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Review of the Disney Dream

Disney Cruise Line

Cruise Date: September 2016

Booking: Travel Agency

Embarkation: Port Canaveral

Destination: The Bahamas

Cabin number: 8582

Cabin category: Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom w/ Verandah (6A)

Girls Weekend Cruise

written by keladewig posted on 24/09/16

Day 1 - Port Canaveral

Travel to Embarkation Port

I flew into Tampa 9/8 to stay the night with my friends Andrea & Jennifer at their house in St. Petersburg. On 9/9, we drove from St. Petersburg leaving at 8:00am. Arrived at port 10:30 am - we had some traffic issues getting out of Tampa area and there are 3 or 4 toll plazas on State Road 528. Plus there was a bit of a wait at the port to pull into the garage. We would have been a little less rushed if we'd left about 7:30am.

We parked in the port garage. Cost for 3 nights is $64. You can opt to pre-pay online before you arrive via the port's website, but we didn't. I also didn't research any off-site parking options. Though they may be cheaper, Andrea wanted her car to be in secure covered parking. I also didn't want to mess with waiting for a shuttle on our return, as I was flying back out of Tampa and we needed to be expeditious on disembarkation morning.

Embarkation

Disney does staggered boarding. We had selected the earliest possible check-in group 10:30-10:45am. I believe in maximizing my time on the ship so I always want to get to the port as early as possible! However, because we got to the port a little later than planned, we didn't get thru security and up to check-in until close to 11am. There were no consequences for not making our check-in slot other than we probably would have gotten boarding group 1.

Once inside the cruise terminal, I went to the Disney Vacation Club booth to pick up my gift - a members only lanyard.

Because I had previously sailed on Disney (this was my 3rd cruise on DCL - all on Dream), we got to go to the Castaway Club check-in line. We waited less than 10 min to get checked in. We were put into Group 2 for boarding.

We started boarding by 11:30am after the Family of the Day and Group 1. Disney announces everyone as you embark into the atrium. Since the cruise was booked under my name, we were announced as "The Smith Party". I was wondering how they handled non-family groups, and based on how they had sent pre-cruise materials, I opted for that plus "Florida Girls Weekend".

We immediately headed to Guest Services to sign up for the Castaway Cay 5K (free) and the Mixology seminar ($20pp). There are a variety of adult beverage seminars and tasting classes offered, but the Mixology one is one of the most popular. It was not advertised in the Navigator newsletter the day of Nassau so I assume it sold out on embarkation day.

Cabins were not supposed to available until 1:30pm. I never heard a ship wide announcement (unlike on Celebrity) so perhaps they were ready sooner, but we didn't try until just shortly after 1:30pm.

All but one bag of our luggage was delivered by 2:30pm, and the final bag was there by 3:30pm.

Muster drill was at 4:00pm and sailaway was at 4:30pm. Disney makes a big deal of their Sailaway party so don't miss it! Also the Port Canaveral webcam is located at the Fishlips restaurant which is on the starboard side. If you want friends & family to see you waving, be up on deck 11 in front of the first red funnel stack or along the deck in front of the Aquaduck tube as the camera will zoom in and pan along.

Cabin

We booked a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom w/ Verandah on Deck 8.

Since this was a girls weekend cruise, we needed to have a room with a pull out sofa. Our room also had a pull down bed from the ceiling but we didn't need that. The split bathroom design is also extremely helpful with three women trying to get ready! There are also two closets and plenty of drawer, shelves, and cabinet space. Suitcases fit easily under the raised bed.

My friends had only been on one other cruise and didn't have a balcony then, so they really wanted a balcony for this cruise. When I had sailed Dream before, my husband and I had an interior cabin so this was my first experience with a balcony on Disney. It's a decent size with two chairs and a little table. We used it moderately given it was only a 3 day cruise - watched docking in Nassau and sailaway from Castaway Cay most notably.

We specifically wanted a mid-ship cabin to minimize ship motion as much as possible since Andrea is prone to motion sickness. I chose deck 8 since it's between all cabin decks, and I liked this cabin's location - convenient to mid-ship elevators and is tucked around a corner.

Disney's staterooms are beautifully appointed - maple color wood, nautical theme decor, and plenty of Disney design touches. The room had a queen bed configuration, sleeper sofa, trunk which serves as both storage space and a coffee table, desk, and chair. Stateroom sizes on Disney are larger than comparable ones on other cruise lines, which is another benefit for a girls weekend scenario.

Ship

Dream is now 6 yrs old. When I sailed her before on a back-to-back, it was just 2 yrs old. Changes since 2012 - Satellite Falls up on Deck 13 Forward is another adults only water recreation area; Vanellope's Sweets and Treats offers ice cream, gelato, and delicious candies and sweet treats all for additional costs (note you can only take pre-packaged goodies off the ship so all the cupcakes, candies, and caramel apples must be consumed onboard); and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is just like the ones at the theme parks. First rate care & upkeep means the ship looks as good as it did in 2012.

I have very high praise for the Internet service on the ship. First of all, Disney gives each stateroom 50 MB free. I don't know of any other cruise line that does that for everyone (not counting any perks for suite/concierge type cabins). Packages were available for purchase as follows: Pay-As-You-Go $.25 per MB, Small $19 100MB, Medium $39 300MB, Large $89 1000MB. Access was consistently available in all parts of the ship I tried, and the speeds were outstanding! Probably the best I've ever seen.

Sailings in September & October are themed "Halloween on the High Seas". I didn't know this when we booked it, so it added a little extra something to the usual cruise festivities. Decorations - The centerpiece was the Halloween Tree and fall/pumpkin bunting were all around the atrium. I didn't notice too many other decorations around the ship so it's not like what you'd see at Christmas in comparison. Activities - Many special events are held: The Pumpkin Tree Halloween Stories and Customs, The Nightmare Before Christmas Sing & Scream movie special, Mickey's Mouse-Querade Family Halloween Party (yes you can get candy as adults too!), Halloween Isn't Just For Kids Party (includes an adult costume contest and was held on Pirate Night), The Pumpkin Tree Halloween Ceremony, and Haunted Stories of the Sea Halloween Story Telling.

You can expect to have kids around on a Disney cruise, but as I observed before, Disney does a good job giving them their own spaces and providing adults-only spaces (pool, bars, nightclubs, restaurants). If you want to avoid the kiddos like we did, you can do that reasonably well given it is after all a Disney cruise.

Activities

I was invited to attend the afternoon DVC Members Celebration and I could bring my non-DVC friends. Champagne and macarons were served. They showed a short video spotlighting the resorts currently being offered for buy-in (Aulani and Polynesian) and talked a bit about adding on points to existing contracts. They also had members attending the reception volunteer to share their special DVC memories. They did a drawing for $200 onboard credit which sadly none of the three of us won. They handed out the 25th anniversary button as our gift for attending. Later in the cruise I also got an invite to stop down at the Disney Vacation Planning area to receive another gift - DVC member baseball cap.

Entertainment

We went to the production show The Golden Mickeys. I could do without the "red carpet" forced premise, but it's a nice retrospective of the Disney films. I had seen it before - probably would skip it in the future.

Drinking - A major focus for a girls weekend cruise! Today we hit two of the bars. We went to Pub: 687 for a post-sailaway party cocktail. We ended the evening at Skyline Lounge for a nightcap.

Dining

Lunch - We ate in Cabanas buffet which was busy as usual for embarkation day. Don't miss the huge piles of peel and eat shrimp and crab claws!

Dinner - We had late (8:15) seating which is another way to help minimize the kiddie factor a bit, particularly the youngest ones. Disney does a dining rotation so each night you are in a different dining room, but your servers move with you. Our first rotation was in Animator's Palate - the best of the three from a theming and cuisine (Pacific Rim Cuisine) perspective. We were placed at a 6 top table with a family of 3 - I would have hoped we would be at a 4 top table just for us or a table with other adults-only couples. It was awkward for them and us. I should have tried to make a special request for that in hindsight, and will be sure to do that in the future.

Day 2 - Nassau

Activities

In port - We didn't sign up for any excursions. I've been to Nassau a few times, and my friends didn't have any strong preferences. Since there wasn't a sea day on a 3 night itinerary, we wanted to treat Nassau as a pseudo sea day. We got off the ship just briefly in the morning to go to the Tortuga Rum and Rum Cake Shop and stop for photos outside Señor Frog's.

Mixology Seminar - This was held in the Skyline Lounge at 2pm. You definitely need to eat a hearty lunch beforehand and plan to go have some snacks afterward - this is not for lightweights! Our instructor was Craig from Jamaica and he is the lead bartender in Skyline. He explained the history and style behind each drink, outlined all the ingredients and their proportions, and demonstrated the techniques to craft each one. Then we got to make our own with our set of drink making tools, including our own pours from the bottles. We made: Caipirinha (muddled), Tropical Depression (build), Captain's Mai Tai (floater), B-52 (layered), and Paris 75 Martini (shaken). We didn't get to go behind the bar to make any of the drinks (I've heard that is done sometimes), but we came up to the front of the bar to prepare the B-52s. And as if that wasn't enough booze, Craig gave us the sample B-52! All of that in an hour - needless to say we left feeling really buzzed!

Trivia - A few short steps from Skyline Lounge is Pub 687 where we went for sorely needed post-Mixology snacks and quite accidentally found ourselves in Brainteasers Trivia followed by Movie Quotes Trivia. If you're looking to score well in trivia, particularly the Brainteasers, then doing the Mixology Seminar beforehand is a very very very bad idea!

Pool Time - We enjoyed the adult pool for a short time prior to lunch and then again late in the afternoon.

Character Appearances - We tried to see Captain Jack Sparrow but after waiting 15 min past his schedule appearance start time, we gave up. Cast members were on their cell phones trying to apparently find him, so there must have been some kind of scheduling snafu. We did get to have our pictures taken with Donald Duck later though.

Dining

Breakfast - Ate in Cabanas Buffet.

Lunch - Hit up the Flo's Cafe area on the pool deck for pizza (good but not as good as Princess'), chicken tenders & fries, wraps, and salads. Nothing fancy just good quick casual food.

Dinner - Our second rotation was in Enchanted Garden. This was our least favorite of the three from a theming and cuisine (Continental Market) perspective. Very few menu items were that appealing. I'd definitely skip this restaurant in the future and go to Palo or Remy instead.

Dessert/Late Night Snacks - I was determined not to miss the elusive Pirate Night Buffet this time! It's only held for 45 min immediately after the fireworks. I still can't understand the amount of effort that they put into this for such a short amount of time. The buffet features turkey legs, baked potatoes, make your own tacos (but all the main fillings had beans in them - yuck!), Mexican wraps, breads, cheeses, fruit, assorted dessert pastries, and most yummy of all make your own dessert crepes. So now I can finally say I've been to the Pirate Night Buffet.

Entertainment

We went to the production show Villains Tonight!. This is a very funny show, and certainly spotlights a few of the less popular characters from the back catalogue - when's the last time you thought about Yzma and Kronk for example?

Pirate Night - We went to Mickey's Pirates of the Caribbean deck party before dinner, and then not-to-be-missed the Buccaneer Blast Fireworks which we watched from the starboard side near where we stood for sailaway on Day 1.

Day 3 - Castaway Cay

Activities

Since my friends are runners, they definitely wanted to run the Castaway Cay 5k to add to their medallion bling. I had never run any length of race before - I've walked several from 1-7 miles before and I do regular exercise classes. But I agreed to do it (I started training in late July), and my goals were to 1) not die and 2) finish in about an hr. I also didn't want to be the last person to finish it! We had to meet in the Walt Disney Theatre at 8am to check-in and get our race bibs. Around 8:30 they escorted us as a group off the ship, and we walked to the starting line which is by the bike rentals at Pelican Point. So that's a decent walk as a warm up. The race started shortly after 9am. The course takes you out to the airstrip, around the "Circle of Doom" by the Observation Tower twice, up and back down the airstrip, and ends at the same point where you started. There are water stations along the way so if you didn't want to carry a water bottle, you wouldn't have to. There is some shade in areas of the Circle of Doom, but you definitely need to be prepared for the heat and humidity. I was proud to finish in 53 min! You get a medallion (albeit rubber not metal) with a lanyard for free. There is 5k merchandise for sale including a few t-shirt styles, magnet, and pin. Having finished the race, it was time to head back to the ship to get cleaned up. Some people chose to bring a bag with clothes and supplies that could be stored in a cast member watched storage area, but I can't imagine not going back to the ship to change.

Once we returned to the island, it was time for lunch and the first rain shower of the day. The rain stopped while we were finishing eating. Once it cleared up, they allowed people onto the adult beach (Serenity Bay). We enjoyed the hammocks and some time in the ocean for about 30-45 min before the monsoon arrived. Everyone fled for cover at Castaway Air bar where due to the weather they were doing 2 for 1 drink specials. We chilled out enjoying our drinks. Finally the torrential rains let up, and we decided that we would wrap up our day on Castaway Cay. We took the tram back to Pelican Point and then browsed the local craft booths along the way back to the ship.

Castaway Cay is the best cruise private island I've been to so far. It was another selling point of the cruise for my friends since there's no tendering involved and there's an adults-only beach. It's too bad the weather didn't cooperate more for us.

Dining

Breakfast - Since we were running the 5k, we skipped breakfast entirely. In hindsight, I should have at least eaten a banana.

Lunch - In port at Castaway Cay. Island BBQ was a very nice spread with assorted cold salads, a variety of grilled meat choices for sandwiches, chips, cookies, soft serve.

Dinner - Our third and final rotation was in Royal Palace. We enjoyed the food (French Dinner) and decor second best of the three. We did skip dessert which meant I missed out on the Grand Marnier soufflé. But we were holding out for gelato later.

Dessert - We had not tried Vanellope's yet so we decided to finish our Disney cruise dining with gelato and a hand crafted chocolate treat. Highly recommend - they have a nice variety of both ice cream and gelato flavors.

Entertainment

We skipped the production show "Believe" so that we could enjoy sailaway from our balcony, finish our shopping, and get most of our packing done before dinner.

But we did attend the The Pumpkin Tree Halloween Ceremony and the See Ya Real Soon character farewell presentation.

Day 4 - Port Canaveral

Disembarkation

We chose to do express walk-off since we had limited luggage, and it would also help streamline our time getting off the ship and on the road back to Tampa for my 12:20 return flight. Because of this, we didn't get to have any breakfast prior to leaving. Unlike other cruise lines, the buffet is not open on disembarkation morning. You are assigned a breakfast time in one of the dining rooms based on your 1st or 2nd seating time. Otherwise only the Cove Cafe coffee bar is open.

My friends had to collect their rum purchased in Nassau from the booze quarantine and pick up some photos. We still were off the ship by 7:20am and through customs and in the car by 7:30am. Even with a brief stop at a Starbucks on the road we were still to the Tampa airport by 10am - plenty of time for my flight.

Service

Our service was excellent as I expected. Our stateroom steward Suzana was extremely attentive - always checking in with us to see if we needed anything else, giving us advice and reminders, making cute towel animals, and tucking my teddy bear Rufus into bed each night. Our dining room staff was on point, and we even had more interaction with the Head Server than I've usually experienced on a cruise.

Final Thoughts

This was my 3rd Disney cruise, so I only need two more to get to the next loyalty level (Gold) in Castaway Club. Looking forward to seeing what the new build ships will be like, though my husband and I would also like to sail Fantasy and perhaps Magic & Wonder too. I can see us doing another Disney cruise within the next 5 years (that was an actual question on the comment card survey).

For a girls weekend option - it's definitely a no-brainer for Disney fans like we are! But I'd say it also offers a more upscale option than most of the 3 day Bahamas offerings which are usually on a lot of the oldest ships from the other cruise lines. Dream is a large modern ship so it has superior staterooms, more amenities, higher food quality, and the Disney signature excellence in entertainment and service.

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keladewig
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