Sailing With Disney – Debark and Final Thoughts

Finishing out my series on our adventure aboard the Disney Dream, I wanted to cover our debarkation experience and look back at what we liked and didn’t like about this sailing. If this is the first post you’ve read in our Dream series, I encourage you to hit this link and check out our previous posts first!

Debarkation was a bit of a whirlwind for us. We’d tagged our bags the night before and put them out at the required time of 10pm, earlier than any other sailing I recall. We’d been given Daisy tags, and assumed they’d be calling the characters in a specific order, similar to numbered debarkation order on most lines. We were wrong.

When we woke up in port Friday morning we started getting ready, and after Jen turned her phone on, she started getting a series of texts letting her know of a bit of a family emergency going on back home. This suddenly meant our plans had changed, and that we needed to get off the ship and back to NC as soon as possible, so we headed to guest services to see if we could get off before our character was called. That was the pointat which we found out there is no real debark order, you just get off whenever you want and head down to pick up your luggage from the zone that matches your tag. That was a first, and boy was it fast. We headed right for the exit, and with everything going on, I never had a chance to get any pictures, but one nice touch as we exited was that the Captain was there seeing guests off.

After exiting the ship and finding our luggage, we headed for customs, which was also a breeze, as we didn’t need to fill out and present a declaration form. We simply handed him our passports, he asked if we had fruit, and as soon as we said no we were on our way. It might have been 30 minutes from the time we started walking down the gangway until we arrived at our cars in the hotel parking lot. It was all very smooth, which we really needed at that point. A+ for debarkation, it was nice and smooth.

Moving on, there are a few things that stood out to me over the course of this sailing:

  • It’s all about the Disney product. For example, on other lines, we’re used to the crew being introduced before the show on the last night of a sailing, but that never happened during this trip. Additionally, we’re used to the entertainment team being the face of your trip, but that never seemed to be the case here, it was all about Disney, and they made sure you remembered that. Not saying that’s a bad thing, just something different than what we’ve seen elsewhere. The experience comes first, just like it does in the parks.
  • Anyone that’s been to a Disney property knows how good Disney is at separating parents from their money, and the ships are no different in that regard. Other than the jewelry /purse “sales” on some ships, I rarely see people buying things like shorts, toys, or other line-specific gear, but this is Disney. The shops were busy most of the week, and I admit we even bought DCL shirts among other trinkets, and we never buy cruise line shirts. I’m sure they sold a number of pins on trading night, and a bunch of gear leading in to pirate night, too. I don’t recall a single sailing on any other line where I’ve seen the shops as busy as they were on the Dream.
  • The department heads were out checking on their areas more than on any other sailing I recall. That’s not to say it was in any way a distraction, they stayed out of the way, but it was impressive to see how often they were around making sure everything in their respective area was running smoothly. That alone made it obvious that this is a Disney operation.

So on to our positives and negatives. First up, the positives:

  • First and foremost, we had a great time. While it seemed to be busier than most sailings, mainly due to having a 21 year old that still loves the character meet and greets ;), the sailing was an absolute blast, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.
  • The food was good all week. You can’t always say that about MDR and buffet food, but I can safely make that statement here. I don’t recall a single thing I had that I didn’t like. When you factor in the brunch buffet at Palo, it was some of the best food we’ve had any one sailing.
  • Our cabin service was excellent all week. We did have an issue with a misplaced item of clothing the first day, but it was located and things were good the rest of the week.
  • The shows were very entertaining, and offered sets and casts that overall were better than the vast majority of lines we’ve sailed. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s hard for me to compare the shows themselves to any other line, because Disney has a catalog of popular stories that they don’t have to pay royalties on like other lines would, so it’s not really a fair fight. I will say that the singing and dancing was on point all week, some of the best we’ve seen on any ship.
  • Castaway Cay was awesome. One of our favorite private islands, and frankly I wish we’d have been on one of the sailings where you stop there twice. Having a separate area for adults was outstanding, along with tram service between all points on the island. I’d have easily traded our stop in Nassau for a second day at Castaway Cay.
  • The Aquaduck was probably the best water slide I’ve ridden on a ship to date. I’m a fan of the Aqua Racer on Norwegian’s Escape as you can see in our video, but the Aquaduck was better in my opinion. The night ride didn’t hurt πŸ™‚
  • Rotating dining rooms almost every night is cool, definitely adds something to the experience on the ship. I just wish our repeat had been Animator’s Palate vs Enchanted Garden.
  • When you want to get away from the kids, there are plenty of adults only areas to give you some relaxation. A couple of different pools, and after 9pm, a whole “district” area at the back of the ship with multiple venues to choose from.
  • Having an on board movie theater with first-run Disney movies is awesome. Pirates of the Caribbean 5 came out a couple of days before we sailed, so getting to watch that on pirate night while sailing in the Caribbean was really cool. Add to that the snack bar (which does cost money) and ability to bring food from the buffet, and it’s definitely a nice touch.
  • We really liked our room, cabin 7004, a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Porthole (OV). It was the first time in a while that we haven’t had a balcony, but I can’t say I ever really noticed. Having so much space (including plenty of storage) along with two bathrooms. Feel free to take a look around with this 360 degree shot!
  • The ship is in excellent condition, well decorated, and was always clean.
  • The entertainment options throughout the day were so much fun. There was so much to do that I don’t think we ever made it to any of the trivia events. The girls especially loved the drawing classes, something they were sad to see removed from Hollywood Studios. Getting to draw Stitch is always a highlight for Bayley!

The negatives, of which there were few:

  • Going in, we heard a lot of “this will ruin cruising for you due to that legendary Disney service” comments. Yea, none of us really agreed. If you’d never sailed before, the whole package (food quality, characters, the Disney experience) might make it hard to sail any other line, but we never really felt like the service lived up to that Disney level they’re famous for in the parks. I’m not saying it was bad (with the exception of my next bullet), as the crew was good all week, and the entertainment team was fun, but we’ve had service that’s been just as good on other lines, so I can’t really say it met those pre-set expectations.
  • The only really bad employee experience was in one of the shops. We wanted to buy a Pandora charm or two, since they have a couple they only sell on the ships, and the woman working the counter seemed less than interested in helping. We di buy one, but only after having to really push to get her to show them to us or tell us anything about them.
  • Something I mentioned in an earlier post, the dining speed. It really seemed like there were too many tables and not enough staff to handle them. That first night was brutal, taking well over 2 hours for the full meal (other tables had the same issue) and causing us to miss one late night activity we wanted to see. No complaints on our dining staff, they were great, they just seemed overworked.
  • The Midship Detective Agency apparently closes at midnight. I get it, most people doing it are likely well asleep, but Bayley was trying to participate one night while we were walking around late, only to find this had shut down a few minutes before we got there.
  • While the mixology class we did on day 2 was fun, we’d hoped that we’d actually be learning to make more drinks. We put together 3 of them, but in reality only truly made like 1 of them. For a couple of them, items that were part of the mix were prepared ahead of time, like some of the mashed fruits.

That’s really it for negatives, and none of them are really worth complaining about in my opinion. Our week on the Dream was excellent, and none of the above items took away from our fun at all.

In closing, I’d have to say that if you’re a Disney fan and have never sailed with them, you’re missing out! We really enjoyed our cruise, and would easily sail Disney again! They’re obviously a very family oriented line that provides a great experience for the ids while giving the grownups a chance to have fun as well. If a Disney cruise isn’t on your list, it should be!

Sailing With Disney – Fun on Castaway Cay!

This stop is one of the reasons we really wanted to sail Disney. Beyond the tales of outstanding service, excellent entertainment, and delicious food, everyone raves about Disney’s private island. Finally getting the chance to set foot on the island was something we were very much looking forward to!

Before getting off the ship however, we needed to get our breakfast on, so we (finally!) headed to the buffet. They have a very solid spread, and I can honestly say that everything I had was tasty. This was also the one time I got those famous Mickey waffles on the sailing:

Following breakfast, we headed off the ship. Again, a fairly quick debark, and once outside we took advantage of the bug repellent they provide, and grabbed towels from the table:

Our next stop is the one thing that really makes your realize you’re in Disney’s hands: the tram. Of course there’s a tram on a Disney property! We rode the tram from the dock over to the family beach area, where we grabbed a second tram to the adults only beach, named Serenity Bay. Being one of the first to arrive, we grabbed two hammocks under palm trees. As far as I could tell, these were the only ones that had any shade all day (even though it only lasted until ~noon), so if you happen to get there early and want shaded hammocks, grab the first ones you see on the right as you walk on to the beach. Here’s a 360 degree look at our serenity πŸ™‚

Serenity Bay beach was pretty quiet all day, and the water was just about perfect. In the first hour we were there, a Disney film crew was at the waterline just in front of us doing some filming for what I think is some contest just based on some of the lines we overheard. No idea what contest, but they were filming all week. I’d also seen the female lead and the kid filming some family shots at the sail away party, and would also see them on deck the following day. Whatever it was, that crew must have been hot out there.

The morning was pretty much just a combination of us relaxing in the hammocks and chairs, along with some to cool off. Just after 11am, we started to catch the scent of meat coming from Serenity Bay’s BBQ stand. By the time it opened at 11:30, we were already there, and were some of the first people to enjoy the food. Our lunch spot never got all that busy, as I imagine most people were over on the family beach, so that’d be one tip for Castaway Cay, if you don’t want to wait in the lunch lines on the family side, and can get away from the kids, Serenity Bay’s lines may be worth the trip! The food was pretty good, and consisted of things like BBQ chicken, hamburgers, brats, hot dogs, and steak. I had a burger and brat, and enjoyed both. I may also have made my own little ice cream cookie sandwich :). They have a full topping bar as well, along with soda machines for drinks, along with a small dessert table. One word of warning: the seagulls that hold residence on the island know what’s up. If you leave your plate alone on a table for any reason, be rest assured that at least one of them will be stealing food from you, we saw it happen more than once!

After lunch, we made our way over to the family side to do some snorkeling. Once over there, we saw the water slides on the Pelican Plunge platform and just had to try them. Yea, that turned out to be a bad choice for me. Of the two water slides available, I chose the faster, fully enclosed one. Not realizing how fast it was, and being focused on my GoPro shutting off right as I started down it, I hit the water in a way that resulted in my taking a lot of it up my nose. I was done with those slides :).

After the slide failure, I headed over to the snorkeling area ahead of the girls. We’d brought our own gear, so I put mine on and headed out. It was probably the effect of taking all that water up my nose, but their snorkeling area really didn’t impress me. You have to swim out a ways against the current, so by the time I got to an area where the water was clear, I was a bit tired. Swimming around, I did spot some fish among the relics they’d put on the bottom, along with a turtle trying to avoid some of the kids following it, but all in all, I didn’t really find the swim worth the effort. Being a man-made snorkeling area, not too surprising.

The swim out and back really drained me, so I decided to head back to Serenity Bay for a bit to relax. On arrival, I only hung out for a few minutes before packing up my stuff and catching the tram back to the family side. At this point, I figured I’d walk from the family beach back to the ship to get an idea of what all there was to see and do on Castaway Cay. While it was a hot and humid walk, it was well worth it. The family side does have a lot to offer, as covered in the “Things to Do” section here. I spent a little time walking around the rental area, a little sad we hadn’t come over to rent something, or even signed up for the jetski excursion. Oh well, next time, right? Regardless, walking back was a solid decision that supplied me with some great views of the island, as well as the ship, as you’ll see in the pictures below. On arrival at the ship, it was nice to see a stand with cold water available as well (shown in the last picture below), something not all lines do. You could choose between fruit-infused water, or non-flavored water.

That about covers it for our time on Castaway Cay. We really enjoyed the island, especially the relaxing beach of Serenity Bay, and hope to sail there again in the not too distant future! This is definitely a selling point of a Disney cruise, as it’s one of the best private islands we’ve visited in our travels!

Next up, pirate night aboard the Dream! For now, check out some of my pictures of the island!