At the time of writing this post, my family and I just returned from our first cruise on the Disney Cruise Line. We took a four-day cruise on the Disney Dream, leaving from Port Canaveral. The ship stopped in Nassau and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Before the trip, I did a lot of online research. I read hundreds of blog posts and asked a lot of questions on the DISboards discussion forums. I felt absolutely prepared for the trip and did not think I would encounter many surprises. However, no matter how many articles I read before the trip, I am not sure I would have been prepared for the following:
- The ship was crowded. Really crowded. We traveled over a popular Spring Break week and the boat was sailing at full capacity. However, I was not fully prepared for the vast number of bodies, especially in the pool area. I am not exaggerating when I say my daughter did not have room to lift her arms from the sides of her body. She could simply stand in the pool and get wet. There was absolutely no chance to “swim.” On our at-sea day, my husband and I circled the pool area for 90 minutes before we could find even one available chair for our family of three.
- It’s entirely possible that you will not be able to leave the ship at some ports due to inclement weather. Unfortunately, this was the case for our stop at Castaway Cay. This is not Disney’s fault by any means – there was a pop-up thunderstorm in the area that caused extensive lightning and heavy winds. The storm began around 10 a.m. My family slept in and did not leave the boat at 9 a.m. when guests were allowed to disembark. We were having breakfast in Cabanas when the storm arrived. Hundreds of people were actually stuck on the island in gift shops or under canopies for several hours before the cruise personnel could begin shuttering guests back to the boat via the tram.
- The tram is another thing I didn’t know about. When you disembark the boat at Castaway Cay, your toes aren’t immediately immersed in white sand. You actually have to catch the tram to the main part of the island, or walk a distance of about a mile to get to the main section. This was not a big deal whatsoever, I was just surprised by it.
- There are not typically alarm clocks in the staterooms; although you can ask your stateroom host for one. There are a lot of activities on a cruise, so please make sure your cellphones are always charged or you have a wristwatch in order to keep track of time. There is a clock in the Dream’s pool area, but it is not that easy to spot. Take control of your own schedule and bring a watch.
- The cast members try really hard to stop the spread of germs. I was pleasantly surprised by this fact. Cast members stand at the entrance and exit of Cabanas to offer antibacterial hand wipes. The stateroom attendant clears trash from your room several times a day. Antibacterial solution pumps are located all over the ship and you can actually smell disinfectant in most public restrooms. I was thankful for this attention to detail.
- Shutters, the photo store, is crazy on the last night of the cruise. I pre-ordered my photos but I still wanted to take a look at my account and make sure they were all there. Most photographers use facial-recognition software to pair your photos with your stateroom, so there is a good chance some of your photos will not show up in your account. If this happens, you simply notify a Shutters cast member of your missing shots and they will locate them. My advice is to briefly stop by Shutters each night to make sure the photos you had taken that day are reflected in your account. I heard some folks say they waited over an hour to speak to a cast member regarding missing photos on the last night of the cruise.
- If you are traveling out of Port Canaveral, you literally turn into the Disney Cruise terminal and a person is there to take your luggage. Within 200 yards of turning into Terminal A, a bellhop came to my door window and instructed me to unload my luggage and he would make sure it arrived in my stateroom that afternoon. In my mind, we would unload the luggage from the car and wheel it over to a designated spot. This is not the case. It was extremely convenient, but since it was my first cruise I must admit that it freaked me out just a little bit. Looking back, it was a wonderful way to spread Pixie Dust and make my family’s vacation more enjoyable. As a side note – have some cash in your hand when you pull into Port Canaveral to tip these hardworking folks.
- You can ride the AquaDuck at night. The water slide takes on an entirely different look and feel at night. Wear your bathing suit under your clothes to dinner and head over to the AquaDuck afterward. It stays open until 10 p.m.
- I read many articles about the lovely towel art that stateroom hosts leave each night. It truly is fun to see. However, I was not aware that we would receive the most delicious pieces of chocolate on the beds each night. At the time of our cruise, they were wrapped in Sleepy the Dwarf foil on each night except Pirate Night. On Pirate Night we received chocolate coins. Chocolates now are typically Ghirardelli.
- Your luggage will leave the ship before you do when the cruise is over. On the last night of your cruise, you will receive luggage tags. You pack your bags, place the tags on them, and sit the luggage outside of your stateroom by 10 p.m. Your stateroom host takes your luggage to a designated storage area overnight. As soon as you exit the ship, you will enter a huge room filled with luggage. Find the area that is labeled for your luggage tag. For example, our tags were red and had Mickey Mouse’s face on them. We located the “Red Mickey” area and found our luggage. It was a simple process, but we were a bit confused because we weren’t sure if we were supposed to pick up our luggage from the lobby area before walking off the ship or if it would actually be off the boat.
Some can only see the island from the viewfinder on the camera
The tram at Castaway Cay
AquaDuck at Night
Overall, the Disney Dream did not disappoint. Just like in the parks, cast members are extremely helpful and friendly. Have a good attitude, and you are sure to enjoy this magical vacation!