Please enjoy a recent travel review from one of our agents here at Travel Brokers, Zack Kemp.
This was my first cruising experience and my wife and I had an amazing time. We sailed aboard the Disney Dream out of Miami. It was a 5-day cruise that stopped at Disney’s private island Castaway Cay, Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico.
Westin at DTW:
To start the trip, I booked us a stay at the Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport which is connected to the McNamara airport terminal. This hotel is extremely nice and well-maintained with modern amenities in the rooms and in the lobby. But the nicest feature of this hotel is the dedicated security line inside the hotel. We woke up the morning of our flight and were able to walk through security with no wait. If you are checking bags, you will need to walk over to the main terminal to drop your bags off before going through the security line in the hotel.
Day before the Cruise:
We arrived in Miami one day before the cruise was to depart and were so glad that we did. It gave us time to relax and not worry about trying to rush to the cruise port the second we landed. Flights can be quite unpredictable with delays and cancellations so it is always nice to arrive a day ahead of time so you do not have to stress about missing the boat. We stayed at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami hotel. This is a very nice (and very tall) 5-star hotel that offers spacious rooms overlooking the Miami River/ Biscayne Bay right in the heart of downtown Miami. The hotel was very nice, but it was very much focused on business trips and even had an executive desk in the hotel room.
Checking in for the Cruise:
Once the cruise has been booked, you need to download the Disney Navigator app. You will use your own personal Disney account login information to log in. It should automatically link the reservation if the email is the same one used to book the cruise. If not, there will be a section for “Link reservation”. We were able to check in for our Disney Cruise 30 days ahead of time on the Disney Navigator App (Will be further out depending on how many Disney Cruises you have previously been on). They will ask for a picture of each passenger and a picture of each passenger’s passport or birth certificate (depending on what you are traveling with). They will also ask for a credit card to put on file for any charges to your room during your stay. Once you fill out all of this information, you are able to select a “port arrival time”. Because we did our online check-in right at the 30-day mark, we got to choose any and all port arrival times. We chose one of the earliest (12:15p - 12:30p) so we could get on the ship early to get lunch and explore the ship. A few weeks after you check in, Disney will send luggage tags directly to your home to bring on the cruise with instructions.
We arrived at the Port around 12:15p via Uber. We were dropped off right outside of Terminal C (Disney and Norwegian use this terminal in Miami). Right outside there are porters who will collect any luggage that has been tagged with the Disney Cruise Line luggage tags that were sent to you before the trip, then you will enter the cruise terminal. This process is very similar to going through airport security. They will scan your port arrival form and check your passports or birth certificates. Once you get through the security line, you will enter the large waiting area just outside the ship. If they are currently on your number, you can walk right onto the ship. If your number has not been called yet, you can sit in the waiting area.
Once you get on the ship, you are free to do as you please. Your room won’t be available until around 1:30p or 2p and your luggage may not be available until 6pm. So make sure that you bring onboard with you a change of clothes for dinner, swimwear, medications, or anything they might need before 6pm (Our luggage arrived outside of our stateroom around 4:30p).
Once onboard, they will advise you to log into the ship’s wifi on your phone. Once you are logged into their wifi, you can access the onboard entertainment schedule on the Disney Navigator app. This will tell you showtimes, where and when to meet characters, and any other onboard information during the cruise. Make sure you have this app downloaded before getting on the ship. The app informed us when and where we were to meet for our mandatory muster drill. The drill itself took about 3 minutes, but it took around 30 minutes for everyone to arrive.
Free Food and Dining:
The Disney Dream has a main buffet that is open for breakfast, lunch, and a few hours for dinner. They also offered a few different quick service stations that were open for lunch and dinner that offered burgers, hot dogs, pizza, salads, etc. There is also a self-service soft-serve station on the pool deck towards the mid-forward location of the ship. Unlike most other cruise lines, Disney offers free soda during your stay. These soda machines are located on the pool deck. This is also where I would recommend filling up water bottles that you might (and should) bring onboard. Disney offers what is called “Rotational Dining” where you dine at 1 of 3 different themed restaurants each night. Each restaurant will offer the same menu, just at a different location with a different theme. You will have the same waitstaff each night of your cruise who will follow you from restaurant to restaurant. You can find each restaurant that you will be dining at on the Disney Navigator app. The food at these sit-down restaurants was incredible. The menu is different every night so you can try a variety of different meals that you would normally never try. Some of my favorites were the prime rib and sea scallops. One of the 3 restaurants will be open each day for a sit-down breakfast and lunch as an additional option.
Extra Priced Food, Drinks, and Dining:
The Disney Dream offers a variety of bars and venues that will serve cocktails and sometimes small plates like chicken wings, charcuterie boards, etc. These are not included in the cruise price but are very cool as each bar and venue offers something different. There are no reservations required to enter these locations, but you must be 18 or older to enter.
There are 2 separate cafes that offer alcoholic beverages as well as specialty coffee for an additional cost. Although coffee is free on the pool deck and during breakfast and dinner, you can purchase specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos at either of these locations. We ordered coffee drinks from both locations throughout our trip and they were extremely good.
They also offer 2 specialty dining restaurants called Paolo and Remy. These restaurants are offered at an additional cost and require advanced reservations. Although we did not eat at either of these restaurants, everyone I had spoken with and overheard said that both options were incredible.
Pools and activities onboard:
The Disney Dream offered 3 different pools on the main pool deck towards the middle of the ship. On this pool deck, there is a massive TV screen that shows different Disney movies and shows throughout the entire trip. The main pool deck could also be converted into a stage show area at night. They also offered a waterslide called the AquaDuck on this main pool deck that extended over the side of the boat.
In the forward part of the ship, there were 2 separate adults-only areas that offered a hot tub and 2 different pools for anyone over the age of 18. There were plenty of comfortable lounge chairs throughout the area without the presence of screaming children. We spent countless hours sitting poolside, reading, and enjoying the views of the vast ocean. Throughout the day, the bartenders would walk around the pool deck asking if anyone wanted bar service.
There are several character meet and greets throughout the ship all throughout the day. You can find times and locations on the Disney Navigator App. Every night there was some form of a stage show, whether it was a Broadway-style show in the Theater on board, or a Pirate-themed stage and fireworks show on the pool deck.
Disney also offers a kids club for all ages. This is a very nice option to have for parents who would like alone time away from their children to enjoy the adult-only sections of the boat.
Ports of call:
Our first port of call was to Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, Castaway Cay. There are two sections of the island, one for families that offer lots of water slides, floats, and activities for kids and an adults-only section called Serenity Bay. Naturally, we were drawn to the Serenity Bay section of the island. This area of the island was extremely peaceful and offered pristine white sand and turquoise-blue water. The swimming area of the beach was very shallow and allowed you to walk several yards away from shore without the water even hitting your waist. There were several lounge chairs throughout the area with umbrellas next to each section of chairs to offer respite from the sun if you so choose.
A barbecue lunch is served on the island for no cost, along with soda machines.
If you do decide to spend time in serenity bay, make sure that you take the tram to that section of the island. Otherwise, you will end up walking around a mile to get there.
We decided to stay on the boat during our second stop in Cozumel Mexico due to the absence of a beach at our stop. Cozumel offers 3 different docks on the island for cruise ships and Disney park at one that was pretty far away from the beach area. Most people on our ship only got off for a short period of time to shop around. It was a nice opportunity to enjoy the ship with fewer crowds.
The night before you arrive back at your home port, Disney will leave colored luggage tags with a Disney character on them in your room. Any bags that you want to be taken to the cruise port by Disney need to be tagged and put outside of the stateroom no later than 10pm on the night before you disembark. In the morning, you have the option to go to a sit-down breakfast at 6:45a, or go to the buffet or specialty coffee cafes at your leisure. They just ask you to be out of your room no later than 8am. If you do not use the luggage service, you can walk off the boat whenever you would like. If you tagged your luggage the night before, you must wait until your specific character is called before you get off of the boat. Once you get off the boat, you will proceed through customs. Once you get through customs, you will either be directed to your cruise transfer if you have purchased one, or you can go wait at the taxi, or Uber/Lyft section. For the Miami port, I would recommend taking an Uber/Lyft to and from the airport since it is so close to the airport. For other cruise ports such as Port Canaveral or Galveston, I would recommend taking the cruise transfers due to the port being so far from the major airport.
Overall, we had a wonderfully relaxing cruise and would take one again in a heartbeat. Disney did an amazing job and made the vacation as easy and carefree as possible.