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February 23, 2014

A Taste of Northern Italy on the High Seas at Palo

Andrew Rossi

The Disney Cruise Line delivers the same high quality, service, and entertainment that you would expect at one of the Disney theme parks to help create a truly magical experience at sea. Although the Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy share some common traits, they each have their own unique style and charm and offer different experiences for their Guests. Being newer and larger ships, the Dream and Fantasy were able to improve and expand upon many of the features of the Magic and the Wonder.

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Having just recently cruised aboard the Dream, I am continually amazed by the sheer size of the ship and yet attention is still paid to the tiniest of details. Whether it is the staterooms, shops, clubs, or restaurants, everywhere there are examples of the great theming and storytelling that make cruising with Disney so special.

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Of course, no cruise would be complete without food and the Disney Dream offers plenty of options to choose from. One of the unique features of Disney Cruise Line is the concept of rotational dining. Rather than having just one main dining room, aboard the Disney ships each night offers something different as you move between three completely distinct dining experiences. Aboard the Disney Dream, the first of these restaurants is Royal Palace, which draws its inspiration from classic Disney films such as Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast, and offers diners a French-inspired fare.

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Next is Enchanted Garden, which takes its cue from the beautiful gardens of Versailles and features a menu of continental European cuisine in a setting that magically transforms from day to night throughout the course of the meal.

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Finally there is Animator's Palette, which may provide the most unique dining experience of them all. Unlike its sister ships, the Magic and Wonder, Animator's Palette aboard the Dream does not transform from black and white to color during the course of dinner. Instead, the dining room is magically submerged under water and throughout the meal Guests have the opportunity to interact with Crush the sea turtle from Pixar's Finding Nemo all while enjoying a menu of Pacific Rim cuisine.

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If you are looking for something a little more special, however, the Disney Dream also offers two additional dining experiences for an extra cost. While Palo (an additional $25 per person) highlights the elegance of northern Italian cuisine, Remy (an additional $75 per person) provides diners with an array of gourmet French-inspired dishes. Both of these restaurants are the equivalent of a Signature restaurant at Walt Disney World, providing unparalleled service in an upscale atmosphere with beautifully-presented dishes made with the freshest ingredients. While I have yet to try Remy, Palo is an absolute must-do whenever I am on a Disney cruise.

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Atmosphere:
Located high above the sea on deck twelve, Palo offers tremendous ocean views in an elegant setting. The name Palo actually refers to the long poles used by gondoliers in Venice and it is easy to see this Venetian influence throughout the restaurant.

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The dining room features a warm color palette of gold and red highlighted with subtle touches of blue and green.

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As soon as you enter the restaurant your eyes cannot help but be drawn to the magnificent light fixture hanging overhead, which has a look reminiscent of the iconic glass creations of Murano (a small island less than a mile north of Venice).

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One of the most distinctive features of Palo are the beautiful paintings of Venice that adorn the walls, all of which were custom-made for the restaurant.

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The painting help add a splash of brighter colors that really make them pop against the more subdued tones throughout the rest of the dining room.

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The low-light of the dining room combine with the richly upholstered furniture, lush carpeting, and warm dark wooden paneled walls to create a very upscale and romantic setting. Although larger than its counterparts on the Magic and Wonder, Palo aboard the Dream still has a limited seating capacity with tables that are spread out to make for a quiet and more intimate dining experience. On a cruise ship that certainly caters to families and children, Palo proves that it can appeal to adults as well.

One feature on Palo aboard the Dream that is not found on the Magic and Wonder is a private dining room that even includes a window into the restaurant's kitchen.

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Of course, one of the aspects of Palo that the restaurant is best known for is its tremendous ocean views. Throughout the dining room, every table has tremendous view. This is thanks not only to the floor-to-ceiling windows, but also tiered seating that places diners at the back of the dining room on a higher level than those closer to the windows.

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No other dining location aboard the Dream, save for Remy, can match the majestic vistas offered at Palo. This setting alone really helps set the tone for a truly memorable dining experience.

The Menu:
Palo specializes in fine northern Italian cuisine, featuring classic dishes presented with a bit of a contemporary twist. There is certainly no shortage of options on Palo's menu. In fact, the most difficult decision you will have to make is which of the delectable dishes you want to order. This starts with the appetizers which include Tuna Carpaccio brushed with the chef's special lemon olive oil, Mozzarella and Plum Tomatoes topped with balsamic dressing, Sicilian Pesto Marinated Grilled Shrimp served atop a mussel, crab and cherry tomato ragu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom served over polenta and topped with a roasted shallot sauce, Fritto di Calamari served with deep fried cherry peppers, a Fresh Arugula Salad with choice of Palo's dressings, Tuscan White Bean Soup with prosciutto and parmesan cheese, and Cioppino, a traditional Italian tomato fish stew with calamari, clams, shrimp, and halibut.

The next course is the pasta dishes as well as risottos. First is the Risotto di Mare featuring a saffron risotto served with fried zucchini, shrimp, mussels, and clams. There is also the Wild Mushroom Risotto topped with freshly-shaved parmesan and a chianti reduction. For pasta there is the Lobster and Mascarpone Ravioli with a light white truffle sauce, Chianti Braised Beef Ravioli tossed in a rich red wine reduction, Gnocchi con Gorgonzola e Asparagi served with gorgonzola sauce and asparagus, Pappardelle con Aragosta featuring lobster, parsley, and fennel with chili and a fresh tomato sauce, and Penne Arrabbiatta with a spicy fresh tomato and basil sauce topped with grilled shrimp.

Then, after all this, come the entrees. For Pesce (seafood) dishes there are the Grilled Sea Scallops accompanied by borlotti beans and pancetta topped with a tomato sauce, Rombo al Finocchio, a pan seared turbot served with fingerling potatoes, porcini, pancetta and fennel with walnut butter, Branzino in Cartoccio featuring sea bass with spaghetti-cut vegetables and a ginger-orange glaze, and Grilled Tuna Piemonte atop a truffle-infused potato risotto with garlic marinated artichokes. The Carne (meat) offerings include Pan-Seared Calves Liver served on a polenta cake with caramelized apples and onions, Fagotti di Petto di Pollo, a baked chicken breast filled with ricotta, basil, and red peppers served with a pinot grigio reduction, Osso Buco, a slow roasted center-cut veal shank with risotto Milanese, Oregano and Parmesan Crusted Rack of Lamb with roasted shallots, baked Roma tomatoes, potato pave, and herb jus, and the Beef Tenderloin Palo topped with either melted gorgonzola cheese or Palo's signature red wine sauce (or with both served on the side).

With all this food you might find it difficult to save room for dessert, but you definitely want to make sure that you do in order to try Palo's signature dessert, the Chocolate Soufflé. In addition to this, other desserts include Palo's Homemade Tiramisù, Panna Cotta with strawberry-basil sorbet, Pistachio Cake with amaretto cream and hazelnut meringue, Layered Chiffon Cake glazed with ganache, and Zabaglione with berries.

For my meal I chose to start with the Cioppino. With so much food to come, this fish stew was a nice lighter option to start the meal. Although Italian in name, this dish actually originated in San Francisco. It was the creation of an Italian immigrant fisherman who made it from whatever seafood was leftover when the boats returned from sea. The presentation of the dish was absolutely stunning and the amount of seafood very impressive. The stew included shrimp, calamari, halibut, clams, and mussels. It was not a stew in a traditional sense, but rather more like seafood garnished with a light broth. The broth itself was tomato-based, its flavor enhanced with garlic and basil. Although light in consistency, it provided a tremendous amount of flavor that paired perfectly with the fresh seafood.

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The next course was the pasta dish, for which my server highly recommended the Chianti-Braised Beef Ravioli. I decided to go with his recommendation and I was certainly not disappointed. Whereas the Cioppino was served in a very light broth, the ravioli came in a rich red wine reduction; this is what absolutely made the dish. This pasta dish was just the perfect size since it was a far heartier offering than the fish stew. The ravioli themselves were cooked perfectly al dente and the beef was very tender and flavorful. The red wine reduction stole the show with a rich flavor that really popped, but at the same time still complimented the beef very well. This is a perfect example of how Palo can take a common dish like beef ravioli and give it a completely unique and contemporary spin.

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When it came to the main course I was torn between so many options, but I finally settled on the Osso Buco since it is a dish that I had never tried before. Osso Buco is Italian for "bone with a hole," a reference to the marrow hole at the center of a cross-cut veal shank. The distinguishing feature of this dish was its incredible flavor. The veal shank is slow roasted in white wine and broth so that it absorbs a tremendous amount of flavor. Extremely juicy and tender, the veal literally fell apart at the touch of a fork. The veal was then topped with a tomato sauce that added even more flavor to the dish. Accompanying the veal was a rich and creamy risotto. Risotto Milanese is prepared with beef stock, cheese, and then colored with saffron and its creamy cheesiness was a nice contrast to the veal, but it was also very filling. The hardest part was not eating too much in order to save room for dessert.

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The reason for pacing yourself throughout the meal and saving room for dessert is Palo's signature dessert (if not its signature dish), the Chocolate Soufflé. If you are dining at Palo, this is one dish that you absolutely cannot miss. It is no stretch to say that this is one of the best desserts that I have had in any restaurant anywhere. Upon being seated at your table, you are asked if you will be ordering the soufflé for dessert since each are cooked to order and take the duration of your meal to prepare. Presentation is a major component of this dessert as, at the table, your server will puncture a hole at the top of the soufflé and then pour in the chocolate and vanilla sauces. There is nothing not to like about this dessert. Served piping hot, this is extremely rich and decadent and comes served alongside a scoop of vanilla gelato, which provides a light and refreshing contrast. Even after all the food you have throughout the course of your meal, you cannot help but eat this entire dessert.

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Service:
This is yet another area in which Palo excels. To be fair, no matter where you are dining aboard the Disney Dream the service is tremendous but Palo takes this service to an entirely different level. Your server is always there for you, the smaller size of the restaurant meaning that each server has fewer tables to wait upon. This also means that each server can really take their time to get to know you and get a sense of what types of dishes you would like to try. In the times that I have dined at Palo, I have had multiple servers bring out additional dishes that I did not even order because they thought that it would be something I might like to try. One time I even had a server who said, "Just let me take care of you" and proceeded to bring out dish after dish without me even choosing anything from the menu. Another quality of the service at Palo is that they really allow you to take your time and enjoy your meal at a relaxed pace. It is not uncommon for a dinner here to last anywhere from two and a half to three hours, so be sure to plan accordingly. Dinner at Palo is more than just a meal, it is meant to be an experience and the service and pace of the meal both contribute to allowing you to enjoy every dish and drink to the fullest extent.

The Overall Experience:
With the meals on a cruise included in the price, some might question whether paying the extra $25 to dine at Palo is worth it. My answer to this is absolutely yes. While Royal Palace, Enchanted Garden, and Animator's Palette are all very good in their own right, Palo is at an entirely different level. Everything about the dining experience, from the elegant atmosphere to the northern Italian-inspired cuisine to the attentive service, is of the highest quality. With a prime location on deck twelve, the views are unmatched by any of the other dining locations aboard the ship. Meanwhile, its smaller size makes for a much quieter and more intimate dining experience. If you are looking for a romantic night out or for a little alone time away from the kids, there are few better places to go aboard the Disney Dream. It is unquestionably one of the best dining experiences I have had at anywhere on land or on sea.

See past restaurant reviews by guest blogger Andrew Rossi.

Check out Reader Reviews of the Disney Dream's Palo and post your own too!

March 31, 2012

Disney author Ridley Pearson shares what's coming next in 'Kingdom Keepers' series

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Author Ridley Pearson debuted his new 'Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game' at Downtown Disney on March 29.

"This is Ridley Pearson, Ace Detective, Kingdom Keeper, currently hiding out somewhere in Walt Disney World with a suspicious-looking woman with a long, long pen and a piece of paper."

So began my interview this week with author Ridley Pearson, who was at Walt Disney World for pre-release book events for the fifth installment in his popular Kingdom Keepers series for young adults.

Pearson's love of mysteries -- he readily shared that he enjoyed The Hardy Boys series as a young teen -- made me wish we could duck into a utilidor or, at the very least, find a secret room. But, instead, our sunglasses, my 9-year-old son and a friendly publicist had to throw any villains off our trail.

Copies of Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game were on sale Thursday at Once Upon A Toy store at Downtown DIsney and Friday at The Writer's Stop at Disney's Hollywood Studios. After purchasing books, hundreds of fans queued up at Downtown Disney on Thursday to meet Pearson and get his autograph. (KK5 goes on sale nationally on April 3.)

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Fans waited hours for the opportunity to buy 'KK5' before its release date and to meet Pearson.

Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game is set onboard Disney Cruise Line's Disney Dream, but the author had just stepped off back-to-back preview cruises on the newest ship, Disney Fantasy, so, of course, I had to ask him for a comparison of the two ships.

"The Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy are two of the most amazing cruise ships to work the sea. They are sister ships so I would never pick one sister over the other for fear the other would club me over the head with her umbrella," Pearson said. "They both are just sensational. They aren't even ships; they are experiences. I've been on both ships for over a week at a time, and you want to be on them for 3 or 4 weeks. And still, I don't think you would have had every experience you can have. Part of their attraction is this infinity of experience."

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Pearson's 'Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game' is promoted on the Disney Dream, where it takes place.


Still, after being pressed, he will admit a certain fondness for the Dream because of the incredible access he was given while researching KK5 and KK6. (Yes, the sixth installment of the series also is set onboard the ship.)

"I have been places that even some crew members have never seen. I've been down in the engine room. I've been inside the galleys. I've been in the broadcast center. I've been in the security offices. I was very, very privileged. As a reader, you get to experience these things as I did."

Readers also will take a trip to Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line's private island in the Bahamas. Pearson teased fans by saying an airplane makes a mysterious landing on the tropical paradise in KK5, but I wanted to know more.

"I was just so surprised to see this giant runway. It's not even that Disney uses it very often, but I immediately, upon seeing, it said, 'That's got to find its way into my story,' as well as a tower that is set off in sort of the brushy area. All of a sudden, the story threads came into a single thread and I realized that the Overtakers were going to be bringing something really funky and smuggling it onto the ship, and the only place they could possibly do that was Castaway Cay. So that ends up a big part of Books 5 and 6.

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'Kingdom Keepers' books were in high demand before the book signing.

"The other thing is that the story of the Kingdom Keepers, the Overtakers, is growing darker and more complex, and this book is really the breakaway for all of that. Things are about to get very heavy in Book 6, and Book 5 is sort of the gangway to that."

It's a loosely kept secret that Pearson relies on his teen daughters for input on his young adult books. Not only do they read the books, but he says, "A lot of what the Kingdom Keepers go through emotionally in my books is based on the lives of my kids. So the Kingdom Keepers continually get older in the series because my kids are getting older and dealing with boyfriends (or "louts" as he jokingly calls them). I see them go through this torture, and I put into my books."

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Emma Smith's shirt displays the entries in a contest for a logo for Pearson's upcoming book tour.

Pearson's writing obviously resonates with his young, passionate readers. In line for the book signing Thursday, one teen fan was thrilled that the timing of her Disney World vacation would allow her to meet Pearson, her favorite author. Emma Smith, 13, of Tipp City, Ohio, entered a recent contest on the author's website, ridleypearson.com. The challenge was to design a T-shirt for the KK5 book tour, and then fans were able to vote on their favorites. In addition, they could purchase shirts that showcase all the images or just one in particular.

"I love drawing and I like his books a lot, so I thought it would be fun to enter," she said.

Fans should check the website often for other contests and book tour information for Pearson.

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Emma's 'KK5' design is among those featured on her T-shirt.

So what's next for the author? He's in the process of writing Kingdom Keepers VI, which will be followed by the seventh and final book in the series. Pearson won't reveal the backdrop for that book, except to say, "You'll have to stay tuned, but the ZIP code will change." The books are due out on the first Tuesday of April in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

"We would sure hope to be back in Walt Disney World, releasing ahead of time. This is to me, the best of all fans, and if we can give them an advantage by letting them get the book before the rest of the country, that's all the better," he said.

In the meantime, his next trip back to The Most Magical Place on Earth is at the end of April, when he will be a speaker at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

February 26, 2011

Art of the Disney Dream

Andrew Rossi

Guest blogger Andrew Rossi returns to take a look at the artwork found aboard the new Disney Dream.

The Disney Dream is a ship that has an air of sophistication and refinement, much more so than the Magic and the Wonder. That is not saying that the two other ships are not beautiful in their own right, but the Dream takes it to the next level. The great strength of the Dream lies in its attention to detail. Wherever you turn, there is evidence of the tremendous skill and craftsmanship that went into constructing such a massive ship. The same level of quality that you would expect when visiting any Disney theme park can be found aboard the Dream. Its stunning beauty makes it truly unlike any other ship that I have been on.

One of the things which impressed me the most about the detail and theming of the Dream was the wide array of artwork found throughout the ship. Art can sometimes be overlooked by many or taken for granted, but it really helps lend to the overall sense of luxury and elegance aboard the ship. Not only does the Dream have more artwork than the Magic or Wonder, but I also found the quality of art to be far superior as well.

No matter where you are aboard the ship, you are almost always in sight of some piece of art, be it painting, portrait, or photograph. It is this artwork that helps to add little Disney touches throughout the ship, but it does so in a way that is both mature and not overwhelming. Here is a look at some of the art that can be found aboard the Dream:

The beauty of the Disney Dream is evident as soon as you enter the magnificent atrium and one's eye cannot help but be drawn to the massive chandelier hanging from the ceiling. The chandelier's Art Deco design sets the tone of elegance and luxury for the rest of the ship. If you look carefully you might even be able to spot Mickey.

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Like the Magic and Wonder, the Dream features a statue at the base of the atrium's grand staircase. While Mickey holds the honor on the Magic and Ariel on the Wonder, on the Dream it is Admiral Donald.

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While in the atrium also take notice of the gold trim along the edges of the fourth and fifth decks above. From a distance it may not appear to be anything special, but if you look closely you will see that it features the images of many Disney characters.

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The atrium also showcases two beautiful mosaics, one near the Bon Voyage bar and the other by the Guest Relations desk, paying homage to Disney princesses.

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Overlooking the atrium on deck five are various works of art paying tribute to transportation with a distinctly Disney flair.

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I found that the stairwells were a great location to spot a wide variety of art, many featuring beautiful panoramas, scenes, and even concept art and sketches from classic Disney movies.

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One thing I liked about the artwork throughout the ship is that it was often themed to go along with the areas of the ship that it is in. For example, walking down the long promenade toward Animators Palette you can encounter sketches of many popular Disney characters:

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The entrance to the Walt Disney Theater features a wide variety of photographs of Walt Disney:
Meanwhile, near the Buena Vista Theater, you can find movie posters from many classic Disney films:

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Not to be overlooked, the all the restaurants aboard the Dream also feature a wide array of beautiful artwork, such as the Royal Palace which features paintings of Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, and Aurora:

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Outside the entrance to Enchanted Garden you can find some beautifully decorated ceramic vases:

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As you enter Palo you encounter a magnificent chandelier and the dining room features many paintings of Venice:

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Palo Venice Paintings

Likewise, Remy features images of the Parisian skyline reminiscent of scenes from Ratatouille:

Remy Paris Skyline

For the best collection of art aboard the ship, however, be sure to visit the Vista Gallery. This area is like a small art museum and has art available for purchase as well. The quality of the artwork here is absolutely stunning and ranges from paintings of the ship to scenes from classic Disney movies and portraits of many of you favorite Disney characters in ways you have never seen them before.

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While all the artwork found across the Dream really helps add a "Disney" touch to the décor, nothing does this more than the Enchanted Art that can be found throughout nearly every deck of the ship (twenty-two pieces in all). While these pieces of art may appear just like any other painting they are actually LCD screens and if you look at them for long enough you will find that they are unlike any other artwork you have ever seen.

You can learn even more about the Enchanted Art and even see some videos by clicking here.

This enchanted art, that literally comes to life before you eyes, is unlike anything else found aboard the other Disney ships or on any other cruise line. It is a truly unique experience that helps make cruising aboard the Dream all the more magical.

This enchanted artwork also allows for another unique, fun, interactive experience aboard the ship called the Midship Detective Agency. If you are familiar with the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure at Epcot, this is very similar. Instead of helping Kim Possible, you are now helping Mickey, Goofy, and Donald solve a mystery by finding the evil Disney villain who is stealing artwork aboard the Dream. This fun adventure takes you across the ship in search of different clues that might help you uncover the villain responsible as well as helping to recover some of the lost paintings.

Your mission begins on deck five at the Midship Detective Agency desk overlooking the atrium.

Midship Detective Agency Desk

Here you receive a map of the ship along with a list of potential suspects and a detective "badge" that you will use throughout your mission.

Midship Detective Agency Badge

You then watch the monitor and are given instructions as to what you are looking for and how the badge works. Once you begin, the mission takes you across the ship from deck two all the way up to deck ten. What I liked about it was that you could go at your own pace. Unlike Kim Possible, where you have a Kimmunicator that times-out after fifteen minutes of inactivity, if you are doing a mission for the Midship Detective Agency you can stop in the middle for a break and resume later in the day.

I decided to play straight through and the mission took me about an hour and fifteen minutes, considerable longer than a twenty to thirty minute Kim Possible Mission. The map that you receive at the start shows you different locations that you can go to throughout the ship to find clues using various pieces of enchanted art. As you approach the art you hold up your badge and this either unlocks a clue or helps recover a missing painting.

I noticed a lot of people participating in the Midship Detective Agency throughout the course of the cruise, ranging from groups of kids to families and even adults. However, there are so many different locations spread across the ship that things did not really get backed up at the various pieces of enchanted art. I had expected that I would have to wait for a bunch of other people to get their clues before I could get mine, but this was not the case.

You can see a small sample video of what you may encounter on your mission for the Midship Detective Agency by clicking here.

I think the Midship Detective Agency is a great addition to the Dream, giving kids and families additional things to do while on board, and I would love to see it implemented on the other Disney ships. It is just another example of how Disney is at the forefront of the cruise line industry always looking for new ways to enhance the experience for its guests and utilize new technology. It is something that makes cruising aboard the Disney Dream unique, just as with all the artwork found across the ship. It is this artwork that gives the Dream a distinctly Disney flair, but at the same time enhances the overall beauty and elegance of the ship.

February 16, 2011

Disney Dream - Wheelchair Access Report

By Guest Blogger Terry W.

My daughter Anne and I were passengers on the Disney Dream's first regular 4-day cruise, from January 30 to February 3rd.

We stayed in a standard inside stateroom, category 11, just as we do when we sail on the Wonder and the Magic. We were thrilled with many improvements to wheelchair access.

Here are some things people in wheelchairs will be happy to find. And a few things that still cause problems.

Staterooms

1. The staterooms for people with wheelchairs are at the elevator-end of hallways now instead of at the far end. YEA!!! you don't have to navigate past the carts every time you go back to your stateroom to use the bathroom!!!!

2. The staterooms with roll-in showers also have automatic doors now. Very cool. Allows for more independence. They open when you tap your 'key to the world' card on the entry pad from the outside and when you push the door open button from the inside. Like the other Disney ships, the Dream continues to have wide doors and room for wheelchairs to turn around once you get into the room.

3. The higher beds in all the staterooms worked well for me as a caretaker of a person who needs help dressing and transferring to the wheelchair. I didn't have to lean over so far and the strain on my back was less on the Dream. But warning for people who are used to having the beds split so they can work from both sides. The beds don't split on the Dream.

4. The roll-in showers on the Dream have better drains; they have added a center drain as well as the drain around the edge of the shower area. This will prevent overflow and soaking of the bathroom floor when the drains can't keep up with the shower flow. The bathrooms continue to be well-designed for wheelchair users to transfer to toilet and shower chairs. There is enough room for personal care assistants to help. The counter areas are bigger, which is a help for all the stuff you have to have on hand.

5. Storage in the stateroom on the Dream was less than the Magic. This is partly made up for by the higher beds, which allow you to roll your suitcases under the beds... so you can leave things in the suitcases and get to them more easily. But a person in a wheelchair will miss having storage in reach. There is one really good new feature in the closet. There is a pull down hanging rod so that a person in a wheelchair can hang up and retrieve clothes on hangers!

6. Unfixed from the Magic to the Dream: there are not enough places to plug in your equipment at night in the stateroom. It is a must to bring a plug strip with you if you have to charge a power wheelchair, a speech device, your camera, your iPad etc. over night.


Public areas:

1. Several doors from the elevator lobbies have motion sensor openings and open to let you in/out to the decks without you having to open the doors.

2. Theater seating in both theaters is VERY much better. A person in a wheelchair may now sit in the front, middle or back of the theaters. This is exciting, especially in the Walt Disney Theater, where many of the shows have stuff coming down from the ceiling. Getting to the front and middle level seats in the WD Theater does require a host to assist you; you have to go through a crew area, on special elevators, and though some water tight doors at the front of the ship. The host has to call the officer on the bridge and arrange to have the doors released when the person in the wheelchair is coming through. After the shows you have to wait for a host to come help you back out. But it is really worth it!!

3. Dining Rooms are very tight. It seems to us that a person in a wheelchair can only sit on the main aisle. For our cruise, the table assignment took this into consideration. I hope every guest in a wheelchair will book a wheelchair access room so the team that assigns tables will have the party schedule for the aisle. When you go to breakfast or lunch at one of the main dining rooms, you have to request an aisle table.

4. Cabanas, for casual dining was much easier to navigate with a wheelchair than Topsiders on the Magic, with more tables and much wider spaces around the food serving areas. The tables are packed a little tight, but the hosts can find good ones.

5. Bathrooms in the public areas have very large 'assist' cubicles within them. The size of these is excellent. However, I think the solution is not as good as the family/assist bathrooms in the public areas on the Magic and Wonder. Two drawbacks are that only the same gender person can go with the person to be assisted and to get there you have to pass through two doors rather than only one.

6. Hallways in the public areas of the Dream are much wider and do not have as many obstructions. It was always hard to get through deck 3 and 4 on the Magic and Wonder. Getting from restaurants and activity areas on the Dream was much easier.

For people in wheelchairs, any Disney resort or Disney ship is a pleasure compared to the rest of the world. It was great to see that the Dream has incorporated most of the good things from past designs and taken access even farther. We were thrilled with it and look forward to the Fantasy! Please share any of this information that you thing other people will find useful.

Best wishes from a Disney fan
Terry W

February 13, 2011

Dining Aboard the Disney Dream: Cabanas and Other Options

Andrew Rossi

Guest blogger Andrew Rossi continues to explore the dining options available aboard the Disney Dream with a look at Cabanas as well as many other locations to get something to eat or drink.

One thing about cruises, there is never a shortage of food. Not matter which way you turn, there always seems to be something to eat. This is especially true of the Disney Dream. Of course, the three restaurants that comprise the dinner rotation receive the most notoriety: Royal Palace, Enchanted Garden, and Animators Palette. In addition to these restaurants, however, there is a plethora of dining options available throughout the ship offering a wide variety of choices ranging from a quick snack to a full-course meal. Here are some of the dining locations found aboard the Dream:

Cabanas:
Cabanas can be most closely associated with the Beach Blanket Buffet on the Wonder and the Topsider Buffet on the Magic, but major improvements and enhancements have been made on the Dream.

Cabanas Sign

Located on deck eleven, the theme of the restaurant is meant to evoke images of a California beach, complete with palm trees, Adirondack-style chairs, tables topped with seashells, and decorative surf boards. The dining room has a very light, open, airy feel with large windows allowing in plenty of natural sunlight and showcases beautiful views of the ocean below.

Cabanas Indoor Seating

There are also some uniquely "Disney" touches with appearances from some of the characters from Finding Nemo.

Cabanas Nemo Characters1

Cabanas Nemo Characters2

In addition, the restaurant also has outdoor seating, allowing diners to take advantage of the warm Caribbean sun and cool ocean breezes.

Cabanas%20Outdoor%20Seating

Two really nice artistic touches in the restaurant are a 30-foot mosaic depicting a scene of a coral reef complete with characters from Finding Nemo in addition to another piece of art depicting the various Disney castles from around the world in sand.

Cabanas Mosaic

Cabanas Sand Castles

Cabanas features a buffet breakfast and lunch, but rather than being one long counter, the food selections are divided into different stations meant to resemble beachside cabanas. As opposed to the setup on the Magic and Wonder, where diners have to wait in one long line, this new design allow diners to pick and choose which sections to visit and allows them to skip past those that don't interest them.

Cabanas Station1

Cabanas Station2

Cabanas Station3

Cabanas Station4

Cabanas Desserts

It also seemed to me that this new format allows for a wider variety of food choices than what can be found at the Topsider or Beach Blanket Buffets. The various food stations offer everything from soups and salads to pizzas, pastas, sandwiches and wraps, a carving station, and delicious desserts. I also noticed the food quality on the Dream to be higher than that of the Magic and Wonder (not saying that it is poor on the other two ships) with more gourmet and refined offerings.

Another improvement is that the drink station has been moved away from the end of the food line, with multiple locations throughout the restaurant. On the Magic and Wonder the buffet line would frequently get backed up as people were pouring their drinks.

Cabanas Drink Station

Another difference with Cabanas comes at dinner where the restaurant is transformed from a buffet to a table-service dining experience where meals are cooked to order. This offers cruisers a more casual alternative to dining in the main restaurants and offers the option of being able to dine outside under the stars. The dinner menu features a full four-course meal that includes some of the signature items from the main rotational restaurants as well as some unique items that can only be found here. This is a great option for cruisers who do not necessarily want to be locked in to either an early seating or late seating dinner time, allowing them to eat at a time of their own choosing.

Flo's V-8 Café:
If you are relaxing by the pool and looking for a quick bite to eat, then Flo's V-8 Café is the place for you. It is basically the equivalent of Goofey's Galley, Pinocchio's Pizzeria, and Pluto's Doghouse from the Magic and Wonder all located in one convenient location. Themed after the movie Cars, there are three separate counters from which you can order.

Flo's Cafe Sign

Luigi's features an assortment of pizzas ordered by the slice.

Luigi's Menu

Luigi%20Counter

Tow Mater Grill has traditional favorites like hamburgers and cheeseburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, hotdogs and bratwurst, and chicken tenders.

Tow Mater Menu

Fillmore's Favorites has a lighter fare of sandwiches and wraps, freshly made paninis, and salads.

Fillmore's Menu

Fillmore's Counter

While it is convenient to have all three stands located right next to each other, and so close to the pools, I did find that this area became very crowded, especially during the afternoon lunchtime hours.

Cove Café:
One of my favorite spaces on the entire ship was the Cove Café located adjacent to the Quiet Cove Pool. Even though it is more of a place to get something to drink than something to eat, the Cove Café does have some food offerings during the course of the day with muffins, Danishes, and croissants in the morning and an assortment of pastries throughout the rest of the day, in addition to delectable chocolate covered strawberries that became on of my favorite snacks on the cruise.

Cove Cafe Sign

Cove Cafe Bar

The Café's furniture and artwork are inspired by the Art Deco era of the 1920s and 1930s, giving the interior a sense of luxury and refinement. Take time to look at some of the black and white photographs hanging on the walls as they feature many images of Walt Disney travelling with friends and family. With its comfortable chairs and couches, the Cove Café is the perfect place to relax, its quiet atmosphere great for grabbing a drink and enjoying a good book.

Cove Cafe Seating1

Cove Cafe Seating2

Bars and Lounges:
I was astonished by the number of bars and lounges to be found throughout the ship. It will be very difficult to go thirsty on this ship because wherever you are there is a bar nearby. While The District, the adults-only nightclub area, features a variety of differently themed bars and lounges, there are many others located throughout the ship. Here are just a few and where they can be found:

Located on deck 13 just above the Quiet Cove Pool, Currents offers ample outdoor seating where cruisers can enjoy the sun and a refreshing frozen drink by day or a cocktail sitting under the stars by night.

Currents Bar

One thing that really impressed me about the Dream was that the lounge chairs and other furniture out on deck was of much better quality than found on the Magic or the Wonder.

Currents Seating Area

Meridian is situated between Palo and Remy on deck 12, offering the perfect spot to enjoy a pre- or post-meal cocktail while enjoying the beautiful ocean views. Featuring both indoor and outdoor seating, Meridian's comfy leather chairs and dark-paneled walls give the lounge a feeling of luxury. In fact, the lounge actually has a dress code with a dress shirt or jacket required for men and a dress or pantsuit for women; no jeans are allowed.

arMeridian.jpg

The décor of the lounge pays tribute to world travel, specifically the early days of sea travel. There are many little details to be found here, from the navigational tools embedded in the floor, leather maps featuring passport stamps from around the world, and even a constellation map lit up with twinkling stars covering the ceiling.

Also on deck 12 is Waves, tucked just behind the aft funnel. Its location just below Goofey's Sports Deck makes it a convenient location for grabbing a cold drink after playing a game of basketball or finishing up a round of miniature golf. It is located in an out-of-the-way area, which makes it another nice quiet spot to relax.

Waves

The Quiet Cove Pool on deck 11 features the Cove Bar, which offers a Disney Cruise Line first. Cruisers are able to walk up or swim up to the bar, allowing the convenience of ordering drinks without even having to leave the pool. I noticed this to be one of the busiest bars on the ship, primarily because of its location, but Currents (located just above the Quiet Cove Pool) offers the same drinks while having less of a wait to get them.

Cove Bar

Overlooking the ship's atrium on deck 4, the Vista Café is very similar to the Cove Café, just in a less secluded setting. It still features comfy chairs and coaches and offers beautiful views of the atrium that make it a perfect place to sit and relax. In addition, its large portholes allow for great ocean views. The Café specializes in coffee drinks and also features an assortment of pastries throughout the day.

Vista Cafe Bar

Vista Cafe Seating

Just off the atrium on deck 3 is Bon Voyage. Its centralized location makes it a great place to enjoy a cocktail before dinner or prior to seeing a show in the Walt Disney Theater. The bar's Art Deco feel ties in perfectly with that of the atrium, offering a refined yet relaxing setting.

Bon Voyage

With a ship so large there are so many places to explore and things to discover. But, despite being so big, I found that the Disney Dream features many little, quiet places to sit and relax. These bars and lounges offer the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a refreshing drink. Then, if you get hungry, there are multiple dining options throughout the ship that make food readily available at nearly any hour of the day. It is safe to say that you will not go hungry or thirsty while on a Disney cruise.

February 9, 2011

Disney Dream Maiden Voyage - Heading Home

by Lori Edelman
Guest Blogger

Leaving the Dream was sad, but you have to say so-long in order to plan, anticipate, and take that next wonderful Disney cruise!

Since we had the late dinner seating, we didn't have to be out of our stateroom and at breakfast until 8:00am. Breakfast was in the same restaurant where you had dinner the evening before. In our case, that would be Animator's Palate. Narrow aisle space made it challenging to get everyone seated along with their carry-on bags.

After eating and saying goodbye to our table-mates and our servers, we attempted to make our way off the ship. What we discovered was an incredibly long line of people and bags. Apparently, it was taking longer than planned for the ship to clear customs.

Eventually we disembarked and went downstairs in the terminal to locate our checked bags. That was pretty easy and then we got in line for Customs. Despite being very long, the line moved fairly quickly. Next up we boarded one of the DCL busses headed back to the airport.

Fortunately, our flights home were pretty uneventful. On one leg I was assigned to a seat in a row that no longer existed (change of equipment), but they found me a new spot without any problem. The hardest part of the entire trip for me came at the Portland airport. Mike and I were home, but it was time to say goodbye to Aaron as he had one more short hop back to Eugene and the University of Oregon. We had such a great time with him; I didn't want it to end.

Now, we've been home for nearly a week and I can still say this was by far one of the very best Disney vacations we have ever had.

But, there is so much more to see and do!

Next trip we will take the time to play one of the "detective" games to see all that the different pieces of animated artwork can do.

Next trip we will visit more of the areas in the District. Evolution, Skyline, D Lounge.

Next trip I'd like to sneak a peek of a virtual porthole!

Next trip we will spend more time swimming in the Quiet Cove pool. In fact we will swim right up to the bar! Maybe we can warm up in one of the hot tubs on deck, too!

Next trip we will get a picture taken with Captain Mickey!

Next trip I'll take a class at the Fitness Center!

Next trip we will have dinner at Palo; maybe even brunch and high tea!

Next time. I don't know when we will get to travel again on the Disney Dream, but I do know that we will meet her sister ship, the Fantasy! We are booked on her maiden voyage scheduled to sail on March 31, 2012!!! (We will be 4 for 4 on Disney maiden voyages!)

See ya real soon! (I'm including some random photos from different days of our trip. Enjoy!)

Postscript from Michael

We're home now.

As I drove in to work this morning they were playing Southern Cross (by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young) and I got a little sad. I love this song and it always makes me remember our cruises. Originally, Lori and I were planning to do back-to-back cruises for this maiden voyage and as I was driving in to work I was really wishing that I was waking up on the Dream getting ready for another day on the ship. On the other hand, instead of doing the back-to-back we took our 19 year-old son with us (who WANTED to go) and we all had a great time!

Lori and I have had a number of discussions along the lines of "what did you like best?" and "what did you like least?" and it has been difficult to answer these questions. The thing I liked the least was how when viewing the Disney Magic at Castaway Cay from the deck of the Dream, many people were referring to the Magic as old, beat up, and worse. The Disney Magic will always hold a special place in my heart and I think Disney continues to do a wonderful job in maintaining and enhancing the experience on the Magic for one and all. There is no need to belittle the older ships in order to make the newest one seem even more special. And, the Dream is special. It's Disney's first large ship and it has an elegance that no other cruise line can match. In fact, it is only matched by the Magic and Wonder.

I think my favorite restaurant is the Enchanted Garden -- it is very bright and comfortable. My least favorite is Animator's Palette which suffers from smaller aisles making it difficult for everyone to get in and out.

Cabana's was also very nice, but for some reason Disney made this one of the few ways to get to and from Meridian, Palo and Remy. Having to walk through Cabana's at a busy time to get to one of these other places can be a little frustrating.

The variety of places that make up Flo's is great and it is nice to have them all grouped together. For lunches and snacks, these little food-court-like venues can't be beat.

I really liked the variety of bars and hangouts. Meridian is a very pleasant place to have a drink and a cigar while overlooking the aft of the ship. Pink is a good place to hang with a group -- especially if you are sitting in one of the clamshells that make it easy to hear everyone in your group. We visited Evolution and other places in The District but did not have enough time to spend in all of them. Something for our "To Do List"!

I wish I would have been able to get in to Palo -- I think my son would have enjoyed it now that he is old enough. I know Lori and I would have loved it -- we have many fond memories and stories of our experiences in Palo. We heard good things about Remy, but the $75 price tag seems a little prohibitive.

The coffee in all locations on the Dream was much better than what I remember from previous cruises -a huge plus!

I wish they would have played the horn more in general and more of the new tunes. I know that the horn can be a little overpowering on the Magic and Wonder, but even sitting near the funnel on the Dream the horn was not hard on my ears. I feel fortunate that I remembered to record the medley on my iPhone!

One final note - this was a Maiden Voyage with a lot of new crew and staff. There were really very few problems but Disney has set people's expectations so high that little issues seem to be huge problems for some people. These people seemed to forget that this was a new ship with new crew and there would be mistakes and they were very vocal. Fortunately, most people seemed to understand.

Thank you for allowing us to share our experiences with you!

DCL Dream Bus

Sail away.jpg

Towel Mickey

Ships Photo

Mickey Blanket

Shutters new filing system

Kiss Goodnight

February 8, 2011

Disney Dream Maiden Voyage - Day 4 Castaway Cay

by Lori Edelman
Guest Blogger

The ship arrived and docked early at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. We chose Cabanas for breakfast before we headed ashore. They had lots of good choices including eggs benedict, omelets and corned-beef hash - a favorite of Aaron's and Michael's. When we'd had our fill, we made our way down to the gangway on deck 1. Once on the dock we had our first up-close and personal view of the ship. Wow. She is at the same time beautiful and massive.

A number of things have changed on the island. The tram stop for the family beach has moved down island closer to the new Pelican Plunge water slide. This relocation seemed to help spread out the crowds along the family beach. Right as you exit the tram is another shop very similar to She Sells Seashells. Merchandise choices seemed nearly the same. They also have Cookie's Too; a second BBQ service located at Serenity Bay, the adult beach.

Once we got to our favorite spot just beyond the Conched Out Bar, Aaron and I decided to do a little exploring. We hopped on the tram to check out the adult beach. It was quiet and peaceful, but a bit windier. Then we decided to rent bicycles. Great bargain at only $12 for two bikes! Good old, solid Schwinn with the pedal-backward style brakes. And, my bike was pink! There were a couple different paths that we took. On one loop we stopped at a look-out tower that offered spectacular views of the entire island.

After our ride we headed back to our spot where Michael had settled in with his kindle, a cigar, and a Mickey margarita. (We made up this one ourselves: tequila, club soda, and lime juice and by the time we left the cruise a number of the bar tenders and servers were using the name!) We tried dipping our toes in the water, but it was pretty cold! Even though the water was cold, the temperature outside was very pleasant: 73 and sunny.

They started serving lunch about 11:30am. Selections were about the same as we remembered from past stops at Castaway Cay. Hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled mahi mahi, BBQ ribs, chicken, a variety of salads, fresh fruit, and desserts. You will never go hungry on a Disney cruise, that's for sure!

It turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. Michael and I did not go in the water choosing instead to simply nap/read/ipad on the beach. Aaron tried to lure us all into the water and did brave it himself for a short time. He's 19. It was our perfect day in paradise.

We headed back to the ship about 3pm on foot in order to capture a few more photos of the ship. When we got back to our stateroom, I decided to start on the dreaded task of packing. It went pretty quickly even though I had, of course, brought along way more than we needed.

Aaron wanted to head to deck 12 to watch the crew throw the lines in preparation for sailing away. We sailed promptly at 5pm preceded by the lovely tones from the horn of the Dream. This afternoon we were treated to "Be Our Guest" and "When You Wish Upon a Star". A trip to Castaway Cay is bittersweet; paradise arriving and during the day, very sad to leave as it signals our trip is coming to an end.

Tonight we were treated to a brand new production in the Walt Disney Theater: Disney's Believe. I absolutely loved it! The story is about a little girl celebrating her birthday and trying to get her dad to believe in magic. I was delighted that they included many musical numbers from some older classics like Mary Poppins, the Jungle Book, and Pocahontas. The genie from Aladdin acted as host trying to convince Dad to believe.

Dinner for us on this final evening was in Animator's Palate. This restaurant is located on deck 3 just down a really long hallway from the Royal Palace. The highlight of Animator's Palate is supposed to be the show. The screens around the room transform throughout the evening coming to life with characters from Finding Nemo. Unfortunately, our table was more toward the center of the room making it difficult to see and hear. If you've ever been to the "Turtle Talk with Crush" attraction at Epcot, you would find this show somewhat familiar.

Besides the show, I loved the decor. The color scheme was primarily black and white with splashes of color here and there. The backs of our chairs were red with yellow "buttons" -- kind of like the shorts of our favorite Mouse!

This was probably our least favorite menu. Michael had tenderloin, Aaron had a shrimp pasta dish, and I had a steak salad. Good, but not great as we've come to expect. While our servers did their best to be attentive, service was just not up to par. What we later learned is that the galley for this restaurant was quite a trek for the servers. (This is a good example of Disney building a beautiful ship, but not giving enough thought to what it would really take to make some things work.)

After dinner, Aaron went exploring after getting himself packed. I met Michael at Meridian. When he finished his cigar, we headed back to Pink for one final cocktail. Also, our friend, Yelena, had left a special gift for us -- a pair of champagne flutes from two of the pre-maiden voyage cruises. We promise you will not find ours on eBay!

Just before we left, our new friends, Dottie, Donna, and Carol stopped by. Fingers crossed, we plan to all meet up again when the Disney Fantasy sails her maiden voyage next year! (We have our reservation! Do you?)

And, one final thing. Donna mentioned that she was able to order one of the new Dooney & Burke designs available only on the Dream. People snapped them up within an hour or two (maybe minutes) the day they were released. Crazy. At any rate, I was so excited! We dashed to the store, White Caps, only moments before they closed the doors at midnight. Whew. Made it! And, I placed my order! It should arrive in plenty of time before our next cruise.

We called it a night around 1pm. All too soon we will be on the airplane home.

AquaDuck 1

AquaDuck 2

AquaDuck 3

Welcome to Castaway Cay

Water is cold!

Dream 1

Dream 2

Dream 3

Dream 4

Dream 5

Sorcerer Mickey

Dad Too Busy

Dad and Daughter

Genies

Merlin

Baloo

Lion King

Fairy Godmother

Be Our Guest

Mickey I Believe!

Minnie and Mrs Potts

Finale

Animators

Animators Table

February 2, 2011

Disney Dream Maiden Voyage - Day 3

by Lori Edelman
Guest Blogger

And, what a day it turned out to be!

First thing, we slept in. Before we realized it, the time was nearly 9:30! We quickly got dressed and headed to the Enchanted Garden for breakfast. This restaurant features a delicious buffet with all of the offerings you would expect.

Next up, Aaron and I again headed for the Aqua Duck. We got in one quick ride before the BIG highlight of the day. We had been sailing towards Castaway Cay and guess what we found there? The Disney Magic! Captain Tom pulled close enough for us to have a great photo op and then came the real treat. Horns. Both ships addressed one another multiple times. The Disney Dream sounded all of its tones: "When You Wish Upon A Star", "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes", "Be Our Guest", "Bibbidy-Boppidy-Boo", "It's a Small World", and "A Pirate's Life for Me"! Wow. Tears, of course, welled up in me. I'm just too darn sentimental.

Disney Magic

Another peek at the Magic

With cruise director, Rachel Quinn

Next up: christening of the Aqua Duck! Cast members had two containers filled with water previously gathered from the two Walt Disney World water parks -- Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. They poured the water from the two bottles into the Aqua Duck water. Then, the real highlight of the christening: Donald Duck! Donald rode the ride named in his honor. Great fun.

Donald heading upstairs to ride!

The three of us had lunch on deck at Fillmore's, Luigi's Pizza, and Tow Mater's Grill. Pizza, burgers and fries, chicken tenders, and some healthier selections like salads, fruits, and wraps. For "fast food", everything we tried was delicious!

After lunch, even though it was chilly outside, Michael made a quick trip back to the room to change into his swimsuit. Then, he and I took a turn on the Aqua Duck! Fast and cold! The second we got off, we grabbed towels and headed back to the stateroom for warm showers. To further warm up we went to Cove Cafe for some coffee drinks and Internet time.

Before we knew it we had to get ready for the play and dinner. Tonight was an optional dress-up evening. Prior to the theater, we wandered into the shops and Michael bought me some very beautiful Mickey earrings. I am a lucky girl indeed.

Lori - dress-up night!

The show tonight was the Golden Mickeys. We have all seen it before, but I felt especially moved by the music this time. At the end of the Snow White scene, Dopey and Snow White were joined on stage by some children from the audience who were dressed up as dwarfs. Precious! I always enjoy the Tarzan segment. He is very easy on the eyes not to mention the amazing Cirque du Soleil-like moves on a single rope. A few changes/additions to the show that we noticed -- a scene and song from Tangled, Bob Iger replaced Roy Disney in the beginning sequence with Ensign Benson, and the girl that voices Tiana from the Princess and the Frog (sorry, don't recall her name) has replaced Angela Lansbury, the voice of Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast.

Golden Mickeys

More Golden Mickeys

More Golden Mickeys

Snow White and her special dwarves

Toy Story

Mickey

As I said, the music and story were both wonderful and very moving. Yes, tears were streaming down my face through most of the play. I can hardly wait to see it again one day.

Dinner for us was once again in the Royal Palace. This time we returned to our assigned table with our new friends from Seattle. And, we had the opportunity to get a little better acquainted with our servers. Arvan is from Mauritius, an island near Madagascar. Soft spoken, pleasant, and very attentive. Somehow we got lucky enough to have two assistant servers. Annaya is from Brazil and Izabella is from Poland. Like Arvan, both have been delightful providing excellent service.

Our meal tonight had a French flair. We enjoyed favorites like escargot, French onion soup, steak and lobster. For dessert, I chose the creme brûlée in honor of my friend Jim. Actually, I had very little of the custard, but I ate all of the delicious crust on top!

After dinner, Aaron decided to go back to the stateroom to relax and watch some movies on tv. Michael and I headed to the District, the area on the Dream where you will find most all of the nightlife. We met up with our AllEars friends, Deb and Linda, in Pink. This lounge had a bubbly champagne theme featuring a variety of champagne cocktails as well as a full bar. And, of course, the decor is all soft shades of pink. (Anyone really surprised to find me here?)

In addition to Deb and Linda, we made some new friends -- Dotti, Donna, Carol, and Jo. Some of these gals have been contributing to the success of AllEars for years and years. For me, it was quite a thrill to finally put faces to names. We had such fun joking, sharing stories, and laughing. We closed down Pink at about 1am!

Pink!

Another special gift

February 1, 2011

Disney Dream Maiden Voyage - Day 2, Nassau

by Lori Edelman
Guest Blogger

The Disney Dream definitely has comfy beds! We all slept very well awaking to the ship cruising into the bay at Nassau. We watched from our balcony as the ship very slowly turned 180 degrees to back into its parking spot at the dock. Pretty impressive. The ship turns on a dime.

From the bridge

Lighthouse as we enter Nassau and Atlantis

For breakfast we chose to go to the Royal Palace. We had a number of different choices on the menu. I chose a vegetarian omelette, Michael picked an "everything" omelette with a variety of meats, cheese, and veggies. Aaron had the express which consisted of eggs, hash browns, sausage, and bacon. Everything was delicious and served warm. A pet peeve that I've had on prior Disney cruises is that toast was almost always cold. Not a good way to start the day. I'm happy to report that they seemed to have figured it out!

After breakfast, Aaron and I made a bee-line for the Aqua Duck!!! It was a little chilly, but together we made our first trip down the slide! Great fun!!! We promptly got in line to ride again only to have the ride close down for about 15 minutes. It seems that some children do not weigh enough and end up getting stuck. It was kind of funny to watch the cast members walk through the tube to rescue the stranded riders.

We chose Cabanas for lunch. Once again, lots of yummy choices -- shrimp with pico de gallo, sauteed green beans and carrots, fresh pizza, and more. 1:30pm was my appointed time to pick up my limited edition pins. This ended up being a very easy, well-organized process.

Maiden voyage gift - a Ducky Williams litho

In the afternoon, Aaron took a nap while Michael and I headed to the Walt Disney Theater for a special presentation for Gold and Platinum Castaway Club members. (Gold = 5 to 10 cruises; platinum 11 and more cruises. We are Gold.) The presentation was by Tom Staggs, head of WDW Parks and Resorts. He talked a little about the building of the Disney Dream. We learned that the Sorcerer Mickey figure at the aft of the ship (that's the back) was originally sculpted in Glendale, CA and then was sent back and forth to Germany and Florida before finally being mounted on the ship. He'd traveled close to 15000 miles!

Next up, a very special treat for Michael and Aaron. They went to the spa for a shave and facial. Both loved the experience and both looked even more handsome to me! While they were being pampered, I decided it was high time I burned some calories. I headed to deck 4 and the jogging track. On the Disney Dream, 2-1/2 laps equals one mile. (Three laps make a mile on the Magic and Wonder.) I lost track of the number of laps I walked, but then I took to the stairs. Deck 4 to deck 11 is quite the workout!

Trying out the Quiet Cove Pool

Crew Pool

Sail-away from Nassau was about 6pm. Aaron and I watched from deck 13 as the Dream slowly and smoothly made its way out to sea.

We headed back to our stateroom to relax for a bit and to get ready for Pirate night! This evening's play, "Villains Tonight" was showing at 6:45pm. On the Disney Dream, the Walt Disney Theater has a balcony level. We decided to check it out and thoroughly enjoyed the view. Michael and I had seen the show once before. It is a fun story with great music, but probably not our favorite show.

Villains Tonight!

Between the show and dinner, we had about 30 minutes to wander around. It looked like more craziness in the shops! The shops on this ship are much larger than those on the Magic and Wonder carrying a much larger selection of items.

Dinner tonight for us was in the Royal Palace.

Floor in front of Royal Palace

As we waited for the doors to open, we were joined by our AllEars friends, Deb and Linda. Their table-mates were in Remy so they invited us to join them. It was great fun to get better acquainted. The menu tonight was good, but mostly nothing that we had not seen before. During our appetizer course, our head server, Mario, found us with a special delivery: a huge bowl of coconut shrimp! Yum!

As you might guess, this elegant restaurant gives nods to several of our favorite princesses. On the backs of the chairs you will find a variety of symbols like an apple (Snow White), a rose (Belle), a glass slipper (Cinderella), and a pumpkin carriage (Cinderella - two nods!). We get to eat in this same location again tomorrow night for the optional dress-up evening. I'll try to spot more special Disney details to share with you.

Dinner ran a bit long. Aaron and I scooted out quickly to head up to deck 12 to watch the fireworks! Second time in one day I ran 8 decks worth of stairs. Yowee. Great display followed by a play featuring none other than Jack Sparrow!

Aqua Duck at night


After all of that excitement, we managed to hook up with Michael. He and I made our way to Meridian, the new cigar bar located in the area between Remy and Palo. Elegant and quiet. Michael enjoyed a cigar as we both savored generous shots of Patron Anejo. What a lovely way to end the day.

Meridian

Cigar patio at Meridian

Tomorrow: day at sea!

January 28, 2011

Disney Dream Maiden Voyage - Day 1, Sail Away

by Lori Edelman
Guest Blogger

Wow, where to begin? We were up early, had a nice breakfast at the Hyatt and headed straight to the Disney Cruise Line bus. As early as we thought we were, a lot of other folks had the same idea. We ended up on the second bus out to the Port. Before I forget to mention it, the weather today was in the 60's, sunny, but windy. No tornado warnings like yesterday!

Waiting for the bus

The best part of the drive to the Port is coming over that last crest to get our first glimpse of the beautiful new ship! Again, wow.

Our first glimpse of the Dream!

Huge, but absolutely beautiful. One thing we learned. If you are anxious to get into the terminal, stick with the DCL bus transportation. Our AllEars friends arrived by town car and waited in an incredibly long line outside. We arrived at least 20 minutes after them and immediately entered. Of course, once inside we all waited until close to noon when they finally began the boarding process.

Arrived at the DCL terminal


As we boarded, "The Disney Dream welcomes the Edelman family" was announced and we saw the first of several familiar faces among the cast. It was Ponz, a delightful member of the entertainment staff! And, the best part? He remembered our names! We have sailed with Ponz on 3 other occasions.

Ponz!

First order of business was to find the D Lounge where we got on the wait list for Palo brunch and dinner. (Later in the afternoon we did get a call for a dinner reservation for this evening, but declined as Aaron really wanted to see the first of our 3 rotation dining locations. More on that in a bit.)

Next up: lunch. We decided to try Cabanas on Deck 11. This dining location is described as free-flowing with a wide variety of choices and several different stations. I sampled swordfish and grilled chicken while Aaron tried out the chicken tenders and pizza. Michael found a grilled rib eye steak along with grilled asparagus. Everything was delicious.

When we finished lunch, it was just about 1:30. Staterooms are ready! We found our way to 9058, an outside ocean view room with verandah. We find the room layout to be very similar to those on the Magic and the Wonder, perhaps a little narrower. I do miss the extra cabinet for storage found on the Magic and Wonder. The comfy queen size bed, however, is elevated and we have easily stored 4 suitcases underneath.

Now it was time for some exploring. Aaron and I headed up. Deck 13 aft is Goofy's Sports Deck complete with a very creative 9-hole miniature golf course. Despite some very strong winds, we played a quick round. Great fun! Each hole has a "theme" much like the two mini golf courses at Walt Disney World.

Mini Golf


Next we wandered under the Aqua Duck. We are both anxious to give it a try -- hopefully tomorrow. As we head forward on deck 11 we pass by all of the pools. Nemo's Reef for the smallest tots; theming here is incredible. Next is the Mickey pool which is right beside the family pool. Overlooking these two pools is the giant Funnel Vision and Deck Stage, location of most of the major deck parties. Further back is the adult area -- Cove Cafe, Quiet Cove Pool with swim-up bar. Finally, the double doors at the back of this area lead you to Senses Spa and Salon. This area is much bigger than on the Magic and Wonder, and even more lovely.

Near the end of our spa tour Aaron and I realized we were late to meet Michael for the adult-version of the Disney Vacation Club welcome get-together. We rushed to D Lounge, deck 4 forward, and I ran into another familiar face. Yelena!!!

Yelena!


In 2008 when we sailed the Disney Magic through the Panama Canal, Yelena introduced us to the world of fine tequila. Needless to say she became our best friend. We sailed with her again In February 2009 and thought we wouldn't cross paths again until we went back on the Wonder. Unfortunately, she is no longer a bar tender, but instead an officer! The best part (again): she remembered us! What a thrill.

We caught up with Michael in time to have a quick glass of champagne. My name was drawn and I won a really cool drawstring, sling bag! DVC has some excellent deals for those interested in adding points. If you are a member and decide to add on, a cruise is the best place to do it as they generally offer some great bonuses.

I almost forgot to mention the very important safety drill! Good news: our station is located in the Buena Vista Theater. More good news: no life jackets required! Our drill was completed quickly and easily.

Safety Drill -- no jacket required!


Next we headed to Preludes located just outside the Walt Disney Theater to view special limited edition merchandise. I completed a form to purchase a couple of limited edition, maiden voyage pins through their "RSP", random selection process. Note: credit card -- not your key to the world card -- is required. When I turned in my form, I received a pick up time for Thursday afternoon.

Now it was the time we had all been waiting for. Sail away!!!

Sail-away party

Everyone was on deck listening to music, enjoying champagne, blowing bubbles, waving Mickey hands and streamers. The mood was so festive! Media helicopters followed us out to the open sea. Hundreds of people cheered and waved us on from shore! And, of course, the horn! I lost count of the number of times it sounded!

Cheering crowds line the shore


After we sailed away, I knew they would be opening the shops. Smart move on my part. I waited about 15 minutes in line before they opened the doors. Crazy! Crowds of people just grabbing up all of the maiden voyage merchandise they could get their hands on. I was right there with them. I found cool t-shirts for all 3 of us plus a couple of other items. Exhilarating. One lady compared the experience to Black Friday and I think she was right on.

I hooked up with Michael and Aaron back in our stateroom. Somewhere along the way our luggage did indeed make it to our stateroom. Whew. I took some time to put things away and stow our luggage under the bed. I'm not sure where the day went, but it was time for the show! And, another familiar cast member, Brent! Brent was the cruise director on our transatlantic crossing as well as my birthday cruise in 2009. Michael worked with him to arrange a tour of the bridge and I got to sound the horn on the Disney Magic! What a special moment and one I will always cherish. Tonight's show began with the winner of the recent reality show, The Phenomenon, Mike Super. He is an illusionist -- amazing! Mike was followed by a young lady named Rhema. She is a mere 8 years old, but with the most incredible voice. She sang several selections earning a well-deserved standing ovation.

After the show, we headed back to our stateroom to change for dinner. Michael tried to get us connected to the Internet. He used up 10-15 minutes and never got anywhere! As others who cruised last week on the media cruise reported, the Internet service does appear to be terrible. Fingers crossed that things improve!

Our dinner this evening was in the Enchanted Garden. Lovely! We are seated at table 61 with 3 new friends -- Shelly, Ashley, and Sharon. And guess where they are from? Seattle! It's the Pacific Northwest table!

Enchanted Garden

Oh. I almost forgot. Yet another familiar face and if our friends from the April 2010 transatlantic crossing are reading, you are going to love this. Guess who we have for a our head waiter? None other than Mario, and, surprise, he remembers us... tandoori chicken and all.

Lori at dinner

Our meal was delicious. I started off with a sushi-grade tuna and avocado appetizer followed by a duck consommé. For my entree I selected organic chicken with sweet potatoes and spinach. So juicy and flavorful. Michael and Aaron enjoyed a lobster ravioli appetizer, salads, and tender steaks. Our servers are wonderful, but I need another meal to remember all of their names and from where they hail! Service was excellent especially when handling our special requests. For example, one dessert offered was an ice cream sundae with rum glazed bananas and caramel sauce. Michael only wanted the bananas and caramel sauce which they happily and easily accommodated.

Something new when we finished our meal and dessert: a kiss goodnight. (You might be familiar with this concept from the theme parks.). Ah, but this kiss was little bite size squares of jellied apricot sweetness and the most heavenly chocolate I've tasted. Lucky for me, Aaron asked for seconds and he shared.

We finished up dinner a little after 10pm. (I'm sure my friends at home are shocked since they know I'm such an early-bird.). Michael and Aaron headed to the Buena Vista Theater to watch Tron in 3d. I chose to return to our stateroom and quickly write this blog entry before I forget all of the wonderful things that we experienced today.

Of course, in our room, Sri, our stateroom hostess, had already provided our turndown complete with towel animal. We received a number of gifts from the Castaway Club and from the Disney Vacation Club. You automatically become a member of The Castaway Club when you first sail with Disney Cruise Line. The more you cruise, the more perks you receive. For Michael and me this is cruise #9; Aaron is on cruise #7.

Stateroom 9058

Well, it's pretty late and we've had a long, but exciting day. Tomorrow we dock in Nassau. We have no excursions planned. Perhaps we will get off to snap a few photos of the ship, but mostly we intend to explore even more of this beautiful Dream!

Good night!

P.S. Had a little trouble figuring out how to turn out all of the lights! When we finally thought we had everything set, Aaron, in the pull down bunk complained that he still had a light on near the head of his bed. Next thing I hear, "Genius!" He found the switch and realized he no longer would have to feel his way around a top bunk in the dark! Disney had thought of everything.

Next I hear, "Oh, how cool!" -- softly glowing "stars" on the ceiling above his head. Disney really did think of everything!


January 24, 2011

Disney Dream Maiden Voyage - Pre-Trip Report

by AllEars.Net Guest Blogger Lori Edelman

It all started with a lottery. When my name was drawn, I had no idea of the real journey we were about to begin. I had thrown my name in the hat for a chance to sail on the maiden voyage of Disney's new ship: the Disney Magic. Lo and behold, we got a spot! Room 2114. (I remember the number because it matched the last 4 digits of my original cell phone number!). So, in July 1998, we got to sail our first maiden voyage.

On the Magic, we shared our dinner table with a fun group from Michigan. One gal was a travel agent and through her we were able to continue our journey of maiden voyages. In August 1999, we sailed the maiden voyage of Disney's second ship: the Disney Wonder.

And now we continue! Only a few more days and we sail the maiden voyage of the newest ship in the fleet: the Disney Dream.

Over the last weeks and months, like many of you, we have followed the progress of the Dream as she was put together, first floated out, and then sailed across the Atlantic to her home in Port Canaveral. Michael and I both tearfully watched the ship's christening last Wednesday from the Cruise Line's website. At the same time, I was messaging with All Ears Deb who was lucky enough to be in attendance. What a thrill! Technology has come a long way since our first maiden voyages in 1998 and 1999!!!!

In a few short days, the three of us will rendezvous in Orlando for our adventure. Originally, this was just a trip for Michael and me. Our oldest son is married and out on his own. Our youngest is a freshman at the University of Oregon -- Go Ducks! We told him, "sorry, but you can't miss a week of college". However, in a very poignant email letter to me, he convinced me to change my mind. I am such a sucker! Really though, how many parents have a 19-year-old son that wants to go on vacation with them? He said it was our fault for making him love all things Disney; he went on the first 2 maiden voyages with us and he wants to go on the next 12 with us. So, as a parent, I ask you, how could we say no?

The All Ears team has done an awesome job introducing us to the Dream from the christening through the media cruise. I loved Laura's Aqua Duck video! Please follow me and my family on our next maiden voyage adventure!

Aaron received an "onboard credit" for his birthday....get it?

Aaron gets an onboard credit!

Michael and Aaron, Panama Canal 2008
Michael and Aaron, Panama Canal 2008

Lori, Panama Canal 2008 Lori-Panama.jpg


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About Disney Dream

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

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