When Disney launched its newest cruise ship, The Dream, this year, we were all ears.
Here’s our inside peek at the family friendly ship, from Southern Living Editor Erin Street, who braved the high seas with her family. She and her family sailed from Port Canavarel (about 45 minutes from Orlando) for a three-night cruise to the Bahamas.
Among them: first time cruisers -- her son, Nate, age 5, and husband, Shane. Also along for the ride, her parents, Hugh and Rosemary, frequent cruisers. On board, they found something for everyone.
AquaDuck Water Coaster
The only one of its kind, the AquaDuck is a clear, enclosed water slide spanning more than two football fields (765 feet long) and extending 150 feet over the water. (It really is as fun as it looks!) Kids need to be 42 inches to ride with someone 14 years or older (or 54 inches and seven years old to ride alone.) Tip: everyone wants to ride The AquaDuck; go first thing in the morning to beat the lines. (We went the day we docked in Nassau.) And have a family member stand at the bottom of the slide to take pictures as you splash down at the end.
Good Eats (Especially Remy)
When you think cruise ship food do you think tired buffets? Think again. The Dream features restaurants that offer fresh foods with an impressive variety. There were healthy options at each stop (plus plenty of free ice cream and unlimited sodas for those who want to indulge.) We loved Animator’s Palate, which features animated characters from “Finding Nemo” come alive on the walls and interact with guests. Hands down the best meal, though, was at Remy, the adults-only French restaurant that features seven courses. It’s an additional fee ($99 per person), but well worth the experience. Tip: Spring for Remy -- it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
On-Board Kids' Activities
The Dream was designed for families, with a large area where kids enjoy supervised play. At port or on the ship you can register your child (all kids' activities are free except for the nursery.) Children are given a water-resistant electronic bracelet that lets counselors track their whereabouts. And when they ready to be picked up, a counselor calls parents on a specially designed phone.
So, when you are ready for some down time, bring your kiddo to the age-appropriate child care areas, packed with activities just for them. It's A Small World Nursery is for children three months to three years; Oceaneers Club & Oceaneers lab is for children 4-11; Edge is for Tweens 11-13 and Vibe is for teens 14-17. Tip: Check out "Andy's Room," a life-size recreation that brings Toy Story characters to life.
Live Entertainment: Princesses and More
It wouldn't be Disney without characters we love. Scheduled character meet-and-greets allow you and your kids photo face time (and plenty of photos) with their favorite characters, from princesses to the Mouse himself. Plus, love entertainment is scheduled for each day.
Our favorites: "The Golden Mickeys" stage show in the Walt Disney Theater and "The Pirates In The Carribean" on deck, which features games for the kids, a stage show, and a chance to practice your best, "Ahoey Matey!" Tip: pack "pirate gear" ahead of time, like eye patches and bandanas. And don't miss the fireworks from the ship after the show!
Disney's private Bahamian island is packs with options for the whole family. Snorkeling, bike rides, parasailing, and glass-bottom boat tours are easy to access. (A wheelchair-accessible tram takes visitors around the island.) There's also a water slide, play areas for the tots, and an open-air barbecue. Tip: rent an inner tube for $6 and float in the turquoise-green waters.