We are back from our amazing Disney Dream cruise! The name of the ship is so appropriate for the whole thing; it really does seem like the whole thing could have been a dream! There are so many different aspects that could be written about, so I am going to break up my thoughts into smaller blog posts.
When we set sail, we did so with 8 children and 7 adults. For that reason, it seems I now have some expertise on cruising with children. The children in our group ranged in age from 1 year to 12 years, so we made use of the It’s a Small World nursery, all the way up to the Edge tween area. Disney cruises really are designed for families with children. Because of cost concerns and room design, I’m not sure about it’s overall feasibility for big families, but that’s an individualized decision.
I had so many people give me advice before we went on the cruise, which was incredibly helpful. However, there really is no way to get an understanding of how the ship works until you are on board. It really took us the full four days to become familiar with the ship, and then it was time to get off! But despite my realization that there is only so much you can know ahead of time, I will attempt to share my newly found insight with you.
1. It’s A Small World Nursery
We were told before sailing that the nursery area was by reservation only, and that it had a limit. However, on this particular sailing, that was not the case. There were no reservations required and no limit as to how long my one year old nephew could stay in the nursery. There was a cost of $4.50/hour, which is cheaper than any babysitter at home! I’m sure the availability of the nursery varies based on how many babies are on board. We were given the advice to go to the nursery as soon as you got on board to make reservations, and that still seems like an excellent idea, especially if you have adult-only dining reservations at a restaurant like Remy. Make the reservations for the times you absolutely need to have, so that you don’t need to worry about it in the future.
2. The Oceaneer’s Club and Lab
The kid’s club, as we came to call it, is actually known at the Oceaneer’s Club and the Oceaneer’s Lab. On the Disney Dream, these two areas have separate check-in areas, but are connected by a hallway/craft/eating area. There are different activities happening on each side and it is helpful to let your children know about this so they can try to be in the right place at the right time. There is an amazing Star Wars and Millennium Falcon area, which my kids really loved!
Soon after you get on the ship, there will be an open house to allow parents to walk around the kid’s area. This is the only time that adults are allowed to freely roam about this area. This is a great idea to help you feel comfortable in the space and to help your children feel comfortable as well. During our sailing, there were more open houses as well throughout the week, in case you missed one the first day.
The security in this area is amazing! You have to designate a secret word, have an approved list of pick-up people, pictures are taken of every passenger to match a name with a face, and the children are given magic bands to check in and out of the kid’s area. It felt like Fort Knox; which is a wonderful feeling as a parent! There is also a paging system using the onboard ships, or through the ship only app, where the staff can contact you if your child needs picked up. It’s a great system where you feel secure enjoying yourself, while knowing that you can be contacted if needed.
3. Edge and Vibe for Tweens and Teens Only
My oldest is 12 years old. He was at a magical age where he had the option to go in the Oceaneer’s Club, which is for ages 3-12, or in Edge, which is the tween area for ages 11-14. In Edge, the child can check themselves in and out, and, if you give them permission to do so, can do the same in the younger kids area as well. This worked wonderfully for my son because he really did enjoy several of the activities in the Oceaneer’s Club and Lab, as well as enjoying some games and activities in the tween area. Before I went on the ship, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about him roaming the ship alone, but after being on board for a while, we really did feel secure in letting him have that freedom. He rode the aquaduck at night on his own, got food when he wanted, and enjoyed time with his siblings as well. As a parent of children of many different ages, I really appreciated having so many different options.
4. Castaway Cay with children
Castaway Cay was my favorite part of the cruise experience. I just really love being at the beach, and this was one of the most beautiful I have seen in the world. It did feel a little crowded in areas of the island, particularly at meal time. There is a children’s area on the island that accommodates ages 3-12 in a supervised setting. There is no nursery, and there are some activities for the tweens and teens, but these were sparse. As a mom, one of the things that I love having a break from in parental duties is feeing children. So I was sure to drop my 5 children off in time for lunch! They had a meal together, and then had a whole slew of fun activities like sand castle building competitions, talent shows, and games. When I came back to check on my kids, three wanted to go and two wanted to stay longer. They ended up having a wonderful time and even won some hats and prizes that they were given back at the Oceaneer’s Club on the ship.
5. Day at Port with kids
Our only stop, besides Castaway Cay, was in Nassau. Our entire 15 person group took a two hour guided tour of the island, which was very informative and fun. The kids did not love it, but we were very glad to get their passport stamped and take some great pictures around the island. However, my recommendation with children in Nassau would be to skip it all together. Supposedly, the ship is less crowded while most people are at port, so that would give you a great chance to experience the pool and slide. You won’t miss much if you skip Nassau. It is crowded and hectic, and can be overwhelming for small children. There is lots to see, and if you are feeling adventurous, sign up for one of the many additional activities, but if you are feeling tired or overwhelmed, just stay on the ship.
As a parent, I would not feel comfortable with this, but I asked at the Oceaneer’s Club, and it was an option to leave your children in the supervised area while you went to Nassau. For me, it would just take too long to get back to the children if they needed me, but for others, it might be a great option to experience the Straw Market on your own.
6. So. Many. Activities!
We were on the Disney Dream for four nights and about 4 days (since you get off so early in the morning on the technically 5th day). Our sailing was actually a chartered trip for Focus on the Family, so there were even more activities than usual. In addition to the special events for Focus on the Family, there were more dance parties, character meet and greets, crafts, and games than you could possibly do in the time on board. I did become overwhelmed and tried to do way too much. My advice would be to pick two or three activities that you would like to do, and then let that be it for the day. I wanted to do as much as humanly possible in our time on board, and thus really had very little, if any, relaxing time. This is a matter of personal preference in how you want your vacation to be. I really should have scheduled more downtime in my day, but will know better for our next cruise!
Stay tuned for Part 2!