We have never done a cruise before, to be honest we have never been interested in doing one. We usually stay clear of massive inclusive hotels with entertainment as it’s not really our style of travel, however we do love Disney and it seems like everyone we know is cruising at the moment so we decided to go for it and book a 5 night Western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Dream.
We booked about 8 weeks before we left which is fairly last minute for Disney. Planning a Disney trip is a little like studying for a qualification, there are Facebook pages, blogs, vlogs and podcasts to get through so that you know all the tips and tricks and to make sure you don’t miss anything, we had a lot to do in a short time. Despite that I don’t think we missed out on anything and we did feel prepared.
We did a 5 night Western Caribbean Halloween on the High Seas cruise at the end of October 2022 when Pip was 10.
Embarkation at Port of Miami – This was really easy despite what we had read about strict enforcement of boarding times and long queues. We arrived early as we were dropping a hire car off fully expecting to have to wait until our time but we went straight in to the terminal and were allowed to check in. The check in process was quick and easy even though we had to show the same bits of paperwork about 20 times. We were also somehow able to board early despite it being no where near time for our boarding group to be called. The staff were all brilliant and there was a real party atmosphere!
Lunch: As soon as we boarded we went straight to Cabanas for lunch. There is a massive selection at lunchtime everything from mac and cheese and fries to roast dinner with a salad bar and anything else you could want. I’d heard complaints about how busy and chaotic Cabanas is and that wasn’t our experience at all.
Afternoon: We headed to our room after lunch to drop off our carry on bags and have a look around. Our bags hadn’t arrived yet so we went to have a look around the ship, visited the kids’ clubs to look around the open house and register Pip and just generally worked out where everything was.
Tree lighting ceremony – There is a large pumpkin tree in the grand hall that is lit on the first night on the cruise along with a story and some singing.
Sail Away Party – This party is held on deck as the ship leaves port, the horn sounds and Mickey and Friends celebrate setting sail. Disney do an excellent job of getting everyone in the right mood for setting sail. Also listening to the Disney themed ships horn really does signal that the magic has begun.
The Golden Mickey’s – This was our least favourite show out of the 3 we saw although it was still good and worth seeing. It takes the format of an award show with songs from various films with all your favourite Disney characters.
Dinner: Animator’s Palete.
This restaurant is themed around the animators and the artwork that create the Disney magic. There are various screens around the restaurant and if you are lucky Crush will come and have a chat with you while you are eating.
We were slightly disappointed as even though the restaurant was half empty we weren’t seated by a screen so couldn’t talk to Crush. Even more frustrating when Crush was trying to talk to some families who were completely ignoring him!
Castaway Cay day – you can find our full blog post on our day on Castaway Cay here. We started the day with a 5 km run, swam with stingrays, played on the slides and snoozed in hammocks, a pretty perfect day!
Breakfast: We ordered room service for breakfast as we needed to be off the ship as soon as possible to run the Castaway Cay 5K. We had a selection of fruit, juice, cereal and English muffins which was lovely to eat whilst sitting on our balcony.
Lunch: Cookies Barbecue on Castaway Cay, this is included in the cruise and is a buffet style lunch with a choice of barbecued items and salads. There is also the same drinks machines and soft serve ice cream on the island as onboard.
Dinner: Enchanted Garden.
This restaurant is themed as a magical garden. The food was delicious and our server entertained Pip with a handmade origami rose.
Halloween on the High Seas – This was our Halloween day so once we were back onboard ship it was time to get in to our Halloween costumes. There was trick or treating in Cabanas and then Mickey and friends danced and sang in their Halloween costumes out on deck. There was also an opportunity to have photos around the ship with the characters in their costumes and some special characters like the Sanderson Sisters (Minnie, Daisy and Clarabelle) and Jack and Sally-Anne.
Day at Sea
We spent the day exploring the ship and playing detective. The Midship Detective Agency allows you to play onboard detective using the interactive pictures around the ship, the muppet one was our favourite. Pip also spent some time in the kids club and we watched Pinocchio in the cinema. We had a lovely relaxed day, we could have done much more but it was nice to go at quite a chilled pace.
Breakfast: A la carte breakfast at Royal Palace. We had Mickey waffles, eggs and pancakes.
Lunch: Buffet lunch at Cabanas.
Dinner: Royal Palace
Royal Palace is themed as one of the princess’ castles. The menu again was good and our servers looked after us brilliantly and kept Pip entertained.
Shows: Beauty and the Best. This was totally amazing, a West End quality show on a cruise ship and it was wonderfully done. The cast are very talented and the show was amazing.
Breakfast: Room service to make things easier while we were getting ready for our day. We felt like to had got the hang of what to order the second time and got enough of everything for the 3 of us.
We had booked an excursion through Disney and we were glad we did for our first sailing. The day was really well organised and started with meeting in the theatre at our given time and being given a sticker to indicate which group we were in, we were then taken off the ship to met our tour guide Patrick for the day. From there we walked over the road, through the shopping centre and over to the bus station to board our bus.
Stop one: Mayan Ruins
We spent around an hour looking around the ruins, finding our about the Mayan’s that built them and also their more recent history. The site is quite small but it was a great introduction to the Mayan civilistation. There are toilets, souvenir shops on site as well as somewhere to get water. You can also get sprayed down with bug spray which was advised.
Stop two: Chocolate (The Mayan Cocao Company)
The Mayan Cocao Company gives you a very quick tour through the history of chocolate from this region. The tour walks through various small building some with displays and films and others where you can taste local food. The tour finishes in a small theatre where we watched a demonstration on how a chocolate paste is made that includes various other ingredients such as honey and spices which we were able to try at the end. The tour also includes a gift shop where you can sample all the flavours of chocolate that they sell and purchase, they also sell local crafts and chocolate flavoured alcoholic drinks and well as chocolate slushies.
Stop three: The beach (Playa Mia)
The beach is actually in the same place as the Mayan Cocao Compnay, once you have finished your tour and shopping then you are able to go next door for lunch and some beach time.
We started with lunch and ordered a selection of Mexican dishes from the menu, there was also a buffet option which we decided wasn’t as good value as just ordering what we wanted. The restaurant area was under cover and it was nice to get out of the sun while we ate. We then spent the rest of our time on the inflatable aqua park and swimming in the sea which was beautifully warm. There were life jackets available to use for while we were on the Aqua park and then Pip was just happy playing in the shallow water.
The area also has swimming pools, a couple of bars and sun beds so would be great as a stop in itself to spend a day relaxing.
Dinner: Animator’s Palete – Pirate night menu.
On this evening all the restaurants on the ship serve the same pirate themed menu. The screens in Animators Palete show artwork from the various Disney pirate films and servers are dressed up. There was a pirate themed cup available to buy which was shaped like a skull and lit up. This came with a kids cocktail which Pip really enjoyed.
Pirates in the Caribbean pirate night – This again was on deck with Mickey and Pals as pirates fighting the evil Captain Hook and Smee with some singing and dancing for good measure. As it was pirate night we got in to the spirit with pirate costumes and some photos with the characters in their pirate outfits.
Fireworks at Sea – This is a later show after the second dinner sitting and once it gets dark up on deck. Disney is the only cruise company to have fireworks at sea and they were really spectacular, there is also a short show that includes Captain Jack Sparrow abseiling off the funnel. The fireworks are on one side of the ship so it is worth checking with team members which side it is so that you can get the best view.
Day at Sea
We spent our last day at sea relaxing. Pip rode the Aqua Duck at least 300 times, Andy and I watched films on Funnel Vision and we also attended a D23 talk in the main theatre which was a summary of all the new information D23 had just released about the parks, cruises and films.
We also had a booking for The Royal Gathering which is an opportunity to meet several of the Princesses at once in the Grand hall. We managed to meet Rapunzel, Belle, Tiana and Jasmine who stand in an line and you move down and get to speak to each one and have your photo taken. Pip may have been a little old for this but Andy really enjoyed meeting Princess Jasmine!
Breakfast: We ate breakfast at Cabanas it was nice to be able to eat a litte later and have the buffet selection.
Lunch: We ate lunch in Cabanas and also had snacks by the pool. Pip also possibly ate her own weight in soft serve ice cream.
Dinner: Enchanted Garden
This was our second dinner in Enchanted garden with a different menu from the first.
We also packed up our stateroom and attached our luggage labels ready to put out our luggage out for collection. All in all it was a pretty perfect day relaxation and weather wise.
See ya real soon party – This is held in the grand hall and is a final chance to meet some of the characters who come out on stage and then move in to separate areas so that you can queue for photographs with them. It’s definitely worth attending especially if you have a few characters that you haven’t yet met.
Believe – This was as good as Beauty and the Beast. The story is about a little girl who is trying to get her Dad to believe in magic and the people (Disney Characters) he meets along the way. It’s full of Disney songs and magic and it definitely brought a tear to my eye!
Return to Miami and disembarkation.
We were up early for breakfast and had been allocated Enchanted Garden and a breakfast sitting. It does feel a little strange taking all your carry on luggage to breakfast but it wasn’t busy. We said our final goodbyes to our servers who had been absoloutely amazing during our stay and then waited for our group to be called for disembarkation.
Getting off the ship was just as easy as getting on, we quickly found our luggage and made in to the taxi line to wait for a taxi to the airport. It couldn’t have been easier.
We booked a guaranteed stateroom with veranda which meant that we didn’t get to choose our room but were guaranteed that type of room or better. We ended up in room 7652 which was towards the back of the ship, just around the corners from the lifts. We couldn’t fault it although we don’t have anything to compare it to.
Our room host Gerald was amazing and Pip loved coming back to the room each evening and seeing what towel animal he had set up for us
We did not go hungry at all on this cruise at all, in fact we probably didn’t manage to try everything that we could have.
Pip mainly ate off the kids menu although there were a couple of times that she went for the healthy option from the main menu.
Andy really enjoyed the food at all the evening dinners and felt there was a lot of choice.
I am vegetarian and I was a little disappointed with the choices at dinner. There was usually only one vegetarian choice and I found it a little bland. I would have liked some dishes with a little more flavour and some different protein options.
We loved the various breakfast options and it was really useful to be able to have breakfast in our room on port days.
We had the later dining time at 8:15pm which suited us brilliantly s we would never have made it to dinner at 5:45pm or have been hungry. Our only issue was that we were still on UK time so Pip was very tired by that that point after having got up early.
We cruised the last week in October and we had lovely weather, beautiful sunshine and on sea days we were able to spend time in the pool and on deck. It was a little cooler in the mornings but never cold.
The great thing about Disney is most things go dress wise. You can dress up for your evening meal or not and that is fine. We had a Halloween night and lots of families dressed up, some went all out with matching family costumes and others just added a few accessories, some didn’t dress up at all. The same for pirate night. There were also lots of family matching t-shirts which was fun to see.
Before we went on the cruise Pip and I learned that there is an option to buy a placeholder while you are on your cruise. This costs $250 and gives you 10% off your next cruise and you have 2 years to use it. When we told Andy about it he was adamant that we wouldn’t be doing that as one cruise was enough. Well he enjoyed it so much that we booked the placeholder so watch this space for another Disney Cruise coming up in the next 2 years.
We enjoyed the cruise so much more than we thought we were going to, in fact our only complaint was that it was too short! It was a great way to experience all the good bits of Disney in a really relaxing way and Pip has declared it her best holiday ever.
The only change we would make for next time apart from a longer cruise would be a couple of days before the cruise to get ourselves in the right time zone.