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A "Dream" of a Trip

I recently attended Disney's annual Earmarked Conference, an event for travel professionals. This year's conference was a little different in that it was held on Disney Cruise Line's newest shining star, the Disney Dream. At 14 decks tall and over 1,115 feet long, she was an impressive sight to see as we pulled into Port Canaveral.

We boarded on Deck 3 and couldn't wait to check out our stateroom. We were on Deck 6 in a Family Oceanview Stateroom with a verandah. One of the greatest features in most staterooms onboard the Dream is that they feature split bathrooms, with one bathroom containing the toilet and sink and the other the tub/shower and sink. Having a tub was wonderful, and having a separate place to get ready while another person in our party showered was invaluable. An added touch is that the beds are raised, so stowing luggage or duffel bags underneath the bed is not problem and frees up precious space in the cabin.

Another really cool feature on this ship are the Wave phones. The portable phones can send and receive phone calls and text messages from other Wave phones when used on board the ship or on Castaway Cay. The phones do not work off the ship other than on Castaway Cay. You can use the device to call other Wave phones on Disney's network, but not to call home. Each stateroom comes equipped with two of the phones; concierge staterooms come with four phones. There is currently no charge to use the service, but you can rent additional units if you need more than come with your room. There is a $250 charge per unit if they are lost or damaged.

Before too long we were off to Deck 12 to ride the newest innovation onboard a cruise ship, the AquaDuck water coaster. In this cruise industry first, guests are propelled through an acrylic tube above the ship and over the water, traveling 765 feet and dropping four decks before emptying the guest into a lazy river.

For the littlest cruisers, there's the 1,500 square foot Nemo's Reef, where they can splash and play to their heart's content.

After our adventure on the AquaDuck, we dried off and changed so we could attend the show "The Golden Mickeys" in the Walt Disney Theater. The shows on board are Disney-themed and Broadway quality. However, if any of the younger crowd want to do their own thing, teens can check out VIBE, the strictly teen club complete with private sundeck, pool and hot tub, as well as the technology to create and edit videos with the latest software. And I haven't even mentioned the 103-inch LCD screen or the built-in pods where they can watch videos on their own, listen to music or play video games! They can also go to their own Chill Spa with special spa treatments (Hot Chocolate Wrap or Surfer's Scrub perhaps?) The best part: the equally terrific Tween Club Edge is in another part of the ship so annoying younger siblings won't be anywhere near.

I loved the intimate spaces in the Oceaneer Club and adjacent Oceaneer Lab for kids 3 to 10. Here they can choose from many activities, including re-arranging the face of a giant Mr. Potato Head in Andy's Room, where "Toy Story" seems to come to life, or dressing up like fairies and princesses in Pixie Hollow, complete with hundreds of fairy lights twinkling from the leaves of a pixie tree. Grade-schoolers can try their hand at sketching favorite characters in the Animator's Studio or create and record their own songs in the Song Studio. Characters, of course, come by to share the fun. Ready for a pirate lesson from Captain Hook? You won't believe the interactive Magic Floor either where kids' movements control the action below their feet. (Think flying over London with Peter Pan.)

I'll never look at paintings the same way after experiencing "Enchanted Art." This art is displayed around the ship, and comes to life with several seconds of animation as you stand in front of it. We also experienced this in Animator's Palate restaurant, as Crush came to life and worked the room, engaging diners in real-time conversations.

Before anyone thinks that this ship was designed with only the little ones in mind, I need to point out the perks for the parents and grandparents traveling with the kids. There's an adult-only pool area, a big spa and fitness center, adult-only excursions (rum tasting in Nassau), an adult-only beach on Disney's private island Castaway Cay, and Disney's hip Adult-only District entertainment area. I loved the different bars — Pink for champagne and The Skyline with its ever-changing "windows" showcasing urban skylines around the world and specialty drinks to match them.

Speaking of Castaway Cay, our day there was nothing short of wonderful, especially considering we left behind 20 degree weather and snowstorms at home.

The excellent theming and service that Disney is known for extends to their private island in the Bahamas. There are two barbecue spots for lunch, Cookie's BBQ and Cookie's BBQ Too, which feature hot dogs, burgers, ribs, chicken, etc. and plenty of spots along the way to get a frozen cocktail or beer. Guests can snorkel, parasail, jet ski, play at Pelican Plunge (which features 2 water slides),

enjoy In-Da-Shade games (basketball, ping pong, shuffleboard), or pedal along the four mile bike trail. And when it's time to take a break after all this, there's a family beach and an adults only beach to simply relax and soak up the sun. Castaway Cay also has a teens-only spot called the Hideout.

Before we knew it, our cruise had come to an end, and it was time to face the real world again. Disney makes the disembarkation process a breeze, and in no time we were back in the terminal claiming our luggage and going through Customs. As we made our way home, facing the impending snow storm threatening to dump a foot of snow on us, I couldn't help but dream of when we would be back.

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