So the time had come round again for us to take another Disney Cruise. This would be our third and shortest cruise after sailing for seven nights on the Disney Wonder to Alaska in 2013 and for eleven nights on the Disney Magic across the Atlantic last year in 2015. However this would be our first time on the Disney Dream and our first time departing from Port Canaveral in Florida.
We had flown into Atlanta the week before and spent the week doing a road trip through North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia visiting Augusta, Wilmington, Charleston and Savannah before arriving in Cocoa Beach the day before our cruise. This was a great feeling as we could relax and have a chilled night before waking up the next morning and heading to the port which was less than a ten minute drive away.
We stayed at La Quinta Inn and Suites Oceanfront and as we had booked a King Oceanfront room, we had a room on the top floor overlooking Cocoa Beach. The view was perfect and sitting on the balcony enjoying the fresh air felt great. We could see the ships leaving Port Canaveral and heading off into the ocean as well as being able to see the launch pads at Kennedy Space Center – it would be a great place to watch a launch from.
After a week on the road, we did some washing (so we could avoid doing any on the cruise) as well as taking some time to chill in the pool before taking an Uber to Grills Seafood Deck and Tiki Bar at Port Canaveral. The Tsunami Shrimp, Jalapeno Poppers along with several Mojitos worked wonders before heading back to the hotel and trying to get an early night ready for the next day.
After a busy week I had been hoping for a good night’s sleep and a lay-in which did not happen as I woke up for the first time at 3:00am and then again at 4:30am! After struggling to get back to sleep, I looked at my phone and saw that the Dream was approaching Port Canaveral. We were both awake at this point so we sat on the balcony where we could clearly see the Dream in the darkness in front of us – the red funnels were lit up so clearly. After staying on the balcony to watch the most beautiful sunrise, a quick trip to Starbucks in Cocoa Beach followed for tea and some breakfast.
After having a shower and slowly getting ready, we finished packing the last of our bags before attaching the luggage labels to them. We also packed a bag of things that we were not taking on the ship with us that we were going to leave in the car in the parking garage.
As we left our room we could see the Dream docked at Port Canaveral in the distance and after checking out of the hotel, we drove the short distance to the port following the signs for “Cruise Terminals A” and then the signs for “Disney Dream”.
We had the earliest Port Arrival Time of 10:30am so we arrived at Port Canaveral a few minutes early at 10:15am and joined a small line of cars waiting to enter the terminal area. We only waited a couple of minutes before being directed to an empty spot in front of the terminal to drop off our bags with one of the waiting porters. After tipping the porter, we made our way to the parking garage. The parking cost for the four night cruise was $80 and we paid by credit card at the entrance barrier. I’ve always heard that the best place to park is level 3 as you then walk straight across the bridge into the terminal however we parked on the ground floor close to the crossing and waited to enter the terminal there – I do not think there is any difference between the two. It also meant we only had to walk across the road to our car a few days later as you exit the terminal on the ground level.
We joined a short line outside the terminal waiting for it to open. The people watching here alone was amazing. People were getting out of hotel and car rental shuttle vans and just walking off before their cases were even unloaded thereby avoiding having to tip the porters. At one point there was a bit of shouting along the line to find out who a pile of bags belonged to that had just been left dumped on the kerb. It also looked like some families had already had enough of each other before having to spend the next four nights together in the same cabin as the bickering had already started. They announced there would be a short delay before we could enter the terminal so I took those few minutes to take some photos of the ship from where we were standing.
Interestingly there were also plenty of notices everywhere regarding the new alcohol policy and what was now allowed to be taken onboard so you could still return anything to your car if needed. This was our first cruise since the new rules and I can’t say that it bothered either of us in the slightest. In fact I loved that my bag was a lot lighter as I was not having to carry anything on with me. If I want a drink onboard the ship, I’m more than happy to buy one.
Just before 10:40am, they started allowing people into the terminal. Before entering the terminal building our ID’s were checked. I’m not sure if they could see our Port Arrival Time on the screen at this point as there was no other place where they would have seen it and I’m sure lots of people with times much later try to arrive as early as possible. There was only a handful of people ahead of us for security and before we knew it, we were through and heading up the escalator into the terminal.
After being outside the first thing that was noticeable in the terminal was how beautifully their air conditioning was working. The terminal building is beautiful inside and as it was our first time departing from Port Canaveral (our other cruises departed from Vancouver and Barcelona) it was nice to finally be able to see an actual Disney terminal rather than a shared space that we are used to.
Our first job before we did anything was to check in. Once we had joined the main check in line, we were then directed into a separate line for Castaway Club members where there was only one other family waiting. We later found out that the majority of people onboard were first time cruisers which was great for us as there was no wait to check in. On our last cruise we waited ages in the Castaway Club line as there was so many returning cruisers. Our actual wait this time was less than thirty seconds – even the Concierge desks on the other side of the terminal had a longer line! After having our photos taken and filling in a short health declaration, we were each given a Key to the World, a Personal Navigator as well as a silver lanyard each which went straight into our bags. I still have zero interest in using a lanyard and fail to see the point to them as my card fits perfectly well in my pocket or my bag. We were also given Boarding Group 2 which was amazing as it meant we would get onboard incredibly quickly – definitely an advantage of getting an early Port Arrival Time.
Captain Mickey sporting his new look arrived in the terminal so after we finished checking-in, we joined the line to meet him. One of character handlers let us know that we might see Minnie if they had to swap around before we got to the front of the line but I didn’t mind who we met as I love both Minnie and Mickey so either was good. The line was long (it looked longer than the check-in line) but it moved quick. As we were waiting some music started playing in the terminal and the first song to be played was So Close from Enchanted which is one of my favourite films and in that moment, I was as happy as can be.
After we met Mickey we still had some time before boarding started so we decided to look around the terminal. It had started to get really busy at this time so we made our way onto the Observation Deck which was a lot quieter than I thought it would be to look at the Dream – she looked so big after sailing on both the Magic and the Wonder. We could easily work out where our stateroom was too – it was the first two giant porholes after the verandahs on Deck 5.
Whilst outside we noticed that the Concierge Waiting area was emptying so we guessed that boarding was about to start. We headed back inside just in time for them to announce “Family of the Day” before they called Group 1 to board. It was just like being at an airport boarding gate with everyone just hanging around trying to get as close to the door as possible. Two minutes later, they called Group 2 and after squeezing past everyone we made our way through the giant Mickey head. After tapping our Keys to the World, we skipped the embarkation photo opportunity and headed down the gangway and just before 11:30am, we boarded the Disney Dream for the first time. Once onboard, I remember thinking that the lobby was much smaller than I expected but it was beautiful and I loved the Halloween decorations including the Pumpkin Tree!
As soon as we boarded we decided to have lunch as soon as possible before it got busy so we made our way to Cabanas on Deck 11. This was another time when I realised just how much bigger the Dream was as the walk from the lobby atrium to the aft elevators (which were so quiet compared to the midship ones) seemed to be about double the length of the same walk on the Magic and the Wonder.
Cabanas was open but was not starting to serve food until 11:45am so we both got a drink and grabbed a table by the window. For my lunch I had lots of Shrimp and some Mac and Cheese. Once we had finished eating, Cabanas was getting very busy and very noisy so we left to go and explore the rest of the ship.
We walked the length of both Decks 11 and 12. It was very hot outside and the family pool was very busy. There was already a long line for the Aquaduck which was made even longer when someone got stuck on it! They had to shut the water off, go to the bit of the slide that they were stuck in, open up the tube and pull them out. The Quiet Cove adult area was really quiet at this point – in fact I never saw it get that busy at all the whole cruise which shows how many families there was onboard.
It was still a beautiful day outside at this point and the views of the Kennedy Space Center from Deck 12 starboard were great so I was glad that I had bought my telephoto lens for my camera with me.
It was also interesting to look back at the terminal and see so many passengers turning up – we could see a lot of people in the terminal. We also walked a lap of an empty Deck 4 before heading back inside.
The doors to the Buena Vista Theatre were open as we walked past so we decided to look inside as it’s one of the venues that we have never visited on any of the ships. It was all set up for one of the dreaded “Shopping Talks” ready for our stop in Nassau the next day. We walked past it again later when the talk was taking place and interested to see how many people actually turned up, we looked to only see a handful of people there.
It was also a great time to get a photo at the entrance to the Walt Disney Theatre which was already set up for the Golden Mickey’s which was the show that evening. The shops are not open whilst in port but we made a note of the opening times so we knew when to head back later after we left Port Canaveral.
Our only other job to do was to see if our request for our own table at dinner had been honoured so we went to the Royal Palace at 1:00pm when they opened to check. There was no one waiting which surprised me but I was happy to find out that we had our own table again as we have no interest in sitting with others. Our request has always been honoured but it helps that we always have second seating and that we do not make any other additional requests.
I wanted to get another Personal Navigator so after stopping at Guest Services to collect another one, we went to Deck 4 to sit down near to the Vista Cafe whilst we waited the last few minutes for the staterooms to be ready at 1:30pm. I was overjoyed to see that they had my favourite Vanilla Cupcakes that I had loved so much on our Transatlantic cruise last year so enjoyed one of those whilst we waited.
Just after 1:30pm we went to find our stateroom but made the mistake of going Aft on the ship instead of Forward (it was our first time staying Forward) which made for a long walk of heading all the way back to the other end of the ship! We had booked one of the few Category 8A rooms on Deck 5 which are huge in size – it’s like having two rooms with two giant portholes and plenty of space to move around in. Our Castaway Club welcome back gift was waiting for us on the bed and it was a beach bag this time. Thankfully our luggage was already waiting for us when we arrived so we took the time to unpack. Whilst we were unpacking we noticed that the laundry bag was missing from the wardrobe. Normally this would not be a problem however we did not want to be charged for it – after we mentioned it to Guest Services, one appeared in our room the following day.
One of the other few things we wanted to do before sailaway was to visit the Vibe teen club as it was in Open House at this time and was located very close to our stateroom. The reason for this is on the Dream and Fantasy, Vibe is actually located in the bow of the ship so you can get an amazing photo looking up towards the bridge which I really wanted to get. They even have their own hot tubs outside – the teens definitely have the best space on the ship!
My other favourite thing in Vibe was the forever colour changing corridor to get inside.
After a quick look around the other kids clubs which were very busy and getting the chance to use their amazing handwashing machines (this is the reason to go there alone), we grabbed a drink and made our way back to our stateroom to collect our bags ready for the muster drill and sailaway. Our muster station was D (D for Disney, D for Dream so easy to remember) which was located on Deck 3 in the Walt Disney Theatre.
We got there before the alarm went off and they were filling in the rows of seats. Thankfully we were at the end of the row which meant we could make a quick escape afterwards ready for sailaway. Compared to our last two cruises, this muster drill was painful as it seemed to go on forever. They made so many announcements across the ship to get people to attend who eventually waltzed in wearing wet swimwear or carrying a drink. The only thing that was nice was that we were sat in an air conditioned theatre as it would have been horrible stood in the sun on deck for that amount of time.
Once we were allowed to leave, I ran quickly out of the theatre and started running up the stairs to Deck 12 ready for the sailaway party. This is where I definitely felt how big the ship was as there was a lot more floors to climb than usual. I breathed a sign of relief when I got outside only to see an announcement on the Funnelvision that due to “electrical activity” in the area, the party would now be held in the lobby atrium. I was so angry after having just run up all those stairs and I cannot repeat what I said. There was not even an announcement made once the drill was over or even before it had started (and there was plenty of announcements about everything else then – mainly about the stupid Nassau shopping talk) and the Navigator app was still showing it as taking place outside. Running back down all those stairs when out of breath against the flow of everyone walking up them was as difficult as can be and the muscles in my legs suffered for the rest of the trip as a result.
My worst fears came true when I got to the lobby atrium and it was packed. The reason I had run in the first place was to get a good spot to watch the party from and I was incredibly upset especially as I would have been there so quickly as I’d only just been next door in the theatre for the muster drill. I was on the balcony on Deck 4 when I saw someone leave who was standing next to the railing so thankfully I was able to jump in and see everything. However the whole area is just not designed for that many people as soon you could not move – the word clusterf*ck describes it pretty well.
To add insult to injury, the Sailing Away party was an extremely cut down version and featured more of the cruise staff dancing than the characters – I don’t book a Disney Cruise to see the cruise staff for sure. It was such a stark difference to the other Sail Away parties I have watched on YouTube. I always knew there was a high chance of the party being held indoors as we were sailing from Florida in September when the weather is unpredictable but the way it all turned out just seemed disorganised, chaotic and disappointing.
We had already left the dock as the Sailing Away party was finishing so we headed outside onto Deck 4 to watch us sail out of Port Canaveral as it was too busy to get to an elevator to go to Deck 12. We waved at the webcam which is located on top of Fishlips restaurant as we had family watching at home however we later found out it was pointing at an empty top deck. There was a real mix of blue skies in one direction and grey skies and lightning in the other. From where we were standing we also watched the harbour pilot jump from the Dream back into his boat and wave us goodbye.
We headed back to our stateroom to rest for a few minutes and to drop off our bags before heading to the shops as they would soon be open. Whilst in our room we heard an announcement regarding our day the following day “in the iconic port of Nassau”. Well I’ve heard Nassau be described many different ways over the years but never with the word “iconic” – hopefully they were being “ironic”.
We headed down to Mickey’s Mainsail, Sea Treasures and White Caps to look around the shops before it got too busy. I always try to do any shopping on the first night as the shops only get busier as the cruise goes on and items can sell out. I found the Christmas decoration I wanted as well as purchasing the Cinderella pumpkin carriage Pandora charm for my bracelet – I think it was one of the cheapest first night shop visits I’ve ever had!
As the first show of the Golden Mickeys had just started as well as the first dinner seating, it was an ideal time to get some photos of the bare Pumpkin Tree in the lobby atrium as it was quiet for the first time since sailaway and it was only a matter of time before it would get busy again. We did not see the show that night as we have both seen it before on the Disney Wonder as well as in Hong Kong Disneyland.
We decided to get a cup of tea from the drink station on Deck 11 and walk around the open decks but especially the Satellite Falls area at the front of the ship which we loved – the sky was different colours in every direction you looked.
We thought we would look in Cove Cafe to see what snacks were available and much to our delight, they had antipasti so we enjoyed a plate of that in an empty and peaceful Cove Cafe with our tea.
We went back to our room to find a note that the $100 onboard credit we were given from booking onboard our last cruise had been added to our account. It was also at this time that we had some really loud banging from the room above us. The penny then dropped that a block of rooms above us were having their carpet replaced on this cruise – I had read about other people having their rooms moved on cruises before ours and I remembered seeing a part of Deck 6 barricaded off earlier in the day. It was noisy but it did not last for long. In fact, we didn’t get anymore noise until another short burst two days later on Castaway Cay day so it did not affect us at all. If we had been at the show or at dinner, we would have been none the wiser.
The Pumpkin Tree “show” was due to start at 7:30pm in the lobby atrium so after the craziness of earlier in the day we got there about twenty minutes before it was due to start to have our pick of any place we wanted. After some deliberation, we thought the best place was on the small central balcony alcove on Deck 5 as it looked straight ahead to the tree and it was high enough to have an unobstructed view over anyone’s head below. Sadly the “band” that were playing whilst we were waiting were dreadful. They only seemed to have less than ten songs in their repertoire including Ghostbusters, Uptown Funk and the most cringeworthy version of Gangnam Style known to man which we were bored of hearing after the first night and there was still another three nights to go!
It did get a little busier nearer the time it was due to start but that was more due to the fact that the people on first dining were just finishing and some characters were due out. The lines for the characters were crazy on this night but as we already had photos of them and with them in their cruise outfits from last year, it meant we could just take it easy on this night instead. I did find it strange that even when all the lights went dark for the Pumpkin Tree, Mickey still carried on meeting people in the darkness behind it!
The Caretaker told everyone about different Halloween customs before collecting some pumpkin seeds from the children in the audience and we were told to return in three days time to see if the legend of the Pumpkin Tree was true.
As we were already on Deck 5 we were only a short walk from our stateroom so we dropped our cameras off before heading back down to Deck 2 for dinner in the beautiful Enchanted Garden restaurant. It felt strange that we would only be dining here once as we are so used to having two or even three nights in each restaurant. As we had second seating, dinner started at 8:15pm each night. Our dining and menu rotation for this cruise was:
Monday – Enchanted Garden – Continental Market
Tuesday – Royal Palace – French
Wednesday – Royal Palace – Pirates IN the Caribbean
Thursday – Animator’s Palate – Pacific Rim
We were introduced to our amazing serving team – Odair was our Server, John our Assistant Server and Mavis our Head Server. Once again all three of them were amazing and we could not have asked for any better during our cruise. I did feel sorry for them having to deal with a huge family at one of the neighbouring tables as they were so demanding and were sending back nearly every dish that was brought out to them. It became a game of ours to try and guess what their next problem would be.
Even though Enchanted Garden was a new restaurant for us, most of the items on the menu were familiar as it was very similar to the menu for Parrot Cay on the Wonder. I ordered the Cucumber Garden Roll and the North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli to start along with a Golden Leaf cocktail. For my main course I had the Glazed Portobello Mushrooms before we shared the Dark Chocolate Mousse for dessert as we were both full. One interesting thing that we both noticed was the disapproving glances from the table next to us as we both ordered more than one starter each – this also became a running joke to us for the next few days as our food was always being stared at each night!
We were both so tired after dinner as we had had a long week and a much longer day than we had originally hoped for after waking up so early. We went and got another cup of tea from Deck 11 to take back to our room with us. We were going to walk a lap of the deck like we always do but we were both knackered. There was no reason to stay outside as they were playing Monday Night Football on the Funnelvision which neither of us have any interest in.
We got back to our room to find our first blanket animal waiting for us on the bed which was a crab. There was one of the new single sheet Personal Navigators for the next day as well as two of the new Ghirardelli chocolates which you are now given instead of the smaller Sleepy chocolates which I think are much better.
I barely even touched my tea as I could barely keep my eyes open. The bed was as comfortable as I remember and I just hoped that I would get a good night’s sleep ready for our next day.