We finished up our third cruise with the rat last weekend. It was our second time on the Dream, and this time we did it with our friends from Chicago and their two little girls. This was the trip we were planning for at the start of the year, when we spontaneously booked the three-night Bahama trip on the Magic for February. All three cruises have been the same itinerary, but one of these days we'll do a longer one.
Mike and Artemisa have literally been "vacation friends" for almost ten years now. Mike also did the CoasterBuzz Podcast with me back in the day. It's always fun to kind of pick up where we left off with them, only now, we all have kids. I picked them up from the airport, and they used one of my cars to drive to the port. This is a point of frustration we've seen many times now for cruising with Disney. There are no cost effective ways to get there unless you're also booking a lengthy stay at the theme parks. This way, at least, all they had to pay for was the $60 parking for the car (plus assorted beverages that they graciously bought us).
We had a slightly different room this time, with a neat circular shower that felt less cramped. The room was a little longer, too. Our co-travelers had a concierge room, which was super roomy. On the plus side, they had an amazing verandah that faces both forward and port, but because it was also a handicap accessible room, the bathroom was gigantic but not not particularly luxurious. The benefits of concierge include the private deck, pre-dinner drinks, more people waiting on you, and of course the bigger rooms that you don't really spend that much time in. We wanted to try this, but the rooms were all booked.
As much as we enjoyed our trip on the Magic, there is something that is just so amazing about the Dream. It holds a lot more people, but it never felt too crowded except during the boarding period prior to the emergency drill. You walk into the lobby, and it's such a "wow" moment. Deck 4 has a bigger, classic feel when you walk around. The theater is beautiful. Oh, and the pizza is better too. Like I said, I loved the Magic as well, and frankly would have to like it if we ever get serious about doing one of the Europe itineraries, but the Dream is special for a ship that "only" does 3 and 4-night itineraries to the Bahamas.
Generally speaking, there isn't a lot new to talk about over the previous trips, because the food and service was exactly what we expect. The bar is set pretty high, and they get there. That said, we did have one snafu when we boarded to have lunch. They didn't have PB&J, and two restaurants asked Diana to run all over the ship looking for it. No one would own the problem. It probably shouldn't be a problem, but Simon having the issues that he does, this is one of those situations where he can't understand when he can't have something he's used to getting, and he shuts down. It doesn't happen often, but it's heartbreaking when it does. I calmly explained my disappointment to guest services, and that afternoon, room service showed up with a half-dozen Uncrustables to stock our fridge. They went above and beyond, and that's why I love this cruise line.
They're offering a whole lot of opportunities to spend extra. They aren't just selling fruity drinks, they're selling 12 bottles for the price of 10, delivered to your room. Mike and I bought in to it, and that made our beach day a lot more fun, for sure. They were also pushing packs of water, and coolers to carry stuff around the ship or to Castaway Cay.
Probably the biggest differentiator of this trip, aside from the obvious fact that we went with another family, was the rental of a cabana on Castaway Cay. Honestly, this isn't something we would ever spend money on if it was just us, because it's crazy expensive. But share it with another family, when you're spending a significant portion of your trip on that island, and it is completely worth it. They give you all the snacks and non-alcoholic beverages you can consume, sunscreen, sand toys for the kids, a call button for bar service, etc. They drive you out there in a golf cart.
The cabana itself is a nice raised up structure with cushy furniture, an interior area (with a curtain for a changing area), as well as a deck with a semi-shade canvas cover. The kids loved the hammock just down the steps from there. The beach itself is semi-private, has the usual chairs and umbrellas, and tubes and stuff to play on (no rental required).
Having a more "catered" beach experience, with a little more privacy and a whole lot of comfort made this awesome. Throw in our beer stash from the ship, and we had a fantastic time. We played with the kids building sand castles, talked about career and parent stuff, had beverages and soaked in the awesome views that come with that island. It's going to be difficult to ever do Castaway Cay the normal way after this. I am so not a beach person, and this was probably the best six hours on a beach I've ever had.
Other notes and observations...