A three-night Disney cruise is the best way to introduce yourself and your family to cruise vacations (for more on that, jump to this article). If you decide to do a weekend cruise on the Disney Dream, the only real downside is figuring out how to cram as much fun as possible into three short nights. I’m currently in the midst of planning my own three-night sailing, which I’ll be doing in the end of February. Based on my experience with this cruise and 87 previous Disney sailings, here are four of the most common questions you’ll face, along with detailed information to help you decide on your answer:
Should I skip a regular restaurant for a specialty dining option?
The Disney Dream has three restaurants: Animators Palate, Royal Palace, and Enchanted Garden. Each night you move to a different restaurant, and your server team moves with you. That’s sounds lovely, but to complicate matters, Disney also offers two extra-cost adults-only dining options: Palo and Remy. Palo is an amazing Italian restaurant that costs $30 a person, and it’s well worth the extra charge. The steak with blue cheese sauce is fork tender, and Palo’s chocolate soufflé is legendary. Remy is more costly at $85 a head, but it’s truly a bit of Victoria and Albert’s at sea (the menu was even developed by V & A Chef Scott Hunnel). It’s not just a meal, but rather a full experience. I could feast on the cheese cart alone and be content, but there’s no need as the courses just keep coming. You do have to dress up for both Palo and Remy, so don’t book them unless you’re willing to pack your dress clothes.
Is it worth skipping one (or two) of the main restaurants for Palo and/or Remy? It is if you’re not sailing with children or your kids won’t mind dining with the kids’ club group, especially if you’re into fine dining. Since you’re usually seated with other families in the main dining rooms, it’s also a chance to have a relaxing, romantic meal on your own. If you do opt for the extra cost dining, make sure you don’t miss Animator’s Palate on your main dining rotation or you’ll miss your chance to talk to Crush (and yes, you really do talk to him, just like in Turtle Talk at Epcot).
However, if it’s your first time on the Dream, or if you like having family meals together with the kids, you might want to opt for the three regular dining rooms. That’s especially true if you’re planning to go on a longer Disney cruise in the future, when you’ll have more nights to work in the optional dining.
Should I book a spa treatment?
Ships are known for their decadent spas, and the Disney Dream is no exception. The Senses Spa offers a wide array of treatments, like massages and body wraps, and you can even book your own private villa with hot tub as the spot for your treatment. The problem is, when do you schedule a spa treatment during a three-night cruise with so much going on? Should you try to fit one in or just skip the spa and book a massage back on land, when you’re missing the Dream? I love spa treatments, so I generally try to find time to do one on the ship. Having been to Nassau countless times, I often book something on Saturday. However, if you’re a first timer, you might prefer to see the port of call. Another good time is right after sail-away, although you might prefer to get settled in and get to know the ship if you’re a newbie. You can book a massage on Castaway Cay, too, although those appointments go fast.
If you’re tempted but don’t want to commit to a time, buy a one-day Rainforest pass. The Rainforest is a sauna, steam room and scented shower area that also has the most wonderful heated tile loungers, where you kick back and gaze out at the ocean view. There are also two ocean view hot tubs inside if you want to enjoy a soak. I recommend buying a pass on Nassau day so you can pop in before and/or after you go ashore, and maybe even in the evening if you can fit it in around dinner and the show. The first day is too hectic for me, but the Rainforest is also a nice way to spend some time before or after you hang out on Castaway Cay.
Should I book a verandah, porthole, or inside stateroom?
Few things are more relaxing than lounging around on your verandah while you’re out at sea. Unfortunately, on a three-night cruise, you won’t get a lot of time to do that, especially if you’re determine to experience as many shows, meals, activities, and shore experiences as possible. Verandahs are the most expensive staterooms, so if you’re planning to do cram as much as possible into your schedule, you might want to opt for a porthole or an inside stateroom. If you plan to take things easier, even with just three short days, then a verandah may well be worth the investment.
If you won’t be in your stateroom much, opt for a porthole if you like the sunlight and a view or go for an inside stateroom. Personally, I’d opt for inside because the Disney Dream adds a bit of magic that makes those staterooms quite desirable. All inside staterooms have virtual portholes which give you a continuous view from cameras outside the ship. That’s cool enough, but add the fact that Disney characters periodically stop by your porthole window to greet you and you’ll see why inside rooms are a hot commodity on the Dream. If you opt for inside, I recommend booking a room on deck 2. While that’s also home to the Enchanted Garden restaurant, you won’t get any traffic from it in your hallway. It’s one of the nicest, quietest stateroom areas on the ship.
Should I disembark in Nassau or stay on board?
Nassau is a typical Caribbean port, which means that it’s very touristy and packed with often pushy vendors vying to braid your hair or sell you mostly made in China trinkets. It also has many worthwhile historic sights and fun activities, so it’s worth a look-see as long as you’re comfortable saying “no” early and often. However, you’ll find a growing contingent of people who don’t bother to get off the Disney Dream in Nassau on the weekend cruises. Instead, they pretend it’s a sea day and enjoy the ship’s amenities.
If this is your first time to Nassau, you’ll probably want to do something on the island. I recommend booking a shore excursion through Disney so you don’t have to worry about any arrangements; it’s all done for you. When you visit a new place, it’s always nice to explore and take in the local color.
However, the case for not disembarking includes the fact that the ship will be much less crowded, meaning you can enjoy the pools, Aquaduck, and other amenities with less people around. You’ll save money, since you won’t book a shore excursion or shop on the island and you’ll eat on the ship.
If you want a happy medium, disembark early and walk around the streets near the port, just to get a feel for things, then head on back to the ship and proceed with your pretend “day at sea.”