M is for magic
It’s impossible to talk about a Disney cruise without mentioning that sprinkling of pixie dust that sets it apart. As the only cruise line with permission to veer from the regulation ocean-liner colour scheme, the ships have a Mickey-inspired black hull, yellow trim and red funnels, and the art deco interiors are elegantly grown-up in a way you might not expect of a ship designed with children in mind. But there are playful elements galore – subtle Mickey ears are woven into the architecture to delight little eye-spiers, the ship’s horn sounds the iconic first notes When You Wish Upon a Star, and Disney ships are the only ones to have four captains – the ship’s captain, Captain Mickey, Captain Hook and Captain Jack Sparrow…
I is for islands
Our first port of call was Nassau, the largest city on Paradise Island and the capital of the Bahamas. Its colourful marketplaces are perfect for picking up unique souvenirs (loud Bahamian shirt for my one-year-old? Check), while culture vultures can investigate the pirate museum, which takes you back in time to the world of cutlass-wielding real-life pirates. The second stop was Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, which is the perfect place to while away time in a hammock, or to snorkel in the turquoise waters. We rented bikes and cycled up to the highest point on the island, for a view right out of Pirates of the Caribbean.
C is for cabins
My verandah stateroom was surprisingly spacious, with a sumptuous queen-sized bed and a split bathroom that makes it perfect for families. The balcony allowed for a quiet breakfast al fresco, watching the waves, while little ones will love the novelty of snoozing in bunk beds, and the ability to order everything from cookies to burgers free of charge through room service. The housekeeper assigned to my room became like a friend, checking in with me every day, and leaving chocolates on my pillow, as well as increasingly extravagant ‘towelgami’ creations (towels artfully rolled to resemble everything from a swan or frog, to a sloth dangling from a clothes hanger).
K is for kids’ clubs
There isn’t just a kids’ club on the Disney Dream ocean liner – there’s an entire deck dedicated to youngsters, and no adults are allowed. It’s a Small World nursery caters to babies from three months to three years, while the Oceaneer’s club immerses three- to 12-year-olds in the magical world of Disney storytelling, with arts and crafts classes in a pixie hollow with Tinker Bell, interactive games in the Monsters Inc Academy, computer gaming in the Finding Nemo-themed Explorer Pod, and remote-controlled cars in the Toy Story-themed area. Tweens and teens are also catered for in Edge and Vibe clubs, where they can watch TV, surf the net or sunbathe in the company of their own age group. With a babysitting service also available, parents can make the most of the adult-only pool and bar areas, or the spa and the health club, for a rare slice of grown-up time.
E is for entertainment
Disney was the first company to introduce firework spectaculars at sea, and the pyrotechnic-pumped pirate party has to be seen to be believed – never would I have imagined I’d find myself energetically line-dancing with Captain Jack Sparrow and a ship-full of people while wearing an eye patch and bandana on my head (cynicism is something you check in at the door on a Disney cruise). And that’s not to mention the nightly shows – Broadway-quality productions filled with singing, dancing and state-of-the-art special effects, with all the magical Disney musical numbers, of course. Plus there are the meet-and-greets with all the Disney characters, and free access to every Disney film ever made on the stateroom TVs.
Y is for yummy food
Anyone who’s ever been on a cruise before knows how important the cuisine is. Thankfully, Disney does too, and its unique rotational dining system means that guests get to dine in a different restaurant every night, accompanied by their own servers, who get to know your likes and dislikes and dietary requirements. As well as the wittily named Animator’s Palate – where diners can interact with the animated screens – there is a whole host of excellent dining options featuring international cuisine, and the food is genuinely good, with the level of quality and variety of a good brunch in Dubai. There are also a couple of speciality restaurants for adults only, where truly gourmet food and silver service take centre stage.
Need to know
A four-night cruise around the Bahamas from Port Canaveral on the Disney Dream costs around Dh16,000 for a family of four, including all food and soft drinks. See Disneycruise.disney.go.com for more info and to learn about the just-launched Frozen-themed cruise itinerary around the Norwegian fjords.
Walt Disney World Resort
If you’re headed to Port Canaveral for a Bahamian cruise, you have to fit in some time at the Disney parks in Orlando Florida. There are four theme parks, encompassing Animal Kingdom, with its stunning Kilamanjaro safari; Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the exhilarating Terror Towers attraction; Epcot with the breathtaking Soarin’ virtual reality hang-glide ride over America; and of course the Magic Kingdom, where the iconic Cinderella castle hosts spectacular firework displays and the Festival of Fantasy parade – featuring Frozen’s Elsa and Anna as well as a fire-breathing Maleficent dragon – draws huge crowds. The just-expanded New Fantasyland houses the family-friendly Seven Dwarves Mine Train, and the magical Enchanted Tales with Belle, where guests re-enact the story of Beauty and the Beast. Don’t miss the atmospheric Be Our Guest restaurant, a replica of the Beast’s castle from the animated film, where no matter how sunny the weather is in Florida, snow falls outside the window. The flagship accommodation is the Victorian-style Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, a minute’s monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom. See disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/grand-floridian-resort-and-spa