Parents love Disney resort vacations because of the endless delights for their kids combined with service, dining and activities aimed at making sure they can relax and have fun, too.
Many parents like cruise vacations for the same reasons. So what could be better than a Disney cruise?
My experience has been that Disney Cruise Line brings all the service, amenities and, of course, magic of the Disney parks to the high seas. And as at the parks, there is plenty of great dining and fun activities to keep both parents and kids happy and entertained.
What To Expect Onboard A Disney Dream Cruise
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That Distinct Disney Touch
Our first Disney cruise experience was on the Dream, a 2011 ship that was refurbished in 2015 and sails out of Port Canaveral, Florida (conveniently close to Disney World for a pre- or post-cruise visit).
Words that come to mind in describing the Dream are innovative, creative, tech-savvy, fun and timeless.
With a passenger capacity of 4,000 people it’s another mass-cruise experience. But the Dream is carefully designed to provide magical encounters throughout the ship.
For example, take time to study the “enchanted art ,” digital paintings that come to life as you study them. If you have an inside cabin, magical portholes will give you an “ocean view.”
As with the Disney resort hotels you’ll find small, subtle brand reminders all over (of course, there are hidden Mickeys to find).
There is a good balance of thoughtful adult spaces and made-for-kids fun, which makes a good option for multi-generation vacations where families need a balance of together time and on-your-own time.
As an example of typical Disney style, young kids are always thrilled to see Mickey and Donald drawn at the bottom of the family pools. Adults will notice the grown-ups-only pool is shaped like a head with mouse ears.
Activities for Every Age Group
The Dream offers the current cruise standard things to do: water slides, an arcade, spa, basketball court, fitness center and fabulous Broadway-style live shows.
Of course, it also has some unique offerings like Goofy-inspired mini-golf, themed deck parties with characters and first-run Disney movies. Princess meet-and-greets are as popular at sea as they are on land.
We loved the AquaDuck, Disney’s industry-first water coaster. It offers 765 feet of thrills for kids and adults who go for adrenaline-pumping rides.
For a fun family activity we picked up a packet at Midship Detective Agency and solved a mystery together. It’s the kind of thing 7-to-12YOs really get into.
If you’re concerned you’ll never have the chance to explore those adults-only spaces, don’t worry. The Kids Clubs are as good as you would expect them to be and entice kids to want to spend at least some time in them.
Different parts of the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab are decorated to resemble Pixie Hollow and Andy’s Room from Toy Story. The 2015 update added a Millennium Falcon room, too.
Tweens have their own space called Edge and teens have something called Vibe, which offer age-appropriate Disney experiences just for them.
Dining on the Dream
Do your kids sit quietly through dinner? Well, mine don’t always do so well. Disney’s dinner entertainment sure helps pass the time while you’re waiting for your meal to be served. That’s a big bonus in my book.
The Animator’s Palate Dining Room is outstanding from service to food to interaction. Your placemat becomes your artist easel and your doodles become a live show at the end of your meal. It’s fun for mom and dad as well as the kiddos.
Adults whose kids visit the kids club in the evening can try two premium restaurants just for them: Remy offers a French menu that changes seasonally and requires jackets for men.
Italian-themed Palio is only slight less fancy and doesn’t require a jacket. A night-life “district” has five clubs and lounges (no casino).
Note: Service fees are the most common pricey surprise for first-time cruisers. Disney suggests tipping $12/per guest per day. You can pre-pay online if you like.
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Becky J. Beall is a travel journalist with four Disney-loving children and two grandkiddos who are learning about all things Disney. You can find her fun and frolic at The Travel Voice by Becky.