Lebeau Family Trip Report 2015: Disney Dream Cruise Part 1
After having spent Father’s Day on a whirlwind tour of both Universal parks, we were headed to the main attraction of this year’s vacation; the Disney Dream. This was the first cruise – Disney or otherwise – for everyone in the family. We had previously approached the idea of a cruise with some trepidation. Mindy is prone to claustrophobia which makes even a two-hour flight to Orlando difficult for her. We were concerned she would feel trapped in a small cabin or stuck on a big boat in the middle of the ocean. There were also worries about things like motion sickness and whether or not the kids would be bored.
During the planning stages of the trip, I did my best to minimize any potential problems. By booking a Disney cruise, I figured the kids – and me – would be entertained. The cabins on a Disney cruise ship tend to be a little larger than industry standard. So that helped out a bit with the claustrophobia issue. To further allay concerns, I sprung for a cabin with a verandah. That way, regardless of room size there was always the option of stepping outside and getting some fresh air. This kind of thinking lead me to the conclusion that we might as well shell out for a room on the concierge deck of the ship.
We ended up having a wonderful vacation. Everyone is looking forward to taking another cruise someday. The extra money spent definitely contributed to our enjoyment. The girls quickly adapted to a life of luxury and Mindy says she’s not sure if she could ever downgrade from the concierge treatment. It was truly a once in a lifetime type of vacation (unless of course we do it again). Hopefully I can adequately convey some sense of what the experience was like.
Due to the length of this report, I’m including a Table of Context up front so readers can jump to the sections that interest them.
Through a mix-up of some sort. we were riding to Port Canaveral from Orlando in a limousine. According to our car service, Happy Limo, they had overbooked their sedans for the day and given us a free upgrade. Regardless of the reason why, we were going to arrive at the port in style. It was an amazing way to begin a very luxurious vacation.
Despite numerous trips to Florida, the kids had never seen the ocean before. Our vacations had been limited to the part of the state in which theme parks were most abundant and beaches are purely man-made. So when our limo passed the ocean, I pointed it out to them. They got their first look at the vastness of the ocean. It had been quite a while since the last time I saw the ocean myself so even I was pretty impressed with the view. Mindy, who had been wanting a beach vacation for too long, was very satisfied.
For months leading up to the trip, I had been trying to prepare both the girls and myself for what we were about to undertake. The girls had been on a little riverboat cruise and their expectations were based on that experience. I told them repeatedly that this would be different. Our cruise ship was much, much larger. It would be more like a floating city than the kind of boat they were used to. Not surprisingly, this abstract concept never really sunk in with them.
My preparation included reading a lot of trip reports just like this one. There’s really no better way to get a sense of what a vacation is like than reading the first-hand accounts. Just about every trip report I read included a moment when the ship first came into view. Based on these reports, I was prepared to be awed by the size and grandeur of the ship. But even with that information, I had to admit that first view was pretty spectacular. The Disney Dream was both larger and grander than I was expecting.
I pointed the ship out to the girls and I daresay they were dumbstruck. Nothing in their young lives had prepared them for a sight like this. Sure, I had been telling them for nine months or so that the ship was big. I had told them it was 14-stories high and longer than the Eiffel tower is tall. I had compared it to a city. And yet, this was more than they were expecting. It was like seeing an alien space ship. Even Mindy was impressed.
Based on what I had read, there are a few different approaches you can take to embarkation (that would be boarding the ship for cruise novices). One strategy is to arrive early to beat the rush. The primary advantage is that this gives you more time on the boat which is basically what you are paying for. The drawback is that the port is likely to be crowded and you may spend a lot of time waiting around.
The other basic approach is to arrive a little later in the day after the port has been open for a while. Sure, you’re giving up a little time on the boat, but as long as you don’t arrive at the same time as a load of Disney buses, your wait times will be minimal. From what I read, guests who arrive after 1:00 can usually walk right on to the ship with little to no wait.
We were taking the early arrival approach. I had been on the fence about this because both methods had their appeal. Part of what sealed the deal for us was that we wanted to get tickets to some of the character meet-and-greets on board. There were two popular encounters which required advance tickets; a Disney princess gathering and a visit with Anna and Elsa from Frozen. Our girls had seen all of these characters previously at the parks at Walt Disney World. But part of the appeal of taking a Disney cruise was the opportunity to see them again.
In the months leading up to the cruise, I had called the onshore concierge desk a couple of times to see if the tickets could be secured before boarding. My travel agent made similar inquiries. Each time, the answer was the same. We would need to go to deck five upon boarding in order to obtain the tickets. But since we were concierge guests, we would have the advantage of being among the first guests to board which would practically guarantee us a spot at the meet and greets as long as we weren’t late.
The timing worked out very well. We arrived at the port just before the doors opened. There was already a pretty large crowd waiting to be admitted. A Disney cast-member came around collecting luggage. We had fastened the provided tags to our bags so that they could be delivered directly to our room. That would leave us with nothing but our carry-ons (which included a stuffed minion and unicorn which I was usually tasked with carrying). The cast-member saw that we were staying on deck 11 and promised us we were in for a stress-free vacation. He assured us the concierge team would take care of everything from this point on.
But before that could happen, we had to get on the boat. We were still standing outside the port. The kids whined a little. I told you, impatience is a thing. Mindy and I checked and double checked to make sure we had all of the required documents in hand. A few minutes later, the crowd started moving towards the front gate. We were on our way. The excitement in the crowd was palpable.
As we started moving, I got a message from our travel agent, Stacy. She told me that Disney was taking concierge guests to the third floor and that we should be sure to mention that so we would be directed to the right place. I should mention that one of the reasons we settled on this particular cruise was that it was being organized by our travel agency, Kingdom Konsultants. So there would be a lot of travel agents on hand should anything go wrong. I figured that would be an ideal situation for a first cruise experience. I mentioned the “third floor” to the Disney cast-member who checked our photo IDs. It was very clear to me that she had no idea what I was getting at, so we just let the question go.
Upon entering the port, we had to undergo a security check. This was very similar to the TSA procedure at the airport. It wasn’t fun, but we got through it quickly and painlessly. While we were waiting, we started talking to a couple of other guests that we presumed were mother and daughter. Mindy admired their polka-dotted toenails which were reminiscent of Minnie Mouse. The mother explained that the designs were actually stickers. We didn’t know it at the time, but we would run into these guests and their toenail stickers again before long.
Once we got through security, we entered the large open waiting area. There are various desks to process different things. I’m afraid I can’t be very descriptive here because we by-passed all of them. Towards the center of the floor there is a large replica of the ship. One side of the model shows the exterior of the boat and the other side features a detailed cut-away of the interior.
Captain Mickey Mouse was out meeting guests near the model of the ship. The wait to see him was shorter than it usually is in the parks, but the girls weren’t interested in waiting in lines. The day before, they had shown a reluctance to meet characters at Universal and that carried over into the initial phase of our cruise. So we walked past Mickey to the concierge processing area.
There was a bit of confusion here. A group of guests had gathered in front of the entrance. We couldn’t tell if they were waiting in line to have their paperwork processed or if they were just inconveniently blocking the entrance. I decided to ask and it turned out to be the latter. Once that was cleared up, we made our way to the concierge services and everything got much simpler.
Next: Boarding the Ship