Disney Cruises Aren't Just For Kids
A Disney cruise might seem an odd choice, given that I was travelling with my 19-year-old son, Sam, but as a family we’ve always been huge Disney fans, and Sam was keen to revisit some childhood favourites, while I was happy to indulge in a few days of good old-fashioned family fun.
Our four-night cruise to the Bahamas in the Caribbean, stopping at Nassau and Disney’s own 400-hectare private island, Castaway Cay, offered a mix of sunshine, beaches and water sports, while excursions including snorkelling in Nassau and a guided jet-ski tour of Castaway Cay’s lush coastline, promised a diversion from the stresses of university exams.
Full of character
At first glance the 14-deck Disney Dream, one of the two larger ships in the four-strong Disney fleet, certainly had an air of 'floating theme park' about it. The ship was docked at Port Canaveral in Orlando and boasted a jaunty paint job, yellow lifeboats (Disney was granted special permission by the US Coastguard to use this colour), a four-metre 'Sorcerer' Mickey figurehead and an impressive water flume that extended over the side of the ship.
On boarding, we encountered a bronze of Admiral Donald in the lobby and then met a very-much-alive Captain Mickey greeting some of his smaller guests at the top of a staircase that swept up to a glass balcony.
Cartoon-character greetings aside, the ship has an entire deck dedicated to kids’ clubs, from a full-service nursery for babies from 12 weeks old, right up to special clubs with full itineraries catering for ages three to 17, plus vast entertainment and pool areas. That flume we spotted was part of AquaDuck, the world’s first water coaster at sea.
Adults are equally well catered for, with a couple of dedicated restaurants, two cocktail bars and The District – five lounges and nightclubs designated for over-18s only. There is also a well-equipped gym and spa and the adults-only Quiet Cove pool area, though on busier days we sought out quieter spots on the less-populated upper decks, away from the pools.
Eating and sleeping
Though compact, our cabin – with a double bed and sofa bed and a pull-down bunk – was fine for sharing. As well as a shower room with sink, we welcomed the convenience of a separate toilet and wash basin.
All but 150 of the 1,250 cabins on board have a sea view, and a little over 900 of them come with a balcony. Privacy is afforded by a room-dividing curtain, which is handy when you’re travelling with children, and we found plenty of storage areas and electrical outlets. The decor is understated nautical, rather than the cartoonish primary colours I was braced for.
Disney Dream’s 'rotational dining' service means that you’ll find yourself eating in a different restaurant each night – and your waiters move with you, which means you always receive a bespoke, personal service.
All the restaurants across the ship are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the food is of a high standard, typically offering five main-course choices featuring beef, chicken, seafood and fish as well as separate vegetarian and lighter options for the diet-conscious. The self-service buffet restaurant, Cabanas, was particularly popular at breakfast so in the mornings we took advantage of quieter, table-service alternatives.
On the first evening I left my son at the gym to work off his frustration after discovering the US drinking age of 21 was strictly enforced, while I dined at the classically French Petite Assiettes de Remy (inspired by the film Ratatouille). This was a food and wine pairing experience hosted by the restaurant’s executive chef.
We began with a glass of Taittinger Rose, and tasted dishes including delicate langoustine with a citrusy yuzu reduction; celeriac puree, smoked salmon and tomato in a balsamic dressing teamed with a smoky, buttery Puligny-Montrachet; and a tender Kobe beef dish with a turnip and potato gratin. By dish six, a silky creme caramel paired with a sweet vin doux, I felt as satiated as a king at a banquet, and left with an excellent list of new wines to try.
The following evening Sam and I dined at the Italian-themed Palo, although a minor sartorial oversight on our part led to a spare pair of dress shoes being whipped from a cupboard and the offending pair of trainers being spirited away (it obviously happens a lot).
Wine options were carefully explained by the sommelier, and our six-course tasting menu, eaten al fresco, featured delicate tuna carpaccio, lobster ravioli, a rich osso bucco and Palo’s signature chocolate souffle to finish.
The on-board entertainments at the Walt Disney Theatre, complete with plush velvet seats and waiter service, didn’t disappoint either, although the audience’s mixed age group and excitement levels made it a challenge to hear some of the dialogue. And, of course, if a Disney movie premieres in America, it will be available as a first run in the ship’s 3D cinema.
It goes without saying that pirate night, a Disney Cruise Line tradition where entire families dress up to enjoy the party, turned out to be tremendous fun, and watching late-night fireworks splash neon into a black sky was magical.
While my son found the minimum drinking age and pricey Wi-Fi ($US39/$A53 for 300MB of data) a minor drawback, cruising with Disney proved a success. The huge choice of on-board activities satisfied the temporarily teetotal Sam, while the food, wine and spectacular fireworks were highlights for me.
All too soon, the ship’s horn blasted a final When You Wish Upon a Star as we nudged back into Port Canaveral, more than a little high on Disney magic.
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This article was written by Becky Wiggins from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.