream - Kids' Activity Centers Overview

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Families vacationing with children of any age are familiar with the many associated perils -- from the refrains of "Are we there yet?" and "I'm bored!" from the older kids, to the disasters of running out of formula, or baby food, or diapers in the younger ones.

You need not worry about encountering these dangers on the Disney Dream, which clearly illustrates how Disney has listened and responded to guests' concerns and suggestions for improvements.

Disney has a special space for every age group, and each has its own unique characteristics.

"it's a small world" Nursery

Starting with a place for the littlest ones, there's the "it's a small world" Nursery. Located on Deck 5 midship, infants and toddlers ages 3 months to 3 years can enjoy a whimsical world inspired by the classic Disney theme park attraction and original artwork by Disney Legend Mary Blair.

A boat in the center of the room "floats" on a river pattern along the soft-surface floor and is surrounded by colorful, kid-sized tables and chairs for toddlers to enjoy crafts, books and games.

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Upon entering the nursery, which operates until 1 a.m., parents and children can meet and interact with counselors. Parents wishing to check on their children without disturbing them can glimpse into the nursery's main play area through a one-way window. The ratio of counselors to children here is the government-mandated 1:6.

In the nursery's main play area, children are surrounded by three-dimensional façades resembling the nursery's namesake Disney attraction. Interactive, hands-on features such as horns that honk, wheels that spin and buttons to press are sure to delight curious kids. There's even a collection of Disney character costumes for dress-up time.

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The nursery has strollers for the counselors to use, in case there are children who prefer to snooze or sit in those.

At the back of the nursery, a separate room with a serene motif and a calm, quiet atmosphere is reserved for naptime.

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Disney's Oceaneer Club

Located next door to the nursery, also on Deck 5 midship, Disney's Oceaneer Club is open to 3- to 10-year-old children.

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Before children can even enter into this magnificent space they have to wash their hands -- just one of many ways that Disney is trying to stop the spread of nasty germs on the ship. To make it a little more fund and interesting, they have special machines to do the cleaning for them. The children insert their hands into the opening's, soap and water is applied and voila! They are good to go.

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The central rotunda is the main gathering place. Here, Disney characters created with fiber optics twinkle across the ceiling. The focal point of the rotunda is a stage where children can create and star in their very own theatrical performances, participate in storytelling sessions and meet such Disney characters as Tinker Bell and Peter Pan.

The rotunda has a 103-inch plasma screen for watching movies and for interactions with Crush, the sea turtle from the Disney"Pixar motion picture "Finding Nemo." Crush stops mid-stream in his digital undersea environment to chat, play and joke with kids in live, unrehearsed conversations.

Also located in the rotunda is a Magic PlayFloor. A cruise industry first, this interactive floor allows children to engage in group activities where their movements control the action. There are 16 games that can be played on the Magic PlayFloor, with such descriptive titles as "Carl's Stomp 'n' Pop" and "Goofy's Grasshoppers."

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Disney Cruise Line youth counselors also will use the Magic PlayFloor during storytelling times, so children can "fly" over the streets of London with Peter Pan, help their frog feast on a bug banquet themed to "The Princess and the Frog" and race cars around a track just like Lightning McQueen from "Cars."

In Andy's Room, the world of the Disney"Pixar "Toy Story" films comes to life. Inside the vibrantly colored room, kids experience the feeling of being toy-sized as they play among larger-than-life characters from the animated film.

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Children can rearrange features on Mr. Potato Head, crawl through the coiled body of Slinky Dog and get behind the wheel of an oversize, remote-controlled race car.

Monster's Academy is a fun, interactive space inspired by the Disney"Pixar film "Monsters, Inc." The centerpiece is an elaborately themed play structure for climbing that is fashioned after the film's scare floor, where monster pals Michael "Mike" Wazowski and James P. "Sulley" Sullivan work.

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Computers integrated into the walls in each of these areas feature unique, interactive games, themed to the area. In Nemo's Pod, for example, the games feature the characters from that film. In Pixie Hollow, the computer games feature the Disney Princesses and fairies.

In Pixie Hollow, children are transported to the enchanted land inhabited by Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. A pixie tree stands in the room, its branches extending overhead with hundreds of fairy lights twinkling among the leaves and hummingbird-sized fairy houses hanging from the boughs. Children can make crafts while sitting on stools shaped like acorns and mushrooms, or dress up in fanciful costumes.

Explorer Pod is inspired by the Disney"Pixar animated film "Finding Nemo." Surrounded by a seascape and seeming to emerge from a pool of water, a bright blue-and-yellow submarine surfaces in the center of the room. Inside, children can explore and play games at 16 interactive computer stations.

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Outside of the sub, eight computer stations provide gaming fun as the familiar flock of seagulls from "Finding Nemo" looks on.

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Disney's Oceaneer Lab

Disney's Oceaneer Lab takes 3-to-10-year-old children on a journey of discovery and exploration.

Upon entering the main hall, located on Deck 5 midship, children feel as though they are embarking on a great adventure. Rich woods, brass fixtures and deep blue and red tones complement the room's seafaring details such as maps, maritime instruments and nautical artifacts. An illuminated celestial map of constellations glows overhead. At the main hall stage, kids can create and star in swashbuckling performances, hear stories of great expeditions and watch movies. Utilizing the same techno-magic that brings Crush to life in Disney's Oceaneer Club, Disney's Oceaneer Lab features special scheduled visits by Disney's mischievous animated alien Stitch. Playful pandemonium ensues as he engages with children in unrehearsed antics. From his spaceship, the cuddly but naughty alien interacts with young guests, chatting with them and using props from his spacecraft surroundings to create hilarious fits of havoc.

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Located in the main gathering space is another Magic PlayFloor. Here, children step into the futuristic world of Tron with a team-based game, leap over lasers with Stitch and scramble around the perimeter of the floor to control the tilt of a virtual maze.

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The Animator's Studio draws out the character inside all kids. Incorporating elements from both classic and modern animator's studios, the room is filled with maquettes (three-dimensional character models), animation books, a light box table, drawing accessories, computer stations and other tools of the animation trade. Children can use their imagination to create original, hand-drawn art or learn how to sketch their favorite Disney character. With the help of a counselor and an animation simulator, kids can bring to life computer-animated characters.

The Sound Studio is designed for children who appreciate and are inspired by music. Kids who dream of being a musical star can create their own original tunes using special song-making software. After composing their music and lyrics, they can record their hit.
The Sound Studio also has listening and music download stations featuring top hits and current recording artists.

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Connecting the Oceaneer Club and the Oceaneer Lab are two Workshops.

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Counselors there told me they do lots of arts and crafts activities in one room, including cookie baking, and Flubber making. (You remember Flubber -- the magical bouncing material originated in Disney's classic "The Absent-Minded Professor" and its remake, Robin Williams' "Flubber.") In the other workshop, kids can get busy with "sloppy science" experiments, making volcanoes and the like. They even hold some basic animation classes there and serve food.

Parents of children with allergies or other special needs will be happy to learn that the counselors come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including pediatric nursing. The two counselors I spoke with, Nikki and Steve, told me that they treat every child as an individual case, ensuring that they check every meal they serve. They also encouraged parents to let the counselors know of any special considerations, such as a child with mobility issues or autism. As they said, they work to make sure no child is excluded, and the more information they have in advance helps them do their jobs better.

Deb Wills had a chance to speak with Imagineer Stef Pickens about the Oceaneer's Club and Lab on the Dream, below:

All of this is just, as I said, for children up to 10 years old. After listening to guest comments and suggestions over the years regarding activities for slightly older children, Disney has responded by creating new spaces just for teens and tweens on the Dream. We'll take a look at these spots, the Edge and Vibe, soon!

NOTE: Members of AllEars.Net were invited media guests of Disney on the ship's Christening Cruise, January 19-21.

January 23, 2011

Disney Dream -- Dining Overview

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If you're like me, one of the best parts of any vacation is finding new places to eat. Well, we found lots to enjoy on our too-short stay on the new Disney Dream.

For families, the Dream offers your basic fast-food options at Cabanas and Flo's Cafe, with counters themed after various characters from the Disney-Pixar film "Cars," both located on Deck 11.

Cabanas is a food court, with 16 specialized food stations, each designed like a beach cabana with colorful awnings. Disney details decorate the area, including a flock of seagulls from the Disney-Pixar animated film "Finding Nemo." Two hand-crafted mosaic tile walls -- each more than 25 feet in length -- depict an underwater scene from "Finding Nemo." In the evenings, the restaurant transforms into a table-service casual dining experience, where dinner entrees are cooked to order.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some photos to give you an idea of the area and the fare.

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Flo's Cafe, which includes Luigi's Pizza, Fillmore's Favorites and Tow Mater Grill, is for those looking for a quick bite to eat near Donald's Pool on Deck 11. Pizza, sandwiches, and the like are on the bills of fare.

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There are also frozen treats available in the Donald's Pool area on Deck 11. Eye Scream (with a Monsters Inc. theme) and Frozone Treats (The Incredibles) feature ice cream and smoothies, respectively.

When it comes to table service restaurants, the Dream has several moderate spots that range from simple to elegant.

The Enchanted Garden is a casual restaurant inspired by the gardens of Versailles. By day, the restaurant feels like a brightly lit conservatory, not unlike Walt Disney World's Crystal Palace. There are trellises with green arches, and custom glass "flower" light fixtures drop down from above. More than 600 light panels arch across the ceiling like a glass canopy.

At night, the ambience magically transforms to an evening scene with a twinkling field of stars overhead. The light-fixture flowers "bloom" and become infused with color, wall sconces open to become beautiful folding fans, paintings are illuminated in a nighttime perspective and the centerpiece fountain is basked in shimmering light.

Breakfast and lunch are buffet, dinner is full-service, with specialties such as grilled New York strip steak, pan-seared sea bass and lobster ravioli.

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Royal Palace is inspired by classic Disney films like "Cinderella," "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Sleeping Beauty." There's a hand-blown centerpiece chandelier with glass slippers and marble floors, and gold accents around the room.

At Royal Palace, guests feast on dishes such as lobster and jumbo shrimp, escargot, Dijon-roasted rack of lamb and beef tenderloin with lobster medallions. The wine list features an excellent selection of Old World wines. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at this restaurant.

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Animator's Palate is a "re-imagined" version of the signature Disney Cruise Line restaurant that brings the magic of Disney animation into the dining room. The venue is decorated with an animator motif, reinforced by pillars throughout the restaurant fashioned like huge pencils and brushes. There are character sketches, maquettes (three-dimensional character models), film strips and other tools of the animation trade. Scenes and characters from popular Disney and Disney-Pixar films adorn the walls. As a special nod to Mickey Mouse, the contemporary dining room features red and yellow colors and a trademark design -- Mickey Mouse pants with two bright yellow buttons.

But after diners are seated, the restaurant is transformed: You're magically transported to an undersea world with views of a coral reef all around, setting the stage for a special visit from Crush, the sea turtle from the Disney-Pixar film "Finding Nemo." More than 100 video monitors on the walls of the restaurant are involved in the dinner show experience. Crush character swims from window to window, "working the room," engaging guests in real-time conversation about his life and world.

The cuisine combines fresh flavors with culinary flair, with selections such as smoked salmon tartare, stir-fry vegetables, lemon-thyme chicken and a trio of veal. Wines from California and the Pacific Rim complement the menu.

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Of course, you can always dine in your room. Room service offers you the chance to feast on fresh, made-to-order meals in the comfort of your stateroom.

But if you're looking for something a little more refined, the Dream can accommodate you. Two "adult" dining options are sure to please.

I was lucky enough to dine at Palo the second night of our two-night cruise. I knew from reading about Disney's Magic and Wonder that Palo was an upscale Italian restaurant exclusively for adults, but I had no idea that the whole experience there would be so special.

Palo features a semi-circular design, with floor-to-ceiling windows and raised banquettes along one side. Custom art, warm wood tones and rich red, green and gold jewel tones create a refined, Italian-inspired décor.

Palo features both antipasti selections and six different kinds of pizzas to start with. It also has fresh pastas, seafoods and meats prepared with Italian touches. Desserts include classic tiramisù and Palo's signature chocolate soufflé, which I must admit is worth the half-hour wait it takes to prepare!

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Finally, there is Remy. Remy, Remy, Remy. While I didn't have the chance to experience an actual meal in this exclusive restaurant, billed as the Disney Cruise Line's first-ever premier dining spot, I did attend a private tasting there, which allowed me a glimpse of the decor and a few bites of what's on offer.

From the outset, you know this is a special place. Dining at Remy requires an additional charge of $75 per person, in addition to the cost of wine and alcoholic beverages. Wine pairings selected from the French list are an additional $99. Plus there's a dress code that requires men to wear a dress jacket, dress pants and shoes (ties are optional). For the ladies, cocktail dresses, evening dresses, pant suits or dressy skirts and blouses are the options.

Located on Deck 12 Aft, across from Palo, Remy features French-inspired, gourmet cuisine by two award-winning chefs, Chef Arnaud Lallement from l'Assiette Champenoise, a Michelin two-star restaurant just outside Reims, France, and Chef Scott Hunnel from award-winning Victoria & Albert's at Walt Disney World Resort. The entire concept is executed by executive chef Patrick Albert.

The decor borrows, subtly, from the hit Disney-Pixar film "Ratatouille." The softly lit main dining room with seating for 80 is designed in art nouveau style, while the famous Remy character is subtly and artfully integrated into the design of the upholstery. A private Chef's Table dining room, Chez Gusteau (inspired by the fictional Paris restaurant in "Ratatouille"), seats eight. Guests also may be seated in the glass-walled wine room, Remy's Vault, amid more than 900 bottles of wine.

Dinner at Remy starts with a signature chilled Taittinger Champagne cocktail made tableside, followed by eight to nine small courses complemented by a stellar wine list. Menu items include smoked bison with fennel salad and blood oranges; lobster with vanilla, bisque and lobster roe foam; wild loup de mer; Australian Wagyu; a tomato tart with Parmesan espuma; coastal turbot with vin jaune sauce and gnocchi, and young pigeon pie with foie gras, spinach and tomato. Desserts include a vanilla-poached pear and a dark chocolate praline with cocoa sherbet.

From Remy's Vault, 22 wines are selected as the best of the best, presented by white-gloved sommeliers in an elegant velvet box that opens like a book with the name of each wine engraved on a silver-plated plaque. The list includes a 1947 Château Cheval Blanc, another nod to "Ratatouille" (the wine requested by the movie's food critic). Considered one of the best vintages in the world, a single bottle of Château Cheval Blanc retails for $25,000.

As you can see, dining on the Disney Dream, does indeed range from the sublime to the ridiculous!


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You can find the menus for many of these restaurants HERE. (More menus are being added daily, as fast as I can type!)

NOTE: Members of the AllEars Team were invited on this media cruise, which was paid for by the Disney Company.

January 20, 2011

First Photos from the Disney Dream

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Well, here we are at Castaway Cay! It's a gorgeous day, and we've been so busy -- there is so much to see! The ship is immense, and we're taking photos like crazy, but this is the first time we've been able to get online. I'm just going to share some random photos for you to whet your appetite... we'll have much, much more tomorrow!

Entering Ship

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Our State Room

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Oceaneer's Club

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Nemo's Pod (Kid's Play area)

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Lounge at The District

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Wild Boar at Royal Palace Restaurant

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About Disney Dream

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to AllEars® Team Blog in the Disney Dream category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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