Last week we had the wonderful opportunity to experience the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Member Cruise on board the beautiful Disney Dream! For the first time ever, DVC invited media guests on board the cruise and I was absolutely wowed and honored to be one of just four along for this magical journey. Almost every thing we did the entire week was paid for by Disney but, as always, this review and all opinions below are my own.
Since I have reviewed our Disney Cruise Line sailings many times over the last few years, in this post I am going to share whats DIFFERENT about a DVC Member Cruise. First things first, these special sailings are available only to Disney Vacation Club Members and the perk is offered as just one of many member benefits. We are DVC members ourselves, but this was our first Member Cruise.
Since many members have sailed Disney Cruise Line already, Member Cruises are designed to elevate the already spectacular Disney Cruise Line experience with “insider” shows, commemorative gifts, special décor and so much more. And, my family can unanimously agree, they delivered on this promise!
Disney Celebrities: Speakers, Seminars & Exhibits
Honey and I agreed that sailing with a Disney affinity group was pretty spectacular. We felt like we were at home with our people. :-)
Sailing Away Celebration
As usual, the sailing kicked off with the Sailing Away Celebration. Due to weather, it was moved inside to the atrium. All of the special guests were announced and gave a hello to the crowd. We sailed with legends like Roy Disney, Jared Bush, Josie Trinidad, Pete Docter, Michael Giacchino, Stacia Martin, Chef Art Smith, Steve Valentine, Kissy Simmons, Ashley Brown, Alton Fitzgerald White, Tim O’Day, Ryan March, Antonio Fernandez and the rest of the DCappella gang, just to name a few!!! Now, I realize that many of the names on the list aren’t appearing in US Weekly, but these animators, story tellers, comedians, performers and artists are people we enjoyed meeting far more than a Kardashian. :-)
Growing Up Disney with Roy P. Disney
Our favorite experience was hearing Roy P Disney (grandson of Roy O. Disney, Walt’s brother) talk about growing up Disney. He shared pictures, videos and stories in what was an engaging, intimate and one of a kind experience. He was so friendly and we ran into him multiple times on the ship. (Honey calls that “stalking”. I call it “serendipity”. )
After this photo, Whit said “why does he go by Roy Disney?” When I told him exactly who he was, his eyes were as big as saucers. A kid after his mama’s heart.
We loved the panel discussion and performance with Disney’s DCappella so much that we attended it twice! DCappella is Disney Music Group’s new a cappella singing sensation that came together as a result of a nationwide talent search. DCappella will be releasing music throughout 2018 and are set to tour nationwide in January 2019. (We can’t wait to attend in Atlanta!) These “kids” were so accessible and friendly. They were staying just a few doors down from us and Honey and I had a great conversation with Antonio and RJ one night while they were washing and ironing their clothes in the laundry room. So cute!
Antonio was one of our favorites. He may look familiar from the Festival of the Lion King show in Animal Kingdom! He is the vocal percussionist in DCappella and you can not believe the sounds he can make with his mouth.
Cookin’ in the Atrium with Chef Art Smith
Chef Art Smith (of Disney Springs Homecomin’ and more) was such a joy to talk to! He was on our bus from Disney World to the port and I ran into him at least 3 other times on the ship. He started out in the Disney College Program and is now a celebrity chef, and credits much of his success to getting his start in the Disney family. In his session, Smith was joined by noted food-and-wine personality Marcy Carriker Smothers to share stories and create culinary magic right in the Disney Dream atrium. That night we had his hot sauce and shrimp and grits recipes delivered to our staterooms!!
Treasures from the Walt Disney Archives
We were treated to a small display of Mickey and Minnie treasures from the Walt Disney archives. It was really cool to not only see this memorabilia, but to also hear from the archivists.
Movie Sneak Peeks & Behind the Scenes
We attended all of the movie sessions and loved every single one. These are family friendly, and were especially inspiring for my boys to hear how these talented people ALL took a childhood hobby and turned that into a career. Learning about everything from the first hint of an idea (Zootopia started with a one page paragraph) to the story boarding, animation, music and more – a 5 year process on average – was incredibly interesting.
Ralph Breaks the Internet, Wreck-It Ralph 2 Behind the Scenes
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Josie Trinidad gave Members a behind-the-scenes look at Ralph Breaks the Internet, opening November 21. It was absolutely fascinating to see parts of the movie on paper as sketches, and other parts in finished film. As a media guest, the content of this experience is embargoed so I can’t say more. I’ll leave it at this was one of my favorite movie scenes EVER and and I can’t wait to see the finished product Thanksgiving week.
Jared Bush: From Script to Screen
The screenwriter behind Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Zootopia and Moana took us inside the creative process to reveal how animation develops from the script to the screen. This was another fascinating experience!! He talked us through examples from both movies, the entire 5-6 year process and so much more. Like the rest of the speakers, he was funny, engaging and a marvelous story teller.
Pete Docter & Michael Giacchino: From Scene to Score
The legendary director and composer of Pixar Animation Studios’ Up and Inside Out, Pete Docter and Michael Giacchino, reunited to reveal how these Academy Award-winning films developed from scene to score. Pete and Michael were absolutely hilarious and had such a great rapport. Up is one of my favorite movies of all time so it was particularly interesting to see scenes from the movie with their original scores, compared to where they ended up in the final film, and learn how they got there.
I think everyone on the ship was THRILLED to get a full advance screening of Disney’s Christopher Robin. The new live-action Pooh adventure opens in theaters August 3. Again, this information is embargoed so all I can really say is that it was an incredible treat!
The gifts were one of the only things I’d ever really heard about a Member Cruise. They were quite nice, and we loved them, but as you can already see the Member Cruise is SO much more than gifts. That being said, it was pretty neat to come back to the room during the day and every night to find MORE treats waiting!
Member Magic: Kicking off Mickey’s 90th!
One of our favorite surprise nights was the Member Mouse Party on the pool deck. This event kicked off Mickey’s 90th Birthday celebration!!!! We danced and sang under the stars in the Bahamas, and our night concluded with cast members passing out Chef Art Smith’s celebratory Hummingbird Cupcakes and the largest fireworks display at sea… ever.
Rare Character Meets
My kids are a little beyond the character meets unless we stumble upon them with no line, but there were loads of rare characters out and about! We stopped for Super Goofy, because Whit loves each and every Disney dog. Others were Genie, Hercules, Black Widow, Rey, Black Panther, Robin Hood, Darkwing Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Ludwig Von Drake, and Mr. and Mrs. Incredible.
Of course, you can also see your favorite Disney Cruise Line guests as well.
Castaway Cay Double Dip
I have always wanted to cruise on a Castaway Double Dip and it was everything I thought it would be!! Rather than stopping in Nassau, this 4-night did At Sea, Castaway Cay, Castaway Cay.
Each day had a theme, with decor, corresponding characters, games and events.
Themed 5K Races with Characters
There was a 5k both days, each with a theme. We did the race on the second day. It was so much fun to warm up with Mickey, Minnie and Goofy!! They are not usually out for the race.
Chance to VoluntEAR like a Cast Member
One of our favorite experiences on the Member Cruise was the VoluntEAR event! Along with Disney Cast Members, DVC Members were invited to help stuff HUNDREDS of back packs for schools in the Bahamas. It was family friendly and opened some really good conversation with our boys as we are heading back to school ourselves.
(John raced and was back on the boat – again – before the rest of us finished.)
I am not exactly sure if it was a function of the double dip or the fact that this was a Member Cruise, but I have never, ever seen Castaway Cay so empty. There were available chairs, umbrellas and hammocks for days.
Time to Experience all the Island Offers
The double dip also allowed for plenty of time to experience all of the fun things that Castaway Cay has to offer!!
We loved the Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure…
Honey took the boys kayaking…
Whit and I did a water trike…
…and, when John headed back to the ship to watch a movie with the tween club, Honey and Whit snorkeled. I laid in a hammock with a BBC and my book. :-)
Special Menu Items in Dining Rooms
One other thing we loved was seeing some special items pop up on the dining room menus. Sea-Cappella and Art Smith’s pimento cheese dip were special items in Enchanted Garden our last night. The menus were personalized to the Member Cruise and we were invited to take them with us.
Much like Castaway Cay, I’ve never seen the pools so empty! The kids did the AquaDuck probably 25 times during our trip. You could also walk up to a row of empty lounge chairs at any time on any day. This space is usually quite crowded, especially on sea days, so it was a very nice change.
The special Member Cruise events are all in addition to the regular wonderful offerings on every Disney Cruise! You will still find favorites like bingo, animation classes, mixology and beverage tastings, mid-ship detective agency and more. Some that we particularly enjoyed on this trip were….
Palo Champagne Brunch
With the boys wanting to spend as much ship time in kid’s clubs as possible, Honey and I almost had an “adult” vacation. HA! I will do a full review, but we very much enjoyed champagne brunch at Palo.
This was our first time doing an adult dinner on Disney Cruise Line and it was wonderful. Again, I will do a full review soon!
The Rainforest Room is a must for us on every Disney Cruise, and this one was no exception. You can find a full review of Senses Spa and the Rainforest Room from a previous cruise.
I start every Disney Cruise morning with coffee at Vista Cafe. Since none of my boys are early risers, I got dressed in the dark and crept out alone. As luck would have it, I ended up enjoying my coffee with a new friend each and every morning… one of which was none other than Art Smith!
We were thrilled to see Beauty and the Beast again. It is a phenomanal show celebrating the romance, adventure and magic of the live-action film. (photo credit: Steven Diaz)
We also love the Golden Mickey’s, celebrating the heritage of Disney animated films. (photo: Matt Stroshane)
We skipped Pirate Night, but John went with the tween club, Edge. The party takes place on the top deck with music, dancing and a spectacular fireworks show at sea!!
Whit practically lived in the Oceaneers Club, which is just one of many reasons we love Disney Cruise Line. Kids ages 3 – 12 are entertained with characters, dress up, movies, games, crafts, science, cooking, and so much more. (photos courtesy of DVC)
Disney Vacation Club
Disney Vacation Club is a vacation ownership program—or timeshare—that helps you stay close to the magic and the Member Cruise is just one of many member perks.
We own points at two “home resorts”, Saratoga Springs and Grand Floridian, and Disney is very much a second home for us. Some people have a lake house or a beach house or even a favorite beach they visit throughout the year (that would be anywhere on 30A for Atlantans!), and that place for us is Disney. There are no two words we love hearing more after a long day of travel than the DVC signature “Welcome Home!”
I’m happy to answer any questions you may have based on my personal experiences over the years. You can also learn more on the Disney Vacation Club site or by visiting a kiosk in any theme park, Disney Springs or resort.
2019 DVC Member Cruises
Disney Vacation Club offers a Member Cruise each and every year. And in 2019 there will be two! DVC Members are setting sail to the Pacific Coast in May and Bermuda in October.
May 15 – 20, 2019: The Disney Wonder will sail from San Diego for five nights, stopping in San Francisco and Victoria, British Columbia before disembarking in Vancouver.
October 5 – 12, 2019: The Disney Magic will sail from New York City for seven nights, stopping in Boston and enjoying a two-day visit in Bermuda before returning to New York.
With that, I’m signing off for the day. From all four of us to Disney, THANK YOU for an incredible week. From the moment we were picked up at our front door to our time in Disney World and Disney Cruise Line, to the second we were dropped back off – sun-kissed, happy and exhausted – we had a marvelous time. It was an honor to be among your first four invited media guests!
DIXIE DELIGHTS DELIVERED