Surely a Disney Cruise is just for kids? Not so, says John Honeywell.
Let Mickey, Donald and a host of your other favourite Disney characters welcome you on board Disney Dream, the company’s newest ship for 11 years, and discover fun for all the family
The Disney Dream is the first new Disney cruise ship for 11 years, and it is clear the cost per cabin, is far higher than other modern cruise ships.
The attention to detail is meticulous. From the character of Mickey in his Sorcerer’s Apprentice costume conducting brooms to clean the ship’s stern, to the thousands of ‘hidden Mickeys’ concealed throughout the vessel, there is no doubt who is the centre of attention.
Characters from other Disney and Pixar movies are on hand– via a multitude of 103-inch plasma TV screens – to provide entertainment, from Finding Nemo’s Crush the Turtle in the Animator’s Palate to Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty in the Royal Palace restaurant. While other ships emphasise their devotion to glamour, nightlife or adventure, Disney Dream’s theme is obviously its younger passengers, and there are likely to be at least 1,500 children on board at any given time.
Vast areas of the vessel are devoted to the kids’ clubs, with the youngest taken care of in the It’s A Small World Nursery. For a fee of $6 (£4) an hour, tots up to three can be left here even while parents go ashore. The Oceaneer Club, for three to 10-year-olds, has a unique play-floor for computer games controlled by the players’ feet, and a series of annexes themed on Disney movies such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc, Peter Pan and Finding Nemo.
The 11- to 13-year-olds have their own Tween Club inside the fake forward funnel and older teenagers have swipe card controlled access to their own space, indoors and outside, in the ship’s bow. No adults allowed here, so they can play computer games, learn to become a DJ, or simply hang out with their new-found friends in the splash pool and spa baths.
Adults have their own entertainment area on board called The District.
The central meeting area leads to the ship’s sports bar, 687, named after the shipyard’s number for the hull – every piece of metal on the ship has that number stamped or written on it somewhere. A specially-brewed beer, called 687 (come on, guys!) will be on draft. Pink is an elegant champagne bar decorated with a Murano glass sculpture and with lights in the form of bubbles fizzing gently up the walls. Inside the pink spheres is a silhouette of the pink elephants from Dumbo.
Among the champagnes on sale will be a cuvee prestige exclusively provided by Taittinger for $70 (£47) a bottle. Pink, of course. Skyline is an intimate after-dinner bar with wood-panelled walls and a constantly-changing image over a city’s rooftops on a series of plasma screens.
Evolution is the ships adults only nightclub, with decor inspired by the wings of the Monarch butterfly, and the treats for mums and dads don’t end there. The Senses Spa and Salon, operated by Steiner, extends to 16,000 square feet of pampering space at the forward end of Decks 11 and 12. Some of the relaxation rooms have great views over the bridge and there are two spa villas that can be rented by the hour or the day for extra special moments.
Adults-only speciality restaurant Remy takes its inspiration from the film Ratatouille and has menus devised by Michelin-starred Arnaud Lallement and Disney’s own Scott Hunnel from the Victoria and Albert restaurant in Walt Disney World, Florida. The $75 (£50) cover charge may seem eyewateringly expensive, but Disney claims it is a fraction of the cost of an equivalent meal in London, Paris or New York.
Palo is the ship’s other extra charge speciality restaurant, serving Italian food and with 40 wines exclusive to the venue.
Cover charge: $20 (£13.50).
Most families will take their evening meal in the three main restaurants – Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace and Animator’s Palate – with the same waiters serving them each evening. Each restaurant seats 696, and Disney operates two sittings for dinner, at 6.30pm and 8.30pm.
Casual restaurant Cabanas on Deck 11 has nine serving stations on either side of the ship, offering everything from pizzas to sushi, Asian and Italian specialities, followed by dessert and coffee. Up here also are ice cream kiosks and Flo’s Cafe for quick snacks.
There is a 399-seat cinema, the Buena Vista Theatre, and the Walt Disney Theatre, seating 1,340 with unobstructed views of the giant stage where a cast of 25 will perform three 55-minute shows every night – at 5pm, 7pm and 9pm – during each cruise.
To ensure every passenger gets a chance to see the shows, they will be allocated seats for each performance before boarding.
There are 1,250 staterooms, of which 1,100, or 88 per cent, are outside, and of those, 901 have balconies. The 150 inside staterooms have a sea view, courtesy of a Magic Porthole, with a real time image of the sea outside provided by one of five TV cameras around the ship depending on whether the cabin is port or starboard, forward or aft. This being Disney, surprise images such as Peach the Starfish from Finding Nemo and Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willy will make occasional appearances throughout the day.
With families in mind, all cabins, even the smallest, have separate bathrooms and WC, and a bathtub for toddlers who could not manage a shower. Another perfect example of how Disney thinks of everything.
Disney Dream will sail three, four and five-night cruises from Port Canaveral in Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas, and Disney’s private resort of Castaway Cay which has been upgraded to cope with the extra numbers. Fares for a family of four with two young children start from about £1,115 (not including air fares).
Sister ship Disney Fantasy is under construction and will join the fleet in 2012.
|★ Maiden voyage: 26 January 2011
★ Length: 1,115 ft
★ Number of decks: 14
★ Crew: 1,458
★ Passengers: 4,000
★ Staterooms: 1,250
★ Restaurants/bars: Three main restaurants providing Disney’s unique ‘rotational dining’ with fixed sittings at 6.30pm and 8.30pm, plus a buffet restaurant and two speciality extra-charge restaurants, Palo and Remy.
★ Highlights: The AquaDuck water coaster running round the sun deck; The unmatched facilities for children with clubs for four different age groups. Mums and Dads have their own entertainment district, with bars and clubs, which are off-limits to kids, and a relaxing 16,000-sq ft Steiner spa and salon.
About the AquaDuck
The only one of its kind at sea, the AquaDuck water coaster is a 765-ft thrill ride that begins 160-ft above the waterline and swings out 13-ft over the side of the ship in a 270-degree loop. Master Blaster jets of water – fresh, rather than from the sea, and about 10,000 gallons every minute – propel riders at up to eight mph, two at a time as they sit on an inflatable dinghy inside the 54-inch diameter clear acrylic tube. There is a minimum height requirement of 48 inches, so this is not a ride for the tiny tots.
The ride lasts almost a minute, and Disney expects to cope with 250- 300 riders per hour. On the sun deck below the AquaDuck, two fresh water swimming pools can be covered to provide the perfect location for Pirate Parties and regular fireworks displays.
Read our review of the Disney Dream here
See how the Disney Dream compares with other ship in operation today here
Read more about John Honeywell’s experience of the Disney Dream conveyance here
Read further info and view the construction of the Disney Dream here