Dis­ney sprin­kles its star­dust on high seas

Wes­ley John­son 11-month-old daugh­ter took his on a Caribbean cruise to test whether the famed com­pany can re­ally work its magic on a fam­ily hol­i­day at sea

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL LATE -

From end­less en­coun­ters with Don­ald Duck and Co, to ex­plor­ing Nemo’s Reef and see­ing off Cap­tain Hook as fire­works fill the sky, life on board the Dis­ney Dream, which evokes lin­ers of years gone by with its blue hull and gold de­tail, prom­ises to be fairy­tale ad­ven­ture. But just how mag­i­cal will the ex­pe­ri­ence be if you’re set­ting sail with a baby in tow?

To find out, we em­barked on a four-day cruise from Florida’s Port Canaveral to the Ba­hamas, in­clud­ing a stop at Dis­ney’s idyl­lic pri­vate is­land, Cast­away Cay, with our 11-month-old daugh­ter, Evie.

We’d never taken Evie abroad be­fore, so couldn’t help wor­ry­ing about a few things. How would she cope on the nine-and-a-halfhour flight? How would she be on the ship? Would she be okay with the low-30s tem­per­a­tures we were set to en­counter? What about her sleep rou­tine, and how on earth would we pre­pare her food with no kitchen?

As soon as we stepped on board, Dis­ney sprin­kled its magic and our con­cerns van­ished. In our state­room, for ex­am­ple, our many suit­cases, ruck­sacks and pushchair were all tucked away neatly un­der the bed, leav­ing us with plenty of room to get around. A heavy cur­tain sep­a­rated the travel cot from the rest of the room, mean­ing we could have the lights on af­ter putting Evie to bed, and the bath­room and shower were sep­a­rate to the toi­let, mak­ing get­ting the fam­ily ready that lit­tle bit sim­pler.

IS IT POS­SI­BLE TO HAVE TIME TO YOUR­SELF ON A CRUISE WITH A BABY?

At US$9 (about £6.40) an hour, drop­ping our daugh­ter off at the It’s A Small World Nurs­ery — com­plete with a play­room and sep­a­rate sleep­ing quar­ters with full-size cots — for an hour or two was an af­ford­able treat, en­abling us to re­lax in the adult-only pool bar, soak up some sun, and en­joy the spa. Bliss.

The nurs­ery was par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar in the evenings too. Along with other par­ents, we left our sleep­ing daugh­ter for a cou­ple of hours so we could try out the adults-only Palo restau­rant — a mod­ern Ital­ian sit­u­ated at the stern of the ship, serv­ing up culi­nary de­lights in­clud­ing a clas­sic beef ten­der­loin and a de­li­cious sig­na­ture choco­late souf­fle. Af­ter a lux­u­ri­ous four-course meal, we fin­ished our wine out on deck un­der the night sky — a fan­tas­tic evening.

The qual­ity of the food in the ship’s four main restau­rants, which each had at least two tasty veg­e­tar­ian op­tions on their stan­dard menus, meant it was easy to eat like kings and queens, even with­out opt­ing for the spe­cial­ity din­ing op­tion.

On our first night, our wait­ers, Arvin and Du­jon (they moved with us as we ro­tated around the dif­fer­ent restau­rants dur­ing the four days on board), asked the chef to pre­pare purees for Evie’s break­fast, lunch and din­ner the next day, de­liv­er­ing them to wher­ever we wanted to dine.

WHAT’S DIS­NEY’S PRI­VATE IS­LAND LIKE?

None of the fun and sparkle was lost when we stepped off the ship in the Ba­hamas for a day on Dis­ney’s pri­vate is­land, Cast­away Cay.

Af­ter a splash in the turquoise wa­ters and a play on the golden sands, we re­laxed in ham­mocks un­der palm trees just yards from the wa­ter’s edge, while Evie napped in the shade. Af­ter­wards, we all ex­plored the reefs sur­round­ing the is­land in a glass-bot­tom boat.

Whether ex­plor­ing the foun­tains of Nemo’s Reef (a wa­ter play area for ba­bies next to the main pool on deck 11), play­ing on the quiet deck in the shade of the lifeboats, or be­ing mes­merised by a stun­ning per­for­mance of Beauty And The Beast, which saw the packed 1,340-ca­pac­ity the­atre trans­form into a floor-to-ceil­ing li­brary, Evie was sur­rounded by bright, en­gag­ing and in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences from morn­ing to night.

She may have been too young to un­der­stand or ap­pre­ci­ate Dis­ney but, with every de­tail taken care of, we had a mag­i­cal time too.

IS­LAND PAR­ADISE: Cast­away Cay, Dis­ney’s pri­vate is­land in the Ba­hamas, with the Dis­ney Dream cruise ship in the back­ground. In­set, the An­i­ma­tor’s Palate restau­rant on board the ship

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