Castaways on the Dream: Things that might make repeat cruisers miss the Magic (or Wonder)by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer
I've previously shared 20 reasons why Castaway Club members—Disney's designation for those who have already been on a Disney cruise—will love the new Disney Dream, but the new ship is not without flaws. Here are nine things that might make frequent Disney cruisers book future trip on the original, "classic" ships:
Reason #9 – No Mickey bars in room service
To be honest I'm just including this one as a bit of a inside joke—but it was no laughing matter to dedicated fans of the chocolate-covered frozen treat when they learned that the Disney Dream does not serve Mickey bars via room service. After all, although neither the Magic nor Wonder list them on their room service menu, it's one of those things that repeat cruisers have grown accustomed to being able to order anyway. We've been told Mickey bars may be available in the near future, but for now, you'll have to wait until dinner and order dessert from the kid's menu to get your mitts on a Mickey bar.
Reason #8 – The Bathroom Experience
I've been debating whether to include the bathrooms of The District in this article, but learning that they actually have an official name pushed me over the edge. The Bathroom Experience is a series of restrooms on either side of the main corridor of The District. Each contains two or three large circular-shaped toilet stalls with tiled walls, a mirrored ceiling and a frosted door that isn't quite as opaque as it might be. There are also two wheelchair-accessible rooms. All of the bathrooms- not just the stalls, the entire bathroom, can be locked from the inside.
Since that's about as much as can be said about these bathrooms without leaving the "family friendly" realm, I'll say that Disney has apparently realized that there is more than a little potential for these rooms to be used in a manner not generally acceptable on Disney cruise ships, and has taken steps to ensure that there is always someone keeping a very close eye on The Bathroom Experience during bar hours.
Reason #7 – The in-room power system
The Dream uses a power-conservation system common to many European and Asian hotels, requiring you to insert your room key into a control box on the wall just inside the cabin entrance to activate the room's power. This system controls not only the lights, but the television, virtual porthole (inside cabins only), climate control system, and electrical outlets. While this system definitely saves power, there are some major drawbacks. Besides the fact that there's no obvious signage on the control box (leading people to wonder why their light switches don't work when they first enter their cabins), it's also very easy to forget to remove your card when you leave the room—I encountered more than one person roaming the halls after they accidentally locked themselves out. The power cut-off also affects the outlets on the desk, which means that your electronics—including your portable Wave phones—won't charge if you're not in the room. This is a real problem if your stateroom was empty during the prior cruise, as you'll likely find both of your wave phones dead when you check in. It's easy enough to override the system by leaving any plastic card in the slot (such as your frequent flyer card, grocery loyalty card, etc.), but the housekeeping managers have already caught on to that trick and have reportedly instructed stateroom hosts to pull out cards left in unoccupied rooms.
Reason #6 – 14 bars? Really?
We've heard that Disney has the lowest per-capita alcohol sales in the cruise industry, mostly due to the number of under-21 passengers, but also because parents traveling with those under-21 passengers tend to drink less. Where some would consider that just one of the "Disney differences," it seems the cruise line considered it a problem to be solved. Their solution was to build the Disney Dream with a staggering 14 bars and lounges. As someone who does not drink alcohol, I'm admittedly not the target market for these new offerings—but it does seem a bit excessive when compared to the classic ships, and even some dedicated bar-hoppers I've encountered have remarked on the change. I've also noticed an increased focus on premium beverage sales in the dining rooms, starting with an assistant server asking if we wanted still or sparkling water without mentioning that there was an up charge for both. Be mindful that "still" water comes from a bottle that is poured at your table. You can always ask for tap water; it's still free, and perfectly tasty.
Reason #5 – No twin beds
Most passengers are ecstatic about the comfortable new beds on board the Disney Dream (and they really are great), but the major drawback is that they cannot be converted into two twin beds as on the Magic or Wonder. This means traveling companions have to choose between sharing a bed, or deciding who gets the couch instead of the super-comfy bed. A travel agent pointed out that this is no different than the conditions at most hotels, but it is a departure from Disney's classic ships, and came as an unwelcome surprise to several travelers during the maiden voyage.
Reason #4 – No Internet cafe
If you want to check your check in with the office, check in for your flight or just check your e-mail, you need to bring your own laptop because the Disney Dream does not offer an Internet cafe or lounge. If you don't want to pack a computer you can borrow a netbook from guest services for up to two hours at no charge, with a $400 deposit. iPad devices are available for the use of concierge-level guests. As with the classic ships, WiFi is available in staterooms and most common areas, with fees running as high as 75 cents a minute, and connections tend to be extremely slow.
Reason #3 – Smaller pools
The Dream technically has more public pools than the classic ships when you count the teen-only Vibe pool (more of a dunk tank, really), but they are collectively smaller. The difference is especially noticeable in the adult pool, where much of the seemingly available space is taken up by a calf-deep "swim up" bar (we dare anyone to actually try swimming in this shallow pool without skinning your knees). We love that the Dream's two "family" pools are now located together so that swimmers in both can enjoy the movies and shows playing on the giant outdoor Funnel Vision screen, but this makes the crowding issue even more of a problem as kids are less likely to leave the pool.
Reason #2 – The gated community
The gate leading to the Concierge staterooms onboard the Disney Dream. Photo by Tracy Whipple, Travel on a Dream Travel
The concierge-level rooms on the Disney Dream are all cloistered at the front of the ship, and isolated from the common areas by intimidating metal gates. While it's understandable that Disney wanted a way to market a gated community (with its own lounge and sundeck) for vacationing celebrities, several people who booked the concierge rooms complained about the added barrier, especially since there seems to be no way to admit a guest without going to meet them at the gates. One such passenger said that the point of those larger rooms for many people is the ability to entertain guests or host parties, and the gates make it much less convenient. The gates also slam closed with a loud metal clang, which is really annoying to the people with the stateroom nearest those entrances.
Reason #1 – You can't get there from here
Granted, the Disney Dream is so much larger than the classic ships that are the Magic and Wonder, and some amount of disorientation should be expected even among the most avid Disney cruisers. Even so, navigating the Dream can be overly frustrating due to elevators that miss floors, decks that don't run the entire length of the ship, and incomplete, or in some cases, actually incorrect, signage. The printed deck plans aren't much better—it's not physically possible for the elevator shafts to change in number and orientation as the deck plans suggests happens on deck 9. Our top peeves:
- Pool deck access – The only access to the pool deck (11) from the aft elevator lobby is through Cabanas, the deck 11 buffet. While this venue should normally be closed between mealtimes to allow for cleaning and reset, the crew now leave one side open at all times to provide a path for frustrated passengers.
- Vibe entrance – Teens are equally challenged to find an entrance to Vibe, their new lounge and pool area located in the ship's bow. Though the deck plan shows the club as being on deck 5, access is actually via a staircase on deck 4, which is not shown on the map of that deck. This out-of-the-way access was supposedly intended to cut down on traffic through the guest stateroom areas, but it hasn't taken the teens long to find the wheelchair-accessible entrance on deck 5. While that entrance is technically off-limits, passengers with rooms on the hall said there was seemingly no enforcement and complained of teens congregating around that area once Vibe closed for the night.
- Speaking of kids in the hall – Some have also complained about children roaming the halls of The District at night well after the ship's main bar area is officially adults-only. Some of this is just kids trying to test the boundaries, but it doesn't help that the deck 4 aft elevator lobby is smack in the middle of The District. Since, as mentioned above, access to the teen club is also via deck 4, teens who use the aft stairs to reach that deck must then pass through The District to reach the open deck. There's an exterior entrance very close to the elevators, so it's not as if the kids have no choice but to enter the bars (all of which have doors), but it's still an odd design.
- Aft elevator access – Due to the location of the Enchanted Garden restaurants, the aft elevators won't stop on deck 2. Passengers with rooms on deck 2 can only access their rooms from the midship or forward elevators. Also, unless the ship opens the aft gangway, the aft elevator takes you to a dead end on deck 1. To disembark from the back of the ship, you have to get off the aft elevator at deck 3 (remember, it doesn't stop on deck 2), then walk to the midship stairs or elevator.