There are two kinds of people that like Disney: those that just like Disney, and those that snort pixie dust. For the record, I am the latter of the two.
This being said, I promise to give you the straight skinny and my frank and candid take on whether the Disney Cruise Line vacation hype lives up to the dough it costs to take one.
Disney Cruise Lines has four ships. However, we ended up booking a five-night vacation on the Disney Dream-one of the two ships that has the Aquaduck watercoaster attraction. We made the mistake of letting the news leak to our seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter about a month out from our trip.
Tip: If you are driving over on your own, park at Park-N-Cruise for half of what you would pay (per day) for parking at Disney’s Port of Canaveral lot.
You may want to take a spoonful of sugar to make the boarding process go down easier. It can take up to 90 minutes before you can step foot on the ship. Hence the newer and more unpopular rule of enforced assigned boarding times. This was something that I heard several veteran Disney cruisers complain about on other sounding boards beyond the slow-moving line.
Tip: Pack your swimsuits in your carryon, or wear them under your clothing. It could take hours before your checked luggage gets to your stateroom.
We opted for one of the staterooms with a balcony. The room was surprisingly spacious and had two different water closets-one with a sink and shower/bath, and one with a toilet and sink. My kids were thrilled about the top bunk that pulled down out of the ceiling, and sofa that converted to a bed. A long dresser was perfect to put away clothes, and set up our own wet bar.
Additionally, we learned that room service was available at any time at no additional charge (specialty coffee drinks and some very minimal meals are extra). We made it a point to return to our stateroom each night, watch old Disney cartoons, and order room service. The downside? I think I gained 10 pounds after consuming steak fries and Mickey ear-shaped ice creams bars after 10 p.m. every night. No judging, it was my vacay.
Tip: Disney allows you to bring alcoholic drinks in your carry-on. If you want bottled water, bring along your own as well. Bottled water aboard is not included and can cost around $3 a pop.
The first night we dined in the Enchanted Garden, and it was a good place to warmup for some amazing meals ahead of us but was not a favorite. Additionally, I did not enjoy the “high roller” booths that line the entrance of the restaurant and are still a mystery whom and how you could sit there as well.
However, I fell in love with French cuisine after dining at the Royal Palace. So much so, that we opted to make reservations at Remy-one of two themed restaurants aboard the Dream and is for guests over 18. Remy is named Named for the French bistro in the Disney film, Ratatouille, and is an additional cost but worth every frank. I promise.
Tip: DO try the French Onion Soup at the Royal Palace is c'est magnifique!
It’s the kind of top-notch dining experience that most women (hey, I can only speak for the normal 'not reality' housewife) daydream about while sitting in the carpool lane. Take advantage of every course, view and moment. You never know when you will be waited on again by someone in white gloves with a key to the wine list. And this is his only visible role. Follow the perfect dinner presentation and visit the cigar room located between Remy and Palo. The view is the best on the ship!
As for Animator’s Palate? It was fun, but I felt that it was overrated. Unless you are sitting next to a screen where famed Finding Nemo character, Crush, makes his scene, you might feel less connected to the interactive experience since this depends heavily on where your table is located. Just like the Enchanted Garden, it’s a crap shoot where you are seated in this restaurant.
Tip: The best breakfast, fastest service and with the best variety is Cabanas. Although, you can eat breakfast in any of the main restaurants without a reservation.
The best breakfast or lunch with the most variety and something for everyone is, Cabanas. If you are seeking traditional breakfast fare, combined with more unique finds such as asparagus and hollandaise sauce or eggs benedict, you won’t want to miss this never-ending and less-than-traditional buffet.
As for entertainment, Disney does it best. Since this review has already been edited down to under 2,000 words, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. Don’t miss the family-friendly Broadway-style shows at the Walt Disney Theater, first-run Disney films playing in 3-D, and the water-slides. The AquaDuck always had a long wait, so my kids spent most of their time on the more traditional yellow Mickey waterslide with zero wait midday. Nemo’s glass enclosed reef is the perfect place for smaller travelers to get wet without the worry of trying to hover over them in a crowded pool.
Tip: Avoid the AquaDuck lines on the Dream and Fantasy by riding them after dinner hours and later in the evening or first thing on the morning.
For the love of mike, take advantage of dropping off your kids at Disney's Oceaneer Club for children aged 3 to 12. Additionally, there are kids' clubs and activities for tweens and teens. It’s well organized, supervised and its full of fun all day and through the evening. And let’s not forget that adults and parents need time to be grown-ups. While our kids were at the Oceaneer’s Club, we enjoyed the calm of the over 18 areas of one pool, Serenity Beach on Castaway Cay, and the many nightclubs aboard the Dream.
Tip: The Pirates In the Caribbean is a blast and the highlight of the cruise and boasts fireworks, and the best Jack Sparrow that makes a dramatic appearance.
Whether you are the type of Disney fanatic that balls like a baby when you hear, When You Wish Upon a Star, or have never even visited a Disney park in your life (I’m sorry), then a Disney cruise is still the vacation for kids of all ages.