Disney Dreams Do Come True: A Family Vacation and a Fairytale Wedding
By Liliane Opsomer
Known for their classic early-20th-century vessels, Disney raised expectations when launching the Disney Dream in 2011. I had been a happy customer when sailing on the Disney Magic five years ago and wondered if it was possible to have an even better experience. I knew I was not going to be disappointed when I boarded the ship on lobby level looking at the sweeping staircase and the 22-feet wide, Swarovski crystal decorated chandelier. Covered with 24-karat gold plating, the chandelier cascades thirteen feet down from the three deck high Atrium ceiling.
While many areas are devoted to children’s activities, the ship has an array of areas and activities for grown-ups only. If the nightly large-scale shows are not your thing, you can enjoy movies, dances, bingo and all kind of activities throughout the day and the evening. For a quiet, adults-only retreat check out the Senses Spa located on deck 11. I indulged in a Spa Port Day Special for $149, which included a fifty-minute full body massage and a twenty-five minute facial.
The adults-only pool area was my home for most of the cruise even though I did not resist the thrill of the AquaDuck, a unique 765-foot-long water coaster that propels kids and adults alike down, and around four outside decks, over the side of the ship and through the forward funnel.
The dining venues on the ship are outstanding. Diners move with their servers to a different venue each night from the Animator’s Palate to the Royal Palace and on to the Enchanted Garden. Each restaurant offers completely different menus and experiences. If you prefer casual dining, Cabanas is the place to go. For a sophisticated meal with the 18-years and up crowd only Disney’s signature restaurants Palo and Remy offer culinary experiences for a $20 and $75 cover charge respectively.
During my four-night sailing this April the ports of call were Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. I visited Nassau on my own and did not take any of the land excursions offered by Disney. I was not interested in Atlantis or the many shopping opportunities, and if you want to do a small excursion via catamaran or glass bottom boat you can do this on your own once you walk off the ship. I used my time to stroll the streets of Nassau. The island is lovely once you leave the harbor and the jewelry shops behind. Taking a bus like the locals is the best and most cost efficient way to see the real Nassau. If you love spending time at the beach, Cable Beach is easily reached by taxi and for $20 you can enjoy downtown Nassau from a horse-drawn carriage.
My day at Castaway Cay was very special as my cousin was getting married on the beach that day. The island is beautiful and offers lots of activities for families with kids and the beaches are simply pristine. Except for the amazing barbeque the big draw on Castaway Cay is Pelican Plunge, a 2,400-square-foot floating platform with two slides and a giant water bucket that dumps hundreds of gallons of water on bathers. Serenity Bay is Disney’s grownup only beach and it comes complete with a barbeque station, a bar and secluded cabanas with a great view. The 325-square foot cabanas are furnished with tables, cushioned chaise lounges, a stocked refrigerator, fresh water shower and a hammock. Rental fee is $499 for a party of up to six.
But back to the wedding: With the Disney Dream as a backdrop my cousin was hitched on the beach while we were enjoying the fabulous view of the ocean and the talents of a pianist playing classical music. After the ceremony a trolley brought us back to the Disney Dream for a reception on deck 14.
I was impressed by the execution of the entire event. Nightly surprises by the wedding coordinator made the entire experience very special. Strawberry’s dipped in chocolate, champagne, a fruit basket, a beach bag with towels and finally on the evening of the wedding a bed decorated with rose petals, flowers and chocolate seashells awaited the newlyweds.
In case you are planning a destination wedding, Disney’s Fairy Tale Wedding packages on Castaway Cay start at $4,000 for a party of 8 guests plus the couple. The charge for additional guests is $20 per person 3 years and older. The package includes the ceremony on the island, a wedding coordinator, concierge service and the services of a minister. Also included in this package is live music performed by a pianist a the beach and during the reception, a fresh flower bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom as well as a reception on board the ship with a two-tier wedding cake, a bottle of champagne and special treats for the bride and groom. The couple is also treated to a diner at Palo, a $100 onboard stateroom credit and the steaming of the couples ceremony attire is taken care free of charge. Of course, there are many options for add-ons such as character appearances and a personal photographer.
If you are planning a destination wedding with Mickey and the gang check out Disney Weddings and make sure to get the most out of your cruise with The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line by Len Testa, Erin Foster and Laurel Steward.
For more information and for booking a Disney cruise check out Disney Cruise Line.