Note: this review is completely my mother-of-two opinion of our 4 day cruise on the new ship the Disney Dream. We paid full price for our fair and were in no way compensated for writing this post.
Ask any Florida raised kid what the “vacation of choice” is around here and they will tell you .. Disney Cruise. Years and Years and Years ago I promised Puddin that when her little sister was finally potty trained we would take them both on a Disney Cruise. Well FancyPants has been potty trained for a really really long time now and we were getting reminded routinely that ummm “You Owe Me A Cruise!”
So early last fall we logged in to take a look and lo-and-behold we found out the new boat would be sailing for 4-day cruises to the Bahamas from our local port (Canaveral) and we were still early enough to book Spring Break cruises without having to mortgage the house. Done, Booked.
We didn’t really know this was that big of a deal until we told a few people and they were all “OMG you’re going on The Dream OMG OMG.” And this was from grown women who don’t say OMG. Come to find out, people who love Disney Cruises, seriously LOVE Disney Cruises and a new boat well that sort of sends them over the edge. Add to that the local fan fare when the ship arrived in port in January and well let’s just say the expectations were set much higher than they had been when we originally set down to book this thing.
I was really hoping this trip was going to live up to the hype.
We stayed a few days at our normal spring break hotel beach hotel and awoke on cruise day to lightening and thunder. Not a good sign. Turned on the news to hear that most of Central Florida was under tornado warnings but that the storms were moving through quickly. We started packing as planned and headed out in time to arrive at the port terminal at 10:00.
Something to note here… in February Disney started assigning port arrival times. This is new and designed to create less of a log jam at the terminal. Good idea but many people evidently missed that part when online registration opened in January and hadn’t done it during their original online registration process. Us included. When we finally heard about it, we logged in and were assigned 1:00. Since we were going to be right there at the beach we had planned on arriving much earlier. Everything I read said it’s an honor system, so frankly we planned on being dis-honorable.
So back to the story.. we arrived at 10:00 AM as planned and gave our luggage to the very happy, friendly steward who told us it was his personal responsibility to make sure out bags made it to the stateroom. Very nice start. We went to park the car in the garage.
I noticed that while most people seemed to be parking on the ground level and walking over the busy street to the terminal, there was an elevated walkway from building to building so we went up to the 3rd floor of the garage which was completely empty and parked right beside the entrance to the walkway. Walking across we saw a very long line in the building below for the 1st floor security checkpoint but when we entered the building there was no one in line for security on the 2nd level. We breezed right through after a sweet greeting from the security people.
After entering the terminal it wasn’t immediately apparent what we needed to do so we approached a lady at a table in the middle of the room. She was very intent on her paper shuffling but finally told us we need to fill out the health form for the cabin swearing we were all pictures of health and that no one had so much as a runny nose. She then directed us to the check-in line.
The fellow at the beginning of the line gave us a boarding card – boarding group 5 – and we proceeded through the check-in process with almost zero wait. In fact, the line was so short I was unprepared with our documents and I think slightly irritated the Disney worker. Despite that we were given our room keys and told to wait for our boarding group to be called. Also an important note here she gave us a card saying to expect the room to open at 1:30.
I wandered over and found a very nice Disney person who explained the line was for the kids to receive their arm badge bracelet GPS thingy that let them in and out of the kid areas. We didn’t have to do this now but we could.
She was kind enough to tell me that if we had registered the kids online already then we didn’t to fill the forms out again, just stand in line with the kids. We stood in that line about 5 minutes (it goes fast) and the kids were branded and tagged. OK so not branded.
At this point we appeared to be done. Mickey showed up – so we got in another line… do you see a pattern here.. there are lots and lots of lines. But really total check in time was probably 30 minutes total.
So it’s 10:45ish and we wandered the terminal, viewed the ship from the observation deck, made pictures and chatted with the rest of our group until boarding was called. (Did I mention we ended up being a group of 16?)
Oh yeah, we ended up being a group of 16. Four families of four. We never do anything alone, it’s always a neighborhood affair. Coming from Jacksonville they arrived closer to 10:45 and 11:00 and were give boarding groups 10 and 11 for those of you keeping score. They also each went through the process fairly quickly although the lines were getting slightly longer. Our friends that had to drive through storms from Universal Studios in Orlando were later arriving at the port about 11:30 and waited in huge lines for luggage drop off and check-in and didn’t board until after 1:30.
So here’s something funny.. at 12:20ish, as predicted the announcement came on saying they were about to start boarding. Then they called boarding groups 1–40. Yeap 1–40. Needless to say everyone in the terminal was in groups 1-40 and it caused a huge serge of people to get up and run to the boarding tunnel. Seriously. Major Crowd Crush.
Then this very apologetic fellow had to come on the speaker and say “Yeah we didn’t mean to do that. Our bad. We only meant Group 1.” And the crowd went grumble grumble but for the most part did not back off. I wish some Disney people had been more proactive about asking people to back away from the boarding tunnel.
This made it extra fun to push through when your actual group did get called. Which I would estimate they did about every 3-4 minutes or so. So then it’s show your card again, get your boarding pic, and boom your on board, name getting called the whole deal. We were on board by 12:00 and told to go to Cabanas on deck 11 for lunch – which was no big deal because by this time it was raining hard again and wandering on deck was not an option. Because of the weather the pool or the AquaDuck was not open. I don’t know if they would normally be.
I’ll stop this post at this point and talk about being on board in the next one but there is two things I want to mention. We knew from news reports the storms were causing delays at Orlando International of at least 2 hours or more when we arrived:
- The terminal might have been more crowded if more buses of folks were arriving on time.
- Second, Disney waited for everyone to arrive. Yes that’s right. The all aboard is supposed to be 4:10 or something like that to sail at 4:30 but we did not leave port until the middle of our dinner which started at 6:00. The captain announced that had late buses coming in because of the storms and they waited for all of the guests to get there – which I thought was pretty awesome of them.