Last week my parents treated the whole family (me, Jill, Mom, Dad, Brother John, his wife Jen, and their nine-year-old Claire) to a cruise on the Disney Dream.
This is my second cruise. I sailed on the Disney Wonder ten years ago and very much did not like it. I resolved this time to keep an open mind and try to experience all it had to offer, especially because Mom was looking forward to a great vacation with the whole family, and because Jill really loves cruises and wants me to enjoy them with her.
So let me tell you about everything we did! … No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
- Dropped Lily Pup off to spend at a week at her groomer’s farm.
- Arrived at the cruise terminal by noonish, checked our big luggage items.
- Family photos on the gangway. Lots of crowding and noise as we waited in line to go aboard.
- Brought our carry-ons with us to lunch buffet (at Cabanas). Very noisy and crowded and chaotic, especially with everyone’s luggage around.
- Then went to our room (9066). Very cramped – tiny water closet (with sink), little tub/shower room (another sink in there), a queen-sized bed, a wall-mounted TV, a desk, a couch, and a chest / footstool. We had a “verandah” room with a sliding door to an outside balcony. Mom/Dad and John/Jen/Claire had the next two rooms (9064 and 9062), so later the crew opened the separators on the balcony so that we could share them.
- Our big luggage items were waiting for us inside the room. Problem is, one of the items (Jill’s red Mickey case) had one of the two feet broken and one of the two wheels sheared clean off, which meant that it could no longer roll or even stand upright. Later we went to Guest Relations about it. They told us to bring them the bag so they could try to fix it … so we brought it to them.
- Muster drill. The cruise director explained over the loudspeakers, then the alarm went off. As we left the room, our stateroom host Pulu introduced himself and tried to have a conversation with us, but I couldn’t understand him because the alarm was blaring.
- Our muster meeting place was the theater. There was a tight press of people trying to enter and get checked in. I felt like they were sucking all the oxygen out of the air and I felt a desperate need to get out. Thankfully Jill noticed, so after the drill was over, she brought me to a seat in the lounge (in the Cove Cafe) and sat with me for a while until I settled down some.
- Up to the top deck to get some soft-serve ice cream and watch as we left the harbor.
- Jill took Claire and me on a tour of part of the ship, showing us what’s where.
- “Open house” to see the Oceaneer Club, which has kids’ play areas based on Disney Infinity, Star Wars, Pixie Hollow, and Toy Story.
- Back to the room to put on a collared shirt for 5:45 dinner at Animator’s Palate. We had the early seating for this cruise. On my first cruise we had the late (8:15) seating, and I remember really not liking that.
- Our server was Sam from Thailand. He kept addressing me by name. This felt kind of creepy.
- Jen joined me to Watch the “Golden Mickeys” stage show at 8:30. The theater seats are VERY narrow. The show itself was enjoyable, a revue of live performances of songs from Disney animated movies.
- Back to room to unwind for bed. I found that our stateroom host Pulu had neatly folded my T-shirt that I’d changed out of earlier. This felt kind of creepy too; why was he touching my dirty laundry?
- No Internet access at all. We had a free 50MB of data to use over the cruise, but I couldn’t get it to work yet.
- Jill loves the bed mattress and was looking forward to seeing what I thought of it. It’s a bit firmer than the mattress at home, but it seemed fine. Unfortunately, all night the ship shook like a train – not a gentle rocking, but a very jerky motion – and I didn’t sleep very well.
- Nassau. We didn’t get off the ship. I saw Nassau and Atlantis on my first cruise and it’s a scary place.
- Took a shower then went to a buffet breakfast at the Enchanted Garden.
- Did the “Midship Detective Agency”, which is a game very much like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, where you need to find portraits around the ship that will show you videos to help solve a mystery. We did the Muppets game, but there are also Mickey and Cruella games.
- Jill went upstairs to ride the Aquaduck water slide. I explored the empty lounges, then returned to the room.
- Got Internet access working on my phone. Tried playing a minute or two of Animal Crossing. This brought my data allotment from 50 MB down to about 38. I turned Internet access off again.
- Buffet lunch at Cabanas with everyone.
- Back to the room to rest for a bit, then on the balcony with the family as we left Nassau.
- Dinner at Enchanted Garden. Sam was our server, Jorge was our assistant server, and Ali was the head server. They kept addressing us by name and trying to get to know us, as if they were part of the family along on the cruise with us. I hadn’t quite understood that they were going to be taking care of us each dinner even though we were assigned to different restaurants. I still thought this was kind of weird; I’m not used to getting to know the servers.
- Got a good chance to talk with Claire. I showed her the Story Dice that I had brought; I rolled them and she made up a story on the spot, based on the icons on the dice. She’s really good at coming up with stories!
- Saw the “Believe” stage show. We sat in the stage right balcony box, where there were separate chairs which were more comfortable than the row seating. This show was also enjoyable, though I didn’t quite know what to make of its message that one should believe in magic instead of sticking to science. My hat’s off to the actor who played the father, as he was on stage continuously through the whole one-act show.
- Photos with Captain Mickey in the ship’s lobby on deck 4.
- Back at the room before bed, we looked through the wide variety of on-demand video choices. I put on “Planes Fire & Rescue” because it was on my list of movies I’d like to see. We gave up about twenty minutes in because it was so bad.
Just inside our room doorway was a slot; we were meant to put our room key in the slot while we were in the room, and that activated the lights and air conditioning in the room. But instead of using our room key, Jill had (from a previous cruise) a card with a magnet on it that we could keep in the slot and, whenever we left the room, stick to the wall near the slot. (All the walls were metal.) This was very handy.
- Buffet breakfast at Enchanted Garden again.
- This was Castaway Cay day. Mom and Dad had rented out the biggest cabana on the beach (because it was the only one that wasn’t already taken). It had lots of shade, lots of sun, was well-stocked with drinks and snacks, and the concierge was a phonecall away.
- Jill and I borrowed bikes (part of the cabana rental) and biked along the island path to the observation tower, along the airstrip, and to the adult beach then back again.
- Jill, John, Jen, and Claire went snorkeling. I camped out on a lounge chair and talked with seagulls until they got back.
- Back to the ship. Cleaned up then had dinner at Enchanted Garden again. This was Pirate Night, so all the servers were dressed as pirates, the loudspeakers played Pirates of the Caribbean music, and the menu was different. Very noisy and chaotic. I was feeling really fried by this point – did not like the noise/crowds/chaos or the overly chummy servers at all.
- On returning to the room, we found voicemail from Guest Relations asking us to come down about our luggage. They told us they couldn’t fix it, and they let us swap it for a huge new American Tourister case instead. I guess they keep new luggage onboard for emergencies like this?
- Went up on deck with a very tired Jill to see the “Pirates In the Caribbean” (heh) show and (very small!) fireworks, then to a very crowded Cabanas buffet for some dessert.
- Enabled Internet access on my phone. Checked email. This immediately used up the rest of my data allotment.
The Disney Cruise Line smartphone app was very useful on the cruise. It let us send text messages to each other, and it also kept track of the events we’d signed up for or that we wanted to do. Though sometimes the messages weren’t caught up, and there was no way to force-refresh them.
- Jill went with Claire to meet princesses. I stayed in the room. Watched the ocean a little bit but eventually had to pull the drapes closed because I felt a weird urge to throw something expensive overboard, like maybe my phone. Hadn’t chosen anything in specific but I didn’t want to continue down that line of thinking.
- Jill and I had brunch at Palo, one of the two really ritzy restaurants aboard (the other is Remy, which is French). I had brought a nice shirt and slacks to wear especially for this. The meal was a buffet with an a la carte menu. This time we had a different server, Claudette, who was French and knew a lot. Talked with us about her experiences working on cruises and her favorite ports.
- Twice I visited the buffet to get a few cheese slices. Each time a different server asked if he could carry my plate back to my table for me. It’s just a PLATE! I can handle that! What kind of person needs someone to carry his PLATE for him?
- Back at the room, I put on my Wreck-it Ralph T-shirt. This becomes relevant later.
- Watched Wrinkle in Time with Jill/John/Jen/Claire. The plot was a mess.
- We went up to Vannelope’s Sweets and Treats to place ice cream orders so they could bring it to us at the table after dinner.
- Brought my laptop to the Cove Cafe lounge and played Disney Infinity on it. This was right next to the line waiting for photos with characters, so I was suddenly very popular; one little boy even sat down next to me to watch me play. The next table over had three boys at it and after a while Belle came and sat with them and talked with them for a few minutes. They giggled a lot.
- Dinner at the Royal Palace restaurant. Claire always eats macaroni and cheese. After dinner they brought us our ice cream selections from earlier. The gentleman from Vannelope’s (his name was Enrique) pointed out my Wreck-it Ralph T-shirt and told me that if I stop by Vannelope’s again later he’ll have a special treat for me.
- I really missed internet. What song is playing? What island is that in the distance? What easter eggs were in Wrinkle in Time? Why does the ship’s bow have a big rounded part underwater? I’m used to being able to satisfy my curiosity immediately.
- Saw the Beauty and the Beast stage show. One-act, based on the recent live-action movie. Really well done. We sat in the same balcony box seats again.
- Raced back to the room to finish packing our checked luggage before the deadline to have it waiting outside our door. Then Jill came with me to Vanellope’s, where Enrique nicely gave us a few chocolate coins pressed with the Wreck-it Ralph logo.
- Had our photos taken with Sailor Pluto, then got our receipts from Guest Relations while watching the characters say farewell.
- Jill took a walk with me around Deck 4 outside the ship.
- Back in the room we ordered a cheese platter from room service (which was free, other than a $3 tip). I brought up the movie “Maleficent” on the on-demand TV, but we didn’t watch much of it.
The thing I never really got used to with the cruise is that practically all of the food was completely free (as long as one overlooks the cost of the cruise itself, of course). Want lobster with the steak? Want a whole second entree? Enticed by the smell of pizza from that counter over there? Go right ahead, no charge! Once I even caught someone saying that we needed to finish up at a buffet so that we could get to dinner in time.
- Breakfast buffet at 6:45 AM at Royal Palace. We gave tip envelopes to Putu, and to Sam and Jorge and Ali. I still wasn’t used to them, though – like, the first thing that happened as soon as we sat down at the table was that they’d take away the plates in front of us and unfold our napkins for us. I can unfold my own napkin! That’s weird for you to do it!
- I did notice that at every meal they’d bring the kids’ food first. That seemed like a really smart idea.
- The elevators were crowded again, as they had been almost constantly through the cruise. Lots of elevators, but almost always a line and a long wait for them.
- We were through customs and in the car leaving by 8.
- Back home then to the groomer’s to pick up Lily Pup.
Jill pointed out that I didn’t say whether or not I liked the cruise. I guess I don’t really have an answer to that yet. I don’t have any specific complaints that don’t come right back to me (like, it’s not fair to the servers that I didn’t like how personally attentive they were). It might just be that I don’t know how to relax.