Before setting sail on Disney Dream, be sure to pack your inner child

Sail with kids or without, but be sure to pack your inner child

Contributing Travel WriterDecember 2, 2012 

  • IF YOU GO

    Disney Cruise

    What: The Disney Dream departs out of Port Canaveral, Fla., on the Atlantic coast about a 45-minute drive from Orlando.

    Rates and reservations: 2013 rates for the three- and four-night Bahamian cruises begin at $450 per person, double-occupancy. Prices vary by date and availability as well as type of accommodation. Check prices or book a reservation by going to Disneycruise.com or calling 1-888-325-2500.

ABOARD THE DISNEY DREAM — In the real world, a restaurant having a rat as a mascot would not be a good thing. But this is Disney, a steeped-in-fantasy empire based on the cuteness factor of a mouse. So it is not at all unusual that Remy, one of two gourmet restaurants on Disney's mega-cruise ship the Dream, is named for the lovable rodent chef wannabe in the movie Ratatouille.

If Remy gives the restaurant its name, the inspired French cuisine gives it its cachet. During a three-hour, five-course meal, I dined on a tomato tart, Gulf shrimp with Iberian ham and melon, a prime cut of Wagyu beef and a dessert of dark chocolate, all paired with a selection of wines expertly chosen by the sommelier.

"On a Disney cruise?" you might well ask. Wouldn't it be more in keeping to dine on Donald and Daisy dogs and Pluto pizza, washed down with a Mickey milkshake?

Disney cruises are not just for kids (although it definitely helps to have a little bit of the kid in you).

I learned this on the Dream's three-day mini-cruise to the Bahamas last month. Along with a seemingly endless number of families with small children (the ship accommodates 4,000 passengers), there were honeymooners, girlfriends on a getaway, couples celebrating their anniversaries, singles, and, as one couple told me, "adults who just love to cruise and appreciate Disney's reputation for excellence and attention to detail."

The over-21 set can experience the magic in a number of shipboard locales that are off-limits to the kiddies. If you prefer Italian cuisine to French, you can book a table at Palo, adjacent to Remy on Deck 12, for a similarly divine dining experience.

Before dinner, enjoy a glass of bubbly at the Pink Champagne Bar. The design is described as French Art Nouveau, although I thought it looked more like a place where Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock might kick back over a cocktail on the USS Enterprise. The striking décor features back-lit glass champagne bubbles inset into the walls; glass dewdrop sculptures in varying shades of pink, and light fixtures in the shape of champagne flutes.

If Pink is a good choice for a before-dinner aperitif, Skyline Bar is great for an after-dinner liqueur. The bar's enormous wall panels depict the skylines of five cities — Paris, New York, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Hong Kong — which change every 15 minutes.

The bartender expertly mixes cocktails to complement the cityscapes, from a perfect Manhattan to a lethal Brazilian caipirinha. The whole experience will make you feel as if you're enjoying a drink in a rooftop bar in one of these cities.

Pink and Skyline are part of Deck 4's bustling District Entertainment venue, which offers options ranging from the 687 Sports Pub to the sophisticated District Lounge.

The adults-only Senses Spa has 17 rooms offering the usual menu of services. It's the two private spa villas, however, that provide pampering worthy of any Disney prince or princess.

The 105-minute Spa Villa package begins with a foot scrub and tea ceremony followed by your treatment of choice. It concludes with champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries on your private veranda, which has a hot tub and sweeping sea views.

One of the two ports of call, Disney's private island of Castaway Cay off Great Abaco Island (the other is Nassau), also has separate facilities for adults. You can participate in the Family Whale Dig or the Castaway Crab Races, but you might prefer to make your way to the more secluded part of the island. There, instead of digging for whale bones or betting on the crabs, you can enjoy an adult beverage under the shade of an umbrella or book a massage in one of the seaside cabanas.

Just because the kids can't invade your shipboard world doesn't mean you can't invade theirs. The Aqua Duck, billed as the world's first roller coaster at sea, carries passengers on an up-and-down, zig-zag of a ride through a glass capsule filled with water. There were as many adults (I was one of them) as kids waiting in line to board a raft.

I also ventured into the Kids' Zone, where my friend and I played a game of Goofy Golf. We had a great time trying to hit our balls through Pluto's paws and Mickey's mouth, although we did have to stop once to let a group of 6-year-olds play through.

The Dream has six restaurants, but be sure to book a table one night at Animator's Palace, where the true genius of Disney is on display. The restaurant, set up as a dinner-in-the-round, has an ever-changing display of images from Finding Nemo on all sides.

It was awesome enough to hear the movie's turtle, Crush, talking to us, but when he started addressing people at specific tables, you could see diners begin to scratch their heads. Turns out Crush's voice is that of a real person who has garnered information on passengers from their registration forms.

At least a third of the audience in the Walt Disney Theater every night was kid-less, and all of us were "oohing" and "aahing" just as enthusiastically at the Broadway-style shows featuring heroes (Aladdin and Ariel) and villains (Cruella de Ville and Captain Hook.)

I spied more than a few grown women wearing sparkly tiaras and carrying wands to match those of their daughters (you can buy them in the ship's fully stocked store) and even some of the men gamely sported Mickey Mouse ears.

As we, adults and children alike, stood on the ship's deck to watch the extravagant fireworks display that is a highlight of every cruise, it was sometimes hard to tell which were the grown-ups and which were the kids.

Disney cruises are not just for children, but as I said before, you'll be missing a lot of the magic if you don't have a bit of the child still in you.

Patti Nickell is a Lexington-based travel writer. Reach her at pnickell13@bellsouth.net.

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