The Travel Detective

Cruise Critics Review The Disney Dream

Disney balloonsNo one knows cruise ships better than’s Carolyn Spencer Brown. While broadcasting from the Disney Dream, Peter sat down with Carolyn to learn about the good, the bad, and the surprising elements, while analyzing where this fits in with the newest crop of cruise ships of 2011.

Peter Greenberg: For those of us who are old enough to acknowledge that we were on the original Disney ship that came out over a decade ago, there have been quite some number of changes. First of all, the Disney Dream is much bigger, much taller, much smoother. What’s really cool about this ship?

Carolyn Spencer Brown: What’s really cool is the view from the radio booth. You’re not in a closed closet. We’re looking out at the pool deck that’s lit up for night and the watercoaster is fantastic. So, I got distracted. What were you asking me?

PG: Bottom line is that cruise lines coming out with new ships at a time when the economy is not great, at a time when there is a lot of excess capacity. I’ve seen a lot of discounting. I saw a discount fare the other day on another cruise line: seven nights in the Western Caribbean for $299.

CB: That was actually fairly common in 2009. But one thing I will tell you about discounting and Disney: We did a search today to see what kind of deals we could find on Dream, and we couldn’t find any.

PG: Well, that’s not surprising for a new ship; everybody wants to be first on their block and they always sell out full. I saw Cunard when they came out with the Queen Victoria, and most recently the Queen Elizabeth, and they were sailing full. Then four weeks later I was getting emails offering discounts on brand-new ships.

Learn more: Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth Christening: Peter’s Report From Southampton

The Queen Tours Cunard ShipCB: We’ve done a couple stories on CruiseCritic that some of the newest, hottest ships of the last year are actually at pretty decent prices. The Royal Caribbean ship that was the biggest in the world, you couldn’t get a discount on that, and we paid through the nose. When Allure of the Seascame out, wow you could really get a great deal. When Norwegian Epiccame out there were some great deals there. And Oceania’s Marina is the other really interesting new ship for this year.

PG: That’s coming up in about a month.

CB: It’s coming up and they can’t fill the maiden voyage. I’m telling you something, there is not as much interest in the new ships as there has been. That makes Disney’s achievement in terms of not selling too cheaply very, very significant.

PG: This has had something going for it that the other cruise lines don’t: amazing brand loyalty. A lot of people will go the park and then go to the ship, or go to the ship and then go to the park. They want that Disney experience.

Aquaduck on the Disney CruiseCB: This ship represents a new evolution for Disney in that it’s not really being connected to the park in terms of the way they designed it. They wanted Disney Dream to stand alone—up against Royal Caribbean, up against Princess, up against NCL—as a ship that people would go on just because they want to go on cruise ship. They want a Disney experience, but they don’t necessarily want the traditional Disney experience.

PG: Of all the Disney ships, this being the third one, this is the big guy.

CB: This is the big boy. And think about it, it has been 15 years since those first two ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, were actually designed. It’s really significant that Disney is coming out at this point with some very new tweaks to the existing model.

PG: This ship is 128,000 tons, 2,500 passengers, right?

CB: It’s 4,000 passengers. The number you’re looking at is 2,500 double occupancy. Because Disney is such a kid-friendly line, they expect that one out of three passengers will be kids.

PG: You’ve been on every ship, right?

CB: Right, I’ve been on every ship.

Learn more about the New Fleet Of Cruise Ships To Set Sail In 2011

PG: You’re pretty specific in what you like and what you don’t like. So let’s start with what you don’t like about this ship.

CB: What surprised me the most, in terms of what I don’t like is how boring the pool deck is. I expected something vibrant and kid-friendly. It’s kid-friendly, but it’s just snore friendly. There’s no color, there’s no life. You know when you go on a Royal Caribbean, you go on a Norwegian Cruise Line, the pool areas are just festive.

PG: Well, you know why? It’s singles time. There are all these escaped dental hygienists looking to get, well, you know.

Pool Area on Disney DreamCB: Still, you can have a little color. Now at night there is more color because they have lights set up, but the pool area really left me cold.

PG: That means you went to other areas.

CB: I did. Disney was a pioneer way back 15 years ago when it designed the concept of an adult area pool. In cruise ships before that it wasn’t even necessary. Disney designed an adult-area pool on its other two ships. I thought they would improve on the concept.  But it is actually worse than the originals.

PG: Why?

CB: It’s small. It’s cramped. Every seat is in shade. They have a bar that is meant to look like a swim-up bar, which I think is pretty cool for an adults-only pool. But the bar stool are planted firmly in the water, so it’s just sizzle. It doesn’t sizzle; it fizzles. There is just nothing special about it. Princess has come out with a sanctuary adults-only area based on the idea that Disney pioneered, and does it a million times better.

PG: OK, but but then there are the kids’ areas, and they shine. Other ships, let’s face it, they knock out a wall between two rooms, throw in Crayons, and say they have a kids’ program.

Learn more in our Cruise Travel section

CB: Right. I think, Disney is very firm in saying, “Look, we are all about the family.” What they’re doing in adding these special adult areas to make sure absolutely every member of the family is happy when they come on board. If you bring your kids, your maiden aunt, and your grandparents, you want to make sure that everyone has something to do. They’re not really looking to compete with Royal Caribbean in getting singles and honeymooners and that kind of thing. That’s not really their game. It never has been, and isn’t now.

Disney Dream shipPG: So basically, if you are coming on the board of a Disney cruise looking for a singles’ bar, you are delusional.

CB: I mean there is an adult bar, but 10:30 p.m. last night it was empty.

PG: Right, it was filled with one delusional guy looking to get lucky. All right, so you’re disappointed in some of the adult areas. I was pretty impressed with the teen areas and the children areas.

CB: What I’m hearing here is that they’ve knocked this one out of the park. This was a really tough one for Disney because they didn’t do well with the teens on the other two ships. I think that will open up Disney to sort of a broader range of families with various kids.

PG: I have to tell, I went to the teen area and I didn’t want to leave. I thought that was the coolest thing on the ship. I wanted to hang out there on those little pod seats, and play with my iPod.

CB: You can see everything by the way from the spa. It’s got a great location.

PG: The parents can give the excuse that they have to get a massage just to supervise their kids.

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