I just returned from one of the first cruises on the Disney Dream since March of 2020 and want to share a bit about the experience. This is the first of several detailed articles I intend to write, but I thought I’d get some of my initial thoughts out to you all to start. We’ll talk more about the port arrival and boarding processes in my next article. Also, for full disclosure, I was hosted by Disney Cruise Line as their guest on behalf of Dreams Unlimited Travel – the official sponsor of DCL Fan.
I’m going to start off by saying that whether or not you should go on a Disney Cruise Line vacation right now depends a great deal on what type of cruiser you are. If you’ve never been on a Disney cruise, you need to decide if you’re an action figure on vacation or if you’re more of a leisurely, relax on vacation kind of person – most of us know which side of the fence we’re on even if we’ve never cruised before.
Right now, there are nowhere near as many activities available – on the ship or off – as there were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The list of Port Adventures being offered at Castaway Cay – Disney’s private island in The Bahamas – is quite short and it’s currently the only port of call being visited in The Bahamas. This was perfect for me as I tend to really enjoy the ship itself and don’t like spending a bunch of extra money on activities and excursions. I like to hang out by the pool on a lounger and surf on my phone, listen to an ebook, or do absolutely nothing at all but sit there. I don’t need to be entertained or busy with different activities all day long in order to have a good time. I prefer the restful part of a cruise and enjoy slowing down on my vacations.
The more adventurous go-getter might like to participate in the Castaway Cay 5K or some of the sports activities that are available onboard the ship. They might even be the people who go to a lot of the scheduled entertainment offerings like the stand-up comedy acts or bingo, and maybe a magic show or two. They might be able to go go go from early in the morning until the wee hours at night doing all of the things onboard in addition to the activities off the ship in your port of call.
The other type of cruiser is the one who likes to soak in all of the rest and relaxation that they can. That would be me… ahem. This person would maybe have coffee delivered to their stateroom early in the morning so they could sit outside on their veranda and watch as the ocean passes by. Then maybe a couple of hours later, they head to one of the main dining locations or even up to Cabanas on Deck 11 for breakfast. Maybe they were fortunate enough to secure a brunch reservation at Palo, one of the ship’s adults-only restaurants. After breakfast/brunch, maybe they walk around to some of the shops if it’s an at-sea day or head to one of the theaters onboard to watch a movie. Jungle Cruise, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Black Widow were playing during our cruise.
A leisurely soak in one of the hot tubs and maybe a nap in one of the loungers would be next on my agenda. Yes, we just ate breakfast, but when we’re on vacation, naps are the best. We might even head into Cove Café for a frozen coffee or two. The pools are working a bit differently now from what we’re used to as well. As you can see in the image above, the pools were roped off so the lifeguards could monitor guests going in and out. You were technically allowed to be in the pool for ten minutes at a time, but when I was around the Mickey pool, there were never more than two people waiting to get in so it seemed like that was more of a general rule that changed often depending on how many guests were there.
There are so many options for lunch on the ship. All of the quick service restaurants by the pool were serving the usual pizza, burgers, and such. One day, we headed back to our stateroom and ordered room service but you can also check the Navigator app to see which of the main restaurants were serving lunch. We had the option to eat lunch on Castaway Cay two days in a row, but we chose to get back on the ship for lunch one of those days.
Because my cruise was planned just a couple of weeks prior to the sail date, there were no Palo or Remy brunch reservations available – I did check with the dining team the day we boarded the ship to be placed on their waitlist, but nothing opened up. I’ll just need to book another cruise to fix that, won’t I?
The later part of the afternoon might bring a spa appointment or maybe a visit to the Rainforest Room inside Senses Spa. Things were a little different this time around concerning the onboard spa. The Rainforest Room inside Senses Spa did not offer day passes this time; it had to be privately rented out for an hour and 45 minutes. The cost to do that was $175 for up to ten guests in each session. We decided not to do it this time simply because we didn’t have a ton of time on the ship with a short cruise.
A little bit surprising, considering the lower number of passengers on the ship, all of the private cabanas on Castaway Cay were rented out prior to our sail date. I was thinking that maybe since the ships weren’t running at full capacity, there might be a chance of securing a cabana. We didn’t ask to be put on a waitlist only because after discussing it a bit, we decided that we’d rather see how crowded the family beaches and restaurants were so I could share those details with all of you. The private cabanas, while always luxurious and uncrowded, weren’t going to provide me with the perspective I was looking for. When I tell you that we moseyed over to the beach at around 12:30 p.m., there were loads of empty lounge chairs to choose from all over the place, I am not exaggerating. The only issue that came up was that the island lost power by around 1:00 p.m. so we couldn’t get our favorite Piña Colavas or a banana and strawberry swirled ice cream cones which you can also get in a cup if you ask. Fortunately for us, we’d be back the next day to try again. Spoiler: the power returned on day two!
You should also be aware that on your Castaway Cay day, you’ll need to join a virtual queue to disembark the ship. Don’t be alarmed if you are number 158 when you join the queue the instant it opens because things move quickly. Be sure that you’re just about ready to walk out of your stateroom door to head to Deck 1 when you join so that you don’t waste any of that precious island time.
I have to say, the low number of guests on this cruise was probably my most favorite about the whole trip. Those of you who have heard me share my thoughts on the DIS Unplugged about visiting the Walt Disney World theme parks right now know that I’m a bit uncomfortable around masses of people. In fact, I was a bit nervous about going on this cruise if I’m being completely honest. There wasn’t one time during this 3-night cruise that I felt it was too crowded or uncomfortable. Disney Cruise Line was very careful about the way they did everything from seating you in the main dining rooms to having posted signs at the elevators stating a maximum of 2 individuals or 1 party at a time. A crew member led you to your seats in the onboard theaters and said to leave 3 seats between you and the next party. In my opinion, everything was managed so perfectly and my comfort level was right where it needed to be.
Speaking of theaters, we are used to seeing a different show presented each night on the Disney ships, but this time, there was only one – Beauty and the Beast. Typically, the live show is presented twice nightly but on our cruise, there was an additional showing in the early afternoon so that all passengers who wanted to see the show were given that opportunity with physical distancing measures in place.
All in all, I haven’t stopped talking about booking another cruise since the minute I left the ship. And no, I am not kidding. I am over here chomping at the bit to get back on another cruise RIGHT NOW with my next DCL vacation not scheduled to happen until August of 2022 on the Disney Wish. It remains to be seen how that all pans out, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you have any questions about the cruise, go ahead and leave them in the comments section below and I’ll be happy to get them answered for you!