Thursday, 27 January 2011
Friday 21st January
Arrived to a disappointingly rainy Orlando and caught the Magical Express to Disney's Polynesian Resort, one of 22 in the 47 square miles that Disney World occupies. We discovered a beach area and watched the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom in the distance.
Saturday 22nd January
A day at Disney World! I've never been a particularly 'Disney' person, I didn't have a little mermaid lunchbox and didn't think I knew half the characters but I do have a love for theme parks so I set off in optimistic spirits. I had a fantastic time, 8 rides in one day plus a 'move it shake it' street party parade - to my amazement I knew who all the characters were and found myself being swept up by the Disney spirit and dancing with Chip and Dale in front of the Magic Kingdom castle before heading off to Space Mountain. We had dinner at Epcot, another park (there are 4!) accessible by mono rail or boat. Epcot was great - it has rides including Soarin over California, Mission to Mars, Test Track and the Nemo ride including Turtle Talk with Crush the turtle. Epcot has the world showcase - areas of the world such as Mexico, Norway, England, Italy, China and Japan where you can have lunch or dinner and experience a Disney version of the country. We dined in Mexico with real Mexican waiters and a smouldering fake volcano in the background!
Sunday 23rd January
Off to the ship! We were transferred to Port Canaveral by the Disney Cruise Line Express, a bus with port holes for windows and a video with Disney characters showing us what to expect on board the ship. The ship can take up to 4,000 passengers with 1,458 crew, or 'cast members' as they are often referred to. Check-in was quick and I headed straight to my deluxe outside veranda stateroom - it had a large balcony, storage room under the bed, two double wardrobes and a split bathroom/toilet. Lunch was in the Cabana buffet restaurant featuring ocean views, a bar and about five different serving areas with piles of fresh seafood, steak, roast turkey, salads and desserts. Tea, coffee and soft drinks are available 24 hours a day, free of charge.
We then toured the staterooms including the 'Roy O' suite with an enormous lounge, balcony with jacuzzi, two bathrooms and bed area with a TV which appears by remote control. I was actually looking forward to seeing the inside staterooms as I had heard a rumour about magic portholes - I saw a deluxe inside stateroom which had space under the bed for storage, it was a nice size and had a porthole over the bed with a live video feed showing the scene that would be there if there was a window, with Disney characters making occasional appearances.
I took in a quick tour of the rest of the ship, found 'Flo's cafe', the 'eye scream' parlour, nemo's reef swimming area for little kids, and looked on in awe at the enormous TV screen overlooking the main family pool. Then came the inevitable evacuation drill which was painless and quick and I had time to check out the gym facilities. The gym is great, it has ocean views and state-of-the-art equipment and a steam room in the changing rooms all free to use.
I managed to catch the end of the 'golden mickeys' show in the Walt Disney Theatre which was impressive - stage performances from Disney characters interspersed with Disney film clips and music.
The Dream has two speciality restaurants - Palo and Remys. I dined at Palo, it costs $20 to upgrade, not including alcohol and has a lovely Northern Italian menu with Venetian decor. Next door is Remys, a smaller, more exclusive restaurant with a french menu which costs $75 to upgrade.
Monday 24th January
Nassau, Bahamas. The plan for the day was outlined in the daily programme, delivered to cabins the night before along with the obligatory towel-in-the-shape-of-something-Disney. We visited Atlantis, an enormous resort with a huge aquarium and aquapark. The Michael Jackson suite costs $25,000 a night at the Atlantis!
I visited Shutters on Deck 4 where you can swipe your 'key to the world' card (your cruise card) and find the photos taken by the onboard professional photographer for you to view and purchase.
It was the Royal Palace for dinner - passengers are given a table and a three restaurant rotation so they visit the Animators Palate, Royal Palace and Enchanted Garden on each night but the servers stay with you for each place. The Royal Palace had a great menu including Escargot and Wild Boar!
That evening was 'Pirates of the Caribbean' night with kids running about wearing bandanas, fireworks on top deck and a show with a very good Captain Jack Sparrow followed by a club night for everyone.
I headed off to District, the adults-only bar area with a number of different club/bars including Skyline and a sports bar.
Tuesday 25th January
Castaway Cay day! I was excited about seeing Disney's private island - I discovered that only about 48 people actually live on the island, all of whom are Disney employees who are joined every other day by the cruise line passengers. There are therefore plenty of sunloungers for everyone, the island is small enough to walk around but you can also hire a bike or take the tram. There is an adults only 'serenity' beach and a family beach with water slides and a lunch time BBQ all included in the cruise price.
After enjoying the sunshine I decided it was high time I tried out the aquaduck on the ship - a water slide that goes right around the ship, it was great fun but apparently its much faster if there are two people on your lilo!
After all the excitement and sunshine I chilled out in my stateroom, missing Animators Palate which was a shame as I discovered it includes animated interaction from crush the turtle from 'finding nemo' who actually talks to diners! I enjoyed room service (again, all included in the price) and my on-demand TV with the latest disney and hollywood movies.
Wednesday 26th January
Home time! Breakfast in Animators then down to collect my suitcase, through customs then onto another magical express. We had time to visit Epcot again before heading off to Orlando Airport and home to a very cold UK.
In summary, the Dream has loads on offer, not just for the most demanding of children but also for adults in need of a break and some entertainment. The longer cruises include a day at sea and I feel this is well needed considering there is so much to experience on board as well as shore side. The service and Disney culture are fantastic, each and every 'cast member' that I came across were very friendly and committed to ensuring everyone was enjoying themselves. The fact that Disney is an entertainment company at heart shines through and their innovative use of new technology is impressive, including ipod docks in the rooms and WIFI access across the ship. The aquaduck is a nice touch and keeps everyone very entertained,and there are also places to get away from it all and enjoy some peace!
Bring on the next launches this year - P&O Adonia, Carnival Magic, Celebrity Silhouette, Costa Favolosa, Oceania Marina, Seabourn Quest and Compagnie Du Ponant’s L’Austral!