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
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