Disney Dream Day 3: Paradise Discovered

Okay so I got away from finishing up the Disney Dream cruise review so I need to get caught up before I forget it all. One thing that’s easy to remember though is how great the Castaway Cay island is. I had been on Royal Caribbean’s version of the “private island” so I had an idea what to expect but Disney I think kicks it up a notch, just because it’s so Disney in it’s perfect white sandy perfect-ness.

We were one of the first off the boat and grabbed a spot on the beach and then then I took the girls and hit several character shoots. There are several character shot ops lined up first thing and we hit them all.

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The spot we choose on the beach was right up from the play thing in the middle. The bathrooms were close behind us and the kids had lots of room to play on the beach.

Note: Notice both my girls are in boy’s swim trucks and long sleeve swim shirts – this is a trick we Florida moms use for long beach days. When you’re going to spend the whole day on the beach forget the cute little bathing suits  – you’ll save yourself the effort of piling on 10 tons of sunscreen and they do a better job of keep the sand out of those chafey places. With the right color combos you can create a look that’s plenty cute, allows for real beach play and sun protection for your daughter than a girl suit can provide. Grumpy sun burned, sand scratched raw kids are no fun

Note #2: Even as a Florida mom, I underestimated the strength of the Caribbean Sun. Our normal amount of day at the beach sun screen didn’t hack it and everyone started showing signs of pink after only a few hours. The sun down there is stronger than anything you have at home – even in the south. Bring extra sun screen, and no matter how strong it is apply hourly. Everywhere!

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Puddin’ tried her hand at snorkeling for the first time. Another thing to note for the inexperienced – if you’re going to snorkel, the backs of your legs and arms need a lot more sunscreen than you would ever put on them normally … just saying.

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Just to prove the perfectness of the whole island they have even trained the fish to swim right up to you – joking! But seriously, I’ve spent years attempting to take pictures of fish while scuba diving and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten on so fully posed as this one! These guys are just so used to people they don’t have the normal “Swim Away!” instinct that fish on the reef normally do.

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We spent most of the day in just our one little spot or snorkeling. Late in the day we did head over to the waterslide thing but even that late in the day it was 40 minutes for Puddin to swim out and wait in line to go down the dinky little slide. Totally NOT worth it.

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Other than that there is really not a lot else to say, it after all a beach. How much can you go on. The food on the island was great though, and we had heard a lot of complaints that it felt a bit crowded and it was hard to find beach chairs but we did not experience that. There seemed to be plenty of room for everyone around the island and toward the end of the day all the pre-made specialty cocktails were put on 2 for 1 so they could rid of them! Score.

We headed back into the ship about 3 so we had plenty of time clean up and relax before dinner. Saw this interesting perspective of the AquaDuck from the dock.

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Bonus .. after dinner we got to watch final 4 action on the the big screen on the deck!

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Next I’m going to put together a post about the dining room and few other miscellaneous things.

Disney Dream Day 1 Part 2: Soggy Trip to Sea

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.

I’ll pick up where I left off on our last post. After arriving at port around 10ish, we boarded around 12:30 and immediately went to lunch at Cabana’s on the 11th deck. I don’t know if this was the only food open or not but it suited us fine so we went there. It’s basically a huge buffet with huge variety of food – hot and cold.

Cabana's Disney Dream

One thing that the hostesses here continually stressed upon our first visit and throughout the cruise but that they could never get anyone to listen to seemed to be that there are NO LINES in Cabanas. You’re supposed to spot the food you want and come at it from a 90 degree angle and then leave. However, after being trained so well in the terminal everyone insisted in forming a line at the end of the first section and walking down the serving area in a line – waiting on people ahead of you being served rather than walking around them. This infuriates the hostesses – you can see it in their eyes behind those cheerful smiles — I think more because people don’t listen than from it being a real problem.

We finished up lunch about 1:00 and went to wander. It was still pouring down rain so we decided to go check out the kids clubs. On Deck 5 we inadvertently ran into a tour group leaving the reception area and was invited to join by Jess, a very friendly cast member, since they were going that way anyway. I’m glad we did as it’s the only time we ended up seeing any of the the adult areas in the District.

But first it was on to Oceaneer’s Club and Lab. This tour would end up being the only time my kids enjoyed themselves there .. ha foreshadowing….

Oceaneer's Club Disney Dream

Oceaneer's Lab Disney Dream

When we finished our tour, it was exactly 1:30 so we went off to find out stateroom 7058 Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah.

Cabin 7058 Disney Dream

Cabin 7058 Disney Dream

Our view from the verandah included everyone we knew… well sorta.

Balcony 7058 Disney Dream

So with no pool to play in and nothing else to do but wander aimlessly .. what else would you do but go get ice cream!

Ice Cream Disney Dream

Now this is where with a little different luck I would have started talking about the send off party on deck and there would pretty pictures of our beautiful ship leaving the port and all the kids playing on deck.

Yeah that didn’t happen. It was pouring rain again at this point. Disney did hold a party on the lobby I think. We went back the cabin, made adult drinks with our room bottles, and the kids played DS until time to get ready to go dinner. How was this different than home?  Oh yean, dinner at home doesn’t involve men in livery.

Royal Palace Disney Dream

Or Chandeliers with Cinderella Slippers…

Royal Palace Disney Dream

Speaking of Cinderella, evidently she’s a bit of a snob, her visit consisted solely of a fast paced walkthrough with no stops and no hugs. See how she has that apologetic “I don’t have time for you my peasants” look on her face. She was in and out in a flash.

Royal Palace Disney Dream

Princess Tiana however was much more of a Princess of the People and spent a good deal of the dinner time visiting tables, hugging, signing autographs, and posing ~ that New Orleans girl knows how to tell people to “Be Our Guest.”

Royal Palace Disney Dream

Let’s see what did we eat in the Royal Place Dining room. I had the Duck appetizer, Green Salad, and Wild Mushroom Pasta. The Dr had the Double Baked Spinach Soufflé, Green Salad, and Wild Boar. (We had all vowed to try and eat things we’d never normally eat)

Both the duck and the spinach souffle were excellent. Salad was well salad. My pasta was just okay – it was a bit rich and I didn’t want to finish it, he said the boar was pretty good, I didn’t taste it but he cleaned his plate.

The kids has kid food, Hamburger and Mac-N-Cheese with fries. What is up with Disney no wanting to leave the ketchup bottle on the table? After about three trips our server caught on to the extent of how much ketchup 8 elementary aged children can consume and started leaving huge blobs though.

At some point at dinner we finally left port. I was glad that Disney had waited everyone who had experienced weather delays.

Afterwards.. Mickey Bar’s reigned supreme for the kids but I won best smelling dessert with the Grand Marnier Soufflé. It tasted as good as it smelled.

Royal Palace Disney Dream

 

After dinner went and got in line for the balcony of the theatre for the Golden Mickeys show and well we watched the Golden Mickeys. It was okay, not bad, not great. The villain section was enough to scare FancyPants into my lap. Would I see it again on a repeat cruise? No. I’d use that time to do something else because what we were just beginning to get a hint of is, free time is kind of precious on the cruise. There is just not a lot of it scheduled in.

After the show we checked the kids into the Oceaneer’s – which they were excited about. Walked back to our room to put down the camera…. and were half way to the bar when the Wave phone texted us to pick up the kids.

I left the group to go see what the problem was. I told the cast member who had 10 minutes earlier checked in our kids that I had a text and she basically popped the gate and tossed a look over her shoulder and told me to go find them.

All but two were sitting there on bean bags looking sad and bored. I asked what the problem was they they said "Mom look, you can’t do anything”. I took a look around and they were right.  It was packed to the gills and the only counselor I could see from standing there was the one guarding the bathrooms. It was chaos.

I don’t know if the rain was throwing off the anticipated counselor/kid ratio but basically there was no ratio. It was wall to wall child and not a little bit like Lord of the Flies. No organized activities were taking place at all – it was basically just an arcade with loud music. The only grown ups there were the ones dealing with unhappy kids (I was not the only one)

I quickly took the kids and checked them out. I was chastised for going out the lab rather than the club – a procedure I had not been made aware of. Whatever Disney. At this point I was kind of pissed at you. From that point forward the kids had no interest in the Oceaneer’s area. They went back one other time but still found it boring since at that point there evidently was an organized activity going on but were told they could not participate because they had not been there when it started. They were told to go play video games or color. Nice.

I took the kids to the D-lounge (Thank you Jessie – your tour you saved the night!) and we stayed in there and watched a family game show which was much more fun for them!

After that we hit some rougher water and the ship got a bit lurchy.. time for greenish turning kids to head to bed.

Disney Dream: Day 1 Part 1 Checking in …

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.

IMG_0733We 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.

luggageSo we’re milling around a bit and notice a long line on the other side of the terminal. Did we need to go there too? We didn’t know because our not overly friendly check-in person didn’t mention it.

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.

Mickey at Disney Cruise Terminal

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.