Everything Else We Loved About Our Disney Cruise

1/16/2013 06:47:00 PM Posted by mommy2twincesses

So basically, we loved ALMOST everything about our Disney cruise, but so far I’ve just told you about the pools, slides, room, and food. Now it’s time to tell you about the REALLY amazing thing about the trip……..the crew. As anyone knows, an experience can be made or totally ruined by staff, and I can honestly do nothing but sing the praises of the crew of the Disney Dream and Castaway Cay!

From the moment we stepped onto the ship, welcomed full blown red carpet style, with our family name announced and a hearty round of applause and smiles that said, “we’re truly glad you’re here”, I knew immediately that we were going to have our socks knocked off-and boy did we!

There were members of the Disney team everywhere we looked and they were more than happy to meet our every whim!

Our very first stop was in the bathroom beside the pools, and there was an attendant inside offering hand sanitizing wipes as well as sanitizing the knobs and faucets and keeping the floor dry (they were also on top of keeping the decks around the pools dry!). 

The cleanliness was OFF the charts-I’m talking we witnessed a stain being spot removed from the carpet on the sly! Not to mention the sanitizing that occurred each and every time you entered a restaurant. They also kept a close watch on the pools, as diapers are only allowed in Nemo’s Reef splash pad for sanitary reasons. Health is very important to us, and it was clear that it was also a top priority of Disney.

Besides being all over the clean and tidy wagon, they were also on the extremely kind and helpful one!

Our stateroom host, Pong, was completely superior! He was right on the money and almost seemed to anticipate our needs. From fresh ice water ‘round the clock, to magically appearing bunk beds for the girls, turn down service for the “big kids”, “Sleepy” chocolates and Daily Navigators, and of course, ridiculously cute towel animals, Pong ROCKED! 

Then, we had our Main and Assistant servers each night for dinner-yes, they follow you through the dining rooms for more personalized service-Charlie and Ivonne. They were great! Ivonne was new but she tried her best and was very friendly. Charlie was on top of his game, accommodated any request we made, and even did a few card tricks ;)

I absolutely cannot fail to mention the staff of the Oceaneer’s Club and Lab! Out of this world! Seriously, our children CRIED to stay with them! I felt very safe leaving the girls in the club as they strictly monitor who goes in and out, parents must have their Key to the World card, know a secret password, and then the children must tap their Mickey bands (electronic armbands equipped with GPS to locate the children at all times) to enter and exit. They had exciting, fun, and often educational activities to do with the children and there isn’t a grade high enough to rate this program! 8 thumbs up from us <3

Among the crew, you also had cast members of course. They were definitely the girls’ favorite people on board the Dream! From bringing the beloved Disney characters to life through meet and greets and stage/dance parties, to performing Broadway style in the Walt Disney Theatre, the cast members were everything you’d dream they’d be and helped us make memories that will last a lifetime! There are a few DEFINITE don’t misses and they include: The Golden Mickeys, Villians Tonight (which got mixed reviews but we really enjoyed, even the girls), Disney’s Believe (my personal favorite), and the character dance party (the girls’ favorite by far).

The staff members that are probably most overlooked are the 35 guys living on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. These workers live there full time to keep it immaculate and pristine. Our day on this island was our favorite by far and when we get a chance to go back, I’ll make sure to get out there as early as possible (okay, this time I was one of the first off the ship to run in the Castaway Cay 5K, but I mean for leisure) and will be among some of the last stragglers boarding that evening. We LOVED LOVED LOVED Castaway Cay!

The staff was there in every way we could’ve asked and for all they did, I’m extremely grateful!
To show our appreciation for all they did I brought along personalized thank you cards attached to treats for the guest services team (who are responsible for having our items personalized by the characters as well as take care of reservations or just anything else you need), the same for the crew of the Oceaneer’s Club and Lab, and single treats with a cash surprise inside for everyone in between-room service and such. Everyone was grateful for our showing of appreciation and were even more willing to do whatever they could to make our trip everything we’d hoped it would be.

What We Loved About Our Disney Cruise-Food!

1/16/2013 09:11:00 AM Posted by mommy2twincesses

We’re home from our first Disney Cruise and we’re all still talking about it, looking through pictures, reliving favorite moments, and dreaming about the day we’ll get to do it all over again!
In my previous post I shared what we loved about the pools, slides, and our room, and now I’m going to share something we loved even more than those things-the food!

Okay, I have to be honest and say that in my opinion the food gets mixed reviews-but for the record, pretty much ANYTHING that I do not have to cook and clean up after gets an “A” for effort in my book!

Upon receiving our “Key to the World” cards, one of the first things I looked for was the legend for our dining rotation. “Dining rotation?” you ask? Yes! Dining rotation! On the Dream, as well as the other Disney ships, guests are treated to not simply one main dining area, as is standard from my understanding of other cruise lines, but THREE-plus all the extra food and treat spots along the way.

So, our dining assignment was Royal Palace, Animator’s Palate, and Enchanted Garden, and the last night we were to repeat Enchanted Garden (but since it was the last night of our trip and our 9th anniversary was the next day, I made DH and I reservations at Palo, one of two adult only and extra charge restaurants onboard so we did not actually repeat Enchanted Garden).
We chose the main seat dining time of 5:45 (there is also a late seating at 8:15, but we have early bird girls, so the earlier dining fit our needs better).

The first night in Royal Palace was a real treat! This restaurant is themed around the classic Disney princess stories and really made us feel like royalty upon just walking in it! The food served here is classified as “continental, French” cuisine and wasn’t bad at all. But to be honest, the décor and overall feel of the atmosphere greatly overshadowed anything I could have put in my mouth-it was more a treat for my eyes and imagination than my tummy ;) But, for thoroughness sake, I will share what we tried from here:

I’ll begin with the children’s menu, as I personally found it quite impressive and not at all what I had read in so many other reviews and blogs-which complained about the children being subjected to junk food the entire trip, which was not the case with us, though it could have been had we allowed it. The children are offered a 3 course meal along with the adults, but this night, the girls forwent an appetizer in order to gawk at our surroundings, not to mention they devoured the bread that was perfectly perched in a Cinderella style pumpkin carriage on our table. For their main course they both requested spaghetti and meatballs, and it came with a steamed veggie mix. They inhaled the spaghetti in record time and I snuck their veggies which I thought were perfectly cooked and seasoned.

I ordered the Double Baked Spinach Soufflé coated with three cheese cream to start, and followed that with Roasted Wild Boar and gratin potatoes. While all of this was tasty, the potatoes were by far my favorite and were actually listed with another meal, but Charlie, our head server, was happy to get them for me anyway. 

DH began his meal with Iced Lobster and Jumbo Shrimp and it must’ve been pretty good because it was gone quickly! For his main course he chose the Royal Palace Aged Angus Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Lobster Medallions  with sautéed snow peas and marquis potatoes with a cognac reduction. Again, he said he was pleased.

We were all way too full and tired to brave dessert. Bummer :o( We could’ve requested that it be boxed and taken it back to our room, since each is equipped with a mini fridge, but (speaking for myself here), I knew it would be way too easy to over eat, and with all the food offerings on the ship I didn’t want to blow all the hard work I’d been doing to get in “Ship Shape”.

So second day food run-down:

We began the morning with buffet style breakfast from Cabanas. I’d have to say that I’m not typically a big breakfast eater, and for that I’m thankful because this was my least favored meal of all during our trip. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great, and honestly, from Disney, I expected GREAT. There was plenty to choose from and our family favorites were the Mickey waffles and fresh fruit. (Do yourself a favor and skip the pancakes :ox)

We went out and about on the island of Nassau, so our lunch was at the Atlantis Resort instead of on board. (Quick tip-the excursion we chose came with complimentary lunch, but I read that if you went off board and didn’t want to pay extra for lunch in the port of call, you can order room service (which is free) before you disembark and carry a lunch from the ship with you on your explorations!)

Supper the second night was the one that I had looked most forward to, and I wasn’t disappointed (except the girls missed it because they REFUSED to leave the kids’ club)! Animator’s Palate was a blast and the Pacific Rim/American food was perfect! Crush was a hoot and the interaction with us was amazing-and Charlie’s card tricks were pretty neat too!
I have a little confession to make here……..I was so taken in with the Crush entertainment that I can’t recall exactly what I ate here other than I started with a soup that I LOVED and finished the meal with a cookies and cream sundae. And it goes without saying that if don’t remember what I ate, I have NO clue what DH tried-we were both pleased, I DO remember that!

We actually sat close enough to the table next to us, that we chatted with them during dinner and found them to be complete sweet hearts! They were there with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and were just lovely people. Between conversation with them and the interaction with Crush, food was the last thing on my mind.

The third day’s food began the same with breakfast in Cabanas (we could’ve went to one of the sit down restaurants, but thought for us, quicker was better).

We enjoyed lunch on Castaway Cay at Cookie’s BBQ. Buffet style food on a private island……..seriously, it doesn’t get any better than that!

And then came dinner at Enchanted Garden, with the pirate night menu. (Of the 3 main dining choices, this night was my favorite and it’s my understanding that the same menu is used throughout all of the restaurants on pirate night.)

The girls’ meal began with a cream of chicken soup that we all loved and was followed by carved sirloin with smashed potatoes. There was nothing left on their plates :o)

My meal started with “Pirates Golden Pot-Stickers” and ended with “The Dutchmen's Dijon-Crusted Sirloin of Beef”. I enjoyed it all very much and couldn’t have held dessert if I’d tried!

Our final full day on board the ship, we stuck with Cabanas for a quick breakfast, and checked out the snack bars for lunch. My favorites include the grilled chicken salad wrap from Fillmore’s Favorites, the BBQ chicken pizza from Luigi’s Pizza, and of course, the chocolate ice cream from EyeScream. 

Dinner the last night was an extra special treat, an adults-only meal at the coveted Palo. We took the girls for a last minute fill-up at the snack stations before we dropped them off in the Oceaneer’s Club (where they were served a real dinner I might add) before heading to what was one of the best meals of my life!

Palo offers exquisite Northern Italian cuisine in a delightfully elegant atmosphere.
After a quiet drink on an outside deck we were lead to our table and the feasting quickly began.  The very first things they brought to our table were several selections of delicious breads and a sampler of several sorts of mini appetizers, all of which we enjoyed immensely.

For our actual appetizers we chose Sicilian Pesto Marinated Grilled Shrimp and Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Polenta with a roasted shallot sauce and a parmesan chip. These were delicious!

For my main course I tried the house special, beef tenderloin “Palo” with gorgonzola sauce and I’m quite certain this will be a regular dish on God’s heavenly table! Seriously, just wonderful! And I was way too wrapped up in my own ware to be concerned about DH’s, but he raved about his as well.

We just couldn’t resist dessert this night, as I had read way too often about the fabulousness of the chocolate soufflé. We were definitely not disappointed-this was unbelievably delicious and I probably could’ve eaten more than one but I feared I’d be sick ;)

Our server in Palo was also kind enough to wrap up two different desserts for us to take back to our room for the girls! The homemade Tiramisu and Panna Cotta with Strawberry-Basil Sorbet. Manuel, an actual Italian, knew the dishes inside and out and took very good care of us!

We only ordered room service once (though it's offered 24 hours and is complimentary) and we got Mickey bars and Big Island cookies. Neither was anything to write home about, even though I had read rave reviews of both. Mickey bars are simply chocolate coated ice cream bars in the shape of a Mickey head and the cookies were standard chocolate chip. Neither bad nor anything special.

For the amount of people served, the wide variety of offerings, and the meticulous presentation I award the Disney Dream a solid “A” for food! It should be known, however, that I’m no “foodie”, so you may want to check AllEars.net for full menus as well as unofficial “foodie” reviews and photos :o)

What We Loved About Our Disney Cruise-Pools, Slides, and Room

1/13/2013 07:28:00 AM Posted by mommy2twincesses

We recently got home from our first ever family Disney Cruise, and I must say first and foremost, it was fabulous! I have absolutely no regrets about choosing to cruise with Disney (and am already daydreaming about when we can go again), however, I feel it necessary to share some things that I wish I had known before hand-all of the details, the good, the bad, and the ugly!

First off, because it was an overall fantastic trip, I’ll start with the good-perhaps GREAT is a better word. This category contains so many things I’m not quite sure where to start, so if this gets jumbled, bear with me-I’m still running on adrenaline from the sheer awesomeness of the experience!

Okay, I’m a researching/planning crazy person so I thought there would be no surprises for me. I thought I had every single thing figured out, planned out, and worked out. I was wrong-but mostly in good ways. Let me explain.

During our planning stages I spent shameful amounts of time online reading through other peoples’ experiences, browsing the DCL web site trying to familiarize myself with the ship and what to expect, but trust me, until you just GO, there is no real grasping the entire amazingness that is the Disney Cruise!

We arrived to port at our designated time and checking in/getting our “Key to the World” cards and boarding the ship was a breeze. I expected long lines and tons of waiting, and though the terminal was full of people, noise, and chaos, we had no trouble at all.

When we got close to the ship, we cruised on Disney Dream BTW, we were literally overtaken with her size and beauty! Pictures just do not do her justice! And as if being breathless from the enormous floating palace you’re boarding wasn’t enough, toss in being welcomed, by family name, with a thunderous applause from a “red carpet” style line of crew members! We honestly felt like, and were treated like, royalty from the very second we stepped foot on the ship. 

After a dizzying glance around the elegant main lobby atrium, we quickly made our way up to Deck 11 where the pools were located. From my research I knew to bring us all a bathing suit in my carryon bag so we could enjoy the pools, splash pad, and slides before our luggage made it to our room. We quickly got changed and “jumped right in” so to speak!

The weather was perfect, sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 70’s, but the heated water (and lights at night) just made it even better! The girls ran and squealed themselves silly in the Nemo’s Reef splash pad area before discovering the Mickey pool, which was a perfect depth for the little ones to play and parents not worry, and was also close enough together that I didn’t stress about one child being in one area and the other choosing the other, because with a simple turn of the head I could see them both. 

DH disappeared for a few minutes and returned bearing us “adult” beverages in the reusable plastic cups I knew to bring onboard, as well as the girls’ a refill in their own sport’s type water bottles. 

Here is a GREAT thing to know before you cruise and I’m so glad I did-you may carry your own alcohol, in carryon bags (see DCL’s full alcohol policy here) as well as bring your own reusable cups. Because of the tiny size of the tossable cups offered at the soda fountains, I’ll be forever grateful we took our own cups, with lids and straws, and the girls’ strapped sports bottles! This made refilling and transporting drinks a world easier.

Around 1ish, I snuck off to find our room while DH and the girls hung by the pool and enjoyed the slides, both the Aquaduck and the Mickey slide. I was pleasantly welcomed by our luggage waiting there for us, and even more pleased with the cleanliness, design, and size of our room-we had a Deluxe Family Oceanview with Verandah. 

The split bathroom plan is only available on the Disney Cruise Line, and is absolutely brilliant! On one side you’ve got a toilet and sink, and behind the next door is your shower/tub and another sink. Excellent design, especially for families! 

I was elated to find an abundance of storage space, as I’m not keen on living out of suitcases, seeing piles of junk, nor stepping over things in the floor. Disney has this all figured out!

There was a double sided closet with more than enough room for our family of four, drawers on each side of the main bed, a desk area with plenty of storage space, the bed was raised so that luggage pieces would easily fit underneath, and there was even an ottoman with more storage in it! 

The retractable curtain partition between the queen size bed and living area, which “magically” converts to bunk beds in the evenings, is perfect for privacy and really makes both adults and children feel like they have “their own” space.

And the private verandah was perfect for taking in the scenery, relaxing, and tossing our wet and/or sandy stuff, although there are retractable clotheslines in the shower for these items too.

I’m just getting started! But this is what we loved about the pools and our room!