Disney started its own cruise line in 1999, after several years of offering the "Disney Experience" aboard other cruise lines.
Today Disney owns its own ships, and it "owns" them in the sense that everything about these ships is all Disney all the time. They are a Disneyphiles dream come true, especially the two newest ship Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
Once upon a time there was a small but innovative cruise line called Premier that came up with a very good idea. Sailing out of Port Canveral, the closest port to Orlando's magic Kingdom, Premier Cruises added the Disney experience with characters and package trips with cruises and visits to DisneyWorld together.
Eventually Disney launched the first ship in its fleet, theArt Deco-themed Disney Magic, a sleekly beautiful vessel reminiscent of the transatlantic steamship era. The line followed a year later with sister ship Disney Wonder.
The initial reaction to Disney entering the market from established cruise lines was fear, after all, Disney is an entertainment juggernaut. However, Disney kept their cruise line to a modest two ships until 2010 when they finally introduced the new Disney Dream, a larger and more "magic" version of the smaller ships followed by a sister shipm the Fantasy.
As it turns out, Disney Cruise Line hardly competes with the mainstream cruise lines at all. Disney draws the vast majority of its passengers from the ranks of Disney lovers, not from other cruise lines. In fact, the vast majority of Disney cruisers have never been on another cruise. At the same time, people who started out with Disney for researching a cruise, soon found that other cruise lines also have plenty to offer family cruisers, often at a much lower price.
Disney Cruise Lines has thrived, even though their cruise fares range 30 to 100-percent higher than comparable ships, because of people who love all things Disney.
With Disney Dream as the new "flag ship" for Disney, the Art Nouveau-themed sister ships Disney Magic and Disney Wonder take turns sailing to more exotic itineraries like Europe, the Mexican Riviera and Alaska. Disney Dream remains in Port Canaveral, about 60 miles from Orlando, for the people who want to combine short 3 or 4-day cruises with a visit to Disney World. All of the ships offer occaisional seven-day Caribbean cruises.
As you might anticipate, the accent is on fun, Disney-style. Entertainment is a huge feature on these ships, and one must credit Disney for bringing shipboard stage production to a new level with bigger casts, more extensive special effects and those superbly timed and executed family fun shows that leave all but crankiest curmudgeon smiling despite himself.
All of the ships have excellent 3-D movie theaters. Main dining is done in a unique style called "Rotational Dining" where guests sample a different themed restaurant every night, but they eat with the same tablemates and waiters nightly.
Dinner may be the only time that families get together. There are extensive areas specially made for - and restricted to - specific age groups. These groups are infants and toddlers (aged 6-months to three years), kids ages three to 11, "tweens" (12-14) and teenagers 15 to 17. Adults also get their own areas where kids are not allowed.
Disney Magic and Wonder
The early ships each have an adults-only entertainment area -- "Beat Street" on Magic and "Route 66" on Wonder -- neither a casino nor a disco, and the adult-only Italian gourmet restaurant onboard is called Palo.
The older ships' staterooms (Magic and Wonder) are larger than average and beautifully appointed, with categories 10 and higher getting a bath-and-a-half, making them especially popular with families (inside staterooms, categories 11 and 12, have only a single bath). Forty-four percent of outside cabins have verandahs. All come with bathtubs, a television, a mini-bar, a safe and a hair dryer.
In 2004 Disney added newer public areas including Diversions, Cove Cafe and a new college-dorm-meets-coffee-bar place for teens. Cove Café, an adults-only coffee bar adjacent to the Quiet Cove pool is a pleasant place to relax on comfortable couches, watch TV, check e-mail, or read one of the many magazines on the shelves. Sports fans, meanwhile flock to Diversions, which resembles an English sports pub. The swank Walt Disney Theater resembles a plush venue on the Great White Way. Studio Sea, which offers G-rated floor shows, is styled like a television sound stage. The gyms and spa areas have been enlarged.
Disney Dream and Fantasy
Disney Dream - christened January 2011 - is a much larger ship than the older sisters, coming in at 128.000-tons and a berth capacity of 4000 people. A sister ship to Dream, Disney Fantasy, is already well under in the same Papenburg, Germany shipyard where Dream was born and will debut in 2012.
Nearly all staterooms on Disney Dream are designed especially for families; including spacious suites with private verandas, oceanview staterooms with oversized portholes and inside staterooms with "virtual portholes" - video screens with a live feed from the bridge of the ship where Disney characters may show up "unannounced" at any time. All staterooms on Dream can sleep at least one extra person, any can sleep two extra, and a few three. There are two bathrooms, one a master bath with double sinks, a rain shower and a whirlpool tub, and another half-bath with sink and toilet.
The Disney Dream Concierge Royal Suite at 1781 square feet with veranda, includes a master bedroom with queen-size bed, one in-the-wall pull-down double bed and one in-the-wall pull-down single bed in the living room. There is a separate whirlpool tub on the veranda. There is a living room, media room, an open dining salon, a pantry, wet bar and walk-in closets. This suite has two 42-inch LCD high-definition flat-screen televisions, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. There is an iPod docking station, couch, desk, chair, and dining table. The large veranda with Jacuzzi tub, also has patio furniture, deck lighting and Plexiglas railings with childproof locks.Fellow Passengers
Disney's primary market is families with children, although you'll find more adult couples during school vacation periods. one thing they all have in common, they love Disney and have probably been to the theme parks more than a couple of times.Shore Excursions
Disney offers shore excursions just like other cruise lines, but also specializes in tours designed for kids. These tours are offered in various ports of call as well as the private island.Kid's Excursions
As you might anticipate, Disney offers terrific programs and facilities for little folks. At Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, kids enjoy a 15-acre snorkeling course above a living reef, supervised games for all age groups, bicycling courses and sailboats, kayaks and rafts for rent.
The Oceaneer Clubs for kids four to 11 span nearly an entire deck, with supervised programs for children aged 3-5 and 6-8. Children aged 9-12 can enjoy high-tech interactive programs in the Oceaneer Lab, while those 11-12 can compete in a marine biology knowledge quest game show and send digital postcards to friends. And they'll see more Disney characters than at the theme parks!
Disney was the first cruise line to offer a nursery for infants and toddlers. Services include feeding, napping areas and changing, as long as food is supplied by the parents. Disney keeps huge stores of disposable diapers and other childcare needs onboard and will even deliver them to the stateroom. Group babysitting is offered in Nursery areas for an hourly fee.
Complementary sodas are available in the dining rooms and the buffet's beverage area. There is a charge for soda's in the bar area's and through room service.
At Disney, gratuities can be charged to your shipboard account. The recommended tipping guidelines are per person per cruise:
- Dining Room Server $11.00
- Dining Room Asst. Server $8.00
- Dining Room Head Server $2.75
- Stateroom Host/Hostess $10.75
- Dining Room Server $14.75
- Dining Room Asst. Server $10.75
- Dining Room Head Server $3.75
- Stateroom Host/Hostess $14.50
- Dining Room Server $25.75
- Dining Room Asst. Server $18.75
- Dining Room Head Server $ 6.50
- Stateroom Host/Hostess $25.25
On all cruises Dining Manager and Room Service tipping is at the passenger's discretion.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar, beverage, wine, and deck service tabs.
This was our first time on DCL. We set out from Port Canaveral, where DCL has their own terminal. Very smooth operation. The Disney Dream is a beautiful ship, very clean and easy to navigate. Our 4 night cruise took us to Nassau and their private Island, Castaway Cay.
Castaway Cay was just like all other private Islands in the Bahamas own or operated by the cruise lines. Castaway Cay has the advantage that the ship does not have to tender, but docks right into port where a disney tram shuttle awaits and takes you to the main center.
Disney Cruises has everything well coordinated as far as shows,movies and activities. The only drawback I encounter were the long lines for picture taking and character meets.
The stateroom was very accomidating, we had a varanda on the deck 10 fwd. Large enough for two people, but it would be a bit crowded for 4 which is what is intended for.
Dining was very different, since you are schedule to dine at a different restaurant every night. I had mixed reviews for all three and to sumarized I wasn't thrilled with the idea,much toonoisy with the young ones. Food was not as good as I expected, however the Cabana dining for lunch was the best of any ship I've been on with their sea buffet selection.
I took this cruise with DW because of a good discount offered to Florida residents, I would never paid full price for this cruise, however I must say to be fair that anyone with children would probably enjoy it more. Disney Cruise line is not for adults even though they advertise as such. I don't beleive I would take a Dsiney Cruise again unless it was a Transatlantic repositioning with less children on board.
Well, we're back from Disney Dream â€“ our first cruise with DCL. I thought it was an amazing holiday â€“ but certainly not a relaxing one. We're currently booked for Fantasy for next spring break, but I'm not sure if we will keep the reservation or not. You can see my cruising history in my signature which gives some perspective to some of my comments. While we/I love Disney, I don't view Disney through rose-coloured glasses.
Characters â€“ I had an amazing time on Dream. However, I did not feel it to be a relaxing holiday (my own doing). I felt somewhat rushed to take everything in. I never wanted my kids to miss a character, so it felt like one of us was always standing in line for something. There were a couple of disappointments when we'd been standing in line only to be told that we were now lining up for a different character. At the Farewell, we also got cut off when we were the next in line for Chip and Dale. All that being said, the characters were AMAZING. They spent sooo much time with each child, oftensinging and dancing. On our sailing we had, Snow White, Cinderella, Tiana, Aurora, Ariel, Jessie and Woody, Tink, Remy, Smee and Hook, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Chip and Dale, Pluto and Goofy, Pinochio, Peter Pan, Mr.&Mrs. Incredible, Lilo&Stitch, and probably a few others too. We'd sometimes encounter characters coming/going to a photo op, and they ALWAYS stopped to give a hug and chat. The character experience was truly magical. The character experience was a zillion times better on DCL than it was on the Dreamworks cruise on Royal (FOTS).
Autographs â€“ we dropped off our photo mats at guest services. My son did not want princess signatures, so I wrote NO PRINCESS on his bag. My daughter ended up with almost all the signatures. My son however, only ended up with the VIP (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy,Pluto, Goofy and Chip&Dale). He was heartbroken that he did not get any "boy" characters like Woody, Hook, Smee etc. At 9:30 on the last night (when the photo mats were delivered to our room), I ran to guest services and came across the most amazing cast member who wanted to spread some Disney magic to a sad little boy, and ran about the ship to track down the characters and have them sign my son's photo mat. The hard part is now picking one of 600 photos to put in the frame!
DH â€“ I was really unsure how my DH would fare on DCL. We are far from gambling addicts but we do enjoy gambling on our cruises. I had kind of thought that without a casino, we would have tons of free time to do as we pleased. But we seemed to be kind of bored. We only ever had small pockets of time between shows/characters/meals that we were not sure what to do with ourselves. As I note above, we're not sure if we will keep our Fantasy reservation or not. DH was kind of Disneyed-out, and I admit, so was I.
Keys â€“ We had a lot of trouble with our room keys. We had to go through 3 batches before they would work. I'm not sure what the trouble was, but it ate up about 2 hours on first day trying to sort this out. Even after that, we only had our keys working, and could never use the kid's keys to open the doors. I just got tired of pursuing it.
Wave Phone â€“ the wave phone concept is great and I saw many using them. I'm not a techno-expert but I'm pretty savy, and I had trouble figuring out how to use the phone. I probably should have taken the phones to guest services and asked for a tutorial!
Splenda â€“ if you're like me and you like splenda â€“ bring your own! They ship had little yellow packets, but they were not splenda â€“ they were nutrasweet.
Food â€“ overall the food was pretty good. I found the food at Cabanas to be much higher quality than the buffet food found on other cruise lines. The food in the main dining room was very good, but I would consider it to be on par with other cruise lines. Be warned that the breakfast in Enchanted breakfast is buffet, and the lines are long and slow. If you want a sit down breakfast go to Royal Palace and if you ant buffet go to Cabanas. I found Disney did an excellent job of fish (sea bass was excellent!) and an excellent job of roasts. I like my beef medium rare and it was always perfectly cooked. I was disappointed with the desserts. I don't think there was a single dessert that I ate in entirety (other than a mickey bar!). I buy my pastries and cakes from some fine bakeries, so I guess I have a demanding dessert palette. I enjoyed the Celebration cake the most, but if I had paid money for it in a restaurant I would have been disappointed.
Service â€“ this is DCL's strongsuit. The service was excellent. I might still give the edge to HAL for service though. One of the things I most noticed was the service during breakfast/lunch â€“ which are open seating. On most ships, you have excellent service at dinner when you have your dedicated wait team who are working for their tips. The wait staff on Disney watch out for each others guests, and they give phenomal service to all guests. This truly sets Disney apart. Even with open seating at breakfast/lunch, the waiter always made a point to find out our names before they came to our table so they could personalize the service. Even the head waiter was excellent.
Tips â€“ DCL is also quite unique in this area in that there was NO BEGGING for tips, which is often found on most cruiselines. Many cruiselines start telling you on the very first night, with a big sell on the last few nights that you need to tip, tip, tip. I can't recall if there was even any mention of this at all. We asked one water how DCL was as an employer compared to the other cruise lines and we were asking him about compensation, benefits etc. When this question is asked on other lines, they very quickly tell you that they are not paid at all. This is true for Disney, but we had to pull this information out of him, whereas on any other ship, the waiters try to find a away to let you know they work for tips.
Service Questionnaire â€“ At the end of every cruise on any lines, guests are asked to complete a satisfaction survey. Usually, on the last few nights the CD makes a point of soliciting 'excellent' reviews telling guests that they must report excellent because the cruiselines view "very good' as not good enough and that even "very good" ratings get held against them. We received no such pressure from the DREAM CD. In fact, Disney goes so far as to ask if you were pressured in any way to give an excellent rating. Kudo's to Disney for wanting honest feedback. Entertainment â€“ was excellent! We saw Golden Mickeys, Villians, and Believe. All 3 shows were excellent. We also had Mike Super on the ship, and he was truly lavenous.
Kid's Club â€“ was good. I think given the number of kids' they have going through the club, they do an excellent job. My kid's really enjoyed the kid's club but not as much as they have on other ships. They never begged to go to the kid's club and I think that had to do with the number of kid's in the club. On other ships (HAL comes to mind) they have so few kids onboard, that they are able to give amazing personalized service to each family. I asked my 6 year old daughter to rank the kid's clubs and she ranked them in this order HAL, Disney, RCCL, Carnival.
Family Environment â€“ I found that Disney did a very good job of the "family" environment. There were no hairy chest or beer belly contests that I've found on most ships. On other ships, we've enjoyed family activities such as family mini golf tourney, family scavenger hunt, family trivia etc. I'm not saying that Disney didn't have these events, but if they did, they were timed for older families (with teens) later at night, or they were timed when they conflicted with shows or character events. You can't do it all on any ship, and that is the case with DCL.
FE - I panicked before leaving when I read someone write here that the FE space is very narrow and it was! I had made my FE to about 10 inches and it was at least 2 inches too wide. We were on an inside cabin that crossed through the ship, so our cabin steward was not too concerned. If we cruise Fantasy next year, I will use the same FE just shorten my stick from 13" to 10.5" so the stick doesn't stick out as much. The FE was a wonderful experience. We only had 9 families in our group which was perfect. It was easy to manage from a cost perspective, and did not eat up too much time running around the ship. Almost every time we came back to the cabin there was a gift waiting. We gave out the Wilton Mickey Cookie Cutters and a package of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix. We received 2 music cds, sleep masks, pez dispensers, silly bands, buttons, water pistols, stickers, markers, pencils, notebooks, candy, pirate stuff, St. Paddy's stuff, and much more.
Private Table in MDR - We requested a private table for the four of us and received it. I had heard wonderful stories here of Disney pairing guests who forged friendships after their cruise. I contemplated changing our request, but never did. Our table of 4 was always paired with another table of four who based on demographics were a good match for us. They looked to also be in their early 40s and had kids the same age as ours although their daughter might have been a year older and their son a year younger. We were certainly within speaking distance, and made several attempts to make eye contact or engage with them. There were several times when i'd smile at the other mom, and rather than smile back, she'd look away. When DH attempted to speak to them, we'd get brief answers and then they would terminate the interaction. My point is that Disney does a pretty good job of demographic match-up but they can't account for people who are not social.
Formal Night â€“ I see a lot of questions about formal night. On Disney Dream - I am not certain there was one. Usually, cruises make a big deal (in the navigators and by the announcements) of letting you know when it s a formal night. Usually, the night before, the wait staff will also tell you that the next night is formal night. We came prepared with formal wear for 2 nights. For my daughter, every night was formal! We asked at Breakfast on Day 2, and were told that you could be formal whenever you wanted and that most people were dressier on nights they were in Royal Palace. By Night 4, I noticed that people were dressier, as I was walking around the ship, so we broke out our formal wear for nights 4 and 5. Don't stress over it if you don't want to be too dressy. I think business casual is perfectly acceptable on DCL. A 7-night cruise might be different though.
Magical Porthole â€“ loved it! I don't think we ever felt like it was a true ocean-view. But, there were a constant parade of characters. I also liked that we could shut it off at night. I love the black-out you get with an inside cabin.
I think that is pretty much it. I'd be happy to answer any questions, especially from anyone who wants information comparing DCL to other cruise lines.
This was my first Disney cruise, but fourth overall. I have also cruised with NCL twice, and Royal Caribbean. This cruise was overpriced, when you compare it with similar styled cruise lines
The food quality was substandard at best. Most of our meals came out lukewarm, heavily sauced, and over salted. This was consistent throughout the cruise. It's almost as Disney felt that since they were creating the Disney "magical" experience with the characters, that the adults and children wouldn't notice the lack of variety in food, fresh fruit or appetizing meals. I know that children's palates aren't as developed as adults, but please, there is just some much mac n' cheese (made with what seemed like velveeta), pizza and chicken fingers that a child can eat over the duration of a 7 day cruise. The orange and apple juice was only available during meal hours, so if you didn't plan ahead and bottle some for your stateroom, your child was drinking milk or from the soda station
We had a family deluxe oceanview. Our stateroom attendant was polite and did a great job of keeping our room clean, tidy, and well stocked withfresh towels, etc.
The Disney meet and greets were fantastic for the children. You have alot of opportunities during the cruise to meet with the different characters. If your little ones are looking at getting some autographs and pictures, you will want to get the majority of them as early on in the cruise as possible. Disney runs their ship lean, which means closer to the end of the cruise, you have less opportunity to meet the characters as many of them double for the evening entertainment. Also, for those families that didn't get their quota of photos earlier on in the cruise, they are now scrambling to get as many photos as they can before the end of the cruise. Picture taking is scheduled, and random all at the same time. Since there always seems to be a character(s) walking around on the ship, you often end up taking unplanned pictures causing you to miss other onboard activities. Due to the lineups sometimes taking a 1/2hr or more for photo taking, kids often end up getting cranky. If you can take turns with lineup duties, and have your little ones join you just before their photo is to be taken, you will make your life alot easier.
All three swimming pool areas for the younger babies, children and adults were extremely small and insufficient for the number of people onboard.
The evening (Broadway type) entertainment was also fantastic, and is definitely a higher calibre to what I've seen on other ships. The shows were done "Disney" style, and they didn't disappoint. The pirate party was also fantastic, with the fireworks show at the end - Awesome!
We did our own excursions and we were quite happy with the price and activities we were able to do on our own. I've always found that the excursions offered by cruise lines were higher than what you can get if you plan it yourself, but make sure you do your research beforehand, so you're not wasting time at port. If planning ahead isn't for you, then go with a pre-packaged excursion since there's bound to be at least one which, will interest you and your family.
If you want to see as many Disney characters as possible - than this is the cruise for you. If you are looking for the best quality cruise experience for your dollar, I would recommend a similar styled cruise which offers some character events and children programs.
Reading this review you might think that this cruise wasn't that bad, but please take into account that this itinerary only goes to 3 ports of call. Leaving alot of time spent using the amenities and onboard activities. Overall, this cruise was disappointing due to the cost, poor amenities, and the lack of quality food.