All Ages

Disney Dream Cruise for Families

Once upon a Disney Dream, we discovered a cruise aboard the ship — or any Disney Cruise Line ship, for that matter — is actually a dream (a difficult one to wake from when your vacation ends, in fact).

Disney Dream, which launched in 2011, is a beautiful sight to behold, inspired by ocean liners of the 1920s and 30s. Inside, elegant furnishings feature art-deco inspirations, seen in the vibrant lobby, where you’ll find a grand staircase, chandelier and piano. Copies of original artwork and gigantic portholes line the hallways, too — you can actually sit in them (and they provide great photo opportunities).

Disney Dream is 40 percent larger — and two decks taller — than Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. That’s a whole lot of Mouse and a whole lot of family fun. Families find a seemingly endless array of activities, shows and spaces, along with several kids clubs (access is included in the cruise fares), four restaurants, three swimming pools and a totally tubular (literally) water coaster that snakes up and down several decks of the ship. You’ll have several chances to meet your favorite characters, too, as they make both scheduled and surprise appearances.

Don’t be surprised to see just as many couples as you do families on Disney Dream. There’s literally something for everyone, from the young to the young at heart. Adults enjoy two top-notch restaurants (additional fees apply) of their own, plus The District, an exclusive collection of bars, lounges and nightclubs. The ship also offers an adults-only pool with a swim-up bar and a dedicated sun deck.

Disney Dream currently sails three- to four-night cruises out of Port Canaveral, stopping at Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island.

Disney Dream Staterooms
Disney Dream offers nine variations for accommodations, many of which provide surprisingly ample space and sleep up to five guests; some units even provide shower-in-tub combinations, a rarity on most cruise ships. Privacy curtains also come standard in rooms, as do 22-inch LCD TVs, iPod docking stations, hairdryers, telephones, safes, desks and chairs, individual climate control and cooling boxes (for a shot of cold air).

Cabins are simply yet tastefully furnished in hues of red, blue and gold, with accents of Mickey Mouse (hint: look at the shower curtains) and Disney. You’ll also find Wave Phones in every cabin, which can be used to call or text other passengers onboard. Cribs and Pack ‘n Plays are available upon request, too. Fun Fact: Many rooms feature pull-down beds, which reveal artwork overheard; kids can expect to see Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and the like as they fall asleep.

Standard Inside Stateroom
With 169 square feet of space, this cabin provides a queen bed, single convertible sofa and pull-down bed. (The latter is provided in some, but not all, units; inquire when booking.) Most Standard Inside Staterooms also have shower-in-tub combinations. Sleeps 3-4.

Deluxe Inside Stateroom
Just slightly bigger than a Standard Inside Stateroom (200 square feet), the Deluxe Inside Stateroom offers a queen bed, convertible sofa and pull-down bed (the latter in some, but not all, units). This cabin offers a split bathroom, which means one room has a sink and shower-in-tub combination, while the other offers a toilet and additional sink. Sleeps 3-4.

Insider’s Tip: : If you opt for a Standard Inside Stateroom or a Deluxe Inside Stateroom, you get the added bonus of a “Magical Porthole,” situated above the queen bed. It’s not an actual porthole, per se, but it looks like one and provides real-time views outside the ship via high-def cameras and a live video feed.

Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom
The Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom is almost exactly the same as the Deluxe Inside Stateroom in size and amenities, but it offers a porthole. (Some portholes have obstructed views; ask before booking.) Sleeps 3-4.

Deluxe Family Oceanview Room
This cabin doesn’t have a balcony, but it’s almost as good as one that does. It offers a gigantic porthole in which you can sit (similar to those seen in various hallways throughout the ship). It also offers a queen-size bed and single convertible sofa, along with a wall pull-down bed (in most) and upper berth pull-down bed (in some). These units have a split-bathroom setup, with a shower and tub in one bathroom, a toilet in the other, and a sink in both. Sleeps 4-5.

Deluxe Oceanfront Stateroom with Navigator’s Verandah
These cabins offer 246 square feet of space, with queen beds, single convertible sofas and upper berth pull-down beds; some units also have wall pull-down beds. These rooms offer split bathrooms, which include round tubs, plus showers. Sleeps 3-4.

Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah
Like others, this unit provides a queen bed, single convertible sofa and upper berth pull-down bed. It also offers a private verandah with two chairs and a table, as well as a split bathroom (in most units). Sleeps 3-4.

Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah
Some of these units include verandahs so private they actually have a thick white wall, along with two chairs and a table. They also offer a queen bed, single convertible sofa, upper berth pull-down bed and wall pull-down bed. Sleeps 3-5.

Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah
Concierge Suites, located on Decks 11 and 12, provide access to a small, private lounge with a sun deck and some chairs, along with free food and drinks. At 306 square feet, these units also offer slightly more bathroom space, with a round tub, shower, sink and vanity in one area and a vanity, toilet and sink in the other. Private verandahs are also included. Sleeps 5.

Concierge 1-Bedroom Suite with Verandah
This room is 622 square feet, and features the same concierge service, plus a walk-in closet, whirlpool, and two bathrooms. It has a queen bed, single convertible sofa, upper berth pull-down bed and wall pull-down bed. Sleeps 5.

Concierge Royal Suite with Verandah
Living large? Disney Dream has a 1,781-square-foot Royal Suite with a kitchenette, media library and a hot tub right on the verandah. Sleeps 5.

Fun note: Pepe the King Prawn (of Muppets fame) now has his very own pint-sized cabin on Disney Dream. It’s stateroom number 5148 1/2 on Deck 5. (Tip: Dial cabin number 5148 from your cabin phone, and Pepe will answer.)

Disney Dream DiningEach of the main restaurants — Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, and Royal Palace — welcome families with unique appeals. High chairs are provided (in all dining areas), and servers cater to kids in a way we’ve never seen before. They bring children’s meals out as soon as possible, provide drinks in cups with lids, cut meat and prepare dishes — all the while telling jokes and engaging them.

The restaurants operate under a Rotational Dining system. That means you’ll eat at the same table number with the same fellow passengers at a set time (either 5:45 p.m. or 8:15 p.m.) each night. Even your waiters will follow you, but the venue will change, giving you a chance to experience different types of cuisine in different settings that offer an array of surprises.

Good to know: Unlike most cruise lines, Disney Cruise Line includes soda in the price of its fares. Free soft drinks can be had during meals in the dining rooms and on Deck 11 by the pool area. You will, however, have to pay extra for alcohol, specialty coffee beverages and convenience soft drinks at places like the concession stand outside the Buena Vista movie theater. (The stand also sells popcorn and candy.)

Animator’s Palate
The Animator’s Palate is an eyeful — a cool, colorful restaurant that is part dining experience, part show. The version on Dream is different than what you’ll find on Magic and Wonder but continues the transformation theme; rather than black and white walls that turn to color during your meal, this one has an underwater theme, where characters from Finding Nemo make an appearance via panoramic LED screens. (We were shocked when Crush, the turtle, began having actual conversations with diners — asking their names, commenting on their clothing and bantering about the weather.

Enchanted Garden
The Versailles-inspired Enchanted Garden is another restaurant that has special effects to enhance the dining experience. The painted frescoes really make you feel as though you’re dining outdoors (complete with a blue sky overhead), and during your meal, walls transform day into night with special lighting effects. There’s a large fountain in the center. Disney has a way of creating restaurants on their ships that don’t necessarily scream kid-friendly, but they are. Enchanted Garden serves three meals a day, and menu highlights for us included the golden and red beet Carpaccio and roasted beef tenderloin.

Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is the most regal of onboard restaurants. The menu is French-inspired, and princess fans will feel right at home with portraits of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. The amount of detail that went into this place is downright impressive: Crown valances sit atop the windows, glass slippers adorn the chandeliers, bread baskets appear in the shape of Cinderella’s coach, and waiters bow and curtsey to guests.

Cabanas
This is a traditional food court, with an outstanding array of delicious foods. Located on Deck 11, it has plenty of seating is available. It’s open for breakfast and lunch and is an easy choice for food between visits to the pools.

Eye Scream Treats and Frozone Treats
Pick up a cone at Eye Scream Treats, located near Donald’s Pool; several soft-serve machines are available. Smoothies are available at Frozone Treats, which is just beside Eye Scream Treats.

Flo’s Cafe
Want a snack by the pool? Head to Flo’s Cafes for burgers, pizza, salads and wraps.

Palo (Adults-Only, Added Fee)
The food at Palo is outstanding. You’ll find a Northern Italian/Mediterranean menu with items like lobster and mascarpone ravioli, Osso Buco di Vitello and sea scallops with beans and pancetta. There’s also a selection of freshly made pizza. For dessert, order the chocolate souffle. Palo also does an outstanding brunch with meats and cheeses, seafood and salads, as well as a selection of hot made-to-order items. The cover is $30 for each, with a suggested tip of $5 per person.

Remy (Adults-Only, Added Fee)
Remy is the kind of sophisticated, classy joint you’d expect to find along a quiet street in Paris, not onboard a Disney cruise ship. Dim lighting, beautiful glassware and rich fabrics make it a welcome escape from kid-friendly spaces onboard, though many don’t realize it’s actually inspired by “Ratatouille.” Expect a long, leisurely dining experience, with menu choices like smoked bison and royal Norway lobster — or how about a little pigeon pie with foie gras? There are decanting stations for wines and an after-dinner coffee service.

Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats (Added Fee)
On Deck 11, just outside the Cabanas buffet area, you’ll find this sweets shop, which took the place of the ship’s arcade during a 2015 refurbishment. Inside, you’ll find for-fee lollipops, baked goods, caramel-dipped apples, chocolates, candy by the pound, ice cream and gelato.

Room Service
Disney Cruise Line offers room service, 24 hours (only available until 1:30 a.m. on the last night of your cruise). This service especially comes in handy on port days because excursions leave early in the morning.

Disney Dream Activities
Pools and AquaDuck
All swimming pools are heated when the water temperature drops below 75 degrees, and most are supervised by lifeguards. Additionally, life jackets and floaties are available to guests at no additional charge.

Aquaduck
If you have seen pictures of Disney Dream, you’ve probably seen the AquaDuck. It’s a transparent acrylic tube that snakes 765 feet, up and down around the outdoor decks of the ship, at one point swinging out 13 feet off the side, 150 feet above the ocean. Single riders must be at least 54 inches tall to ride alone; those younger than 7 must be at least 42 inches tall and accompanied by someone 14 years of age or older. Tip: Visit AquaDuck at night to escape the lines and ride several times in a row, if you choose. The ride is also lit up at night, adding another level of fun.

Mickey Pool
The super-popular Mickey Pool on Deck 11 is designed for young swimmers, ages 4 to 14, and has a maximum depth of 2 feet. Tip: Like AquaDuck, it’s nice to visit the Mickey Pool area night — it’s significantly less crowded, and poolside movies provide a means to unwind.

Donald’s Pool
Donald’s Pool is right next to the Mickey Pool, with lounge space in between. This makes it easy keep an eye on children if you have one or more in each pool. Donald’s Pool is 5 feet deep and located directly beneath Funnel Vision, the LED screen that shows movies all day.

Nemo’s Reef
Also on Deck 11, there’s a large toddler splash area called Nemo’s Reef, adorably decorated with everyone’s favorite characters. There are fountains, jets, bubblers and even a mini-waterslide. We love that this 1,500-square-foot area is shaded and surrounded by large glass panes, with only one way in and out — we know how quickly toddlers can disappear.

Kids Clubs
Housed in a colorful yet calm room, It’s A Small World Nursery offers a play area with games, toys and books, plus a giant, flat-screen TV. Scheduled activities include storytime and arts and crafts. There’s also a separate area for naps, complete with cribs and swings, plus an Acclimation Zone that allows youngsters to adjust to their temporary surroundings. Fees are $9 for the first child and $8 for all others, per hour. Age Group: 6 Months to 3 Years

Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab offer Pixie Hollow and Andy’s Room, where life-size versions of the film’s toys await eager kids. Remember Buster, the wiener dog? You can literally climb through him before landing in Andy’s bed, where you can watch TV on what looks like an old-school television set. Rex, Hamm and Mr. Potato Head (and all his accessories) round out the fun for youngsters. The most popular, however, are the ship’s two newest additions: Disney Infinity and the Millennium Falcon, both of which are exclusive to Disney Dream. In the former, kids can choose characters and play several versions of the popular Disney game at one of 10 stations, each with room for two players. There’s also a life-size gaming area for two, where players become the characters by controlling them with their body movements. The latter encompasses replicas of the Millennium Falcon’s control room, which serves as a gaming area; common room, which provides seating for activities; and cockpit, where kids can “fly” the spacecraft via a series of video game-like simulations. (Don’t worry: Adults yearning for a turn at the wheel can visit during open-house hours.) The Millennium Falcon area is also where Jedi Academy lessons are offered, complete with visits from costumed stormtroopers. Age Group: 3 to 12
Note: Kids who enroll in the Oceaneer Club or Oceaneer Lab will each receive an electronic wristband (similar to the MagicBands used for resort guests in Disney’s parks) that will allow them to check into and out of the clubs. A deposit is required for each bracelet, but the money is refunded as long as the bracelets are returned before the end of the sailing.

‘Tweens aren’t forgotten at Edge, where they enjoy high-tech fun. Offerings include an illuminated floor for dance parties and a video wall that stretches 18 feet. Got a ‘tween-aged comedian? They’ll love That’s Hilarious, where they’ll learn the art of improvisation through movie scene skits and games. Age Group: 11 to 14

Teenagers who are too cool for their parents will appreciate an escape at Vibe, which offers exclusive splash pools, a sundeck, smoothie and coffee bar, dance club (with a DJ), media room, video game area and more. Age Group: 14 to 17

The ship’s D Lounge has family entertainment like karaoke and dance parties at night.. Age Group: All Ages

Theaters
In the classic Walt Disney Theater, you can catch a variety of family shows, including the “Golden Mickeys,” “Villains Tonight” and “Disney’s Believe.” Shows run about an hour, which is perfect for short attention spans. Although these shows incorporate singing and dancing from an array of Disney characters, the special effects and costumes are astounding, and there’s enough adult humor sprinkled in to keep even the oldest cruisers entertained. There’s also a second theater onboard, Buena Vista, which shows first-run Disney movies. If there’s a Disney movie in theaters near your home, there’s a good chance that same movie will be available on the ship — for free.

Disney Characters
One of the best things about a Disney cruise is getting up-close and personal with the characters. Unlike at the parks, where you pay high prices for character dining or wait in long lines for chance meetings, the Disney characters are much more accessible here. If you miss the formal greetings, you can count on seeing them around the ship, and they’ll always stop for a photo. Tip: If, for some reason, your child isn’t able to meet a specific character to get an autograph, go to Guest Services; you will be able to get an autograph there.

Sports Deck
Dream also has a Sports Deck, where young kids will enjoy a round of mini-golf on the ship’s nine-hole course, and teens can have a pickup game of basketball on the top-deck court.

Port Adventures
In Nassau, many excursions are available, as are free beaches, should you not be interested in a paid day-trip. If you’ve never been to Atlantis Resort, however, take advantage of this opportunity to explore the resort’s waterpark, aquariums, beaches and more.

There are plenty of excursions available at Castaway Cay, too, including boat rides and kayaking. Honestly, though, you’re better off heading to the beach, perhaps with some rented snorkel gear and an inner tube. It’s one of the nicest we’ve seen in the Bahamas. Note: Beware of stingrays in the water. They won’t hurt you, but they’ll likely glide by you as you swim.

All About the Extras
Special Events and Activities
Disney Dream (and other ships) offers a “Pirates in the Caribbean” Party with dancing and fireworks. There is a sing-along early in the evening, called “Mickey’s Pirates in the Caribbean” followed by “Club Pirate,” where Jack Sparrow rappels off the funnel, followed by a short chase scene, acted out on Deck 11.

There’s a cute activity called the Midship Detective Agency, which sends kids on a mission around the ship to solve a mystery. They pick up instructions and then use the ship’s Enchanted Art (paintings and pictures that come to life as you admire them) to solve the mystery.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
The newly added Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique — originally found on Disney’s older ships, Magic and Wonder — is now on Disney Dream. This Deck 5 salon will transform your little ones into their choice of princess, knight, pirate or captain. Prices for boys start from a reasonable $18.95 (hair gel, Mickey hair confetti, sword and shield) and run up to $34.95 (aforementioned hairstyling and costume of choice, which can be taken home). For girls, prices start from a less palatable $59.95 (hairstyling, makeup, nail polish, sash and tote) and reach a staggering $194.95 (all aforementioned services and amenities, plus a princess dress, crown and wand that can be taken home). Add an extra $29.95 if your little princess needs shoes to match her dress.

Babies Travel Lite
Order supplies to be delivered directly to your room through Babies Travel Lite, an online service.

Additionally, Disney Cruise Line provides diaper disposal units, bottle warmers, bottle sterilizers, and strollers, complimentary to all guests.

The Art of Smart Timing
As you’d expect, Disney Dream draws crowds during school vacations, summer months and winter vacations. You’ll likely have the same experience with crowds and rates, no matter when you go; September is a nice time — after everyone has gone back to school. Check with your travel agent or Disney Cruise Line about “kids sail free” promotions or discounts for Florida residents and members of the military, Castaway Club and Disney Vacation Club (if you’re a member).

For Mom and Dad
Nothing will make you feel more pampered than a day away from the kids at the Senses Spa. There are 17 treatment rooms (plus two awesome villas), in which you can get massages and facials, along with salon services like and manicures, pedicures and haircuts. When you book a treatment, you’ll enjoy free use of rain showers and steam rooms. Special packages are offered, as well.

During a 2015 refurbishment Senses Juice Bar was added to the spa area, offering smoothies, teas and flavored waters, as well as ocean-view seating.

Guests 18 and older can use the quiet Cove Pool, which is secluded from the family pools and separated by a partition. While somewhat small and uninspired, it is quiet and peaceful. There’s a 4-foot plunge pool and a 6-inch sunbathing pool with built-in loungers and a mister, along with a swim-up bar. Our favorite is the glass-bottom hot tubs, in which you can see the ocean below.

If you’d rather work on your tan, head to the adults-only Satellite Sun Deck and Falls on Deck 13, forward. Previously an unnamed sunning area for grownups, it now boasts shade structures, upgraded loungers and a water feature.

If it’s a little nightclub action you’re looking for, hit The District after hours. Several bars and lounges grouped together form a kid-free zone (after 9 p.m.) where parents can hang out. Highlights include the 687 pub, The District Lounge and Pink, a Champagne room inspired by “Dumbo.” (Even if you don’t like Champagne, it’s worth a visit just to see the amazing artwork. Also look for the tiny hidden Dumbo that materializes on the rear wall at various intervals.)

Read full reviews of Disney Cruise Line Cruises
Disney Fantasy
Disney Wonder
Disney Magic

More From Family Vacation Critic:
Family Cruises
Disney Cruises With Families
Cruising with Disney: What to Expect

×