If there’s one brand that knows about making a lasting impression, it’s Disney. From its iconic films and beloved characters, to its show-stopping hotel properties and theme park attractions, Disney seems to deliver every time.
That’s why when Recommend headed to Port Canaveral, FL, in January 2011 for the inaugural sailing of Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Disney Dream, we were curious—as was the 4-year-old “jr. editor” we brought along—to see if they’d be able to top themselves, yet again. And boy, did they.
The third ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet—joining the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder—this 4,000-passenger vessel is a bedazzling setting for a family vacation with elaborate decor, fantastic culinary offerings and truly impressive entertainment options.
“Disney Cruise Line has put itself back in the forefront with this ship, while staying true to who they are,” says Michelle Fee, CEO, Cruising Planners. “While they’re not everything for everybody, Disney knows who Disney is and they know the market they are going after. They do family vacations and they do them well.”
family fun abounds From the moment that guests step on board the Disney Dream, they enter a world that is—in true Disney fashion—enchanting and awe-inspiring. Technology and creativity come together in all the right ways with atrium “paintings” that come to life, “Magic” portholes in inside staterooms that feature high-definition, real-time views of the outside of the ship, and restaurants with a few enjoyable surprises.
But before passengers take time to explore the ship’s interior, recommend—especially if traveling with children anything like our 4-year-old jr. editor—they head to deck 11 to cool off from all the excitement with some poolside fun. Here, kids will love Nemo’s Reef Splash Zone, a water play area complete with pop jets, bubblers and fountains inspired by Disney Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.” There’s also the 2-ft.-deep Mickey’s Pool and the adjacent Donald’s Pool, where guests can watch movies on the giant FunnelVision LED screen or dance on the pool deck with Chip ‘n Dale, just two of the many characters you’ll spot on board.
But our favorite amenity here was the AquaDuck!, which takes the average water coaster and turns it into an exhilarating flume ride with twists, drops and uphill accelerations. Some 765 ft. in length and spanning four decks in height, the AquaDuck! uses high-powered water jets to push riders on rafts through a clear tube that goes around the perimeter of the ship—and at one point even taking passengers 12 ft. over the side of the ship at just the right speed, allowing them to enjoy views of the ocean 150 ft. below.
While the AquaDuck! isn’t too scary for kids, there is a height requirement of 48 inches to ride. But parents need not feel guilty to enjoy this ride solo as tinier guests have their own-sized slide at Mickey’s Pool.
Come evening—if your clients are able to peel the kids out of their bathing suits and into dry clothes (the pools on board are open considerably later than on many other cruise ships we’ve experienced)—there is a wealth of entertainment options to enjoy.
The Walt Disney Theatre, for example, is a 1,340-seat showroom that puts on live performances of original Disney productions. The playbill includes shows such as “Disney’s Believe,” which made its debut on the Disney Dream; “Villian’s Tonight!,” a musical comedy dedicated to Disney’s baddies; and “The Golden Mickeys: A Timeless Tribute,” an awards-style show that pays tribute to the musical heritage of Disney animated films. Meanwhile, the 399-seat Buena Vista Theatre plays an array of first-run motion pictures, including films in Disney Digital 3D. During Recommend’s visit, guests were able to view multiple screenings of Disney’s “Tangled” and “Tron” in 3D. Guests can also head to D-Lounge, a family room-inspired area that hosts a variety of nightly family-friendly games and activities.
magical youth spaces On board the Disney Dream, children are top priority, so it’s not completely shocking to find that apart from all the family-friendly activities, there’s also nearly an entire deck dedicated to spaces designed just for kids. Located on Deck 5 midship, the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are an oasis for kids ages 3 to 10 that allows them to do everything from embark on undersea adventures, to frolic with their favorite Disney princess. In fact, Recommend’s tiny reporter spent some time doing “field research” here, and even after several hours—and multiple visits—wasn’t quite ready to leave it behind. And who can blame her?