If you want the magic of Disney, the adventure of the high seas, and the relaxing vibe of a tropical getaway all at once, we’ve got good news. From the kids club (hello, adult time!) to character appearances and a day spent on Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line offers something for everyone—sprinkled with a little bit of pixie dust. We had a chance to explore the Disney Dream for a Halloween on the High Seas cruise, and there’s plenty to report. Keep reading to discover our top reasons why a Disney cruise checks all the family vacation boxes.
You Get the Disney Magic
From the forward part of the ship to the aft, the Disney Dream is full of magic. Find as many pieces of enchanted artwork you can (there are 18 in public spaces), stop by Vanellope’s Sweet Shop for a sundae and a sneak peek of Sour Bill hiding in gum balls, stay up late for the Pirates IN The Caribbean deck party, where you’ll see the only fireworks to be shot off a cruise ship anywhere in the world. Get an autograph from your favorite princess, give Mickey a high five and watch Peter Pan and Captain Hook battle it out.
The entertainment is impressive. The Disney Dream has three signature live shows. The Golden Mickeys is an ode to the Oscars and the gilded age of Walt Disney in Hollywood; Believe is a sweet tribute to dozens of Disney characters ranging from Baloo the Bear to Mary Poppins, but the showstopper on Disney Dream is Beauty and the Beast. The set designers use clever digital scenery to make the stage look much bigger than it is, and the cast is perfection (two of the main characters are Broadway alums). The first show on a cruise ship to win the prestigious IAAPA Brass Ring award, it’s a must-see while cruising on the Disney Dream.
Even dinner is magical. A highlight is the night you dine at the Animator's Palate. In an underwater interactive experience, Crusher the Turtle from Finding Nemo will cruise from one screen to the next, telling jokes, talking to kids and entertaining everyone from the first appetizers to dessert.
You Get the Adventure of the High Seas
If you’re going to sail the high seas, you'll want plenty to do while onboard. The Disney Dream welcomes up to 4,000 guests at a time, and of the 1,250 staterooms, 88% of them are outside staterooms (199 have an ocean view and 901 have verandahs). If you should decide to take an inside stateroom, you’ll have a magical porthole, which provides you with a real-time view outside the ship. Be on the lookout for a few friends, too—kids might spot the flying house from Up, Peach the starfish from Finding Nemo or even Mickey himself. Each stateroom works to maximize the space, with nearly all offering a unique bath-and-half design (two sinks) and many offering pull-down bunk beds.
There’s almost an entire deck on the ship devoted to kids on the Dream. For the 3-12 set, Disney’s Oceaneer Club is headquarters. Kids can wander through Andy’s room, pilot the Millennium Falcon or relax while watching their favorite Disney movies in Pixie Hollow. Activities happen from opening time to closing time, and the schedule varies: there are talent shows, a Magic PlayFloor where kids’ movements control the action (think flying over London with Peter Pan.) and for any Star Wars fans—Jedi Knight training and challenges.
Down the hall lies the Oceaneer Lab, which is geared for the older kids, but open to all signed in to the kids club, you’ll find cooking and science labs, the opportunity to “navigate” the open seas or even try your hand at animation. Do you have a tween or teen? There’s a space for them at Edge or Vibe. Vibe has plenty of hi-tech entertainment and Vibe has a private outdoor area with deck games and wading pools.
If it’s family time you desire, we suggest solving a mid-deck mystery, which involves exploring each floor of the ship, in search of the enchanted artwork that holds the clues you seek (look for "offices" on deck five and two). Take a dip in the mickey pool, get thrills on the AquaDuck water coaster, attend game shows, play mini golf, see a Disney movie in the theater (some movies premiere the same day on the ship as they do on land), and of course, meet up with your favorite Disney characters including Mickey and crew, the princesses, Peter Pan and more.
You Get a Tropical Getaway
While we definitely recommend spending at least one day on the ship to enjoy and explore all it has to offer, a day at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, is the final piece of your vacation puzzle. You’ll wander down the plank of the Dream (be on the lookout for Captain Jack Sparrow) to find sparkling beaches, a calm bay that's ideal for families with small kids, a game pavilion with foosball and giant chess and a large water play area that feels fresh after all the salty ocean water. There’s even an on-island kids’ club: Scuttle’s Cove, where you can drop the kids and hit Serenity Bay, the islands adults-only beach.
Another fun aspect of Castaway Cay is that you can stretch out and move. Sign up for the Castaway 5K, rent a bike to explore the island surroundings or join in on the dance party by Cookie’s BBQ after lunch. Snorkeling is best left to older kids, while Stingray Bay (when in operation) is fun for explorers ages five and up. Our pick for coolest thing to do on Castaway Cay? Swimming out to Pelican Plunge, a floating water slide with water cannons and splash buckets, and riding right into the crystal clear water.
The Disney Dream's home base is Port Canaveral, but ships also leave from Galveston, and in 2020, for the first time, Disney Cruise Line will have cruises departing from New Orleans.
Portions of the trip were paid for by Disney Cruise Line, but all opinions here belong to the writer.