No line serves families better than Disney Cruise Line: In the dining room of the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream, waiters entertain with magic tricks and, after the first night, drinks are waiting on your table when you arrive, and in the kids clubs children of all ages are tended to better than anywhere else at sea. (Picture ship-wide scavenger hunts, a super cool teen lounge, and a "Star Wars" theme area with a life-size Millennium Falcon cockpit.)
And it isn’t just service that wows, staterooms are impressive as well. Cabins have split bathrooms that speed up bedtime, plus bunk beds that pull down from the ceiling, phones you can use to keep in touch on board, and loaner Diaper Genie diaper disposal systems. Parents are taken care of as well, with an adults-only pool and Remy, an elegant “Ratatouille”-themed French restaurant that is the perfect night out.
What We Love
Amazing Kids Clubs: We can’t rave enough. The It’s a Small World nursery cares for children ages 3 and under, who are woefully underserved on other lines, and parents get walkie-talkies for check-ins. The clubs for older children also have impressive activities, such as Jedi Knight training and a Disney Infinity play room with state-of-the-art video games you can play on giant wall monitors. Vibe, the teen club, also has an area called Chill, a teen-only spa, and smaller children can go to the kids-only hair salon, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Impressive Adults-Only Areas: Grown-ups can escape to an adults-exclusive pool (complete with a swim-up bar), adults-only restaurants (including the modern French Remy and Italian Palo), or a quiet adults-only beach on Castaway Cay, the line’s Bahamian island. There’s even a sports bar on board that shows all the games and serves complimentary bar snacks.
Castaway Cay: With character photo ops, a waterslide that looks like a pirate ship, a splash park, and a tram that takes you around the island, we find Disney's Bahamian hideaway serves up the perfect beach day. There are bungalows for rent, which come with their own quieter stretch of sand, but even if you don't splurge on one, you'll board the ship at the end of the day having soaked up plenty of sun. The island has rental inner tubes and snorkeling gear, and there are sand toys for purchase, too, if you didn't make room in your suitcase for buckets and shovels.
Best Known For
Character Meet and Greets: Expect many photo ops every day, and a rare chance to meet all of the Disney princesses at once. Just consider yourself warned: Some character moments, including the meet and greet with Elsa and Anna from "Frozen," require advance tickets, which run out fast. As at the theme parks, checking the schedule as soon as you arrive will save you from dealing with disappointed little ones later.
AquaDuck Water Coaster: The ship’s waterslide is actually a roller coaster that extends across the deck — and over the edge of the ship. It's an exciting ride, and one of the main draws for tweens and teens on board, so expect lines all day long.
Remy Restaurant: The ship’s adults-only “Ratatouille”-themed restaurant, which serves modern French fare in a sophisticated setting, feels like the perfect parents' date night out at sea. Look for fine French cheese and wine pairings, and plan to take your time and relax while the children are entertained in the kids clubs. (Chances are they won't want to leave when you pick them up anyway.)
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Who It's Best For
Families with Kids: This is a great ship for those with school-age and younger children, but we can’t imagine choosing it without kids. Don’t be surprised, for example, if the pre-dinner band entertains more tots than adults, and those gorgeous ottomans in the lobby lounge are used as impromptu trampolines rather than cocktail tables.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's a Pricey Vacation: The perfect cruise for the whole family comes with some sticker shock, but some kid-friendly extras — including self-serve soft drinks by the pool — are unlimited and included.
Packed Pools Are the Norm: On sea days in sunny areas, such as the Bahamas, you can expect the main pool to be too crowded for more than standing room only. The splash park, designed for little kids, quickly gets a lot of the spill-over crowding, but there's a small more out-of-the-way pool that was added in a recent dry dock that's worth seeking out.
Sherri Eisenberg is a New York City-based writer and editor. She is the former editorial director of ShermansCruise.
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Disney Dream at a Glance
- Line: Disney Cruise Line
- Class: Dream
- Number of Passengers: 4000
- Ship Size: Mega
- Launch Date: 2011
- Refurbish Date: 2015