A minute into my first ever Disney cruise, that world-famous magic was already in the air. The crew cheered as we arrived onboard AND Captain Mickey was there to greet us.
A self-confessed Disney adult, I love the theme parks but have always been a little apprehensive about trying a cruise; without the rollercoasters, I worried the Disney experience might feel intense, especially for my non-Disney-obsessed boyfriend.
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However, once onboard the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream I quickly learned that one of the best parts is you can have as much or as little involvement in the magic as you’d like.
When I wanted to let my inner child run wild, there were pools, waterslides, sugary treats, Disney films and character meet and greets.
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We watched Moana on the huge screen by the main pools, rode the AquaDuck waterslide three times, took on a detective mission looking for clues around the ship and tucked into a lot of treats. When I headed to Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats to pick up an ice cream, I was woefully underprepared for the sheer amount of toppings and flavours, so ended up with what I can only describe as a cornucopia of sugar.
In the evening, the West End worthy shows lived up to the hype, especially the musical production of Beauty And The Beast, which blew me away with its special effects and dancers. The two themed nights with fireworks displays also had my jaw dropping. Pirates Night was a particular highlight as fancy dress is encouraged, pirates take over the ship, there’s a disco and then a dazzling display of fireworks right above you at sea.
We were also treated to a celebration of Disney Cruise Line’s 25th anniversary, including a dance party where Mickey, Minnie and friends joined the crowd to show off their moves and pose for photos.
I was impressed by the character interactions, as they regularly wandered about the ship, from Goofy causing mischief by the pool to Pluto saying hello before dinner. The only time we queued was to meet Ariel, but the Disney Cruise Line app tells you when and where to meet characters, so it was barely a 10-minute wait.
Although the onboard entertainment is geared towards families, there’s plenty for us adults without kids. The adults-only Quiet Cove Pool has a swim-up bar, hot tubs looking out at the ocean, and plenty of loungers. When that got a little busier, the adults-exclusive Satellite Falls called, with its loungers and shallow splash pool.
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For total bliss, a trip to the Senses Spa & Salon, with its steam rooms, saunas, heated loungers and hot tubs, was in order.
In the evening, we headed to Disney Dream’s adults-only section, The District, with lounges, bars and a pub, and events such as live music, quizzes, games and silent discos.
The Skyline Bar was a particular favourite, with huge screens that change to showcase different city skylines, and a cocktail menu to match, while the Instagram-worthy Pink Bar won me over with its champagne cocktails and bubble-themed interiors.
When it came to dinner, there are two sittings so we opted for a later one, knowing there’d still be plenty of families but that it might be a little less hectic.
Evening meals are done on rotation so you can try the main restaurants without having to fight to book – and you have the same servers every night. They get to know your tastes, and quickly recommend dishes they think you’ll love – as someone who is gluten free, it also took the pressure off having to explain it each time.
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There are three main restaurants: Enchanted Garden, Royal Palace and Animator’s Palate. All three were great, but Animator’s Palate has to be my top choice. It uses clever tech to bring some Disney stories to life – I won’t spoil it, but it was such a whimsical experience.
For something extra special, we headed to the adults-exclusive Remy’s. At $125 extra per person, it wasn’t cheap. However, it turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I think was worth it.
Inspired by Ratatouille, the restaurant offers a five-course tasting menu of Michelin-worthy food and champagne cocktails. It’s incredibly luxurious. I had a set menu with salmon, lobster and beef, and it genuinely was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.
After all of the excitement, shows, food and cocktails, we headed to crash out in our Verandah Stateroom. I thought that cruise cabins would be tiny, but ours was anything but and had plenty of storage space, as well as a living room area. A morning coffee on the balcony became a staple of the holiday.
It was the first time that 130,000 gross tonnage Disney Dream sailed around the Mediterranean for summer, and our itinerary was full of bucket list places including Cannes, Florence and Pisa, Naples (which meant a chance to see Amalfi and Sorrento) and Rome.
Booking excursions was so easy on the Disney Cruise Line app, but make sure you book early as they fill up fast. The walking tour of Florence and Pisa was a highlight, as was a boat trip along the Amalfi Coast which is as pretty as you’d expect.
It’s worth noting that in Europe the ports can be at least an hour away from the main sights, so be prepared for early starts and coach journeys.
We nearly made a common mistake for first-time Disney cruisers by looking to book an excursion at every port of call. Some regulars told us to spend one day in port on the ship – it felt like it was a wasted opportunity, but we decided to follow their advice and they were right.
The ship is significantly quieter, so it’s a great chance to make use of the pools and spa, as well as giving you time to try all the games and activities on offer.
And it’s a mistake we won’t make on our next Disney cruise either – we’re definitely going to sail with Mickey again!
Book the holiday
Walt Disney Travel Company International offers a four night round trip on Disney Dream from £912pp, sailing from Southampton on August 23, 2024 and calling at La Coruna, Spain. Price based on a family of four sharing. To book call Disney Experts on 0800 169 0742.
You can also find out more at disneycruise.disney.go.com and spain.info.
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