Castaways on the Dream: 10 more things repeat cruisers will love about Disney's new shipby Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer
In my previous article, I gave you 10 reasons why Castaway Club members—Disney's designation for those who have already been on a Disney cruise—might love the Disney Dream cruise ship, Disney's newest (and third) ship in its cruising fleet. In chatting with repeat cruisers during my second sailing on the Dream, I heard even more reasons why they love this ship:
The ship's main buffet restaurant has been significantly redesigned to accommodate more passengers, and offers a much more enjoyable experience. For starters, your party is taken right to a table as soon as you enter the restaurant, which is a vast improvement when dining there for the embarkation day lunch. (No more juggling your suitcases and lunch trays while searching for an open table.) The straight-line buffet has been replaced with an open "pod system," which means you can just walk up to the station you want without waiting through the rest of the line. (Though admittedly this can cause some confusion when approaching a popular pod like the omelet or ice cream stations). Beverage stations have been placed around the restaurant, making it very convenient to grab a drink or a refill. The seagulls may not be happy with the diminished open air seating area (only about 28 tables), but most people are perfectly happy with the added number of ocean-view tables.
The stunning new Walt Disney Theater is more elegant and yet more comfortable than on the classic ships, and the balcony seating and side boxes offer a variety of viewing options. Not only are the regular theater seats just a tad roomier, but a handful of wider or armless seats are available for those who need a bit more room. The Buena Vista Theater is now a much more comfortable place to catch a movie or attend a presentation, and the built-in snack bar just outside the theater is a much classier option than the rolling cart found on the other ships.
Disney Cruise Line is known for amazing areas for children of all ages, but the littlest kids have been somewhat shortchanged when it comes to the pools. Sure, the classic ships have a tiny water play area next to the Mickey pool, but it's nothing compared to the wonderful new Nemo's Reef.
Tip: Be sure to pack your children's swim wear in your carry-on luggage, so they can play on embarkation day while everyone else waits for their luggage.
The family pools
On the classic ships, the two family pools are located on either side of the ship's stack, which means families often have to make a tough decision: do you opt for the Mickey pool, which is great for younger kids and non-swimmers but not so much fun for older kids; head for the Goofy pool, which is more fun for older kids but off-limits to the diaper set; or do you split the family up so each kid can be at the pool best suited to their swimming ability? The larger deck plan of the Dream solves this problem by placing the two family pools (along with Nemo's Reef) together between the stacks, so your family can set up one camp on deck and keep everyone happy. The new layout also means kids in both pools can watch the movies on the Funnel Vision screen. During most deck parties, a cover is placed over the Mickey pool to provide additional viewing and dancing space, but the Donald pool (which replaces the Goofy pool on the Dream) remains open during the show.
The ship's horn
Hear all six of the Dream's horns. These were recorded live on deck, so there is some wind noise. The final horn segment includes the Disney Magic, docked at Castaway Cay sounding it's horn, playing When You Wish Upon a Star, with the Dream responding. Recorded by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
During the maiden voyage of the Disney Dream, the ship cruised near Castaway Cay on its sea day while the Disney Magic was in port on the islet. The ensuing "battle of the horns" gave passengers on both ships the opportunity to hear six of the songs the Dream's horn can play, including "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes," "Heigh Ho," "Yo Ho Yo Ho," "Be Our Guest," and "Hi Diddle Dee Dee," along with the familiar "When You Wish Upon a Star." However unlike the Magic and Wonder ships, which can only blow the melody of the first seven notes of the famous Pinocchio tune, the Dream can also play the the second set of notes (corresponding to the line, "Makes no difference who you are"). This led to the Magic and the Dream exchanging tunes back and forth from the same song, eliciting a rousing cheer from both ships. Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs said the horn can play more than six songs, so we're eager to hear additional tunes.
Once guests book dinner at Remy and are onboard the Disney Dream, they are invited to meet with a sommelier in Remy's glass-walled wine room to taste and pre-select their wines for the evening. Photo copyright Disney.
Disney's new signature dining experience isn't for everyone, but if you love good food and wine and appreciate (or at least tolerate) formal French service, you definitely need to splurge on dinner at Remy. The portions are deceptively small, but the food is simply amazing and I can't imagine anyone leaving there hungry. If you order one of the tasting menus, you get to sample five courses instead of the four courses if you order a la carte.
Tip: Be sure to discuss any food allergies or dietary preferences with the staff when you book your reservation or when you board the ship, as some items contain ingredients not listed on the menu.
New key card access
Leaving aside the whole issue of the key card-controlled stateroom power system (we'll cover that in "Things that might make you miss the Magic"), the new Key to the Dream cards are really nice. You need only tap the card against a pad on your stateroom door to unlock it, and the reader is sensitive enough that it can read your card through a wallet or lanyard pouch. The tap system is also used when disembarking and embarking the ship during port stops, to find your photo portfolio at Shutters, and even during the safety drill.
Tip: The power goes off when you remove your key card from the power control box near your entryway door, similar to systems used in many European and Asian hotels. If the charger for your portable Wave phone is plugged into a power-saver outlets, your phone does not charge while you're out. The control box recognizes any sort of plastic card (such as a grocery loyalty card), so consider keeping the card slotted if you need to charge your phone during the day. Make sure to turn off the lights when you step out, though.
More sunning space
If you've ever searched in vain for an empty sun lounger, the Disney Dream has you covered. There probably aren't more sun loungers than there are passengers on the ship, but it certainly feels that way. The loungers are also more comfortable (some in the adult pool area are especially nice), and there is significantly more open deck space available.
Tip: Check out deck 13 forward, which has a great and little-used sun couch with fantastic ocean views.
This probably isn't something that would matter to most vacation travelers, but the travel agents who were onboard during my second cruise all loved the new conference rooms, which they said are larger, more comfortable, and better equipped than those on the Wonder.
Mickey's Midship Detective Agency
Guests can play an interactive detective adventure game with Enchanted Art, where they can hold a game card in front of select pieces to unveil clues, ultimately determining the villain and saving the day. Video by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
This interactive game sends would-be sleuths all over the ship in an effort to solve one of two cases. The provided detective badge activates sensors in some of the digital artwork displayed around the ship, triggering a special interactive game. You may need to turn digital dials, pull levers or pop balloons to solve the crime. While this is clearly aimed at younger passengers, we were definitely not the only adults running around the ship trying to figure out who kidnapped the dalmatian puppies. The final solution differs based on your card number, giving you added incentive to try this more than once.