Company Overview Once upon a time (what better way to start a review of Disney Cruise Lines?) there was a small but innovative cruise line called Premier that came up with a very good idea. Painting a small, former ocean liner red and calling it the "Big Red Boat," Premier Cruises added the magic ingredient to its cruise line in the form of the "Magic Kingdom."
Positioning this little Big Red Boat at Port Canaveral, as close to Disney World in Orlando as possible, Premier co-marketed 3 & 4-day cruises on the Big Red Boat with 4 & 3-day stays in Disney World. Their ships catered to children, with lots of life-size Disney characters walking around.
Eventually Disney Corp. saw the possibilities and entered the cruise business with its own 1999 launching of the Art Deco-themed Disney Magic, a sleekly beautiful vessel reminiscent of the transatlantic steamship era. The line followed a year later with sister ship Disney Wonder.
The initial reaction to Disney entering the market from established cruise lines was fear, after all, Disney is an entertainment juggernaut. However, Disney kept their cruise line to a modest two ships until 2010 when they finally introduced the new Disney Dream, a larger and more "magic" version of the smaller ships.
As it turns out, Disney Cruise Line hardly competes with the mainstream cruise lines at all. Disney draws the vast majority of its passengers from the ranks of Disney lovers, not from other cruise lines. In fact, the vast majority of Disney cruisers have never been on another cruise. At the same time, people who started out with Disney for researching a cruise, soon found that other cruise lines also have plenty to offer family cruisers, often at a much lower price.
Disney Cruise Lines has thrived, even though their cruise fares range 30 to 100-percent higher than comparable ships, because of people who love all things Disney.
The Disney Experience: With Disney Dream as the new "flag ship" for Disney, the Art Nouveau-themed sister ships Disney Magic and Disney Wonder take turns sailing to more exotic itineraries like Europe, the Mexican Riviera and Alaska. Disney Dream remains in Port Canaveral, about 60 miles from Orlando, for the people who want to combine short 3 or 4-day cruises with a visit to Disney World. All of the ships offer occaisional seven-day Caribbean cruises.
As you might anticipate, the accent is on fun, Disney-style. Entertainment is a huge feature on these ships, and one must credit Disney for bringing shipboard stage production to a new level with bigger casts, more extensive special effects and those superbly timed and executed family fun shows that leave all but crankiest curmudgeon smiling despite himself.
All of the ships have excellent 3-D movie theaters. Main dining is done in a unique style called "Rotational Dining" where guests sample a different themed restaurant every night, but they eat with the same tablemates and waiters nightly.
Dinner may be the only time that families get together. There are extensive areas specially made for - and restricted to - specific age groups. These groups are infants and toddlers (aged 6-months to three years), kids ages three to 11, "tweens" (12-14) and teenagers 15 to 17. Adults also get their own areas where kids are not allowed.
Disney Magic and WonderThe early ships each have an adults-only entertainment area -- "Beat Street" on Magic and "Route 66" on Wonder -- neither a casino nor a disco, and the adult-only Italian gourmet restaurant onboard is called Palo.
The older ships' staterooms (Magic and Wonder) are larger than average and beautifully appointed, with categories 10 and higher getting a bath-and-a-half, making them especially popular with families (inside staterooms, categories 11 and 12, have only a single bath). Forty-four percent of outside cabins have verandahs. All come with bathtubs, a television, a mini-bar, a safe and a hair dryer.
In 2004 Disney added newer public areas including Diversions, Cove Cafe and a new college-dorm-meets-coffee-bar place for teens. Cove Café, an adults-only coffee bar adjacent to the Quiet Cove pool is a pleasant place to relax on comfortable couches, watch TV, check e-mail, or read one of the many magazines on the shelves. Sports fans, meanwhile flock to Diversions, which resembles an English sports pub. The swank Walt Disney Theater resembles a plush venue on the Great White Way. Studio Sea, which offers G-rated floor shows, is styled like a television sound stage. The gyms and spa areas have been enlarged.
Disney Dream and Fantasy
Disney Dream - christened January 2011 - is a much larger ship than the older sisters, coming in at 128.000-tons and a bertth capacity of 4000 people. A sister ship to Dream, Disney Fantasy, is already well under in the same Papenburg, Germany shipyard where Dream was born and will debut in 2012.
Nearly all staterooms on Disney Dream are designed especially for families; including spacious suites with private verandas, oceanview staterooms with oversized portholes and inside staterooms with "virtual portholes" - video screens with a live feed from the bridge of the ship where Disney characters may show up "unannounced" at any time. All staterooms on Dream can sleep at least one extra person, any can sleep two extra, and a few three. There are two bathrooms, one a master bath with double sinks, a rain shower and a whirlpool tub, and another half-bath with sink and toilet.
The Disney Dream Concierge Royal Suite at 1781 square feet with veranda, includes a master bedroom with queen-size bed, one in-the-wall pull-down double bed and one in-the-wall pull-down single bed in the living room. There is a separate whirlpool tub on the veranda. There is a living room, media room, an open dining salon, a pantry, wet bar and walk-in closets. This suite has two 42-inch LCD high-definition flat-screen televisions, one in the living room and one in the bedroom. There is an iPod docking station, couch, desk, chair, and dining table. The large veranda with Jacuzzi tub, also has patio furniture, deck lighting and Plexiglas railings with childproof locks.
Taking The Kids: As you might anticipate, Disney offers terrific programs and facilities for little folks. At Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, kids enjoy a 15-acre snorkeling course above a living reef, supervised games for all age groups, bicycling courses and sailboats, kayaks and rafts for rent.
The Oceaneer Clubs for kids four to 11 span nearly an entire deck, with supervised programs for children aged 3-5 and 6-8. Children aged 9-12 can enjoy high-tech interactive programs in the Oceaneer Lab, while those 11-12 can compete in a marine biology knowledge quest game show and send digital postcards to friends. And they'll see more Disney characters than at the theme parks!
Disney was the first cruise line to offer a nursery for infants and toddlers. Services include feeding, napping areas and changing, as long as food is syupplied by the parents. Disney keeps huge stores of disposable diapers and other childcare needs onboard and will even deliver them to the stateroom. Group babysitting is offered in Nursery areas for an hourly fee.
Complementary sodas are available in the dining rooms and the buffet's beverage area. There is a charge for soda's in the bar area's and through room service.
Fellow Passengers: Disney's primary market is families with children, although you'll find more adult couples during school vacation periods. one thing they all have in common, they love Disney and have probably been to the theme parks more than a couple of times
Shore Excursions: Disney offers shore ecursions just like other cruise lines, but also sepcializes in tours designed for kids. These tours are offered in various ports of call as well as the private island.
Tipping: At Disney, gratuities can be charged to your shipboard account. The recommended tipping guidelines are per person per cruise: Three-night cruise: Dining Room Server $11.00 Dining Room Asst. Server $8.00 Dining Room Head Server $2.75 Stateroom Host/Hostess $10.75 Four-night cruise: Dining Room Server $14.75 Dining Room Asst. Server $10.75 Dining Room Head Server $3.75 Stateroom Host/Hostess $14.50 Seven-night cruise: Dining Room Server $25.75 Dining Room Asst. Server $18.75 Dining Room Head Server $ 6.50 Stateroom Host/Hostess $25.25
On all cruises Dining Manager and Room Service tipping is at the passenger's discretion.
A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar, beverage, wine, and deck service tabs.