All the magic of Mickey and more
The adventure never stops aboard this floating funhouse off the US coast, writes Anthony Keane
AS CAPTAIN Guus Verhulst introduces his three most senior officers in the Disney Dream’s crowded theatre somewhere at sea near the Bermuda Triangle, he assures passengers that safe hands are still steering his ship.
There are plenty of other captains onboard, Captain Guus says. Capt Hook, Captain Jack Sparrow and, of course, Captain Mickey, he says, as the crowd full of families cheer.
Life on a Disney cruise ship is almost too entertaining. In just three hours since leaving Port Canaveral in Florida, we have already watched Goofy dance in a deck party, explored giant Toy Story and Monsters Inc playrooms, enjoyed a four-course meal while animated characters from Finding Nemo chatted to diners through portholes, and are about to watch a Broadway-style stage show celebrating classic Disney characters.
In a four-night return voyage between Port Canaveral and the Bahamas capital Nassau, it feels as though our family of four only scratches the surface of entertainment options on board this ship.
The Disney Dream’s maiden voyage sailed on Australia Day last year, and it is the third vessel in the Disney Cruise Line fleet. It is one of the world’s longest cruise ships at 340m and accommodates 4000 passengers and almost 1500 crew who, incidentally, work seven-day-a-week contracts for months at a time and are paid mostly in tips.
Almost 90 per cent of the cabins – ahem, staterooms – have balconies or views.
Just like Disney’s resorts and theme parks, everything on the ship runs like clockwork – such as the 20 minutes it took us to disembark, collect our luggage and pass through customs. Also like the theme parks, there can be long queues. Like the 50 minutes we waited for photographs with six Disney princesses, although it was nice to knock them all off in one go.
Despite Disney’s family-focused image, there’s plenty on board for people of all ages, and many retirees and other couples sail with Disney Cruise Lines for the quality food, accommodation and entertainment.
There are the usual attractions, such as cinemas, restaurants, nightly bands and live shows, nightclubs, a walking track and a health club.
Add to that some special Disney touches, including pirates abseiling from funnels, fireworks at sea and the Aquaduck, a water coaster that propels guests 230m through a glass tube that extends over the side of the ship 12 storeys above the sea.
Water attractions cater for all ages, although the only real negative on the Disney Dream is its postage stampsized swimming pools.
Only two small pools are available for families and these resemble overstuffed washing machines. The sails three and four-night Bahamian cruises from Port Canaveral in Florida, all year-round. Room prices vary and the cheaper inside staterooms sell out quickly. A deluxe family ocean-view stateroom with veranda costs about $900 or less for adults and $600 for children for the fournight cruise. See disneycruise .disney.go.com
Apart from the pool problem, the other options for children are brilliant. At the kids clubs they can get messy making volcanoes with a mad scientist, have story time with a Disney character, make puppets, learn to cook, and enjoy countless crafts and computer games. There are separate clubs for tweens and teens who have outgrown the buzz of Buzz Lightyear.
The Disney Dream’s four-night cruise has two days in port. Our first visit is Nassau. It’s a place of contrasts, from the luxury Atlantis resort area, where suites can cost thousands of dollars, to run-down back streets where locals sell unappealing lobsters from steamy roadside stalls.
Nassau’s 250,000 residents are about 70 per cent of the Bahamas’ population. It has a pirate past but today the British influence is clear in the architecture, although many buildings are a bright pink like their