Three Days on the Disney Dream

A family trip report

(page 6 of 6)

Afternoon activities delight

In our stateroom, we found that day's Navigator, the daily four-page guide that gives passengers all the info they need to know about the activities, land excursions and weather of the day. Sectioned by time slot and age group, the Navigator's truly easy to navigate, and along with your Key to the World card it's the only thing you absolutely need to take with you around the ship.

After the mandatory (and very brief) lifeboat safety drill (only the crew members don life jackets as a demonstration), we were off to the shipboard Sailing Away party, where Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and a few other characters (including my family's perennial faves, Chip and Dale) danced the ship out of the port. The party takes place on the pool deck (at left), giving guests their first real view of the massive Funnel Vision movie screen above the Mickey pool, the smaller Donald pool, the Nemo-themed preschoolers-only splash-park area and the Aquaduck, the tube-enclosed water coaster that races round the upper decks. To close the opening festivities, Captain Guus tooted the ship's horn, which plays nautical renditions of seven recognizable Disney tunes. We were steaming toward Nassau.

Knowing that most of the other 4,000 or so guests were just getting to their staterooms, the boys wanted to take advantage of the uncrowded halls by playing a round of the Midship Detective Agency. This interactive mystery game lets players solve clues embedded in the "enchanted artwork" throughout the ship. When you approach a given painting, you raise a card (at right) that unlocks an animation, and Mickey, Goofy et al. walk you through a whodunit that allows you to explore nearly every deck on the ship, fore to aft. It takes a half-hour or so and is tons of fun. Before we knew it, we had figured out the art-thief culprit (Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove, though the villains change each game) and were ready to head to dinner.

Day one dinner: Animator's Palate

Dining on a Disney cruise ship is unlike dining on any other lines. Formalwear is not necessary (cruise casual's the dress code; my kids wore button-down shirts and khaki shorts) and guests rotate through each of the three main dining rooms; adults are also given the option of making a reservation at either of the 18-and-up luxury restaurants, the Italian Palo and the French Remy, for a reasonable upcharge. Each table is assigned a server and assistant server who rotate through the restaurants with you, so they get to know your standing drink orders, food sensitivities, likes and dislikes. It's a great system that makes guests feel well cared for; our Dream team, Estawar from Colombia and Storm from South Africa, were professional, personable and fun to be with. Every night, Storm kept the kids thinking with new brainteasers and riddles.

Dinner on day one was at Animator's Palate (below), a culinary production only Disney could pull off. Amid the giant paintbrushes, Mickey-backed chairs and cartoon-strewn walls, Nemo, Dory, Squirt and Crush swam from one large screen to the next, engaging guests between courses. Crush himself swam up to us and, like the totally righteous dude he is, inquired all about our trip. We'd never conversed with a giant sea turtle before, so if we confused him a little, we're sure he understood. We were too happy eating the yummy food (I started with a salmon tartare, then moved to a pasta bolognese gluten-free me allows myself only on special occasions and ended with a sinful cookies-and-cream sundae). Even my older son, who is prone to motion sickness and felt a little queasy, couldn't help himself and plowed through his Make Your Own Pie dessert. (He soon learned to sway with the ship's motion and felt better shortly after.)

Mini golf, The Golden Mickeys and Frozen at midnight

After dinner, we made a beeline for deck 13 and the nine-hole, Goofy-themed mini-golf spread on the aft of the ship. We played in the windy moonlight and were having so much fun, we could only laugh when a pair of oblivious tweens literally played through the hole we were on as if we were invisible, putting in the middle of our turns. Anywhere else, I'd be judgy about their lack of manners; here, the situation was somehow hysterically funny.

By 8:30pm, it was time to go down to deck 3 and the resplendent Walt Disney Theater, on whose red-curtained stage we'd see a different Broadway-style show every night. Having started my career in theater, I'm a tough critic, but the caliber of performance on the Disney ships, which so impressed me on the Fantasy, remains strong. Tonight was The Golden Mickeys, a Dream-exclusive show that combined scenes from classic Disney movies with a mock award show complete with red-carpet guest interviews. (Fun fact: Jennifer Hudson got her start performing on a Disney cruise in The Golden Mickeys.) The show's highlight? Snow White leading a chain of hand-holding dwarfs, six bearded young 'uns, with Dopey bringing up the rear. 

The show lasted a good hour, which gave us a little time to grab a bottle of water for the 10:45 showing of Frozen in the Buena Vista movie theater on board. The only way I can get my boys to watch a "princess" movie is in a Disney atmosphere, propped up by popcorn. (Sigh.) By the time the movie ended, it was well after midnight and we needed to rest up for a packed Day 2 schedule. But it was worth it. Apparently, I'm the last person on Earth to find out that Frozen is, as Crush would say, "totally awesome, dude."

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