A Kid's Life on Board is Just a 'Dream'

by Mark Goldhaber, staff writer

A cruise ship? What's there for a kid to do on a cruise ship?

Quite a lot, actually, especially if the ship in question is the Disney Dream, the newest addition to the Disney Cruise Line fleet.

I recently got an e-mail from a regular listener of the MouseStation Podcast whose kids were worried that a Disney cruise would be "too adult" for them. That's very much not the case, especially on the Dream. To make that point, I'll defer to a comment by Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line, who was speaking during a panel about the design and construction of the ship as part of the Dream's Christening Voyage. Holz said that his first learning about the Disney ships in 1998 is that there's something for everyone. He decided to bring his son on the ship, and "I didn't see him for the whole cruise. I had to force him to have dinner with me every evening." And that was aboard the Disney Magic (which—while it has plenty for kids to do—does not have quite the array of activities available aboard the Dream).

Disney, Disney, everywhere

It is a Disney ship, right? And Disney is known for immersive theming, right? The theming helps to make the entire ship fun for kids of all ages. In all of the hallways, there is Disney music playing. On the pool deck, there is music (often Radio Disney-style music, as it's aimed at the kids in the main pool). There are hidden Mickeys everywhere, and let's not forget the statue of Admiral Donald Duck in the ship's beautiful atrium. There's even animation artwork on the mid-level landings of the stairwells, and (as I discussed last week in "Disney's Dream-y New Technology at Sea") the Enchanted Artwork and Mickey's Midship Detective Agency make the walls of the ship come alive.

There's great animation-themed artwork around every corner. In this case, it's around the corner of the stairway. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Of course, what would a Disney resort (because, face it, the ship is a big, floating resort!) be without Disney character meet-and-greets? Guests can meet characters in the lobby, atrium, deck 4 midship, and at Preludes.

Even the fast food locations on Deck 11 are themed to Pixar movies. On the ship's starboard side (right, when facing the direction of forward motion), Flo's V8 Cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with individual windows carrying different types of food, each themed to characters from Cars: Luigi’s Pizza, Tow Mater’s Grill and Fillmore’s Favorites. On the port (left) side is Frozone (from The Incredibles) Treats, serving smoothies and Eye Scream (think Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.) ice cream.

Family, together and apart

There are plenty of ways for families to enjoy themselves together, with many activities aboard the ship, but there are also plenty of ways to have fun separately. While the movies, deck parties, pools, live shows and more provide "together time," there's also plenty to keep families busy separately.

Parents are not allowed in the kids-only areas of the ship during the cruise (though you can get a look before the ship departs). Of course, the nursery is the exception to that rule, as parents can come and go to check on their little ones. There are plenty of crew members on hand, though, so there are no worries about adult supervision. There were many kids on the ship who appeared to be having fun with the other kids, and reuniting with their families for meals, shows or other activities. There were also families that spent time together throughout the day. Your family can separate and reunite as it wishes to make the most of your time aboard. Need to stay in touch and check in? Disney's new Wave Phones, distributed to every cabin, let you dial each other directly, anywhere on the ship or on Castaway Cay, at no extra charge.

Kids' spaces

Kids ages 3 months to 3 years can be signed up for the "it's a small world" Nursery, which is fully outfitted with cribs, soft play areas, recliners and more. Playthings offer various textures, actions and sounds, and there's a place for crafts, books and games. Parents can either check on their toddlers through a one-way mirror (to avoid distracting them) or go in to help take care of them.

The entry room of the "It's a Small World" Nursery reflects the whimsical nature of the theme park attraction. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The nursery's playroom provides a variety of diversions for the wee ones. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The nap room has over a dozen cribs and is themed to the attraction's finale scene. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

For kids ages 3-10, the Oceaneers Club and Oceaneers Lab provide so much fun that it may be hard to get them back out to the pool. From soft play areas for younger kids and a media room for the older ones to game stations and craft stations, from the "Magic Playfloor" to interactive video screens, there's plenty to do. The Oceaneers Club features themed spaces like Andy's Room, Monster's Academy, Pixie Hollow and the Explorer Pod, while the Oceaneers Lab has the Animator's Studio, Explorer's Room, Media Lounge, Sound Studio, Craft Studio and more. Each room also has its own big screen for viewing movies and for interacting with Disney characters. In the Oceaneers Club, young guests are occasionally visited by Crush from Finding Nemo, while older kids in the Oceaneers Lab may see Stitch pop in from time to time.

The main room of the Oceaneers Club has "constellations" alight in the ceiling. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Kids learn how to become a monster in the Monster's Academy. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Pixie Hollow provides dress-up opportunities and arts & crafts activities. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

A "submarine" themed to Finding Nemo is host to the Explorers Pod. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The main entrance to the Explorer Pod is by walking across a "wharf." Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Inside the Explorer Pod, you'll find plenty of gaming stations. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

In Andy's Room, you'll shrink down to the size of a toy! Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Connecting the Oceaneers Club and Lab are two large workshop areas for conducting science experiments, taking cooking classes, and eating meals. (Oh, did I mention that kids can eat their meals in the Oceaneers Club and Lab? If they want to stay, you can have a quiet dinner or evening in the nightclubs.) As Imagineer David Duffy told MousePlanet, "the best part is you can bring your kids here, we'll take care of them from morning 'til night, adults can go off and enjoy the adult spaces—the spa, other recreation just for the adults—while we take care of your kids. You can get back together for dinner. We'll even feed them dinner."

In the main room of the Oceaneers Lab, there is plenty of beanbag chair seating. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

In The Wheelhouse, you can plan Pirates of the Caribbean: Tides of Fortune with your friends. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

In the Explorer Room, use the technological wizardry to virtually steer the ship. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Together, the nursery, Club and Lab take up a tremendous amount of space on Deck 5.

Tweens and teens each have their own separate areas, as well. Tweens ages 11-13 can hang out at The Edge, an area inside the front funnel stack that features an 18-foot by 5-foot video wall for gaming, movies and TV; computing stations where they can participate in an exclusive customized onboard social media space; a lighted dance floor; the ability to make their own photo postcards and other video recordings using green screen technology; and more. Also inside The Edge are three windows that lets the kids see the silhouettes of those riding the AquaDuck water coaster chute that runs through the funnel.

Teens ages 14-17 hold forth at Vibe, the teen club located at Deck 5 Forward. The main media room features a 108-inch screen for video games and movies; the dance club features a lighted dance floor and video wall, and may also host talent shows and karaoke contests; computer stations let teens access the onboard social media application, create their own videos or play video games; and they even have their own outdoor space with wading pools, lounge chairs, foosball and ping pong tables and more. Back inside, a service counter offers soda, juice, smoothies and coffee drinks.

The main lounge at Vibe features plenty of comfy seating arranged around a huge TV screen. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The Vibe club lounge features a large video screen and a dance floor. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

The Vibe club lounge also has a comfy seating area, with another large screen TV. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Vibe's "bar" offers popular refreshments such as soda, juice, smoothies and coffee drinks. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

There's even a special "Chill Spa" just for guests ages 13-17 inside the Senses Spa and Salon, where they can get special spa treatments designed just for them.

Back together

Rather spend time together than apart? During the day, you can spend time at the family pools. The family Donald pool and the toddler Mickey pool are near each other, so your family can all be together. Nemo's Reef wet play area is also nearby, as are a circular pool slide held up by a giant Mickey hand, daytime deck parties, and movies on the giant FunnelVision screen. Heading right up the stairs, you can wait for a ride on the AquaDuck water coaster. Disney Cruise Line has just changed the minimum height requirement to ride "The Duck." Previously, all riders had to be 48-inches tall to ride. Now, riders 42-inches and up can ride, but those 54-inches and shorter may not ride alone. This addresses the biggest problem, that underweight riders would not carry sufficient momentum to make it all the way around, requiring the ride to shut down while they were pushed the rest of the way to the end. At the same time, smaller kids now get to ride and enjoy the fun.

Want to have some sports-themed fun? Goofy's Sports Deck features virtual sports simulators,a basketball/volleyball court, and ping pong and foosball tables. There's even a a miniature golf course! If you'd rather spend some time inside, catch a Disney movie in the Buena Vista Theater or try your hand at Mickey's Midship Detective Agency.

At night, there's a whole bunch of new things to try. Evening deck parties, shows in the Walt Disney Theatre, and events in D-Lounge, the family nightclub, will keep you occupied.

Following the kid-friendly "Mickey's Pirates IN the Caribbean" deck party and before the more grown-up Club Pirate dance party, the Buccaneer Blast! fireworks integrate nicely with some special effects on and near the FunnelVision screen.

Kids play carnival games while a cartoon skull and crossbones entertains on the FunnelVision screen during the pirate party. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

Cast members attired as pirates host the carnival-type games during the Pirate Party. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

A girl plays "ring toss" at Mickey's Pirates IN the Caribbean deck party. Photo by Mark Goldhaber.

For those concerned that their kids won't be up for a long, formal table-service meal, but who still want to eat together, you can either eat at the Flo's V8 Cafe food court, or head over to Cabanas, the huge buffet restaurant with a variety of dishes, from kid-friendly pizza or macaroni and cheese to sushi, grilled specialties, stir fry and salads. At dinner, Cabanas becomes a casual table-service location, but it's much more relaxed than the three wonderful rotation dining rooms Animator's Palate, Royal Palace and Enchanted Garden (which I discussed last month in "So is the Disney Dream enough to make you consider your first Disney cruise?").

There's so much more to talk about, but I think you get the picture. There's plenty for kids to do on board the Disney Dream, whether you want to spend time together or go your separate ways. Here's hoping that you can still get them to spend some time with you once they find out how much there is to do!