Magical Family Vacations Aboard the Disney Dream

By Nancy Schretter, Editor

Families who are considering a family cruise vacation should check out the Disney Dream. This new ship is designed specifically for family vacations with kids of all ages. There's something for every member of your family travel clan here - along with an extra sprinkle of pixie dust for particularly memorable family vacation fun.

New ships are all about creating the "WOW" factor and Disney certainly delivers that with the Disney Dream. In true Disney fashion, however, Disney Cruise Line takes things one step further by "trigger moments" on this ship - unique experiences that elicit an emotional memory. To Disney, these events are what make family vacations particularly special. Whether it's watching your little one hug a Disney princess or seeing a merry band of hippos waltz across your stateroom porthole, these little events are things you'll treasure when you return back home.

Technology is a great enabler throughout this new ship and it's used to create an interactive experience for guests. Disney puts the latest technology from its parks and entertainment studios to work to inspire creativity and create those WOW moments. It's all about the experience ... and you are part of the show.

Disney says they are in the "guest experience business" and one can see that throughout the ship. With the Disney Dream, Disney Cruise Line has put together all the large and small components that add up to a memorable vacation for families.

A Ship Built For Families

Monica Griffin, Director of Marketing for Disney Cruise Line, said, "We build our cruise ships for families." Looking around the Disney Dream, one can see the difference. Disney's ships are not designed for the mass market with family activities and amenities added on. Family cruising is the core of the Disney Cruise Line business and that family cruise niche is growing.

More than a million kids cruise each year. According to a recent study conducted by Ypartnership, 77% of kids want to go on a cruise. Increasingly too, kids are driving family vacation decisions. Nearly 7 out of 10 kids help their families plan where to go on vacation. Disney Cruise Line expects to have about 1100 kids per cruise aboard the Disney Dream - and there could be as many as 1500 kids on a spring break or holiday sailing. That's a lot of kids, but there's tons on this ship to keep them busy.

Thomas Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said, "To create a great family cruise - we have to create a great experience for each member of the family." And he's right. Parents will often say things like, "I know my 8-year old will be happy, but I need my 14-year old to be happy too ... and at the same time, I don't want to come home absolutely exhausted from my vacation either."

With that in mind, Disney Cruise Line designed the Dream to have something for everyone. Each of the age-themed areas are spread far apart on the ship, so teens won't be annoyed by being next to the tweens or little kids and adults can enjoy a quiet place at the pool or a private cocktail. Although each age group has their own space, there are lots of planned family activities as well. Family members can have vacation adventures together as a family and separately on their own - and then come together to talk about it all. That way, with all that the Disney Dream offers, the kids can have an "awesome" time and Mom and Dad can come back from their vacation rested and relaxed.

Here's how this new Disney ship makes dreams come true for every age group:

Babies & Toddlers: The "It's A Small World" nursery caters to babies and toddlers ages 12 weeks and up. This nursery is an interactive play area with room for 80 children, double the size of Disney's other ships. Parents pay $6 per hour and can reserve up to 10 hours of time to start. In addition, the Nemo's Reef shaded water play area is perfect for little kids still in diapers. It's often a problem for families with young ones to find a great pool area on cruise ships, but this one is a 1500-square-foot splash zone filled with cute characters.

School-Age Kids: Kids ages 3 to 10 will go wild when they see the Oceaneer's Club and connected Oceaneer's Lab. Disney has broken up the clubs into smaller specialty-themed areas like "Andy's Room" from Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Pixie Hollow for fairies and princesses, Animator's and Song Studios, a science experiments area and more. The huge interactive Magic Floor is a fun place for kids to play individually or in teams. You won't find kids parked in front of computers playing mindless video games here. "The idea is to use technology and all of the spaces to enhance creativity - to let their imaginations run wild," says Erika Solano, Manager of Youth Activities onboard the Disney Dream. Donald's Pool (with a great view of the ship's 24-by-14 foot flatscreen) and Mickey's Pool with a waterslide are also very popular with kids of this age.

Tweens: On some cruise ships, kids ages 11- 13 are sandwiched in with younger siblings. Not on the Disney Dream. Here, tweens have their own loft-style club called Edge hidden in the forward funnel of the ship. What's particularly cool? The state-of-the-art video wall that is 18 feet long by 5 feet tall, the 3 green screen rooms for making their own movies, and watching the AquaDuck riders yell as they wind past in the forward funnel. This large area is sure to be a tween pleaser.

Teens: Disney has gone all out for this age group on their newest ship. Teens 14-17 have their own secluded 9,000 square-foot club called VIBE - complete with their own specially coded Key to the World cards to get in. This club is strictly teens only! The club comes with a private pool, sundeck and hot tub, a 103-inch LCD screen with state-of-the-art technology to create and edit videos, the latest DJ software, private built-in pods where teens can chill on their own and play video games or listen to music, a coffee and fountain bar, a cool dance area, and more. Teens can also go to their own Chill Spa for special teen spa treatments like a Hot Chocolate Wrap, Fabulous Fruity Facial, Ice Cream Manicure or Surfer's Scrub.

Adults: Disney has created hip adults-only areas on the Disney Dream where parents and couples can have fun with no kids around. The District is cool adults-only area with themed nightclubs and bars. My favorites: Skyline ... where the skyline literally changes every 15 minutes (with a bit of pixie dust) from major cities like New York to Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, and Chicago; Pink, a champagne bar; and the District Lounge. For adults, there's also an adults-only Quiet Cove pool, the fantastic Senses Spa, and the Cove Cafe lounge and coffee bar.

In addition, there are the Disney Dream's adults-only restaurants. Remy, named for the hero of the movie "Ratatouille," is an elegant French specialty restaurant. This unique dining experience will definitely have foodies saying, "Ooh la la!" Dinner at Remy is a 3-4 hour gourmet feast by two of the world's best chefs. It's comes with an additional $75 per person charge for the meal and an additional $99 per person for specialty wine pairings if desired. Jackets are required for men. Palo is another adults-only restaurant with great food and ambiance and a $20 per person cover charge. This one has proven to be particularly popular, so make your reservations early.

Highlights and Special Features

On every new ship, there are memorable features that everyone talks about. The Disney Dream has those in spades. Here are a few of my favorites:

* AquaDuck Water Coaster - This 765-foot rafting adventure takes its riders 12 feet over the side of the ship and 150 feet above the ocean. This is no hit or miss - it's almost a minute full of just plain fun. Just don't plan on shouting, "I feel the need for speed!" as you take off. In true Disney fashion, this ride is designed for kids (and kids at heart) of all ages and thrill levels. The ride uses clear acrylic tubes and propulsion technology from Disney's waterparks so riders are pushed uphill by jets of water. The minimum height requirement for this ride is 48 inches.

* Cool "Enchanted Art" - There are 22 pieces of interactive art all around the ship, 11 of which can be used to find clues and solve mysteries as part of the ship's Midship Detective Agency - a fun activity for families to do together. Crush from "Finding Nemo" speaks to kids and parents individually in the Animators Palate dining room, so keep listening for those personal interactive moments while you dine there.

* Magical Portholes in Inside Cabins - Disney has done away with the dungeon-like dark interior cabins aboard the new Dream. Each interior cabin features a "Magical Porthole" with real-time views from the outside of the ship plus animated Disney characters that scoot across the "windows" at selected times. These cabins are insanely popular since they are both entertaining and the cheapest cabins onboard the Dream - so book yours quickly.

* Roomy Family Staterooms - Disney Dream cabins are standouts with tons of storage space, separate bathrooms (one with a toilet and sink, the other with a bathtub/shower and sink), a curtain to separate Mom & Dad's bed from the kids sleeping area, raised beds (so you can store your luggage underneath), stars on the ceiling above the kids' bunks, iPod docking stations and more.

* Incredible Entertainment - Disney is the undisputed king of entertainment. Fabulous Broadway-style Disney shows and first-run 3-D movies in the theaters will have you shouting, "I Believe!" Don't miss the "Disney Believe" show and the pirate party ... complete with fireworks.

* Special Touches - Each guest or family is announced and welcomed aboard the ship by name - with claps and shouts from the crew. Disney supplies two free "Wave" phones in each room so that you can keep in touch with your teen or spouse - and counselors can keep in touch with you via voice and text. There is no charge for soft drinks and no charge for late-night kids programming. Counselors will come and pick up the kids from dinner so you and your spouse can relax and take it slow.

* Character Interactions - The Disney character "meet and greet" opportunities are numerous and particularly magical aboard the Dream ... often even better than what you'll find in the parks. These characters are really good at coaxing the shyest kid into adorable portrait poses, so bring plenty of digital memory cards. This is one vacation that will create loads of picture-perfect memories and family adventures for you to treasure.

If You Go:

* Three and four-night cruises fly by fast. Do some advance research so you know what's available and won't get overwhelmed with the amount of offerings. Like at Walt Disney World, you can't do it all in such a short time period. Choose what you want to do and prioritize it. Make advance reservations for the things you really want, like Remy, Palo, It's a Small World hours, spa treatments, and popular shore excursions.

* If you're planning to try out the AquaDuck, bring the kids suits in your carry-on luggage on the day you board the ship and ride in the afternoon. The lines are likely to be shorter. And if possible, ride with two people. It makes the ride a bit faster and more fun.

* Make sure your teens and tweens go to their programs on the first night - that's when they'll get to "choose their cruise" activities based on what the group wants to do on their sailing.

* Character interactions happen daily in the Atrium as well as at selected times in the Oceaneer's Club, Oceaneer's Lab, and other locations. Check your Personal Navigator for more information.

* Relax and enjoy the experience ... let yourself escape completely into the World of Disney for your cruise and enjoy the show. After all, you and your family play the starring roles in this production. Just focus on making great vacation memories and enjoy!

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