Disney Cruise Line review: Is it Disney's best vacation?

Updated: Jul 4



From the moment we stepped on board the Disney Dream, it was apparent the Disney Cruise Line experience would bring Disney's magical promise to life: that it creates happiness.


We only didn't know how far that would go early on.


The Disney Dream

Everything about the ship feels among Disney's most intuitive designs. Regions of decks are organized in a way to collect bars together, dining locations together and to keep adult-only sections in quiet, secluded locations. There are maps at every elevator stop and elsewhere across the ship, but learning how to navigate—how the ship was organized—made it easy to get where we needed within a day of exploring.


Disney has done work to help, too. Stars on the ship's carpet point forward, a simple detail that makes walking around what would otherwise seem like a labyrinth of staterooms an almost-subconscious navigation experience.


Disney's touches throughout the ship are at their most elegant, and though the beloved mouse is present, the Disney brand and its films contribute more greatly to the ship's refined, overall atmosphere than it does to the idea that you should develop some sort of greater brand loyalty to get maximum enjoyment.


It's that balance between Disney and luxury that strikes such inspiration in all areas of the ship. Walking the decks became such a joy that members of our party would wake up early or stay up late just to roam.


From the pools, to the spa, to the sports area, the gym, the theatre, the bars and everything else imaginable, the ship is designed to provide the ideal experience for every guest, no matter their recreation preferences.


Our inside stateroom was wonderful enough for a group who played on the ship and used their room to sleep and get ready for each day's events, but those who want outdoor views or plan on spending extended time in their rooms may want to consider one of the larger options. Inside staterooms have a digital porthole containing a stream of a camera feed on the ship, so guests can still see outside. It helped to prevent any feeling of claustrophobia within our group, though we spent most of our time outside of the room.


Rooms come with ample amounts of Disney's best soap, shampoo, conditioner and lotion, thus we did not need to bring our own.


Dining

Those who have followed us for a while are likely unsurprised we could barely get through the summary before talking about food. Though the food is often great, the theming and ingenuity of the dining rooms stand out above all.


Dining on select items—the Animator's Palette Black Truffle Purseittes, Royale Palace's Oven-Baked Salmon Royale, and Enchanted Garden's Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower—were some of our favorite moments from the entire cruise. So, the food does hold its own weight, but everything that surrounds the rotational dining is what makes it significant.


Food is included in the cruise's admission price at these dining locations (as well as the buffet Cabanas and the option-abundant Flo's), and rotating between the dining locations each night while maintaining the same waitstaff is an especially wonderful experience (more on that later).


The food is equally solid at Cabanas and Flo's, so there is always something to dine on that won't cost extra money (we took particular advantage of always-available french fries and soft serve ice cream).


Palo Brunch—an add-on dining experience—was the highlight for those of us who participated above all else on the cruise. A multi-course affair with no limits as to what you can order, this elegant, dress-coded dining experience surprised and delighted throughout its duration. Its food went toe-to-toe with the best the nearby Walt Disney® World Resort has to offer, and though our full review is to come later, our recommendation stands simple: book this in advance and enjoy it for yourself.


Ports and Disney's Unreal Private Island

Our four-night cruise stopped in Nassau and at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island.


A commonly fielded question, passports are not required to get on or off the ship at any of these international ports, though they can be used. Guests need some item from a Disney-provided list to board in the first place, but those without passports can use an original birth certificate and ID.


The developed area surrounding Nassau's port have developed to target tourism, and while a fun romp through local-run corridors, we highly recommend delving farther into the island or taking one of Disney's provided (for an additional fee) excursions to get a more accurate taste of what the Bahamas are truly like. An Atlantis excursion is also offered, and though we did not experience the water park destination ourselves, we have heard nothing but glowing reviews from those who booked it.


Castaway Cay is among the most beautiful beaches any of us had ever seen. Pristine, reflective water was as blue as the cloudless sky, and sands were as pure as can be. Activities are abundant, as we spent our time biking and kayaking and felt like we only scratched the surface of what the island has to offer. Disney's ownership of the island means distractions are limited and relaxation and excursion time are maximized.


On-board Entertainment

Disney's entertainment offerings are as dynamic on the ship as they are off. Live shows are as exciting and heavily detailed as they are in the theme parks, and the film sleight promises showings of the most recent Disney theater releases.


Character drawing classes, trivia games and bingo fill a schedule of optional events throughout the day and night, providing something engaging to do for those who would rather spend time interacting over relaxing.


Live musicians color a wide selection of bars and pubs each night, with happy hours making a tour across them affordable and fun. The real draw are the tastings (which are cheaper the earlier you book them), instructional classes about various drink types offering a healthy portion. The bartenders are knowledgeable and funny, and the classes are among the cruises' best adult offerings.


Unparalleled Service

Of all the Disney Cruise Line's unparalleled offerings, the service of its crew is the biggest reason I'm already looking to book my next cruises. When I hear other guests talk about the "Walt example," a common comparison to the company's founding ideals and image, few people embody that which such dedication as Disney Cruise Line's crew. From the crew who staff each corner of the shops, to those who keep the decks spotless by washing them in the middle of the night, to those who roam and answer questions, friendly faces and warm conversation was commonplace.


Particularly special were our servers and room steward. The room steward oversees a block of rooms on the ship and spends the day cleaning and organizing. We frequently came back from a meal or from port to a clean room, organized luggage and a remade bed.


The rotational dining means we experienced new restaurants and menus each night with the same team of servers. Within a singular round of ordering every appetizer for the table to sample and our selection of entrees, our unbelievable waitstaff understood our preferences to the point where we received a flawless sampling of the menu each night with hardly having to make an effort when ordering. Service was unparalleled to any experience I have ever had, matching the attention to detail present at fine dining restaurants. One night, a couple of our party members were unable to attend dinner. Upon notifying him and asking for dinner to-go for them, our server personally found the rest of our party and delivered the entire menu to them himself.


Getting to know our waitstaff on a personal level from night-to-night made them an integral part of our vacation experience, and made the decision to begin booking our next Disney cruise a no-brainer.


The Disney Difference

Disney's intense dedication to detail is present through all its parks and experiences, and that rings especially true on Disney Cruise Line. From intricate design, to abundant options for guests of all types, to the world's best service, our first Disney cruise has provided so much excellence that we're excited to soon call ourselves regulars.

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