This post takes a look at the Disney Dream to offer and overview, photos, some tips for those setting sail on this Disney Cruise Line ship. As we’ve already covered a lot of the basics of cruising with Disney in our Top 10 First-Timer Disney Cruise Line Tips and Guide to the Disney Cruise Line posts (both of those links open in new tabs and we’d advise reading them for planning purposes), we aren’t going to spend as much time fixating on high-level aspects of the Disney Dream that are already covered in those posts. Instead, we will highlight what’s unique to the Disney Dream, and contrast the boat to the other ship on which we’ve cruised: the Disney Magic.
In some ways, this post is a Disney Dream v. Disney Magic cruise ship comparison, but the problem with that is the matchup is more lopsided than Tatum v. Simpson; the Disney Dream would win pretty much across the board. Even after being re-imagined, the Disney Magic feels like a first generation product on which Disney learned a lot of lessons. Don’t get me wrong, I really loved our first cruise on the Magic, but it’s clear that the initial foray into cruising taught Disney a lot, and it iterated on subsequent ships to make the experience much better.
To be sure, the Disney Magic is no slouch. All of Disney’s ships bring a lot to the table in terms of style and detail, and have an incontrovertible sense of “Disney” about them, but the Magic feels much better suited for short cruises. If the Disney Dream is any indication, the Magic’s younger siblings are the more compelling option for any itinerary that includes a day at sea or more time on the ship, in general.
The biggest thing you need is, well, that. It’s bigger. The Disney Dream is significantly larger than the Disney Magic, with 151 more feet in length. While you’ll definitely notice the added length as it gives the newer ship a bit more breathing room, both ships have a similar feeling of intimacy. This difference isn’t like going from Disneyland to Walt Disney World (and not just because both cruise ships are well-maintained), but the size difference is noticeable.
The Disney Magic is approximately 964 feet long, as compared to the Disney Dream’s 1,115 feet. To give those numbers a little perspective, the Magic is approximately double the height of modern day Godzilla, whereas the difference between the two ships is slightly more than 1954 Godzilla. (I’m sure that perspective was incredibly helpful.) The only question that remains is whether the ships produce more than Godzilla’s 1 billion-plus daily liters of urine? (With all of that unlimited soda, my money is on the cruise ship guests!)
Another difference comes in terms of dining. Across the board, we think both ships are very good in this department. The main table service and buffet options are Cabanas (buffet), Royal Palace, Enchanted Garden, and Animator’s Palate. If you haven’t cruised on the Disney Dream in a few years, some of these names might be new to you.
Animator’s Palate is the quintessential Disney restaurant on all of the Disney Cruise Line ships, the one you see touted on television specials and in advertisements, and the classic example of Disney “magic.” I gushed over the Disney Magic version of Animator’s Palate in our review, and all of that praise applies here, as well. The Disney Dream ups the ante on the experience with actual interaction from Crush a la Turtle Talk. It’s a can’t miss experience, regardless of whether you have kids or not.
Out of the other two “main” table service restaurants, we liked Enchanted Garden the best. This is supposedly inspired by the Palace of Versailles’ famed gardens, which is…a stretch. It feels more like Crystal Palace with Art Nouveau flourishes in place of the Victorian ones, plus more overt references to gardening.
Nonetheless, the atmosphere of dining in a fancy sorta greenhouse thing with moody lighting makes for excellent ambiance, and the food is very good. In fact, we think the food is good regardless of where you go. While the food at each of these restaurants is relatively safe and Americanized, safe and high-quality are not mutually-exclusive. Not only that, but the service (again, across the board) on the Disney Dream is exceptional.
On the higher end, Disney Dream definitely gets the edge. While we loved our experiences at Palo for dinner and brunch of the Disney Magic, Remy takes fine dining to the next level with an even swankier restaurant, with a $85 per person upcharge for dinner here.
We were fine with the $25 (now $30) upcharge for Palo, justifying it on our first cruise by virtue of the great offseason deal we got on the cruise coupled with a relatively low surcharge. However, $85 (then $75) is a bit more of a pill to swallow. Once you account for the amount you’re already paying for a dinner at one of the regular restaurants, which is built into the cost of the cruise (no, it’s not “free”) and then add that to the cost of Remy, the price is fairly staggering.
We certainly don’t begrudge those who want to try it (here’s a great Remy review if you want to know more), but just keep in mind that you’re in Victoria & Albert’s territory once you account for the built-in dining cost. Maybe we’ll give it a try someday…after we revisit V&A’s.
On the nightlife front, we think the Disney Dream similarly has the advantage. This is largely thanks to Skyline Bar, which is to adults what Animator’s Palate is to kids. Get a few drinks in you, and you’ll probably believe you’re in all of those different cities as the bar’s backdrop changes.
Joking aside, this adults’ district is more effective because it features environments where people actually want to spend time (like Skyline), and because these spaces are significantly smaller. Normally, small plus cool is a recipe for disaster with Disney offerings, as it means long waits and big crowds. That’s not really the case on Disney Cruise Line, as (in our experience) the boats become pretty quiet in the evening hours. That means the cavernous entertainment areas in After Hours on the Disney Magic feel empty, creating a poor atmosphere, which encourages people to leave quickly.
By contrast, there’s a palpable energy to Skyline, Pink, and District Lounge thanks to the spaces being more inviting, which encourages people to stick around. Both have self-fulfilling prophecies of sorts, albeit in opposite directions. We’re actually a bit surprised After Hours on the Magic hasn’t been re-imagined to something more like these bars, as it seems like there’s more than enough space for it. Perhaps the bigger issue is demand, or lack thereof?
Then there’s the AquaDuck, the 765 feet long water slide that you ride on rafts for 1-2 people. Do I really have to state the obvious here? This is awesome. While the re-imagining of the Disney Magic added the AquaDunk to those ships, that’s a pale imitator that is too short. This is both exhilarating and oddly relaxing. It’s like a tamer version of Crush ‘N’ Gusher at Typhoon Lagoon, but you can enjoy the view and the ride isn’t as rough. Highly recommended first thing in the morning.
Aside from that, the pool scene is pretty comparable on both ships. The Disney Dream has Donald’s Pool, Mickey’s Pool, Nemo’s Reef, and the adults’ area, Quiet Cove. There are some differences in terms of the layout of the pools, and we think it’s noteworthy that the hot tubs in Quiet Cove offer ocean (or port) views that make them particularly appealing.
We felt the staterooms on the Disney Magic made a great use of space, and the same holds true for the staterooms on the Disney Dream. Previously, we had a verandah room and this time the room was an inside room (the virtual portholes are a nice touch for those who don’t want to splurge for an outside room), so it’s not really possible for a fair head-to-head comparison. (Also, the Disney Dream room was an ADA room.)
The rooms certainly don’t feel like you’re trapped in a sardine can, but your mileage may vary on that depending upon how much time you spend in your stateroom. With so much to do and see on the ship, it’s hard to justify spending much time in the room. Even “relaxing” activities like reading, working, or having a cup of coffee are all better enjoyed in common areas on the ship. In our experience, there are plenty of quiet corners and places to relax away from the crowds.
Without question, my favorite element of the Disney Cruise Line ships is the grandiose atrium lobbies, complete with their resplendent chandeliers. The first time we stepped foot on the Disney Magic, it was like some sort of time warp took us to a Disneyfied version of the Titanic.
The centerpiece of this is the Art Deco chandelier that was custom designed for the Disney Dream in Northern Italy and measures 22 feet diameter at the ceiling plate and comes down 13 feet from the ceiling. It is 24kt gold plated with a total of 88,680 Swarovski crystal beads. Make sure to take plenty of photos of this thing, as the pro-rated cost of this fancy chandelier is approximately $26.89 for the life of the ship. (And you wondered why Disney cruises cost so much as compared to the competition! 😉 ).
In terms of entertainment, you have the Walt Disney Theatre, which presents 3 different shows, each of which come in at just under an hour in duration. There’s the character-montage, with a heartwarming moral lesson in Disney’s Believe, the ever-popular Golden Mickeys awards show, and Villains Tonight. You’ll want to make time for each of these shows–although we think the writing isn’t the greatest in any of them, they are still well-worth seeing, especially if you’re a big Disney fan wanting a theme park-esque “fix” from the cruise.
As far as the highlights of the Disney Dream that are different from our past experience on the Disney Magic, that about covers it. Obviously, there’s a lot more entertainment than what we’ve covered–and much of that varies from cruise to cruise (consult your Personal Navigator for that).
If you want to see a first-run Disney movie during your cruise, the Buena Vista Theatre plays them throughout the day. Just remember that your waking per-hour cost of a cruise is probably higher than a movie ticket, which makes seeing movies on a cruise about as effective at “saving money” as paying $80 for a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party ticket in order to trick or treat.
Beyond that, there are tons of other activities, from shopping to spas, to sports. From basketball to shuffleboard to ping pong to volleyball and more. There’s also a robust Fitness Center with a variety of machines, plus aerobic and yoga classes.
Shortly after we sailed, the Oceaneer’s Club for kids was totally redone; the highlight of this re-do is a Star Wars play area that looks like the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Disney Dream, and it really feels like a second-generation cruise ship, with Disney having learned from the Disney Magic and Wonder, and incorporating that into the design of the Dream. Although many of these differences are subtle, everything about it just feels like a “2.0” experience. Again, we want to reiterate that this isn’t a knock on the Disney Magic by any means. We were blown away by our first experience setting sail with Disney (and I was not expecting it to suit my personality at all), and it’s not as if the Magic is rough around the edges or some sort of slouch. The Disney Dream just slightly better. Because of that, we would definitely recommend it over the Disney Magic–but not by such a significant margin that you should weigh the ships more heavily than the itineraries. With that said, all things being equal, we’d give the nod to the Disney Dream. If you’re able to justify the price (or can find an off-season deal), Disney Cruise Line delivers on the Disney quality, and offers the “Disney Difference.”
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Have you ever set sail on the Disney Dream? What do you think of it? If you’ve sailed other ships, how do you think it stacks up to those? Any other tips to add or recommendations? If you have questions or thoughts, please share them below and we’ll try to respond!