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 – A Day at Sea

The final day of our sailing on the Disney Dream was also a sea day, something we always look forward to. On a normal ship, that means the occasional activity mixed in with some resting out on deck, all things we love. On the Dream, the only sea day of the sailing brought a full schedule of fun!

First up was our reservation for brunch at Palo. We’d heard good things, so much so that spending the $30/pp on this was a no-brainer. We got up there a few minutes early, and were led over to the Meridian Lounge to relax while we waited. It didn’t take long, within a couple of minutes, they came to take us to our table. That’s where the awesome really began.

We were led to a nice table right by the window. Nothing beats good food with an ocean view! Our server came over, introduced herself, and took us on a tour of the buffet. This part is definitely a nice touch, as there are a wide variety of items on the tables, but it also kinda gets in the way when you’re up trying to get food and another group is on their buffet tour. Anyway, after our tour, she also covered the menu we could order various items from in addition to what was available at the buffet. The Disney Cruise Line Blog has a picture of it here.

In addition to enjoying the buffet items, we ordered a few things off of the printed menu. I had the buttermilk pancakes, which were some of the best I’ve ever had, along with the lasagna, which was delicious as well. Jen and Bayley tried what turned out to be an excellent flatbread that was half Italian sausage and half margherita, and both of them also had the Parmesan crusted chicken breast. The latter was so good that Bayley skipped finishing her meal off with dessert to have a second one. How often does a kid skip dessert for chicken?

We absolutely loved our meal and felt it was easily worth the cost. I have to say, if you only spend money on one specialty meal aboard the Dream, do it for brunch at Palo. I say that totally biased and without anything to compare it to, since it’s the only specialty meal we did, so keep that in mind :). Also remember that brunch at Palo is adults only.

After brunch, we had some time on our hands and decided to just walk around and see what was going on. While doing so, we managed to again run across whatever thing they were filming while we were out on deck:

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I’d still love to know what they were shooting! Shortly after, we made our way inside for baby racing. I can honestly say I’ve never seen this on a cruise ship before, and it was exactly what it sounds like. The only thing missing was people throwing money on the ground around the mat placing bets on the racers. I kid :), this was actually pretty entertaining to watch.

Shortly after a winning baby was crowned, we got what we came for, the character dance party! All of the main characters take turns in the spotlight on the stairs, while the others rotate to various positions in the lobby atrium area. It was pretty packed in there, and everyone seemed to be having a fun time. Definitely an activity I’d recommend for Disney fans young and old!

We had some time to kill after this, so we did a little more walking, thins time checking out the shops on board. Jen’s got a Pandora bracelet with a few Disney charms, so we wanted to check out the exclusives they had on board, and ended up adding one to her bracelet. This was also the only time we encountered service on the ship that didn’t live up to Disney standards, as the woman working the counter really wasn’t all that helpful or friendly. This is really the only staff encounter during our time on board that was sub-par. We made up for it shortly after, however, as the captain was signing autographs and posing for pics, so once the line cleared, we decided to jump in for a picture with him.

Bayley had been waiting for our next activity all week. As mentioned in a previous post, she loves the animation classes Disney does, and had been looking forward to drawing Stitch, which was the final animation class of the sailing. They obviously know this one is popular, because it was held in Animator’s Palate, and there were a lot of people there for it. We got a seat with a pretty good view of the instructor, but if you happen to be far away, don’t worry, they show what she’s doing on the screens around the restaurant. While drawing, Stitch even comes in to see what’s going on!

After finishing up the animation class, the next couple of hours were filled with a combination of character pictures, walking the ship, and attending one of the arts and crafts events. This one was held in Pub 687, which ended up being a poor choice of location. I was happy, as I finally got to have a beer in here, but it’s way too small of a venue for something like this, and resulted in an overcrowded pub. I saw more than one family come in for this, only to turn around and leave after seeing the lack of tables and line for supplies. That’s not to say it wasn’t a good time, just that a larger room would have been better.

I should note that the two character meet and greets we did during this time were with Stitch and Donald Duck, both of whom Bayley and Jen learned to draw in the on-board animation classes, so Bayley brought her pictures for them to sign. Both characters were excited to see pictures of themselves, and responded in various ways. Donald grabbed the one she did of him and held it up for the lobby to see, while Stitch couldn’t believe shed brought a picture of him, and proceeded to slide onto his belly on the floor to sign it. Definitely a nice touch πŸ™‚

Our next major event after all of this was the final stage show of the cruise, Disney’s Believe. It’s a fun show with some fun acting and excellent singing. Once again, happy to oblige the ‘no photos or video’ rule, all I have is a shot from our seats, which gave us a full view of the action:

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After dinner was one of the coolest events of the cruise, if you’re in to Disney’s pin trading culture: Officer pin trading night! It’s exactly what it sounds like, an opportunity to trade pins with various officers of the ship! It was a lot of fun, and for anyone sailing on Disney that’s never done this, here are a few recommendations:

  1. Bring a lot of pins you want to trade with you. They’re not picky, they’ll take any cheap pin in trade for anything they’ve got!
  2. There’s a mobile box out there where you can also buy pins. The person running it has lanyards full of trading pins behind that, and they will occasionally swap out with officers participating in the event who may have traded away all the good stuff, which gives them fresh good pins to trade. Keep an eye out for the swaps, as the fresh lanyards generally have some good stuff. Bayley got a number of excellent pins this way!
  3. Have fun!

It’s really an awesome event, and wasn’t super packed, at least not as much as I expected. It’s held in the little rotunda outside the shops, which seemed to be a perfect fit size-wise.

Dinner was next on the schedule, moving us to Royal Palace this time around. I love the venue, and service was a bit quicker tonight. The food itself was pretty good, as I had a double serving of the breaded and deep-fried Brie (sooooo good), theΒ Chateaubriand roasted filet steak, and theΒ Grand Marnier souffle for dessert, always a favorite of mine.

After dinner, we finally got around to our night-time ride aboard the AquaDuck. As mentioned before, this is easily the best waterslide at sea we’ve been on, and taking a run or two down it at night is an absolute must!

Following our Aquaduck rides, we weren’t done yet! We decided to catch the magician’s show in Evolution. John Cassidy’s show is definitely worth catching, he’s both a good magician and funny to boot! For one of his tricks, Bayley ended up on stage helping out, too!

We also hung out for the ’80’s music challenge, which was an absolute blast. No pictures or video of this, as we were participating. The room is divided up into two teams, and you take turns guessing what the song name and artist are for a given clip. Additionally, both teams then hit the floor to dance for bonus points, and the more creative, the more bonus points you get. At one point, we were crowd-surfing Bayley around the room. Fun times, and our host Chris was great!

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Well, that’s about all for our final day on the ship, and proved to be an excellent way to wrap up an incredible sailing aboard the Disney Dream! Next up, our debark experience and final thoughts on this cruise!