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Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 1


Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com shares some of his thoughts and observations from a cruise aboard the Disney Dream back in December. He has posted a couple of sets of pictures in earlier postings on this blog and on his website he has a full set of pictures and extended thoughts in the Disney Cruise section.

  • I have put off going on a Disney Cruise for several reasons over the years ranging from just being lazy to wanting to spend my vacation time elsewhere to the cost factor. I finally decided to take the plunge this year. I had been on a couple previous cruises over the years including one on Premiere Cruise Lines when they had the Disney contract back in the 90s, everyone remember the Big Red Boat?
  • I went about the cruise like I would look at a theme park. Mostly because that is what comes naturally to me and secondly because I wanted pictures. I spent some time learning the layout of the ship and then set about exploring all corners of it. As you will see in the pictures I ended up taking quite a few, about 9,000 over the five days and four nights.
  • I really enjoyed my time on board. The ship was spectacular and offered plenty to do. Castaway Cay was a nice retreat. The number one question I have been asked about the trip so by non Disneygeeks is what about all the kids. I would have to say if you have no problem visiting the theme parks then you would have no problem on the ship. Yes, there are kids, remember it is Disney, but there are so many activities for them and the ship is large enough that I never really gave it any thought nor did they seem to cause any problems or headaches (now for their parents that may be another story).
  • Food: When people think of cruising they think of food. I am not a huge food person so it ranked well down on my list of priorities. There were plenty of choices and the rotational dining was nice. Unlike other cruise lines, on Disney ships you rotate through the dining rooms, each with their own theme. Your wait staff goes with you. I would rate the food as average compared to others I have experienced. I am a meat and french fry kind of guy. Out of the four dinners I only found two nice steaks on the menu. On other cruises there was always at least one to choose from. Also the fries in the dining rooms were not that good...the ones at Maters were substantially better.
  • Stateroom: We had a stateroom on Deck 7 that had a veranda. The room itself felt larger than other ships I had been on and I really liked having the split bathroom. One room had a sink and toilet and the other a sink and tub/shower. The water temperature was never constant for me, it always fluctuated between where I wanted it and cold.
  • Service: Disney Service was up to the levels I had anticipated for the most part. One thing we noticed on this cruise vs others is the crew was international but everyone spoke and understood English with no problems at all. You were able to easily communicate with everyone and anyone that you ran into and they all had the typical Disney attitude of friendliness.
  • Entertainment: The ship offered a different Disney production each night. The main shows in the Walt Disney Theater are what you have come to expect from Disney. Top-notch talent delivering a family-friendly show. Up on Deck they had a Pirates night set of shows as well as fireworks (the only cruise line to offer fireworks at sea). Throughout the cruise there were plenty of other entertainment options ranging from traditional Disney character encounters to traditional cruise entertainment like comedians and singing.

Day 1: December 4, 2011

  • Once we arrived it was a quick and smooth process to drop our luggage, go through security and check in. We arrived at the terminal just before 11am. It was less than 15 minutes from the time we got dropped off till I was done checking in and roaming the terminal building taking pictures. Curious if the process is that smooth all day or if it was because of the time we arrived or if we were just lucky.
  • We were in boarding group 5 and were called to board about 11:40ish so I really did not have that much time to explore the terminal but felt I had enough to get a flavor for it. The lighting was a challenge, as you will see in the pictures. There were some Christmas decorations scattered about, too.
  • After lunch I had some time to kill until the first ship tour which was scheduled for 1:00pm so I did a little exploring and ended up in the District. Sort of by accident. The one thing that amazed me was how open the ship was. You were free to roam and take pictures in the guest areas pretty much any time you wanted. I never had a cast member say no to me or ask why I was there. I actually had several say to come back when people are not around or they would point out details to take pictures of. This was great for a geek like me!
  • Made my way to the Port Adventures Desk on Deck 5, Midship and waited for the 1pm tour. I was a little disappointed with the tour. First it was only about 20 minutes long and it was really a simple orientation of the ship's main dining areas and entertainment venues. There was no detail or substance to it. It was really a surface level tour. The guides were accessible and willing to answer questions but they just did not take us any place interesting or go into any real details beyond the function of the space. I guess this was aimed at an audience wanting to know where some things were vs one wanting to learn about the ship. It was confined to the spaces on Deck 5 and then down to Deck 3.
  • All of the children/youth spaces were in an open house mode all afternoon. So I took this opportunity to visit them all and get pictures. Once their official activities started they would be off-limits except for the appropriate children and their parents (which would exclude me since no children were in our traveling party). There are five different spaces divided up by age group. The spaces encompass a good portion of Deck 5. You cannot help but be impressed by the amount of space and attention to detail given to each of these areas. Ranging from the scale (the ceilings are actually lower in these spaces to make them more to kid-scale) to the Disney character infusion. Also it being the holiday season all had their own Christmas decorations.
  • It's a Small World Nursery! - This is a reservation-only space for infants and toddlers (three months to three years old). The decor is Small World/Mary Blair-inspired. I thought the space was laid out a bit awkwardly with the small lobby then hallway to the main room in the back, but I guess it makes sense to have the Nursery toward the middle, probably more quiet area.
  • Oceaneer Club - For ages 3 to 10 this space has several distinct areas to play and interact in. Pixie Hollow, Andy's Room, Monsters Academy, and Explorer Pod. I thought this was the most interesting of the spaces to explore. The themed rooms were well done and the detail was great. Luckily when I went through there were very few people around so I was able to get pictures with no problem.
  • Oceaneer Lab - Connected to the club and targeted at the same ages, this space has a Media Room, Animator's Studio, Wheelhouse, Sound and Craft Studios. This space seemed geared to the slightly older end of the spectrum with less emphasis on the Disney/Pixar characters and more on the activities themselves. Technology reigns in all the areas but here there was an abundance of computers and screens to interact with.
  • Edge - located on Deck 13 in the forward funnel this space is for tweens ages 11-13. I thought this was a very awkward space and was the smallest of all the areas. But it is targeted at an awkward age group stuck right in the middle so having their own space in a unique location seems to make perfect sense to me.
  • Vibe - located on Deck 5 forward, this space is for 14-17 year olds. It includes a club space, rooms, as well as a sun deck in the very front of the ship. This was a fairly extensive series of spaces with more of a nightclub feel to it.
    The outside deck has a great location and it was fun to look back and up at the front of the ship.
  • Not to be left out the Adult Spaces (18+) include the Senses Spa and Salon, which I also toured. This was a good size area on Deck 11 forward. There was also an adults only area around the Cove Pool and up on Deck 13 around the Currents Bar. Both had signs but I saw no active presence to keep families out. The night club area also became adults only after a certain time each evening when the clubs really picked up for the night.
  • The one age group that there was no designated space for would be the older set. I joked with several that there was no place to check in your senior citizens or ways to track and claim them. I guess the closest would be the Bingo in the D-Lounge??
  • I was able to walk through most of the ship before the lifeboat drill and on a first impression the ship is impressive. I did find some odd design choices and accessibility is weird in some spots. Such as hallways that do not go anywhere or elevators that do not go to the floor you want. Or no way to get where you want without going up a deck over then back down a deck. Or one that really seemed odd was if you took the aft elevators up to deck 11 to access the pool area you had to walk through Cabanas. There was no other way to access the area.
  • After dinner I attended the King Triton's Tree Lighting Decree in the Lobby Atrium on Deck 3, Midship (I watched from Deck 4). I thought this was a nice, brief ceremony to light the tree and atrium. I found it kind of surprising they only did this on the first night of the cruise. Nothing on subsequent days. I almost did not go the first night figuring I would catch it later but glad I did!

Day 2: December 5, 2011

  • I really enjoyed being up on deck and watching the ship come into port at Nassau this morning. The engineer in me cannot help but to be impressed at how easily the big ship is maneuvered. The ship came into the harbor, made an 180 degree turn inside, then backed into the dock alongside another ship. To accomplish this they have 3 bow thrusters (totally 12,069hp) and 2 stern thrusters (totaling (4,824hp) onboard the Dream. They can turn the ship at a combined 35 degrees per minute rate.
  • Since I had zero desire to disembark the ship and see Nassau we had a relaxing day on board. I had visited Nassau back in the 90s on my "Big Red Boat" cruise and really did not enjoy it. I also looked through the current guides and talked to some who had visited recently and when combining all that thought my time was better spent on the Dream.
  • Ate a relaxing breakfast at the Royal Palace and took a bunch of pictures since it was not crowded at all. Not sure if it was our timing or what but I was really surprised at how empty and calm the dining room was. It was about 8:30 in the morning so not super early.
  • After breakfast the plan was to give the Aquaduck a try. It was about 10am by the time I made my way up to deck 12 and the entrance. The line was short, posted at 10 minutes only. I walked up the stairs and in reality it was closer to about 5 minutes. But then as the group before me was waiting to board their raft no raft was sent up. The Cast member working looked over the side and started talking on the radio to the one at the exit. It seems someone lost their breakfast and they had to shut the ride down to clean it up. We hung around for a while since the CM said it should be quick to clean up. The cleanup did go fast but unfortunately they were not allowed to re-open until an officer could come and sign off on it and all the officers were tied up in a safety drill till noon. So my first attempt to ride the Aquaduck failed...
  • As a substitute since I had some free time I ended up giving the Goofy Golf course a try on Deck 13. We really enjoyed playing but we were really pushed along by some kids who just did not seem to get the concept of waiting or going ahead of us. Really this is the only time in the four days that stands out to me when some kids were a bit out of control and bothersome. I mean to the point of we were still hitting our second and third shots and they were already hitting off the tee into us and running around. We did return at a later time and played a more peaceful round.
  • I thought some of their scheduling was a bit odd. For example there was a presentation on the Making of a Dream. This was scheduled to start at noon. So it interfered with lunch choices a bit (especially since I wanted to go on another tour at 1:00pm). The Royal Palace lunch was open from noon to 1:30pm only so the only table service option was not going to work. Cabanas was 12 to 2 so again not really a good option. So I ended up with fast food since that opened at 11am.
  • The first presentation of the day that I went to was entitled Making the Disney Dream. The Personal Navigator billed it as "Explore the origins of Disney Cruise Line - and the latest and greatest innovations conjured especially for the Disney Dream, in this fascinating and entertaining behind-the-scenes program." It lived up to the exploring the origins part. The rest I was a little more disappointed in. I think my problem was I saw the Imagineers' presentation at the D23 Expo and that taught me more about making the Dream and the special features than this presentation did. I kept comparing to that in my mind and then wishing I had skipped it and gone to a nice lunch instead. For someone who had not seen a presentation on the ship before this would have been a worthwhile endeavor but when combining the timing and the content I walked away disappointed. Not as disappointed as I was with the ship tour yesterday but still not satisfied. One thing that I do want to compliment the presentation material on is how it tied back to Walt and really tried to convey the company history. I did think this was worth mentioning.
  • After two strikes in a row I was a bit nervous about the third program I was planning to attend. At 1:00pm I joined a small group in the Meridian up on Deck 12, Aft for a program entitled "Art of the Theme Ship Tour". This was described as "Join us on a guided ship tour and discover the ingredients that make the Disney Dream cruise ship one-of-a-kind". Well, this tour lived up to the billing and then some. I really enjoyed this tour. This tour visited the Meridian, Palo, and Remy and then went down to Deck 4 and the District. It focused on some of the unique spaces on the Dream and how they came to be and our guide pointed out some of the details (some hidden some not-so-hidden) of the spaces we visited. Out of the three tours this is the one I found the most interesting and would recommend to someone if they had to just choose one.
  • Gave the Mid-Ship Detective Agency a try. In this family-friendly game you choose one of two cases (the case of the missing puppies or missing painting, I did the painting one) and you register on Deck 5 and pick up your game guide and card. You then visit several pieces of interactive art around the ship for clues to help you solve your mystery. I would recommend giving these a try to anyone. It is a great way to view some of the art and fun too.
  • Dinner this evening was at the Royal Palace. I had already explored the restaurant and took plenty of pictures at breakfast so during dinner I relaxed and enjoyed the meal. This turned out to be my favorite meal of the trip. I had the Royal Palace Aged Angus Grilled Beef Tenderloin (it also came with lobster medallions that I did not get but many others at the table did and all enjoyed them too).
  • The show this evening was Villains Tonight. This was more comical than last night's show. The gist here is Hades (from Hercules) is losing his evil ways so he wants to assemble all the Disney Villains to increase his evilness. I found the show entertaining but kind of an odd fit to focus on Villains.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2

The previous post in this blog was WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food.

The next post in this blog is Geek's Disney Dream Cruise Thoughts & Observations - Part 2.

Comments (2)

Jeffrey Beauchamp:

Of course I remember the Big Red Boats. My wife and I honeymooned on one of them way back in 1987 (yikes!). having cruised with Disney four times on the Magic and the Wonder, I can't wait to stay aboard the Dream or the fantasy. I do have one question. With the increased passenger count on the new ships, was Castaway Cay really crowded? I know it can feel that way when the Magic or the Wonder are in port. Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your vacation!

Jeffrey -> I cannot comment on the comparison since this was my first time there but I did not think the beaches felt crowded. Then again I was there early and headed back to the ship after lunch so maybe that had something to do with it too.

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The previous post in this blog was WDW 2012 Marathon Weekend - The Food.

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