Two-View Cruise Review: Disney Dream's Dining and Shore Excursions
Editor's Note: Media members were recently invited on to the Disney Dream to see the results of a drydock that had construction workers busy 24 hours a day for three weeks adding new additions such as the Star Wars-themed, tech-filled Millenium Falcon play area, the Disney Infinity interactive play room in the ship’s Oceaneer Club, a new “Wreck-It-Ralph”-inspired candy store and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for epic pirate and princess makeovers.
TravelPulse was lucky enough to have two writers aboard, Jason Leppert and Tim Wood.
Jason is soon-to-be-married with no kids, who had his fiancée, Heidi, with him onboard. Tim is soon celebrating his 20th wedding anniversary and had his wife and two boys, T.J. (age 12) and Jake (age 6) on board.
The unique circumstance gave us the chance to do a review of the new additions and the overall ship from two polar perspectives. Here’s what we’re calling our Two-View Review. Today, in the second of our three-part review of the ship, we cover the dining options and shore excursions available on the Dream.
JASON: Disney is known for their unique rotational restaurants – three complimentary main dining rooms, each with their own decor and theme – that guests and their servers rotate through during a cruise. Families love them for the variety in keeping children entertained, but adults without kids, like yours truly, appreciate the diversity too.
The Royal Palace is an elegant space with a formal appearance befitting princes and princesses, and Enchanted Garden similarly conveys the grandeur of Versailles. Still, as a kid-at-heart, my favorite of the trio is Animator's Palate and its casual cafe layout and fun animation studio details and screens. Where else can you chat with Crush from "Finding Nemo" at sea? Well, actually you can also on the Disney Fantasy.
Perhaps the most enticing dining option for those 18 and over are the adults-only restaurants: Palo and Remy. The former serves delicious Italian fare in a romantic setting that was perfect for my fiancée and I to enjoy a quiet evening by. The latter is themed to the rodent chef in the beloved film Ratatouille and dishes up other premium cuisine with a premium surcharge that is well worth it for true foodies.
PHOTO: Inside Vanellope's Sweets and Treats shop. (Kent Phillips/Disney Cruise Line)
Otherwise, the Cabanas buffet, pizzeria, grill, room service, theater concessions and a number of bars have your choices covered. Particularly nice are the included sodas at the restaurants. While soft serve ice cream remains free, the Vanellope's Sweets and Treats shop is a must try for reasonably priced ice cream scoops, sundaes and candies themed to Wreck-It Ralph.
On a healthier note, the spa now sports the Dream-exclusive Senses Juice Bar and its tasty smoothies. And the handheld menus with embedded video screens here are seriously cool.
TIM: The overall quality of the dining options was varied and impressive. Like Jason, my family and I were blown away by the dining experience in the Animator’s Palate. It’s one of the most unique dinners I have ever had and to share that with my family made it all the more special.
I don’t want to spoil it too much for first timers, but the technology used here is stunning. Your favorite Disney characters start as sketches on the walls, but once everyone is seated, the sketches come to life in spectacular form.
As Jason mentioned, Crush is the star of the show. To say anymore would be spoiling the magic for first-timers. This dinner was one of the highlights of the cruise for us. And honestly, it made the other two dining rooms seem inferior, though the food quality was just as impressive (our rotation had us at Animator's Palate on the first night).
If you don’t like being told where and when to eat, you have some issues. The Cabanas buffet went to a la carte dining for two of our three nights at sea, so there’s that. But from there, the options are fairly thin. It’s a strategy, I get it. You should get out and experience the dining rooms, and the dinners are cruise casual attire.
If for some reason you miss your dining time, as I saw a number of families whiff on during the cruise, you are left with basic kids menu fare at Tow Mater’s Grill or ordering from room service. The latter, especially, is a solid option, as it was the best family-cruise room service I’ve had. Great menu variety, and hot food delivered promptly.
And you must visit Vanellope's. The gelato and pastries are decadent, and there's some audible Easter eggs in the space itself that again, I don't want to be spoiler on. I'm just saying, listen closely.
Could not agree with Jason more about Senses Juice Bar. Another very cool tech addition, a signature of this ship. And the breakfast buffet at Cabana's was among the best buffets I've ever experienced while traveling.
SHORE EXCURSIONS/PORTS OF CALL
JASON: On alternating three- and four-night sailings, the Disney Dream is more of a ship to stay onboard to enjoy all of its attractions in a short period of time, but Nassau and especially Castaway Cay, Disney's own private island, are still great retreats for those wishing to take an excursion ashore. My recommendation though would be to stay on during the Nassau day to take full advantage of popular features like the AquaDuck water coaster with reduced waits and enjoy your time on land at the private island.
PHOTO: Disney Dream in port at the cruise line's private island, Castaway Cay. (David Roark/Disney Cruise Line)
Castaway Cay is truly a treat and easily the best private island among cruise lines in the Caribbean. Areas dedicated to children, families and adults extend to the destination and are just as detailed and themed as those on the ship. Disney is all about storytelling, and the playful narrative continues even here.
We went snorkeling for the first time in its waters and loved exploring a sunken treasure. A relic from Walt Disney World, one of the former 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride submarines, lurks mysteriously below the surface. It instantly took me back to my childhood and got me to wondering whether I ever rode this one while still in operation at the Magic Kingdom. Plenty of other interesting submerged paraphernalia and tropical fish await discovery as well.
TIM: We were very impressed with the variety of excursions for a shorter cruise. The ability to go and play at Atlantis Paradise Island's water parks while in Nassau was a huge – albeit, not cheap – bonus. The day in Nassau, in general, offered a ton of options, right up to playing 18 holes of golf (again, a prohibitive price tag for some, but a nice option to have). Nassau has had an uptick in tourist crime as of late, but Disney handled this adeptly and head-on, alerting passengers to the issues but creating excursions that kept them out of any possible harms way.
Castaway Cay is an experience. There are some “beach getaways” where you’re pretty tired and ready to get back on the ship after a couple hours. From the many sea-related food options on the island to the variety of water sports options to the adults-only beaching option on the far side of the island, Castaway had enough to keep visitors busy all day.
That said, as Jason mentioned, the Castaway Cay day in particular is a great day to experience all the amenities on the ship, as it literally becomes a ghost town. Best mix would be to get out to see the ship in the morning and get out to Castaway midday as many are starting to head back aboard.
More by Tim Wood
Get Travel Deals and Travel News
Recent Travel Opinions
Cruise Line & Cruise Ship
Airlines & Airports