A few weeks ago, we were treated to a cruise on the Disney Dream, one of four Disney Cruise Line ships (the others are the Disney Wonder, Disney Magic and Disney Fantasy) designed, down to the smallest detail, to delight the passengers (adults and children alike). And one of the most surprising things about being on the ship was the staggering amount of things to do. There is so much to do, in fact, that you could stay busy from the moment you wake up until the wee hours of the night.
So we wanted to rundown almost everything you can do on a Disney cruise, based on what we accomplished on the Disney Dream (we couldn’t do everything, as the technology required to clone ourselves is still several years away).
We also wanted to let you know that there are a couple of things that are absolutely indispensable, should you find yourself on a Disney cruise: one is the Disney Cruise Line app, which works on the ship even if you don’t go in for a Wi-Fi package. It sends you alerts, allows you to browse activities, and will make your trip way more satisfying and organized. The second is the Personal Navigator, a pamphlet that cast members leave in your room every night that informs you of what’s going on the next day. We found it very helpful just to have the information in front of us, printed out and ready to go.
Swim and Slide
There are a number of amazing pools on the Disney Dream (and, indeed, on all of the Disney Cruise Line ships), many designed for maximum relaxation, like in the significantly quieter adults-only areas. But there is also the greatest, most epic water slide we’ve ever come across: The AquaDuck, a “water coaster” that is located on the deck of two Disney Cruise Line ships: the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy. So, yes, we got to ride it, many, many times. And it is unbelievable. There are a number of reasons why we think about this water slide about once a day. One of the reasons is that the clear tube you’re in goes beyond the walls of the boat, so at one point you can look down and see all the way down to the ocean below you. For this reason, going at night provides an even bigger thrill. Another reason the AquaDuck is so special is that it actually goes up; this isn’t a slide merely composed of dips, but has inclines as well, with jets of water pushing you skyward. Yes, this is some next-level stuff. And the last thing that makes us love the AquaDuck, more than virtually any other water slide in the history of humankind, is that there’s a compelling story: Donald got a little overzealous and shot out of the slide and got stuck in the side of the boat. In fact, while we were on the Disney Dream, a satellite pool was opened that actually continued the story: In the middle of the pool, buttressed by jets of water, is Donald’s iconic hat. (Another amazing, Disney-only flourish: There are posted wait times for the ride, so if you want to skip it for an hour or so and indulge in several tasty soft-serve ice cream cones, so be it.)
Watch a Movie
Most cruise ships have movie theaters, which are usually small theaters that show second-run films. But on the Disney Cruise Line, there are opulent, full-sized movie theaters that show first-run films. During our cruise, we saw Ant-Man—in 3D!—along with Tomorrowland, Inside Out, and Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies. On a Disney cruise ship going to a movie isn’t just something that you do to waste time on a sea day, watching a movie is an event in and of itself.
See a Broadway Caliber Show
Every night, an elaborate stage show is mounted in the Walt Disney Theatre, a giant theater that could easily fit in on The Great White Way. The shows are Broadway caliber in both execution and staging. On the final night of our cruise we saw, Disney’s Believe, which wonderfully wove fan-favorite Disney characters into an original narrative. And one of our favorite shows was The Golden Mickeys, a loving and nostalgic tribute to some of the most memorable moments from the company’s history. This theater is also home to top-flight entertainment like the magic of Mike Super, a truly talented entertainer. The best part is that, since there are two shows, it doesn’t matter what time you are seated for dinner; you won’t miss a thing.
Any diehard Disney fan will tell you the importance of exclusive merchandise. And the stores on the Disney cruise ships are full of exclusives. We particularly loved the Star Wars-themed shirts: one had several characters’ silhouettes rendered in rope, and another showed an X-wing swooping down next to the ship. There are also really amazing plush toys (Donald in his sailor finery), Christmas ornaments (of the ship itself), a “Steamboat Winnie” shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Original Cruiser” and Mickey ears with an embroidered captain’s hat with the Disney Cruise Line logo. All of it is really cute and clever and unavailable anywhere else.
Learn How to Cook
One of the more fascinating options available on the cruise are the “Anyone Can Cook” classes, inspired by Chef Gusteau’s motto in the Disney•Pixar masterpiece, Ratatouille. Classes are held in one of the ship’s lounges and we sat in on one group learning to make apple strudel. (We don’t think we made a particularly compelling apple strudel, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.) The classes feature a chef from the cruise line, who takes you through the particulars of a specific dish (various classes are offered throughout the cruise). So much of the cruise has an emphasis on eating delicious foods; it’s nice that the cruise line also offers a way of preparing those foods back at home.
And speaking of eating, one of the best things on a Disney Cruise is the food. In fact, our cruise director, Jimmy, hit us with his motto on the very first day of the cruise: If you see it, eat it. And trust us, it is not hard to follow that rule. What makes the Disney cruise experience so fun is that you rotate dining rooms, so every evening is a wholly different experience with the same level of culinary excellence. And the buffet area, Cabanas, is top shelf too. We would spend every breakfast and lunch there and it was great. Plus, if you want to really treat yourself, you can go to one of the high-end restaurants: Remy’s and Palo. We were lucky enough to eat at Palo and our taste buds could not have been happier. This Italian restaurant is truly amazing and the wait staff was just as lovely and attentive as they are in the main restaurants. Also, there’s soft serve ice cream out by the pool that is open almost continuously. Basically, everywhere you look there’s delicious food.
Get Your Photo With a Character
One of the biggest surprises of the entire cruise was simply how many characters are available to take photographs with, and how easy it is to get a photo. Character appearances are listed in the Daily Navigator and accessible on the app, so you’ll know that, say, Donald Duck will be on the Deck 4 balcony at 4:15 p.m. But other times you’ll simply bump into characters that are walking around the ship. One of our favorite memories of the entire cruise was on a port day. We were late to get off the boat because we were working and so the ship was pretty much empty. And there was Cinderella, strolling around the main atrium, looking regal as ever. Spotting one of these characters is pretty unforgettable, no matter your age.
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