Saturday, 22 January 2011

Aboard A Dream

After the eye-popping event that was the Disney Dream's naming ceremony, the vast throng of media and guests retired back to the Terminal for a glass of champagne and canapes, to discuss and digest the great 'show' that had just unfolded before us.

It had been truly spectacular, aided and abetted by a blissful Florida winter's day - bright blue skies and ideal temperatures (just enough to redden a few arms and faces!), which was in stark contrast to how the week started and finished, with heavy rain. We did wonder what Disney had planned in the case of bad weather (because you know Disney are always prepared for every eventuality and there certainly would have been a Plan B, just in case) but, as it turned out, everything went off perfectly.

After about an hour of post-inauguration chit-chat, we were invited to board the new vessel, as she had now tied up alongside the Terminal and was ready to accept guests for the first time.

As some will know, all 3 Disney ships feature a large, three-storey central Atrium, where guests arrive via the gangway, and everyone is 'announced' in proper celebration fashion ("Now welcoming, the Veness family!"), and this sense of style and presence sets things up for every voyage.

Happily, all the cabins were open and ready, and we were able to head there first to check out our Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom With Verandah (a standard outside cabin with balcony) on Deck 6.

The first thing you notice is the fact the bed is raised up on proper legs and is not cobbled together from two single beds; it is a proper king bed with plenty of room underneath for cases and bags. Very tidy. The cabin is not terribly wide but the sitting area is quite spacious and there is a curtain to screen off the lounge space if you are using the sofa-bed as a third berth (which might well make it a bit of a squeeze for three).

It isn't exactly opulent but it's not spartan either, and all the fixtures and fittings are extremely well made and high quality. The split bathroom offers a separate bathtub/shower with sink and mirror, all with Spa H2O bath products, and then there is a separate W/C with sink. Thoughtful, convenient and a boon to most families.

The Family Staterooms are a touch wider and deeper, and bunk beds for the kids are a great idea (no more sharing a double bed!). We also had a look at the famous inside cabins with their Disney-unique 'virtual' window (a clever porthole-shaped video screen that relays live views from outside the side of the ship, along with a few clever 'extras' such as various Disney characters appearing periodically, like the Starfish from Finding Nemo and dancing hippos from Fantasia!).

Our quick ship tour also took in the Concierge level, a separate, gated accommodation area that evokes memories of the traditional former First Class style of maritime travel. Inside, it conjures up more than memories, as it is a truly gorgeous and classic piece of design, highlighted by rich dark-wood panelling that is straight out of the Golden Era of cruising in the 1930s.

All the cabins have a much higher level of finish, using that dark-wood style to complete the image of the glamorous yesteryear in sea-going chic, and there is also a separate Concierge Lounge and exclusive deck area, plus private entry to the Spa.

It is very much an area that many cruise lines have been moving into in recent years - this ship-within-a-ship style and extra exclusivity - but this is the first time I have seen it carried through to such a warm and traditional style, almost straight from the pages of the Queen Mary or Normandie in the 30s.

As if to complement this feeling of 'grown-up' largesse, the adults-only Cove Pool and Cove Cafe are also much richer and more classical spaces, and will surely appeal to cruisers well beyond the usual Disney reach.

It all made for a very satisfactory and inviting first look at the ship. But there was more in store. Much more....