Big thanks to Disney Cruise Line for hosting us on their gorgeous Disney Dream cruise ship. All words, ideas, images, thoughts and wisecracks are my own. (A version of this post was initially published on Travelingmom.com)
We love cruising and have gone as a family many times on Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, and I recently went solo on Carnival for the first time. I was looking forward to seeing how a Disney cruise compared. Happy to report that here was a great balance of family time, activities just for the kids, and grown-up time for parents.
We had 4 days of absolute perfection aboard Disney’s Dream cruise ship. John, Rohan, Kaya and I all enjoyed this, our first experience on a Disney cruise. I didn’t know exactly what to expect – even after obsessively researching the ship. So I was really excited for the new experience.
There is a lot to do on the Disney Dream as a family. We have young children, so we spent a lot of time on the pool deck together. We were able to enjoy both pools and the famous Aqua Duck. The Aqua Duck is a fast-moving water slide for adults and children 42 inches or taller. We went on about 15 times back to back.
Be sure to ride the Aqua Duck either the first day when you board or while the ship is in port. By heading straight up to the Aqua Duck, we had no lines for a good while before people returned to the ship! Note: They were sticklers for the height requirements and even made Kaya take off her flip flops and pull down her hair before measuring her!
Disney Movie Fun
Another pool deck family fun gem is the movie screen that played Disney movie favorites while we were in the pool. Cars 3 was a hit for all of us who were treading water or laying on floaties as we watched.
Families can also have fun sleuthing together with the mid-ship detective agency on board. You work together to solve clues all around the ship. We did not take part in this, but I saw several families on board enjoying it. Families can also work together to win at the many trivia sessions offered.
Then, of course, you have the many family-friendly on-shore excursions you can book through Disney Cruise Line for each island stop. Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, was one of our stops. It has many family-friendly offerings including fishing, water sports, biking, and a splash pad for families with small children to enjoy together in addition to the beautiful beach. (Adults who don’t want to be around children’s shrieks of joy, there is an adults-only escape for you there too called Serenity Bay. Thank me later.)
After the full, active days, just relaxing in bed together as a family, ordering dessert to our cabin, and watching TV was a treat as well.
Kid Fun on a Disney Dream Cruise
Kids will lose their minds on a Disney cruise. I will start with the obvious offering my kids freaked out over: the character meets. Disney princesses, Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, Chip and Dale, and many other Disney characters make appearance for photo ops and autographs.
Multiple photo op times are listed in the daily planner, so there is no need to rush on day one to get all the photos taken. You are also likely to spot your favorite character milling about the ship. In the kids club, princesses stop by unexpectedly.
The kids club, Disney’s Oceaneers, is huge. We have done multiple cruises and made use of the kids club on two other lines. This was by far the largest, with the most offerings for children of all ages. The kids club serves children ages 3 and up.
Activities range from games on an iPad to guided or independent arts and crafts, science experiments, independent toy play, sing-alongs and dance parties or video games for bigger kids. There was so much to do. My children, ages 3 and 5 at the time, came back tired, full of stories, and with an armload of arts and crafts every day. I loved that the staff would feed the kids if we chose to leave them there during a meal time. We didn’t choose this option, but it was nice to have the choice and know our littles would be fed.
Keeping Kids Safe on the Disney Dream Cruise
Safety is a big part of the kids club and a question I have received a lot from moms considering Disney cruises or cruises in general. I will say that the system for the Oceaneers is top-notch. All children who take part in the kids club activities receive a Magic Band so the staff can tell you exactly where they are at any moment. You are given a mobile phone in each cabin so you can call down to the kids club if you are a nervous parent. Or they can reach you when your child is ready to be picked up. Rohan would get sleepy about the same time every night and called to have us come get him. It was perfect.
To get your child out, you have to give a secret code word, submit your Key to the World card, and your child has to tap their Magic Band to leave. As a health-conscious mom, I loved the hand-washing stations at the entrance to the kids club. Children were required to use the station before stepping foot into the Fun Zone. The staff had to pry my daughter away from it.
Adults Only Fun on the Disney Dream Cruise
My friends know I love to cruise. One of the biggest questions I get asked about other lines is if it is fun for kids, because cruising seems like such an adult-oriented vacation. When I announced I would be cruising on the Disney Dream, the question I got asked most was will there be anything for adults to do on a Disney cruise? My answer now that I have sailed on the beautiful Disney Dream is: Yes, there is plenty for an adult to do.
An adult Disney fan or just cruise lover, could even come without kids and have an amazing vacation. The food, service, and overall experience is lovely for any adult. There is one specialty restaurant called Palo. It has delicious food on par with a nice NYC restaurant, and is adult only.
John and I enjoyed a lovely dinner there, with multiple courses and not a child in sight. It is rare to see a child in one of the bars, even though they are permitted in any of those onboard. The spa is generally child-free. The fitness center is actually quite well equipped and also generally child-free.
Disney Dream Cruise for Adults
There is also an outdoor deck where children are not allowed that adults can relax and enjoy a hot tub or the sunshine and a cold drink without the pitter-patter of tiny feet or children’s squeals of joy. I will be honest and let you know that at times you can hear some children who may scream from other decks behind the adults-only area, but it isn’t often enough to ruin your time there.
There are many trivia sessions where only adults were present and movies for grown ups playing in the evenings. While I was on board we watched Thor Ragnarok in 3-D and it was amazing and so funny. The live stage shows are also excellent for adults. If your children are like mine and can’t sit still for the length of a movie or show, you can always put them into the Oceaneers club and go enjoy a date night at the movies or a show with your honey.
Another item of note for adults is the nostalgia of it all. You don’t have to be the biggest Disney fan in the world to enjoy seeing the little touches of all of your favorite Disney movies you grew up with all around the ship.
The kids keep asking for another Disney cruise, so John and I are going to have to make that happen sooner than later. We all loved our experience and the kids still talk about it all the time.
Check out the vid we did for travelingmom – CLICK HERE