Donald Duck greets his fans from the Disney Dream’s atrium — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
Sometimes in life we are offered second chances to recreate special memories. Fortunately, I was afforded a second (and third!) chance to do just that with my family.
Years ago, I vacationed with my two daughters and young grandson, Mateo, on a wonderful Disney Caribbean cruise. After becoming instant fans, I brought Mateo on a second cruise. Most recently, we embarked on a third family trip aboard the Disney Dream, this time bringing along my younger grandson, Jack.
Considered the ultimate cruise for families, Disney Cruise Line has landed among the top 10 in numerous USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, including these 2023 awards for Best Mid-Sized Cruise Ship, Best Large Cruise Ship, Best Cruise Ship for Entertainment, Best Ocean Cruise Line and Best Family Cruise.
In addition to many kid-friendly activities, Disney offers a great balance of adults-only restaurants and designated quiet spaces, making it a perfect cruise for a multigenerational vacation.
Cruising in the wake of COVID
This beautiful ocean view was taken from our cabin on the Disney Dream — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
Not surprisingly, Disney Cruise Lines offers excellent service, which made our most recent trip thoroughly enjoyable. I found positive changes since my last voyage. I discovered Disney’s pre-trip communication with passengers to be stellar, which wasn’t evident years ago. We were easily able to upload important documents, such as passport information.
COVID-19 protocol has returned to a more simplified boarding process. Vaccines are not required, but Disney recommends them and encourages passengers to test themselves prior to cruising.
I was pleasantly surprised to find Disney Cruise Line’s Navigator app incredibly helpful. It enables passengers to plan the trip, make payments, virtually check in and more. Once aboard, you can select activities, monitor your schedule and find information about ports-of-call. The chat feature helps passengers stay connected.
Settle into spacious cabins on the Disney Dream
Comfy beds assure sweet dreams inside the cabin — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
Disney Dream has a 4,000 passenger capacity with over 1,200 cabins. Our cabin accommodated all of us comfortably, thanks to a queen-sized bed and a sofa that converted into a bunk bed for the boys in the evenings.
We had plenty of room to spread out. Our cabin featured a veranda and, most importantly, a bathroom configuration that really made sense. It was split into two rooms — one with a sink and toilet, and the other with a sink and a shower-tub combo, making it very functional for families.
Explore the Oceaneer Club for kids
Slinky Dog waits for his playmates to arrive — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
One of the first things we did upon arrival was to head to the Oceaneer Club, which is the ultimate destination for kids ages 3 to 12. It’s managed by a team of child education professionals and features several fun spaces where kids can spend hours being entertained.
While there, we registered for a children’s tracking bracelet. It gives parents peace of mind by enabling them to keep tabs on their kids while on the ship. (Note: The bracelets do not work while ashore.)
The ship hadn’t yet left the Port of Miami, and the club was already filled with high-energy Disney characters and swarming with excited kids who were captivated by the wide range of activities.
As the Disney Dream set sail, we attended the party on deck, hosted by Captain Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and other popular Disney favorites. The ship’s horn blasted the opening notes to the classic song, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and we were off to sea, surrounded by swirls of colorful streamers and confetti.
Enjoy delectable dining options on the Disney Dream
The Enchanted Garden evokes French sophistication — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
On the Disney Dream, dining options are abundant. All around the ship, passengers are treated to many kid-friendly options, as well as upscale cuisine. With the many meal choices available, it wasn’t easy to try all of them on our three-day cruise.
We especially enjoyed the “rotational dining” program, which is exclusive to Disney ships. It allows guests to dine at different restaurants for dinner each night, with their servers accompanying them. We were lucky to have Anthony, who provided great service as well as entertainment each evening.
Our first meal was at the casual Cabanas, a fun indoor-outdoor restaurant. Fashioned after a boardwalk in California — complete with palm trees, beach umbrellas and seagulls — it offers an array of hot and cold food stations. (Jack especially loved the Mickey Mouse waffles.)
Mickey Mouse cupcakes are one of many sweet treats — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
One of our favorite restaurants was Animator’s Palate, where scenes from popular Disney films adorn the walls and come to life, captivating the entire family. This restaurant also holds another surprise: guests can draw a picture on their placemats. This image is later set to music and becomes animated, leaping from screen to screen around the room.
For a more formal experience, the Enchanted Garden showcases delectable cuisine in an elegant setting that’s a whimsical nod to the famous gardens of Versailles in France. The ship’s adults-only eateries include Remy (upscale French) and Palo (Northern Italian). After dinner, passengers can attend themed events, watch first-run movies in the theater or enjoy live shows, such as “Beauty and the Beast.”
Play games made for kids of all ages
Disney characters are around every corner — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
In addition to the Oceaneer’s Club for the younger kids, the Disney Dream offers clubs for tweens and teens.
For tweens, The Edge offers an assortment of games and movies, while the Vibe is a teen hangout. It offers the feel of a hip night spot and regularly hosts dance competitions and karaoke. An outdoor sundeck provides a place to “chill out” with lounge chairs and splash pools.
One of our favorite family games was the high-tech Midship Detective Agency Scavenger Hunt. Armed with clues, passengers discover pieces of art around the ship that come alive as you walk by. When I wondered out loud how it all worked, my grandson Jack didn’t hesitate to reply, “It’s magic.”
Themed spaces on the ship offer lots of action — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
For a dose of nostalgia, my daughter and Mateo went on the AquaDuck water coaster — the same slide they rode together years before.
If you’re seeking a break, Disney offers tranquility areas designated for adults. I caught myself looking longingly at these secluded places, offering a respite for travelers 18 and older, with private pools, hot tubs, a cozy café and a spa. However, despite these options, I chose not to miss one minute with my energetic little grandson and his “seasoned” older brother.
Spend a relaxing beach day on Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay is a favorite among cruisers — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
Castaway Cay is Disney’s beautiful private island in the Bahamas, and it was the only port we visited on this short trip.
Everything you need for a charmed beach experience is available, including lounge chairs, umbrellas, towels, life jackets and scuba gear. There’s also a generous selection of fresh, tasty food and fun entertainment.
Our final evening featured the perfect finale to our trip: Disney’s legendary “Ever After Fireworks” at sea, set to popular Disney tunes.
Create fun-filled memories at sea with your family
The Disney Dream docked at the serene Castaway Cay — Photo courtesy of M. Richmond
The Disney Dream cruise was a fun-filled vacation with a lifetime of special memories. For our family, Disney never loses its magic — no matter what stage of life you’re in.
As for my grandson Jack’s thoughts? The minute we got home, he asked: “When can we go back to the Mickey Mouse boat?”
Out of the mouths of babes.