Fancy seeing Nemo swimming past your porthole window? Watching the only firework display at sea? Or eating in the most expensive restaurant afloat? Now is your chance!
Read our exclusive first review of the Disney Dream.
View the Disney Dream Deck Plan.
Visit the Disney Dream page.
For the ultimate family holiday experience, there’s no one better than Disney. The company’s first two ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, were launched in the late 1990s. Now along comes Disney Dream (and next year Disney Fantasy), 40 per cent bigger, and packed full of more hi-tech treats than anything else on the waves today. There’s impressive attention to detail at every turn, fi ne food – including the most expensive restaurant afloat – and world-class entertainment.
With its elegant raked bow and two over-sized red funnels, this ship has been designed to evoke memories of the golden age of 1930s ocean liners. The large porthole cabin windows fore and aft of serried ranks of balconies help the ship avoid looking like a horizontal tower block; and the black hull, white superstructure and red and yellow detailing echo the colours of Mickey Mouse’s costume. Disney petitioned for a change in international law, no less, to allow yellow lifeboats instead of the conventional orange. Passengers travelling from resorts in Orlando are brought to Port Canaveral in cruise-line buses with portholes for windows; the Disney cruise terminal, built 12 years ago, is another 1930s Art Deco pastiche.
With families in mind, most cabins have pull-down bunks and convertible sofas – the 1,250 cabins can accommodate up to 4,000 passengers – as well as large and very comfortable queen-sized beds. Every cabin has a bathroom with bath and shower, and a separate WC. Almost 90 percent of the accommodation is in outside rooms, while the 150 inside cabins each have a ‘magic’ porthole with a live TV feed showing the sea – plus a few cartoon surprises. Amenities include two mobile phones for use on board, and an alarm clock with iPod dock.
This will no doubt improve with time and experience, but it was disappointing to find a waiter in the premium Palo restaurant whose knowledge of the menu was not matched by his ability to explain it. Maybe it was nerves that led him to speak so fast we could hardly follow – and, to be fair, he was particularly attentive in confirming suitable items for a lactose-intolerant dining companion. Other restaurant staff, bar waiters and the cabin stewardess were unfailingly helpful and polite.
Surprisingly good quality, and a million miles from theme-park fare. There are two sittings for dinner, at 6.00 pm and 8.30 pm, and diners can eat in the Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace and Animator’s Palate restaurant in turns, served by the same waiters each evening. There’s good quality buffet food in Cabanas on Deck 11, where staff will find you a table. Flo’s Café by the pool serves burgers, hotdogs, pizzas, salads and wraps (although the “grilled to order” burgers were actually pre-cooked), and there’s tea, coffee and cakes in the restful Cove Café by the adult pool. Extra-cost dining options are the $20 Italian Palo, and the $75 French restaurant, Remy, where the decor is inspired by the film Ratatouille and the menus designed by Scott Hunnel, from Disney’s Grand Floridian resort, and Michelin-starred Arnaud Lallement, from Reims. Really want to splash out? Treat yourself to a $25,000 bottle of St Emilion with dinner.
Well, what do you expect? Big production shows for all the family, featuring Disney songs and characters, in the beautiful 1,340- seat theatre; and first-run films – some in 3D – in the 399-seat Buena Vista cinema. Disney characters roam the ship and are available for photo sessions with their adoring young fans. Adults can throw some shapes in the Evolution disco, chill out in the Pink champagne bar, or watch the world go by in the Skyline Bar, with scenes from some of the world’s liveliest cities playing on a video wall. Coolest bar on the ship? Meridian, at the back of Deck 12, has clubby leather seats and two open-air terraces.
Star of the show is the Aqua Duck water coaster, which is the only one of its kind at sea, at least until the launch of sister ship Disney Fantasy in April 2012. Children (and adults) must be at least 48 inches tall to ride, but there’s also a milder Mickey’s water slide for the little ones. Sailaway party on embarkation day is a 45-minute extravaganza by the pool, and every cruise features Buccaneer Blast with Captain Jack Sparrow, and the only firework display at sea. Goofy’s sports deck has miniature golf, sports simulators and a basketball court. The Arr-cade has all the latest video games, but one feature is conspicuous by its absence: there’s no casino.
Passengers are welcomed aboard by name, with a round of applause as they step into the three-deck Central Atrium, with its massive stained-glass chandelier and a golden statue of Admiral Donald Duck. That said, it’s a surprisingly unwelcoming space… perhaps it comes to life when used as an alternative bad-weather venue for deck parties. The attention to detail in the decor throughout the ship is awe-inspiring – you could spend hours searching for all the hidden Mickeys, and the animated art will keep young ones entertained and intrigued for hours. There are lots of shops selling branded souvenirs and clothes in the arcade on Deck 3.
The private Disney resort of Castaway Cay extends to 10 acres of a 100-acre island, with a soft sandy beach, adults-only Serenity Bay, bars and barbecue buffet. Activities range from hair braiding to snorkelling with stingrays. At Dream’s other port of call in Nassau, many of the excursions – or Port Adventures, in Disney-speak – involve interacting with dolphins at the Atlantis resort, or in the Blue Lagoon.
The Steiner-operated Senses Spa occupies a vast 16,000-squarefoot space, and has 17 treatment rooms plus the relaxing Rainforest area with steam rooms, sauna and hydrotherapy. There are two lavish villas for hire by the hour, and whirlpool hot tubs on outer terraces. There’s a separate Chill Spa offering fruity facials and icecream manicures for teens, and a 2,500-square-foot gym with classes for yoga, Pilates and spinning.
Unsurpassed facilities for children of all ages, starting with the It’s A Small World nursery. Three to 10-year-olds have their own area in the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, full of fun activities. Next up is the Edge club, in the fake forward funnel, for 11 to 13-year-olds; and then there’s the Vibe teen club in the bow area. No one need ever complain that there’s nothing to do.
Nothing is left to chance here. No detail is too small for the Disney imagineers, crew and entertainment staff to take care of, and the immersion in Walt’s dream is complete. Disney Cruises deservedly command a premium price, and passengers either have more money in their wallets than average, or are prepared to extend their creditcard borrowings to give their kids everything they ever dreamed of.
FINAL VERDICT 91%
Beam 121 ft
22 knots (max 23.5)
Concierge Royal Suites:
Three, four and fivenight itineraries from Port Canaveral, Florida, to Nassau and Disney’s private resort island of Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.
Families, many adding a cruise onto a hotel stay in Disney World, Orlando. Mostly American. UK passengers sampling the Disney experience are more likely to try the smaller Magic, which is back in the Mediterranean this summer.
Book with Virgin Holidays Cruises (Tel: 0871 781 9893; virginholidayscruises.co.uk) to combine a four-night cruise on Disney Dream with a seven-night stay at Disney’s Pop Century hotel at Disney World, Orlando. Fares from £1,249 based on two adults sharing an inside cabin, and including direct flights from Gatwick, departing 9 October. Travelling on the same date, a seven-night stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, including the same cruise, would cost from £2,099.
Tel: 0800 028 3179;
Click here to visit the Disnet Cruise website.