Multigenerational Travel: Dream Cruise

Disney updates its cruise line with a whale of a ship for kids and kids at heart. Vivian Vassos sets sail in stateroom 9534, deck nine.

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” These profound words were spoken by perhaps the biggest dreamer of them all, Walt Disney. And with the company’s cruise ship, the Disney Dream, the powers that be certainly did dream big.

Disney Cruise Line (DCL) first forayed into the market with the Magic in 1998, followed a year later by the Wonder. Nearly double the capacity of its sister ships, the Dream sleeps 4,000, has a crew of 1,458 and was 10 years in the making. Working with German engineers at that country’s Meyer Werft shipyard (think of the Dream as the Mercedes Benz of cruise ships), the designers envisioned an ode to a bygone era of ocean liners that oozed glamour and sophistication — the only way to travel for the glitterati of the time.

The Dream is resplendent with art deco details, staying true to Walt’s vision of America’s infatuation with ’20s and ’30s European design — even the art deco-inspired Kem Weber typeface he favoured, named for a leading American industrial designer of the time and affectionately known in some circles as the Mouse font (an homage, no doubt, to Mickey, Walt’s most beloved character), is still in use today: room numbers, directions and the DCL Logo included.

The jewel in the Dream’s crown is the 13-foot Atrium Chandelier, a 24-karat gold-plated, Swarovski crystal-encrusted showstopper that greets you as you board through the three-storey lobby, ensuring every entrance is grand. (The deco-inspired chandeliers on the Wonder and Magic are no small potatoes, either, with fantastical blown-glass floral-like visions by master artist Dale Chihuly.)

 

 

 

In contrast, the amenities are as new millennium as they come. Staterooms are spacious by industry standards, with separate bath and powder rooms, more than two-thirds featuring verandas and a few decks offering personal concierge benefits and suite-sized rooms. Even inside staterooms, usually with no windows, have virtual portholes that screen real-time views provided by strategically positioned HD cameras on the outside of the ship.

It’s the all-ages appeal of this ship that truly makes it a standout. “For many of us, one-third of our life is when we’re grandparents,” says Peter Yesawich of the U.S.-based Y Partnership, a group that specializes in travel service marketing. “And three out of 10 have actually taken a vacation with their grandchildren.

That trend is growing, and it’s in proportion with our population.” Yesawich goes on to point out that 88 per cent of Canadian adults actively plan vacations with the hope it will result in special memories for the children in their lives and that, according to a new survey, vacations taken with immediate family are the most memorable, regardless of when they were taken (as a young child or after becoming a parent).

After all this, one can only wonder where that phrase, “It’s a Mickey Mouse operation” became associated with the negative. Because, as Walt the dreamer was also known to say, “It all started with a mouse.”

 The All-Ages Details

For the Grownups

Dining options are plentiful, but there’s culinary alchemy at Remy’s, with a French menu by a rare Michelin two-starred chef-at-sea, Arnaud Lallement, co-created with AAA Five Diamond award-winning chef Scott Hunnel of Victoria & Albert’s at Walt Disney World resort. The two face off by offering their own versions of what a chef’s tasting menu should be. Opt for a chilled Taittinger Champagne cocktail mixed at table, then you and your dining companion choose a menu and share the delights! It’s not on the dining plan but, at under $100, your taste buds will thank you. You’ll also find gourmet Italian at Palo and it, along with Remy’s, is restricted to diners 18 and over.

The District, the adults-only area, includes: • Pink, an intimate champagne bar inspired by the bubbly. • Skyline, where each night the virtual skyline changes with a cocktail menu to match. • Evolution, a dance club.

Senses Spa and Salon sprawls over two decks of the ship and includes a rainforest relaxation area, couple’s spa villas, a barber shop (where you can still get a good old-fashioned shave) and salon. Senses offers unique anti-aging treatments (24-karat gold facial anyone? Perhaps a triple oxygen treatment?). Products come from well-respected lines such as Elemis, Bliss and Phyto. Plus, there’s a fitness centre with state-of-the-art equipment, trainer-lead classes in yoga and pilates and a body sculpt boot camp.

For the Kids

Specially created age-appropriate zones include: • The Oceaneer Club for the under-10 set, with four play areas, including Andy’s Room from the Oscar-winning Toy Story franchise (where Buzz Lightyear may show up for a play date!).

Vibe, a teens-only (14-17) hangout lets teens be teens, independent of ma or grandma. American Idol wannabes can karaoke here (Jennifer Hudson got her start singing on the Wonder), a giant central TV screen or more personal “pods” provide entertainment and budding DJs can spin and mix it. (For more, go to The Grandkids’ Guide to…the Disney Dream at www.zoomermag.com.)

The AquaDuck, the shipboard water coaster, unique to the Dream, shoots raft riders through clear tubes two-and-a-half times the length of a football field. (Okay, we spotted a few Zoomers zooming through the tube, too!)

Your Own Private Island

Like many cruise lines, Disney has its own island. But what makes Castaway Cay in the Bahamas unique is the dock. The harbour is deep enough to allow a ship the size of the Dream to dock right at the wharf, eliminating the need to ferry passengers back and forth between ship and sand. Start off with a five-kilometre island run the morning you make port. Castaway Cay features other shore excursions, such as swimming with stingrays, to many supervised age-appropriate areas, including the teen Hide Out. Serenity Bay is an adults-only retreat where you can relax and recharge in a hammock built for two or a private cabana before another night of ship-bound fun with the kids. (Did we mention the only on-board fireworks show at sea?)

Ah, a pirate’s life for me.

IF YOU GO 

Disney Cruise Line (DCL) offers three-, four-, five- and seven-night itineraries to the Bahamas and the Caribbean with at least one stop at Castaway Cay. www.disneycruise.com, call 1-888-DCL-2500 or your travel agent.

 

(April 2011)