If you've already sailed with the Disney Cruise Line, you already know all about the outstanding entertainment, service, and food for which the line is known—not to mention Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. So I'll skip the DCL benefits that are already well-known to Castaway Club members—Disney's designation for those who have already been on a Disney cruise—and give you 10 reasons why repeat Disney cruisers will love its new Disney Dream cruise ship.
The Disney Dream was built in a different shipyard from the Disney Magic and Wonder, and some wondered if the new ship's German engineering would come at the cost of the Italian style of the two "classic" ships (Disney's preferred alternative to "smaller" or "older"). Rest assured, this ship is even more gorgeous than I expected from just seeing the photos, and yet there's still a very strong connection to the original ships. The Dream still looks like a Disney ship—just bigger and even more elegant.
I've sailed twice with other cruise lines, and the only thing I liked better about those other ships was the amount of common gathering space. We often cruise with groups of friends and/or family, and often seek a place to congregate outside of our staterooms. The Magic and Wonder have a few such places, but they're so often used for official activities that it can be hard to find a place to hang out without resorting to the pool deck. That problem has been completely solved on the Dream, which one passenger joked, has "more nooks and crannies than an English muffin." Whether you want a comfortable seating area on a sunny deck or a quiet indoor lounge, you'll quickly find a perfect spot.
Tip: For one of the best views available on board, check out the Outlook bar lounge on Deck 14. Located above the Edge pre-teen club and accessible by only one of the three midship elevators, this is a secret gem that few people know exists.
Disney has replaced the noisy Parrot Cay dining room with Enchanted Garden, with garden images and a working fountain instead of wooden tiki birds and plastic palms. Now you won't feel completely overdressed if you're assigned to that restaurant on formal night, and the tropical decor won't seem completely out of place if the Dream ever sails beyond the Bahamas.
Tip: Check out the new gelato selection offered whenever the restaurant is open for lunch.
We were impressed with how much the barriers on the open decks cut down on both wind and noise. When relaxing around the adult pool, you're much more likely to hear the DJ on a neighboring ship in port than hear something going on around the Mickey pool. The staterooms seem to be better insulated from noise pollution from both the hallways and adjoining rooms.
The Dream delivers a true high-def signal to the flat-panel televisions in each stateroom, and offers a huge selection of classic and contemporary Disney movies on demand—everything from Pollyanna to Pixar. You can also view your stateroom charges on your television, and select a photo from your Shutters gallery as the monitor's screensaver. In the future, you may be able to view your entire Shutters photo gallery from your room.
A series of five bars form The District, offering everything from the sophisticated and elegant Pink champagne lounge to the comfortable, wood-paneled 687 sports bar. You can dance all night at the Evolution nightclub, enjoy the change in "scenery" in the full-service Skyline bar, or just watch the crowd stroll by from the centrally located District Lounge. If you want to take the party outside, a cozy outdoor seating area offers ocean views.
The Dream's on-board photographers have a new presentation system that makes picking out your photos easier than ever. Rather than searching thousands of prints for your pictures, every stateroom is now assigned a color-coded portfolio, arranged on bookshelves in a library-like space overlooking the atrium. A swipe of your room key by the photographer, in combination with facial-recognition software, means a far more accurate way to identify the people in each picture. Cast members then place the images in the corresponding binders each night.
Tip: Unidentified photos are arranged on a display board, so double-check there if you think you're missing a photo.
The Dream's new beds are raised 13 inches off the ground, providing plenty of room to store all your luggage. The beds are dressed with Egyptian cotton linens from premium Italian manufacturer Frette, and have much more comfortable mattresses, and larger and fluffier pillows than the classic ships. The new desk offers more surface space and easily accessible outlets, which is great for those of us who travel with loads of electronic gadgets. The showers have added shelf space, two clothes lines, and a fantastic shower head. The stateroom lighting now includes a dimmer feature and a nightlight. We also appreciated that the rooms offer a true refrigerator (as opposed to the chiller offered on the Magic and Wonder), even though it's designed for cans and bottles and won't accommodate a plate.
The entire spa area has been upgraded, but the new Rainforest room is fantastic. You can choose between two ocean-view hot tubs to soak in, relax on one of 10 heated couches, bake in a Turkish-style sauna, or rinse off in one of four specialty showers, each offering a different combination of water temperature, water pressure and aromatherapy.
Tip: While day passes are available, passengers who book the cruise-long pass have priority access when the Rainforest room is full, as it often is.
No top-10 list for the Disney Dream would be complete without mentioning the first water coaster ever built for a cruise ship. The AquaDuck starts off fast and ends with a gentle glide around deck 11, and it's worth every bit of the 20-40 minutes you'll spend in line.
Tip: Carry your bathing suit onto the ship, and you can get in a few rides while everyone else is waiting for their luggage to be delivered. Operating hours differ everyday, so check your Personal Navigator. The coaster is usually open during dinner hours, which may be a good time to get a few rides in with a very short queue.