Keeping Disney magic afloat
Aside from the District, there are few other areas for an adult, non-Disney fan. The swim-up bar in the adult pool for example, is really just stools in a few inches of water. However, for Disney fans willing to pay a hefty price tag ($75 a person), Remy, a multi-course, French fine-dining experience that is subtly inspired by the Disney/Pixar film Ratatouille, is the perfect substitute to a night of mediocre dining at the plastic-looking Enchanted Garden, one of three family dinner areas on the ship. The three-hour experience at Remy starts by meeting a sommelier in Remy's glass-walled 900-bottle wine room to pre-select wines for the evening and finishes with enough food to skip the next morning's breakfast buffet.
For a similar high-end experience on land (kids allowed), call early and often to score a reservation at Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot' s Canada Pavilion ($15 to $59 a person). Starting March 1, the restaurant, designed to look like a château wine cellar, will change its menu seasonally.
Compared to other recently launched ships, the Dream is not the biggest, it does not run the longest cruises, nor does it go to the most ports of call. In fact, the cruise line's 1,000-acre island private island, Castaway Cay, located between Grand Bahama Island and Great Abaco Island in the Bahamas, is a complete letdown, with little more than a few play areas, a sunken boat to snorkel around and three beaches to wade in.
The ship has everything you would expect from a regular cruise line: a Karaoke club, a buffet, a kids' pool and open-air bars on the top decks. But what makes the Dream more than a cruise ship in Disney dressing, is the family focus, innovation and microscopic attention to detail that Walt originally brought to the parks and resorts.
The family-friendly staterooms, which are highly regarded industry-wide, feature a dual bath scenario to prevent sibling battles over the bathroom: one room has a toilet and sink and the other has a compact bathtub/shower and sink. Nearly 60 percent of the staterooms can be connected, perfect for families that want the kids close, but not in the same room. The 150 inside rooms - normally the least attractive accommodations on board - feature virtual portholes that offer a video view of the ocean that corresponds to each stateroom's location: forward, aft, port or starboard. Approximately three dozen animated characters, like Dumbo, pass by the portholes throughout the day. Even the little things, like raising the queen-sized bed a few inches to more easily store luggage underneath, make sharing a 169 square-foot room more comfortable. It would be a slight improvement to add a curtain over the virtual porthole (rather than a switch to shut it on and off), so that guests can leave the video running and wake up with the sense that the sun is "virtually" peeking though their curtains.
Throughout the ship, seemingly still images come to life when a guest walks buy. Two framed pictures of pirate ships interact as cannons shoot between the two and pirates jump from one ship to the other. Nearly two dozen pieces of enchanted art throughout the boat use face-recognition software to prevent delivering the same animation twice in a row. Even the adult-only spaces feature a little bit of Disney magic: the backdrop of the Skyline bar changes daily to reveal a different city view, transporting guests to Hong Kong, Paris, Chicago and New York. The ship's design, a mix of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, brings guests right back to the time of 1930s ocean liners.
And unlike at the park, where character greetings seem hidden, sporadic, and have incredibly long lines, on the Dream, kids have almost instant access to any number of their favourite characters who stroll the ship as though they are on vacation too.