Seven Days of Bliss

One week ago yesterday we returned from a seven day sailing aboard Norwegian’s newest ship, the Bliss. This sailing was the National Conference for our organization, and like last year’s voyage on the Harmony of the Seas, I don’t feel like we can accurately review everything about the ship since we were in sessions during the day and cocktail parties at night, as those kept us from experiencing some of the normal things you get to on a regular non-work sailing, but I certainly want to recount the things we did experience.

Before we get there, let’s talk about the itinerary. We were originally set to visit Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and CaboĀ San Lucas, but mother nature had other ideas. Hours in to our sailing, while we were attending our first cocktail party on the evening we departed, the captain came over the PA to let everyone know that the storms closing in on our target area meant a complete change of schedule. To avoid the area and keep the ship and passengers safe, our stops were now San Francisco, San Diego, and Ensenada. Here’s my post of the itinerary change, along with a shot from NOAA of what the storms looked like at the time:

This is the first time we’ve experienced an itinerary change first-hand, so as agents it was good to see for ourselves how things played out. I completely empathize with those who were upset that the warm beach vacation they expected was gone, and that we were headed for a first stop where the high would be in the 60s, I really do, but I thank Norwegian for keeping us safe. The storm was not of their making obviously, and with limited options for ports, they gave us the best choices available. I know there are still people who are upset over this, mad at the line, etc, but personally I’m satisfied with the way they handled it. I understand if people are upset that there was no indication before boarding that Norwegian was even considering a change, but frankly, they had little time to evaluate the situation. Willa formed early on the morning of our departure, so direction, timing and future strength were pretty uncertain, and Vicente hadn’t formed much earlier (the day before) and was a lot further south. Most of us would have been on our way or at the port by the time either of these really became a threat to our itinerary, so an early warning to passengers when it was pretty uncertain whether either would impact us would have been an impossible call, and one I don’t envy them having to make. In my eyes, Norwegian did the right thing, and while they weren’t the stops anyone anticipated, they still gave us ports to go off and have fun in without the threat of sailing into heavy storms. I’m not here making excuses for Norwegian, I’m stating fact. They made the call, and we as passengers could either be upset and let it negatively impact our week, or we could accept it and choose to have fun. We chose the latter. Jen and IĀ actually got a good laugh out of the change, as we’d been in San Francisco on vacation the month before, and had spent the 3 days leading up to the cruise in San Diego visiting our daughter, and would spend the 3 days after the cruise backĀ there doing the same.

The itinerary change aside, we still had work to do. Our headquarters team did an amazing job getting everything rescheduled so that most (if not all) of our sessions were still held, in some cases at different times or on different days. I’m sure none of that is of interest to those reading this, so I’ll get moving on an actual review of the Bliss.

First up, the ship! The design is similar to the Escape (which we sailed 3 years ago), and as such, is just as beautiful. Even though it’s part of the same Breakaway-Plus class Escape is, the Bliss fixed a number of the things I took issue with on the Escape, as listed in that older post. Examples:

  • Movement of the ship was so much better. Maybe something was wrong with the stabilizers when we sailed Escape, but as mentioned in that review, movement/rocking in even calm seas was noticeable. In less than perfect seas, it was negatively impacting me, and I never get seasick. I was really happy to see the Bliss had no more movement than any other large ship we’ve been on.
  • I never felt like there was a lack of bar staff, as most of the time I was able to walk up and get a mudslide whenever I wanted without much of a wait, if any.
  • Margaritaville never had the waits we saw on the Escape when I walked by, or the day we ate there. Granted, when we were on the Escape it was free, which changed shortly after that sailing. I’ll talk more about the charge and experience in my restaurant post coming up after this one.
  • I was probably a little harsh on the main theater last time, but on the Bliss, I really had no issues with it. Good sight lines all around, and while the cup holders are still small (and I assume still don’t fit the soda cups), they fit everything else we threw at it; bar glasses, plastic bar cups, etc.
  • Outside space, especially around the main pool, is more plentiful. Here are comparison of shots I took of the main pool area on the Escape and Bliss to illustrate what I mean (Escape on the left):

My number one complaint from last time, the smell of smoke in the atrium due to the casino allowing smoking in an open area, has mostly been addressed, too, and I couldn’t be happier to see it. Did I still smell smoke? Yes, but only on the floor the casino was on, and nowhere near as bad as on the Escape. How has Norwegian accomplished this? By putting smoking gamblers in a box, literally. As mentioned on Norwegian’s blog, those who wish to smoke while gambling must do so in a separate room, complete with more than 100 machines and 6 table games. Some of that smell has made it out, but it’s far better and much more contained than it was on the Escape. Kudos, Norwegian!

Let’s move on to our cabin. Much like last time, we went with a standard balcony cabin, this time on deck 11 (11732, specifically). It was a pretty standard room with plenty of space to move around, and ample storage. Honestly, neither of us have anything negative to say about our cabin. Take a 360 degree look around both the room and balcony:


Now before we get to the fun stuff, like go-karts and water slides, let’s talk about the staff. I’m sure they were told that there were going to be a thousand travel agents, along with executives from NCL and other lines onboard, but even so, they were awesome all week. Again, we didn’t get to interact with them as much as we would normally, but when we did, we always got smiles, a “how’s your day”, and all out good attitudes from them. I walked around one my own a bit without anything identifying that I was part of the group, and there was no change in attitude. Additional little things, like the always-happy attitude on the guys at the buffet doors ensuring people were sanitizing (the “washy washy” guys) and the girls walking around Taste and Savor at breakfast handing out additional little treats while brightening your day with a song were awesome touches. If you were on the ship and don’t know what I’m referring to, you missed out! Fortunately, some friends of ours managed to get it on video!

Really, the only crew issue I encoutered was at Margaritaville, but we’ll talk about that in my upcoming food post.

Next up on page 2, the good stuff; go-karts, waterslides, and shows!

Spring Break on the Disney Fantasy – Part 2

Let’s start this off by talking food. As I mentioned in part 1, we’d managed to secure a reservation for brunch at Palo on the first sea day, which was the first full day of the cruise. We’d eaten here last year on our Disney Dream sailing and liked the entire experience so much that booking it again was a no-brainer. If you’ve had the pleasure of brunch here, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

On arrival at the restaurant this time around, we were led to our table by our awesome server Silvio. On the way, he took us over to a round 6 person table with a city-scape in the background. He had us all sit together against the wall and took a few pictures of us with the flash enabled, saying that this booth was designed to really come to life when lit properly. Wow was he right! This is one of my favorite pictures of us from the sailing!

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Once pictures were done, we headed to our table, which was once again by the window, providing an amazing view. Now, I won’t bore anyone by repeating the whole experience here, it was almost identical to last year, so you’re welcome to stop by that post to read up if you’re considering dining at Palo for the first time. Service was once again outstanding, the food was incredible, and we were left quite satisfied. We enjoyed a number of things from the buffet tables as well as the set menu itself, including pizza, lasagna, and that parmesan crusted chicken breast that Bayley loved so much last year. It was all just as good this year.Ā Brunch at Palo is worth every penny in my opinion.

Moving on, our rotational dinner assignments this time around were (in order): Art of Animation, Enchanted Forest, Royal Court, Art of Animation, Enchanted Forest, Enchanted Forest, Royal Court. For those who aren’t familiar with rotational dining, you rotate between the three main dining rooms on board all week, with your servers following you each night, providing a nice change of scenery each night while giving you a consistent service experience. Last year we were a little down on the speed of dinner service, with a couple of nights taking well over two hours. This year we had no issues with MDR service, our team was outstanding and were able to keep things moving so that we didn’t miss any evening activities. Kudos to Ignacio and Severine, they did an amazing job!

The food throughout the ship was excellent all week, I honestly don’t have anything to complain about here. I think the only negative would be the buffet pizza (Palo’s is really good). It’s better than Carnival or Royal’s pizza, but unsurprisingly nowhere near as tasty as MSC’s. That’s a pretty small complaint thought, as Disney’s food game across the board is on point, some of the best we’ve had on any line. I mean come on, can you beat a Disney sundae (or 9)? I think not!

Moving on, let’s talk about the ports! As I mentioned in part 1, we never actually planned on sailing over spring break, it was a very last minute choice. After we found and booked this sailing, we looked around at excursions, but in the end decided we weren’t going to get off the ship anywhere except Castaway Cay. We’ve been to the rest of the stops (Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Falmouth) multiple times and decided it’d be better to save some money for our summer trip than repeat any past excursions. We did get off the ship in Jamaica to check out the shops, but that was Bayley’s call, since that day was her birthday. Not much to report there, we just walked the shops right there at the port, stayed out maybe an hour, and got back on the ship.

The one stop we did take full advantage of on this trip was Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. After getting off the ship, we decided that instead of riding the tram, we’d just walk from the ship to the beach. Along the way we did a little shopping and even managed to catch a few characters!

Last year we headed over to the adults-only side, Serenity Bay, and camped out on a couple of hammocks most of the day. We’d planned on doing the same this time, but after arriving there, realized it was way too windy, which made it cold, and the beach was almost unusable, being covered in piles of seaweed. No biggie, we headed back over to the family side and found a spot. It was pretty busy by then, so we weren’t right up on the water, but we were still on the beach, and that’s all that matters!

We didn’t really do a lot on the island, some napping on our beach chairs, eating, and wandering. One thing I do want to mention here is that in people’s reviews I’ve seen complaints that lines for lunch can get pretty long on the faily side, but we didn’t see that at all. I ate right as they opened, and with 6 lines at the one I was at, combined with multiple lines at the other food stand, I had no wait at all. Jen and Bayley ate later while things were in full swing, and again, no wait.

We hung around until about 2pm, at which point we headed back early to get a run or three on the AquaDuck before everyone got back on board. Love this waterslide, it’s always a good time!

While it was a fun day on the island, I’d say we enjoyed the previous visit more due to our time on the adults-only side of the island, but couldn’t be helped, the weather was just more condusive to the family side this time.

That about covers it for this post, next up, Star Wars Day at Sea!

 

Good Times on Harmony of the Seas!

Another year, another national conference in the books! As I’ve mentioned in the past, our parent company holds our national conference at sea each year, and we were fortunate to attend for the 3rd year in a row, with this one being the Halloween sailing on Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. Being that we were busy with sessions and other business-related events most of the week, we didn’t get to enjoy everything the ship has to offer, but it was still an awesome cruise nonetheless!Ā If you happened to catch my Oasis of the Seas series last year, you might have noticed that I was a little disappointed in aspects of that sailing. Going in to this trip, that experience was forefront in my mind, but I’m happy to say that this trip exceeded my expectations in just about every area.

I’m still not a fan of the layout of the port itself, as we decided to park right at the ship and had to wait in a rather long line of cars to get in to the lot due to some pretty poor traffic management, but once we were in, everything else was cake. Embarkation went even faster than last time! Once we got past security, we headed up to the desk to check in. With no line, we got up there immediately and were checked in pretty quickly. Walking up to the waiting area, we found that they were already boarding, and had no wait here either. We basically walked in to the building, checked in, and headed right on to the ship. Start to finish, everything took maybe 15 minutes after we parked. It always amazes me how fast they are able to board a ship of this size!

Royal Caribbean set the bar really high all week in how they treated our group, and day 1 was no exception. They blocked off the Silk dining room for us to grab food after boarding, knowing that we needed to eat pretty quickly so we could drop our stuff in our rooms and head to our first general session. Frankly, they took good care of us all week, especially at the parties they hosted for us. Take the first night, for example. We were in the skating rink, Studio B, and they laid out an amazing spread of food, drink and ice sculptures!

They went all out on our Halloween party, too. I feel kinda bad for the rest of the passengers, as Royal closed the boardwalk that night for a few hours to host our party, and once again, it was well catered and an absolute blast. Oh, and yes, we brought our costumes! Frankly, I was surprised at how many people on the ship brought theirs, too. We walked through the promenade a few times after our party, and there were a lot of people dressed for the occasion! It was fun walking through in costume, too, we had a number of people stop us for pictures and selfies, which was really fun!

Royal also hosted a beach party on Labadee’s Adrenaline Beach for us too, which was awesome. Free Labadoozies, fun competitions, and beach time, what could be better? Oh, right, a trip down Dragons’ Breath Flight Line! That last one we paid for, but having done it on our Oasis trip, Jen and I both were excited to try it again! Last time we did this I had my GoPro with me and got some decent (but shaky) video, but this time around I had my new toy, a Garmin Virb 360. I like this footage a lot more than the GoPro, as you can use a VR headset or something simple like Google Cardboard to watch it in a VR-like mode and fully immerse yourself in it. Don’t have those? Well not to worry, you can still watch it on YouTube in a normal way and drag around the video to see it from every angle! It’s also now a featured video on one of the major VR platforms, Veer VR! Check it out, and be sure to move around and see all of the action around me, not just the forward view!

Moving on, let’s talk about our room. We again had a boardwalk balcony, which I wasn’t a huge fan of last time, as I found the balcony fairly useless outside of aqua shows, due to the boardwalk acting as a trap for the heat and humidity during the time of our sailing (mid-May). This time around we did find it more useful, as it wasn’t quite as hot outside on this sailing. I used it a few times, including once where I hung out there in my wolf mask for a little bit just to mess with people :). The room itself had plenty of space for us and was very comfortable, and this time around came with a couple of really nice boardwalk balcony amenities: The Royal Refreshment soda package, and a 4-person credit to Johnny Rockets. Those are definitely nice additions to the room category!

Moving on to the internet speed, I was pleasantly surprised. On last year’s sailing, I was pretty disappointed in the overall speed and reliability of the Voom offering, and wasn’t sure what to expect this time around, since they had given all conference attendees the fastest package, which meant that in addition to the regular passengers that would be using the internet, there were 1,000 for sure that had would be on it constantly too. Outside of a couple of small outages (WiFi hotspots totally disappeared from device view), it was pretty reliable and fairly quick. I also really like the unlimited packages, as I hate having to worry about the amount of time I use. It’s not so bad when uploading pictures, but when attempting to upload video, you have to hope things are moving quickly, otherwise you burn a bunch of time off your plan. Not on Voom, however! I ran a couple of speed tests during the week just to see how it looked, so here’s one taken around noon on a sea day, which should have represented a peak time:

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One of the other cool things we got to take advantage of on this sailing is their huge dry slide, the Ultimate Abyss. This was new to us, as Oasis doesn’t have it, and is exactly what it sounds like, a long dry slide at the back of the ship that starts on deck 16 and takes you down to the boardwalk on deck 6. We did this pretty early in the sailing, and while we enjoyed it, didn’t really feel the need to do it again. Note that you really do need to pay attention to their instructions, as you can easily turn the wrong way, lift a leg wrong, etc, and end up rubbing some skin off on the way down. I chatted with another agent that took some skin off one leg that way, and he’d seen a kid on the ship who had taken some skin off an arm by hitting the side on the way down. It’s fun, just follow their instructions and you’ll be fine! Since you’re not allowed to take GoPros on this (or the water slides, both of which were pretty disappointing) I don’t have any video, but here are a couple of pics of the Abyss instead. In the second one, you can see the two slides spiral down near the back of the ship:

Even though we were there for work, we did catch as many shows as possible. Frankly, Royal’s really stepped up their entertainment game over the years, and have some of the best shows available at sea in my opinion. We caught 1887, Columbus, The Fine Line, and Jen caught Grease, and every one of them were amazing. I really enjoyed Columbus and The Fine Line. The latter is one of the shows held in the Aqua Theater, and incorporates a lot more in the way of artsy visual elements than the traditional aqua show we’d seen on Oasis. I can’t recommend it enough!

Let’s end this by covering a few of the negatives I called out last year in my final Oasis post, as well as one or two other things called out in various posts from that sailing:

Windjammer: Maybe I’m completely mis-remembering the Oasis, but I swear that Harmony’s buffet area is bigger. We ate there a few times and it never felt as crowded as it did on Oasis. I do really like their buffet food too, some of the best of the lines we’ve sailed.

Coke Freestyle machines: I think we had an issue once all week. Last time they were constantly down/being repaired, but this time around we had no major issues with them.

Lack of water slides: We were a little disappointed last year that Oasis had none, but happy to see that had been rectified on Harmony. We both tried them after getting back on the ship in port one day and had a blast. They’ve got two slides dedicated to racing each other, which are pretty standard (but fast) waterslides, and then next to those is The Perfect Storm, a slide with several clear sections that ends up dumping you into a large bowl near the end. Fun stuff, I just wish they allowed you to take a GoPro to film it!

Overall, we had a really great week, and were treated very well by the Harmony’s crew. Next year’s conference is aboard the Norwegian Bliss out of Long Beach, and I have to say, Royal set a very high bar as a conference host, so I hope NCL was paying attention!

I do have one more post in this series covering the food we enjoyed aboard the Harmony, which I hope to have up in a few days. Thank you for following along!

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 point at 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 šŸ™‚
  • 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 did 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 kids 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

A look back at our final day aboard the Disney Dream. Sea days are the best!

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 šŸ™‚

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), theĀ Chateaubriand roasted filet steak, and theĀ 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!

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