Thursday, June 23, 2011

Disney Dream Details & What I've Learned


Over the past three blog posts, I've shared with you my family's experience on the Disney Dream.  This ship is truly amazing, and huge!  I had done a lot of research before taking this cruise, and had seen a lot of pictures, but it really isn't possible to capture the beauty of this ship in a way that shows how big it really is.  It is something I think you just have to experience.  But, since this is a blog post discussing some of the details, I'm including some images of the Dream that show off a few details that maybe I haven't shown in previous posts.

I've also talked about the enchanted art a couple of times, on its own and in connection with the Mid-ship Detective Agency, so I'm including some video below that was taken during our day at sea.

Now on to the important stuff:  things I've learned and suggestions I would make for anyone who wants to take a cruise, especially a Disney cruise.

1.  Even if you aren't sure that you are a "cruising" person, you should try it at least once.  That's something that I do think is important.  If you have even the slightest curiosity, it is time well spent.  And if it makes you nervous, just take a 3 or 4 night cruise and then see what you think.  You will never know until you try (ok, time to move on, I sound like I'm quoting my mom!).

2.  If you are a huge Walt Disney World fan (which I am), please go into a Disney cruise understanding that it is amazing, but it ISN'T just a floating Disney park.  Set your expectations accordingly.  This was something that I think took me and my family by surprise.  I knew that it wasn't a floating park, but I guess I had expected the cruise to just blow me away, overtaking my love of WDW, and it didn't.  Now don't read into this that I didn't enjoy the cruise, because I did, very much.  But please understand, the cruise is an extension of Disney and it has its own kind of magic, so don't be disappointed in your vacation if it doesn't live up to or out-do the Walt Disney World resort.

3.  If you have motion sickness, even in the slightest, make sure that you have a plan on how to deal with it and that you have tested it before the cruise!  I can't stress this enough.  I was trying a remedy that had been recommended to me, as Dramamine is not good to me.  Unfortunately, I had not tested it out very well ahead of time, and as you read, I did suffer for it.  Even with the motion sickness, I will eventually do another Disney cruise, but I can promise you one thing, I will be seeing my doctor beforehand to get something that will work much better!

4.  Don't feel obligated to do anything/everything on board.  I don't know about you, but as a traveler, I often feel compelled to get the most for my money.  We are what I would consider a working/middle class family.  We have a lot of bills to pay (more than I would like) and we don't make an outrageous amount of money.  We do, however, love Disney and want to visit every year or two.  So I work hard at getting good deals and when I am there, I want to get the most I can out of it.  Sometimes I wear my guys out trying to make sure we've done everything we can do!  But I can tell you, on the Disney Dream, you absolutely CANNOT do everything!  There is too much.  Something is going on all the time.  So be choosey about what you want to do.  And consider doing nothing at all.  That was really hard for me, but I think if I had spent a little more time just relaxing by the pool, reading a book, taking in the atmosphere, I would have enjoyed the cruise so much more.
5.  Along the same line as number 4, don't feel obligated to do the "normal cruise stuff" either.  What do I mean by that?  Well, I can tell you that as much as I enjoyed seeing the restaurants on board (Animator's Palate, Enchanted Garden, & Royal Palace), the dining itself was a bit torturous for my family.  We don't dress up for dinner, at all.  When it's summer, sometimes my guys don't even wear shirts to the table!  We also don't eat fancy foods...for two hours or longer.  Now, I'm not saying it wasn't a good experience...ok, well it wasn't at first, but I'm still glad we tried.  But the thing is, we would have been much happier eating from the buffet and quick stop areas on deck 11 every night, getting done fairly quickly and getting ready to go do something else.  We as a family have already decided that when we go on another cruise, we will visit the restaurants at breakfast buffet or lunch, then keep it simple at dinner time.  Unless the menu is just irresistible, or the "show" that they do is only done at night and we are just dying to see it, then we might try again.  Now I'm not suggesting that everyone do this, because your family might love the evening dining.  What I am saying is that you know what works for your family, and if something that seems to be a "required cruising activity" doesn't work, then don't force it.  It's your vacation!

6.  Moms out there, this one's for you:  Don't feel obligated to stay with your family and be their own personal cruise director.  That's what Rachel is for!  This is your vacation too, and you do not want to have any regrets about what you did or didn't do.  Take advantage of the spaces that are just for your kids.  Payton absolutely loved visiting the Oceaneers Lab.  However, we had to suggest it to him sometimes because he's so used to spending all of his vacation time with us.  He wasn't forced to go, he just hadn't thought of it.  And there are plenty of things for your hubby or significant other to do as well.  So don't sacrifice your spa time just to get started packing for debarkation (I'm preaching to myself here a little bit), because you will regret it.  If there's something you want to do that no one else wants to, then do it by yourself.  This ship is very comfortable in terms of just walking around and doing your own thing.  Don't miss out because you feel like, as a mom, you need to take care of the details.  Trust me, packing early is not necessarily a helpful thing!

7.  Take advantage of port days.  There are so many things to do both on and off the ship.  For my family, the day we were in port at Nassau was one of our favorite days.  We had originally planned an excursion (or port adventure) but due to some unexpected financial issues that hit us before the trip, we had to tighten the purse strings and cancel that part of our trip.  So we stayed on the ship...and had a fabulous time!  It was far less crowded on board, and we were able to enjoy so many things, like time in the pool and AquaDuck, watching a movie in the Buena Vista theater, and just leisurely enjoying the ship.  We also did this on Castaway Cay day, after spending all morning on the island.  I would have to say that those times were some of the best we had all cruise.  I am looking forward to taking an excursion on our next cruise, but I can't say that I missed it much on this one.

8.  Be prepared for your day at sea...because it will be crowded!  After enjoying a couple of port days in a row when it seemed like there was no one on board the ship, sea day was a shock to the system.  If you don't like crowds or feeling confined, this can be a tougher day for you.  I know for us, it seemed like our tempers were even a bit shorter on sea day.  It's definitely not the best day for spending time in the pool, or even on decks 11 & 12!  Wall to wall people up there!  And sea day is the day that everyone has saved to do the Mid-ship Detective Agency, so be prepared for long lines at the kiosk as well as at the enchanted art.  Sea day involves both planning and flexibility, so have a backup plan if the thing you want to do is already too crowded.

So the bottom line...will I do another cruise someday?  Yes.  Was it worth it? Yes.  Will I do things a little differently and have different expectations?  Absolutely yes!  This was a great learning experience for me and I'm so glad that I did it, queasy stomach and all!

If you have any questions, or any additional tips you want to share, please comment!  Next post...on to Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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