I am not one to write up long trip reports. I usually use photos with long captions. Well, I was asked by a friend if I would do one. Get ready for a longer than normal post today.
Back in January of 2011 was the last time I was on the Disney Dream cruise ship. It was only a two night cruise for media and travel professionals. The ship barely had a third of the compliment of guests and the crew was very green. Service was not the best but the ship was beautiful and one could see the potential.
With the potential in mind, I was looking forward to doing the longer 4 night itinerary with ports of call to Nassau, Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. The trip included a day at sea were the captain would do his best to keep the ship in calm seas and mostly sunny skies.
As this was a vacation unlike the Christening Cruise, my wife and I were determined to take it easy and enjoy our time on this Disney Dream cruise. We arrived from Walt Disney World via a Disney Cruise Line bus to Port Canaveral. After checking in at Disney’s cruise terminal, we headed to Cabanas on Deck 11 for lunch. Cabanas is a casual buffet restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner as an alternative to the other restaurants on the ship. It features everything from seafood, sushi, meat and potatoes, kid’s favorites and a huge assortment of desserts.
Our bags had already been picked up from our resort room before leaving that morning. They showed up a couple of hours later to our verandah stateroom on deck 6 just in time to change clothes for dinner. Our dinner restaurant rotation had us attending the Royal Palace the first night. An elegant location with large murals of Disney Princess movie scenes on the walls. We meet our dining crew which was our first indication of how far the Disney Dream service had come since the Christening Cruise. Our dining service crew would follow us to each of the restaurants and were a joy to have.
Like I said, this was a vacation so we decided not to attend the evening’s theater performance which we had seen on the Christening Cruise. Instead, we settled into our room and had some down time.
The next morning we awoke already docked at the Port of Nassau in the Bahamas. We had a la carte breakfast back in the Royal Palace restaurant before heading down to the 687 Sports Lounge to meet our group for our excursion on the island. We were lead off the ship to a local guide who drove us on the wrong side of the road…oh, excuse me, I mean Left is Right and Right is Wrong in the Bahamas. His van held all twelve of us and was air conditioned! The day was bright and sunny but extremely humid. Late May is the rainy season in the Caribbean and it rains every day usually in the late afternoon. Keep that in mind when planning any vacations.
Our first stop on the Nassau Forts and Junkanoo Discovery excursion which took us through narrow, bumpy streets was Fort Fincastle. The fort is the highest elevation on the island. We had a 10 minute and very entertaining tour before we were given time to explore and take photographs. This fort is very small in relation to forts I am accustomed to around New York state from the same time period. The canons you see are replicas as the originals were made of bronze and too expensive to leave once the threat of attack dissipated. You can see Nassau below and the cruise ships docked in the port.
Nassau’s most visited attraction is the Queen’s Staircase. Climb (or walk down them from Fort Fincastle) the 65 steps, recently renovated, carved out of solid limestone by slaves in the late 18th century, between 1793 and 1794. It is reported that slaves were forced to cut through rocks with axes and other sharp hand tools.
This 102 foot staircase was named in honor of the 65 years of Queen Victoria’s reign. Construction of this monument is still regarded as remarkable. We were all happy the tour had us walk down the staircase! At the bottom we meet up with our tour guide who whisked us off to our next destination, the Junkanoo Discovery.
We were dropped off at the Ivern House which is an interactive museum about the Junkanoo Festival held each year at midnight on Christmas. The couple who run the museum have been participating in the festival since the early 1960′s. The festival features dancing in the streets with large colorful head and body costumes made from paper products. Some can be as tall as ten feet and weigh over seventy pounds.
The highlight of the Junkanoo exhibit was learning how to play the cow bells and drums which is the other part of the festival. The kids in the group were encouraged and took to heart to make as much noise as possible. However, by the time we left, our group sounded really good!
While the Junkanoo fun was well worth the price of the excursion, the last stop at Fort Charlotte was another small, stone fort built with slave labor never used for the purpose for which it was made. This excursion was fun and fast and had us back to the Port of Nassau within two hours. Giving us time to shop at the famous Nassau Straw Market before returning to the Disney Dream.
After shopping and checking out the Disney Magic which was berthed across from the Dream while we were at Nassau, we got ready for dinner and a performance of Villians Tonight in the Walt Disney Theatre.
As the Disney Dream left the Port of Nassau, we watched it go from our table at one of the Dream’s upscale restaurants, Palo. At Palo, we experienced personal service by our server, Safet from Boliva, who pointed out the homes to the stars on Nassau as we passed by. I must say Sean Connery’s house does look like something James Bond would approve of. The meal was heavenly. I highly recommend the Lobster and Mascarpone Ravioli entree. Now, even though I told him I was not a fan of chocolate, Safet insisted I try the Chocolate Soufflé for dessert. I must admit it was excellent.
We ended the evening by taking in a late viewing of the 3-D hit The Avengers in the Buena Vista Theater which shows first run movies on every cruise.
The next day was our Day at Sea. We slept in and grabbed a burger and fries at Flo’s V8 Cafe for lunch which also has pizza, chicken strips, salads and sandwiches. Flo’s is very popular with families and is open from morning until late night. I have not mentioned how crowded the ship was. It was nearly full to capacity with over 3,000 passengers. Lots of families and children about. It really proved not to be an issue as the ship has activities and places for children, pre-teens and teens to entertain themselves. The deck 11 pools were filled with families most of the time enjoying themselves as Disney movies and animated shorts where shown on the huge Funnelvision screen all day and most nights.
We spent some time swimming in the Adult only area on Decks 11 and 12 after lunch. Relaxing with a couple of strawberry daiquiris and soaking up some Sun. I finally got to ride the AquaDuck, twice! While the captain did his best, we did run into some rain showers so we changed back in our room and explored The District, the Disney Dream’s adult night club area.
The Skyline lounge was quiet in the late afternoon with video “windows” which rotate night cityscapes every fifteen minutes between New York City (shown), Chicago, Rio, Paris and Hong Kong. As the New York City skyline was being shown when we arrived, I had a New Yorker cocktail which came with a cool glow cube and made for a fun photo along with the lighted menu. I used a Bean Bag to steady the camera. The Jamaican bartender was intrigued with the photos and we enjoyed his island accent during our conversation.
That night was Pirate Night and our dining crew in the Enchanted Garden restaurant was dressed appropriately. We were so impressed with them and their service, I called over Oliver, our head waiter, and personally praised them. He was so happy. Being Pirate Night, I enjoyed a rum drink along with my meal. I would love to say I successfully captured the fireworks show that night. They have either changed where they want the bursts to be or the windy weather dictated it as I was in the wrong place this time. Oh, well, guess I will have to go on another cruise to get it right, eh? Or maybe it was the rum?
I consoled myself by taking my tripod and photographing around the ship late into the night.
Castaway Cay was our final port of call the next day. The weather was not very Caribbean island like with clouds and windy conditions. Most of the excursions and all of the water rentals was cancelled for the day. We had planned to rent bikes for the morning and rode the bike trails out to the Lookout and back. It was a popular choice of many.
We later spent some time at Serenity Bay, Castaway Cay’s adult only beach, between short rain showers. The BBQ buffet was very good probably owning to the appetite we worked up riding those circa-1960′s Schwinn bicycles.
All too soon, we had to bid adieu to our dining crew after taking in my favorite Disney Cruise Line theatrical show, Believe, on our last night on board. The following morning we had breakfast before disembarking back to Walt Disney World for another six nights of vacation. More about that later this week.