Friday, May 27, 2011

Disney Dream Dissapointments

Hope you enjoyed the previous post on the things I really liked about the Disney Dream. Before you think I'm just a negative nelly, I LOVED the Dream. I can't wait to sail next year on both the Fantasy and the Dream. But there were just some things I was not crazy the things I was a bit disappointed in.

Animators Palette Technology
I’ll preface this by saying that although I think the Turtle Talk with Crush exhibit at Epcot is kind of cool, it is not one I have gone too after the first time. So for me, although it is kind of cool that they brought this technology into Animators Palette, I didn’t find that it wildly enhanced my experience. Our table wasn’t near a screen. And the screen we were nearest, I found it hard to understand who Crush was talking to. And the random swimming of characters that you would see the exact same thing on 2-3 screens at a time was far from magical. Fingers crossed that the new technology show for the Fantasy is more entertaining!

Layout of Quiet Cove Pool
I cruise Disney without kids. And those who know me know that I’m not particularly fond of kids for the most part. And of course I know there are a kids on a Disney ship. Though I would say because of how well Disney does entertaining kids, it never feels like there are nearly as many kids on the ship as there really are. And to the people who say that you should go on a Disney Cruise if you don’t have kids – well that is just ridiculous. Is there a rule that says only people under 18 can have an incredible love of Disney? Anyway, back to my point. One of the things I love about Disney Cruise Line are the adult only spaces and activities. On the Magic and Wonder, families would sometimes walk through the adults only Quiet Cove pool – but always on the outside of the pool behind the railing. The layout of the Dream, and where the Forward elevators lets out, make this near IMPOSSIBLE. So most kids step out from the elevator bank directly into the middle of the Quiet Cove pool. Seriously, look at this post and you’ll see the door on the left letting out right into the heart of the pool deck. Although they could make a sharp turn in either direction to walk on the outside of the area – the obvious way to walk is straight. RIGHT THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF THE QUIET COVE POOL. How STUPID. What were you thinking Disney? I’ve seen some parents say they tried to make their kids only go up at midship, or get off at deck 12 instead of 11 and then walk midship. And I appreciate those parents. I’ve seen many say the adults should just get over it and not sail Disney if we don’t like kids walking through their pool. Again – is there a rule that says you have to be under 18 to love Disney? But I must admit, while I appreciate the folks who do try to avoid having their kids walk through the pool – I’m not sure its reasonable to expect everyone with kids to avoid it altogether. Disney would be very well served to re-evaluate the layout/traffic flow on the Fantasy to avoid this issue.

My complaint here is very specific. Before I get into it I’ll say that the bar itself is beautiful inside. Truly lovely. And there were a great number of interesting looking cocktails on the bar menu. My complaint – is that they serve those yummy cocktails in special glasses that you cannot remove from the bar. They don’t TELL you this when you order them. So if you go into Pink without plans to stay for long, be sure to ask for your cocktail to be in a glass you can walk with. I joined a group that had been in there for a while and were thinking about moving on. I ordered a drink, received it right about when the group decided it was time to move. The waitress promptly told me I could not go with my glass and would have to have them switch it out for a different glass before I could leave. This is just ridiculous to me! In my case, I downed the cocktail and moved on. But honestly, this policy is just silly and rather annoying.

Smaller Sofa Beds
One look at the Dis Boards Cruise Line Forum will reveal several threads with people complaining about how the bed in Dream staterooms would not split into two twins – as they do on EVERY OTHER CRUISE SHIP including the Magic and Wonder. Personally, this did not bother me. In 3 of our first 4 cruises mom slept on the queen bed and I slept on the couch. Although its referred to as a sofa bed, its not a traditional sofa bed and I’ve always found it exceptionally comfortable. On one of the first 4 cruises we did ask for the beds to be set up as the two twins. I found the room very crowded this way. If we’d had a room without a balcony and the two twins were against the back wall I’m sure I wouldn’t have felt this way (that’s how Pride of Aloha was configured when I sailed and it was fine). But on the Disney classic ships one sailing this way had me back to sleeping on the sofa. So when everyone was going crazy about how the Dream beds couldn’t be split I didn’t mind – I fully planned to sleep on the sofa anyway. However, I found the sofa far less comfortable on the Dream then on the Wonder and Magic. I wasn’t thrilled with the bedding, but a request for an extra blanket helped me stay warm. But the real problem – I swear the bed was shorter in length than on the Classic ships. I thought was just me, but while we were cruising we had an opportunity to see a Deluxe Family Ocean – and the couch in that stateroom looked longer – more like the Classic ships. We have a Deluxe Family Oceanview booked on the Fantasy next April. That cabin will hopefully have the old size couch. Or better yet, there’s a chance it will have a Murphy bed. This is what I’m actually hoping for. I like the location of the Murphy bed in the pictures I’ve seen and mom likes the idea that the couch can be used even when the beds are made up for nighttime.

Virtual Portholes
I actually wrote a lengthy post about this for Dana and her website, The Dragyn’s Lair back in March so for full details go check out that post (and more of Dana’s blog while you are at it). To summarize, with Virtual Porthole cabins now costing more than Oceanview cabins – I recommend the Oceanview. Virtual Porthole is not worth the extra money.

Crowdedness of Dining Rooms
The Disney Dream is 40% larger than the Classic ships. So one would think that even though there are more passengers, there is also more room for them. This was not apparent in the dining rooms. Usually we were trying to squeeze between tables to get to all the seats at our own table. And our neighbors were just a few inches away (the fun part was that is how I met Dana in person for the first time, even though she was next to us at Animators Palette she was so close we might as have been at the same table). To make matters worse, in Enchanted Garden we were smashed up against a wall. And at Animators Palatte we were in the aisle the servers used to get the kitchen. It almost felt as though our table was placed there as an afterthought when the powers that be realized there were not enough tables in the dining room. I was in constant fear of a huge tray of plates being dropped on us as servers rushed past us that night. I’m not sure where that extra 40% is, but it does not feel as though it is in the dining rooms.

Location of Aft Elevators
Our cabin on the Dream was located behind the aft elevators. We’re typically midship, though I have been all the way forward on the Pride of Aloha and pretty far back on the Navigator of the Seas. The issue was not our cabin’s proximity to the aft elevators as much as where the aft elevators did and did not go. If you wanted to go up to deck 11 the aft elevators let you out in the middle of Cabanas. You had to walk through Cabanas to get between the pool area and the aft elevators. The doors were kept open so you could do this when the buffet was actually closed and then it wasn’t horrible. But if Cabanas was open it was generally fairly crowded and THIS was an annoying time to have to cut through the restaurant.

Additionally, if you were taking the elevators down, perhaps for dinner at Enchanted Garden on deck 2, you CAN’T! The furthest down you can go in the aft elevators is Deck 3. If you had dinner at Enchanted Garden you would need to take the elevators to deck 3 and walk over to go down one more flight of stairs, or walk to midship and then take the elevators down to 2.

Personally for me, since I spend so much time at the Quiet Cove Pool and the Buena Vista Theater, my preference on these ships in the future will be to stay midship or forward. This way I can avoid having to cut through the restaurant and be closer the venues I spend the most time in. After a couple of days I found myself often walking to midship to catch the elevators (or stairs) anyway and staying midship or forward would save some time and walking.

The New Shows
I was super excited about Believe and Villains’ Tonight. I am a huge theater fan, and have always really enjoyed Disney’s productions. I did not particularly enjoy either of these shows. I must say, in large part I believe this was because of one “actor”. I put the word actor in quotes because I don’t believe this person was a true actor. The person I’m talking about was the reporter in the theater during the Golden Mickey’s, Hades in Villains’ Tonight, and the Genie in Believe. His schtick was cute in the Golden Mickey’s – but he played the other two characters EXACTLY the same way. No matter the show, this “actor” played the character he was doing in the same way. I don’t mind actors making a role their own within reason. But I found this guy incredibly annoying and he really ruined the two new shows for me. I know not everyone felt that way, if you google it there are article saying the guy made the show. I just disagree. Maybe it was a strange week and some of the regular's were sick so this guy did all three parts and he doesn't normally. Who knows. But I was not a fan. Beyond just that the stories didn’t wow me with either show. I did still enjoy the music, as I always do. One of my past cruises one of the evening shows was just the cast singing many loved, and lessor known Disney songs. I would have rather seen that expand to the other ships!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Things I liked about the Disney Dream

Having now been on 5 Disney cruises (3 Magic, 1 Wonder, 1 Dream) I thought I would take some time to talk about what I liked and didn’t like on the Disney Dream.

For now I’ll focus on the likes and I’ll post about the dislikes later!

Midship Detective Agency
This game is probably the most fun new activity on the ship. I found myself wishing for additional mysteries to solve. For those wanting to see more about what this is check out the Allears.Net site. For those who don’t want to go to Allears right now, in a nutshell Midship Detective Agency uses the ships Enchanted Art
to help you solve a mystery. There are two “cases” you can solve, one about missing puppies (Dalmatians of course) and one about missing paintings. You pick up a “map” at a sign up location as well as special card you use to activate the art. You then use the map to find the art pieces that will give you a clue. You use our card to activate the piece and then follow the directions to uncover your clue or find missing puppies/paintings. As you progress and get more clues, you are soon able to identify whom the thief is. Then it is your job to find and capture the thief.

We started the first game within hours of stepping aboard the Dream. Although there’s no reason to do a game straight thru, we were having so much fun that we finished our first game within an hour and were eagerly looking forward to our second one.

One word of advice, do this early! The days we did it we rarely had to wait, and didn’t run into many people playing. Later in the cruise we noticed frequent “traffic jams” as several groups were wanting to access a clue at the same time.

Updated Buena Vista Theater
Now I know most people are thinking I must be crazy, but I LOVE watching movies on the Disney ships. I’m a huge movie watcher in general, and I love taking the opportunity on the Disney Cruise Line to either catch new releases I’ve missed or watch old favorites on a big screen. As much as I love this, the old Buena Vista Theater on the Classic Ships was one of the most uncomfortable theaters I’ve sat in. the problem had largely to do with the complete and total lack of legroom. Although I still would have liked to see a slightly more spacious aisle, the Buena Vista Theater is much improved on the Dream. I didn’t get to see quite as many movies as I usually do on a seven day cruise, but I did get to take mom to see Tangled for the first time – and Rupunzel is her new favorite Disney Princess!

Aqua Duck
Unlike many many cruisers, I was apprehensive about the Aqua Duck. At least until the preview cruises started and I saw video of real people riding on it. I enjoy roller coasters, and I enjoy water. However, for the last several years I’ve not been able to wear my contact lenses and am instead stuck with my glasses. And my glasses are EXPENSIVE. And I’m blind as a bat without them. So I was worried the Aqua Duck would be too rough for me to ride with my glasses and that I just wouldn’t enjoy it riding blind.

As the initial videos came out it appeared that the ride was relatively tame, but enjoyable. So, while everyone else was on Castaway Cay we hoped in the very short line for the Aqua Duck. I rode twice. The first was with mom, the second by myself. Despite mom wanting us to go together the second time, I held firm, and we LOVED riding single. Both of us thought that the solo rides were a little faster and the raft bounced about a bit more. So much fun!

Animators Palette Decor
Notice how I say the “décor” here? The technology will be addressed later. Visually this restaurant was GORGEOUS! I knew I was going to love the chairs from the video flyover Disney posted on the Disney Parks Blog some time ago.

But the entire restaurant was just visually stunning. I was concerned about it being Finding Nemo themed and how limiting that would be. But really the décor is Pixar themed and I just found myself staring around the room at all the little artifacts the entire time. Loved it!

There were many many new bars in the District on the Dream. The one I found the most interesting was Skyline. The light up menus were interesting, and I loved the comfy couch style seating. But what was really cool were the skylines themselves. And the hidden surprise that made this one of the things I liked on the Dream – is that they MOVE. I assumed it would be more or less photographs going up with each new skyline. But if you look carefully you’ll notice lights turning on and off and cars traveling down the streets. What a terrific little touch!

I am not against buffets by any means, but I also don’t make a habit of eating at them regularly. This changed with Cabanas on the Dream! And for that to change, it means that MOM had to want to go to. And she DID! We typically only have 1-2 meals in a 7 day cruise at the buffet, instead we stick to the dining room for breakfast and lunch. But on the Dream, we had all our breakfasts and lunches at Cabanas (well not lunch on Castaway Cay day, that was Quick Service on deck 11). Unlike a traditional buffet Cabanas is set up with “pods” and you are to just go to the pod you want to get whatever you want. There definitely was some confusion by guests earlier in the cruise who were lining up because the pods are kind of in a LINE. But with a day or two behind our belts this problem seemed to go away. We loved the quality and wide range of offerings available at Cabanas.

We also really liked that they seat your party as you come in. Part of the drag with typical cruise ship buffets is you get a big heavy tray of food and then wander around hoping to find a table (as I just did on the Navigator of the Seas). This is not an issue with Cabanas because upon arrival you check in at a desk and they ask how many in your party and bring you to a table! THEN you go get your food! The only bad thing about this was when cruising with a group of 400+ (as we were with the Lou Mongello and the fans of the WDW Radio Show )this method makes it difficult to sit with friends on the cruise. Unless you specifically planned to meet up and thus asked for an appropriate table size.

Not a whole lot here that needs saying. Those who have been on the Classic ships are aware there’s two primary stores and the duty free store. The Dream expands upon this with a series of larger shops that all kind of blend into each other. I was particularly pleased with the LARGE Vinylmation selection. In addition to more square footage, the shops seemed far less crowded then on the Classic ships so they were enjoyable to shop in even before/after show time when they are usually packed!

On Demand TV in Cabins
This goes back to the movie lover in me, but on the Classic ships in addition to catching movies in the theater I find myself also catching some movies I’ve not yet seen on the TV. But on the Classic ships you may catch them in bits and pieces because they run on a schedule. On the Dream, all the movies are available on Demand. So you pick what/when you want to watch. And if you only have 20 minutes? No problem, it remembers were you left off so you can start back up! Fantastic!

Updated Golden Mickey’s Show
Having seen it many many times, we’re big fans of the Golden Mickey’s. The performance on the Disney Dream was no exception. I was really looking forward to the updates and was not disappointed. Updates to the show included performances from my favorite Disney movie, The Little Mermaid, as well as some new songs from Tangled. The new scenes blended in beautifully and the show continues to be a favorite!

Well that’s it for my Likes ( I think! ) catch you in a day or so for some of the things I was less impressed with!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 Disney Trip - Day 9 - March 5

Today started with another early morning at the Boardwalk Bakery so we could be at rope drop for DHS - must hit Toy Story Midway Mania first thing you know! Touring Plans Crowd Calendar had DHS as a park to avoid today. But it also had the lowest number - less than 1 for park crowds. In the future...I will do what I can to obey park to avoid suggestions. Believe it or not, I don’t think it was the Wide World of Sports weekend that was the problem, although there were definitely a lot of people there for that. But there must have been a bunch of schools in town and the damn high schoolers were outrageously obnoxious. Like the group of 30, clearly together, who got in the single rider line at Rock n Roller Coaster in front of us. Have you ever heard of a 90 minute wait in the single rider line? We would have been better off to go standby!

Anyway, we enjoyed repeat rides on all of our favorites which was great. We ended up in line behind fellow WDW Radio Cruisers (we’d not met them on the ship but they had their red lanyards on!). I was in contact with Darlene about what time she and hubby Keith would arrive so we could spend a bit more time together before heading home.

We spotted the cutest rice krispie treat:

Had loads of fun at Toy Story Midway Mania (despite the fact that I couldn’t get my iphone game to do the special thing its supposed to do when AT the ride)

We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Mama Melroses, a new favorite restaurant at DHS. I ordered the chicken parm while mom ordered the penne a la vodka and we shared both.

After lunch we headed over to One Man’s Dream, a favorite.

We actually bumped into Darlene and Keith there which was perfect because it gave us a little EXTRA time together beyond our planned meet up for Rock n Roller Coaster!


After saying goodbye to Darlene and Keith and wrapping up at DHS we stopped at Boardwalk briefly and then back into Epcot for dinner at Chef’s de France. I was disappointed by our service last time, but the service this time was excellent. Plus they got us in ahead of our ADR again which was nice! Being the picky eater that I am, I opted for the Beef Tenderloin. It was good, but I was very disappointed that we didn’t get to see Remy - the only reason I’d agreed to go again after the bad service we had last time. But we did have a lovely table by the front window so it was nice for enjoying our dinner and people watching.

After dinner we headed back to Boardwalk to pack for our trip home early the next day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

2011 Disney Trip - Day 8 - March 4

Today started off with yummy yummy Boardwalk Bakery breakfast. Mom fell in love last year with their Mickey Mouse Muffins and I quite enjoy their cheese danish. Breakfast was early so we could be at the Magic Kingdom by rope drop.

We don’t usually hit Fantasyland first when in the Magic Kingdom, but we knew that we were supposed to be able to get a view of the construction from riding Dumbo so we wanted to get back there early since Fantasyland is generally busy all day except first thing. I definitely recommend getting there first! Even Peter Pan we walked on in just 5 minutes. Unheard of!



At Mickey’s Philharmagic we spotted a hidden mickey

We also accidentally caught a parade we didn’t know about....which was really exciting because Sebastian was in it! My favorite Disney character is rarely seen so this was quite possibly the highlight of my day!

Lunch was at Pecos Bills. We’d heard such good things about the Taco Salad (and how fun it is to fix it at the fixin’s bar) but didn’t get it when we were here in 2010. And having gotten the Taco Salad - YUMMY! Just make sure you ask for Sour Cream at the register because they don’t have that on the fixin’s bar.

I found my new favorite Disney sweet treat at the Main Street Confectionary (they also have these at the Boardwalk Sweet Shop).

I did a LOT of Vinylmation shopping (well Fozzie was scored in a trade) today.

We had originally planned to eat dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe after park closing. But we were done at Magic Kingdom early, and fairly tired. And mom was hungry early ( I was full from my cupcake! ). We decided to hop on the monorail and do some resort shopping. We decided we were hungry while at the Contemporary. Mom thought we should try and get into Chef Mickey’s since we’ve only had breakfast there. Of course, that was impossible with a walk in. We ended up at the Contempo Cafe. I had a cheeseburger and fries. Fairy typical. Mom opted for the Multigrain Turkey BLT with home made chips. Both were FANTASTIC. I highly recommend.

After dinner we did a bit more shopping at the monorail resorts and then headed back to Boardwalk. I was exhausted and not feeling great so I went to bed early. Mom walked around a bit and got a little treat at the Boardwalk Sweet Shop.

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 Disney Trip - Day 7 - March 3

Our disembarkation day started off with a not so good bang for me. As we got to Royal Palace for our final breakfast, I turned on my cell phone. I had three voice mails from the PetHotel and a text message from a co-worker reading “Call me. Problem with Elphaba”. I have to say, that was the most scared I’ve been probably since 2002 when mom was sick. I left the noisy restaurant to go listen to my vm and try and call people back. The voice mails from the PetHotel indicated a problem with one of Elphaba’s eyes and tests the vet wanted to do that they needed my permission for. I tried calling the PetHotel but it was before 7am and I was getting no answer. I was also wondering why they hadn’t called me local agent (a coworker in the area). Turns out they HAD, which is how my other coworker knew something was going on and texted. I tried calling coworker but he didn’t pick up either. Called PetHotel again and that time got an answer. Turns out whatever WAS wrong seemed to work itself out. Dr hadn’t done any tests and didn’t see the need to. Elphaba was getting extra care and attention from the staff to keep and eye on her, but she seemed fine, was acting fine, and was her normal self in day camp. So that was a huge relief other than still feeling awful that all this had gone down when I wasn’t around.

After I finally got back inside and calmed mom down (who was freaking about why I was gone so long and thinking we were going to have to hop a plane home) we enjoyed our final breakfast. We were off the ship by about 7:30am and quickly grabbed our bags, made it through customs, and on our DCL transfer bus. If you’ve ever wondered the best way to spot your luggage among the thousands of bags in the cruise may consider my method...VERY decorative luggage. I use Vera Bradley luggage, and had my Makes Me Blush suitcase. This made our luggage easy to spot from a significant distance away.

My pretty, easy to spot, Vera Suitcase
Vera Makes Me Blush Suitcase

We’ve arrived!

Once on the bus it was a relatively quick ride over to the Boardwalk Villas. We really enjoyed that location when we were there in 2010 and point wise its a great value. We had a 1 bedroom booked this time and were excited about having two different rooms to sleep in and a washer/dryer. We had done online check in, but were hoping to get into a room right away so that we could drop our bags before heading into Epcot. Mom also had a request for a room close to the elevators because last year we were WAY WAY at the end of the resort. Turned out the second room off the lobby was available so that was our room. Fantastic location!!!!

After dropping our bags we headed over to the International Gateway and were passing through the gates by about 9;30am. Not quite park opening but still nice and early, which was exactly our goal!

We got to see lots and lots of the Flower and Garden Festival, including things we’d missed pre-cruise.


We had originally planned to have lunch at Biergarten that day at Germany. I’d made the reservation for 1pm in case we didn’t get into Epcot as early as we wanted after getting off the ship. But between getting in early, early breakfast, and the constant eating of 4 nights on the Dream, we were STARVING by like 11am. So we opted for sunshine seasons instead of waiting for our 1pm ADR. I had the Sweet and Sour Chicken. This was my second time getting Asian and Sunshine Seasons and it will probably be my last. I think I’ll stick to the Grill on future visits!

After lunch we tried something we hadn’t done yet at Epcot - The Sum of All Thrills. I have to say, if you haven’t done this yet...DO IT! The engineer in me of course LOVED that you had to use some engineering principals to design your ride. But just the idea of designing you ride was pretty amazing. And the riding experience itself was fantastic! I don’t know how we missed this in our 2010 visit but we won’t be skipping it again!

We made fantastic time getting through Future World and before we knew it we were crossing into the World Showcase and past Duffy’s home! Of course we had to stop.


We continued to work our way through the World Showcase and before we knew it we were happening upon Italy - but too early for our ADR. We worked through a few more Pavilions that we’d not made it to pre-cruise and then back tracked to Italy. We were famished again so we thought we would ask at Via Napoli if they could take us 45 minutes early. The girl looked skeptical but called us for a table less than 5 minutes after checking in.

More Flower and Garden Favorites

Unlike the group of WDW Radio cruisers who went pre-cruise, we did not have a hot waiter. We had a plain looking waitress. But I did enjoy the eye candy of all the hot waiters and bus boys. And the food was incredible! We ended up sitting next to a couple from Chicago and chatted our way through much of dinner. For an appetizer we shared the Prosciutto e Melone and for our dinner the Quattro Formagg pizza. We skipped dessert because we had eyes on the Funnel Cakes on the boardwalk!

After dinner we slowly made our way through the rest of the World Showcase and back out the international gateway. We hadn’t wanted to be out TOO late because we needed to do some laundry so we had clothes to where the rest of the trip. Yes, we did laundry on vacation! We decided we really liked the idea of the 1 bedroom villas because it means we don’t have to pack as much clothing. I tend to be a somewhat lean packer anyway, and I am working on getting mom to pack less (she’s doing a pretty good job compared to what she used to do!) so being able to do laundry just helps this even further. We grabbed our funnel cake, headed back to the room, started laundry, and went to bed as soon as laundry was done.