The Disney Dream cruise ship offers a perfect weekend getaway, setting sail on Fridays for Nassau and Castaway Cay and returning early Monday morning. I’m all set to cast off for a three-night sailing courtesy of Disney Cruise Line, and you can follow my voyage by subscribing to my column.
Let’s start off with part one of my trip report, also known as embarkation. The first step in any Disney cruise is getting to Port Canaveral, either via Disney bus, car, shuttle, or other convenient means. For me, that means driving the easy trip from the Walt Disney World area to the port via 417 and 528. You can take I-4 to 528 if you want to avoid some tolls, but it tends to have more traffic.
We decided to head to the terminal early for this trip. After 87 previous Disney cruises, I’m a Platinum Castaway Club member so we can board whenever we wish. Otherwise, most cruisers book a port arrival time when they do their online check-in. We arrived at the port around 11:30, didn’t have much of a wait to drop off our luggage, and snagged a parking spot on level three of the parking garage right near the “secret” walkway to the terminal (that’s an insider tip). It’s $60 to park in the garage for a three night cruise or $80 to park right next to the ship. Personally I find the garage to be plenty convenient, especially when you park on the third level. That way, you’re under cover even if it’s raining.
There were only a few people waiting in line at security, so we were soon in the terminal and heading over to check-in. The line was quite long, although Disney always has its counters well staffed, so you do move through steadily. Platinum Castaway Club members use the concierge check-in, so we were done before noon. Boarding started while we were waiting, so we jumped into the boarding line as soon as we completed our paperwork.
Disney Cruise Line announces each family as they board in a fun bit of pomp and circumstance. You step off the gangway and onto the ship, hear your name, and know that your vacation has officially started. The first order of business when boarding is lunch, especially when you board early as the staterooms aren’t ready until 1:30 p.m. Normally people are initially routed up to the Cabanas buffet, but I prefer Enchanted Garden down on deck two so we headed there. The food is pretty much the same, including mountains of shrimp and crab claws, hand-sliced beef, lamb, a wide variety of cold salads, soup, fresh baked rolls, and tempting desserts. I loaded up my plate but tried to show some restraint, since we had dinner booked at Remy in the evening.
Enchanted Garden is a hidden gem. It typically doesn’t get as much attention as Animators Palate or Royal Palace because they’re so heavily themed to Disney, but I love the bright, airy atmosphere and the flower theme with much more subtle Disney touches (well, okay, the Mickey fountain isn’t subtle).
We had a leisurely meal and strolled around the ship taking photos, since this is a working trip. There was a line of eager diners when we left the restaurant, so we knew the embarkation crowd upstairs was growing. After strolling around and taking in the atmosphere of our aquatic home away from home, we headed up to deck nine, where our stateroom was ready for occupancy.
We have a lovely stateroom with verandah near the front of the ship, on the starboard side. It’s close to the stairs and elevator, and the spa and adult pool area is just a couple of flights overhead. It should be a very convenient spot to serve as home base for our trip.
Our luggage arrived very early, which was a bonus (you keep your day bag with you, and the rest is delivered to your stateroom later). That gave us time to unpack before the safety drill at 4 p.m. That time between embarkation and the drill is great for exploring, hitting the pools, or just relaxing and breathing a sigh of relief that you’re on the ship and ready to kick of a weekend of fun.
The staterooms on Disney Cruise Line are well appointed, with a homey nautical feel. Our room was bright and sunny because of the verandah, although even inside staterooms on the Disney Dream are a great spot because of the magic portholes. You get a view outside via cameras and a live-view screen, and Disney characters periodically pop up to greet you. One of my favorite places to stay on the Dream is actually in the inside staterooms on deck two, down near Enchanted Garden. It’s very convenient, and the hallways are far enough from the restaurant to not pick up any traffic from it.
Of course, the least expensive staterooms are missing one amenity that all the rest have: split bathrooms. Disney Cruise Line splits up the toilet and a sink in one compartment and the bathtub/shower and another sink in its own compartment so two people can easily use the facilities at the same time. It’s a nice convenience, especially for families.
It feels good to have some leisure time to soak in the Disney Dream’s ambiance before the safety drill. Subscribe to my column to follow the rest of my trip, which runs through Monday morning. You’ll read about my dinners at Palo and Remy, my relaxation time in the Rainforest up in the spa, my downtime in the adult pool area, my indulgence at Vanellope’s, my visit to the island paradise of Castaway Cay, and much more. If you’d like to jump to the next article now, go here.