Lauren Passell


I’ve been on 10 Disney Cruises. Here are the top 5 most magical experiences.

"You’d have to be on board for a full year to take advantage of it all."

via LAuren Passell (used with permission)

The very Disney obsessed Lauren Passell and Goofy.

I’m a Disney nerd in every sense of the word—90% of my wardrobe is Disney t-shirts, I named my company after Tinker Bell, I once won the Disney Princess half-marathon wearing a Tinker Bell costume and I try to hit up the parks as often as I can. Of all the Disney nerdery I participate in, cruising is my favorite.

For the tenth year in a row, U.S. News & World Report named Disney Cruise Line the Best Cruise Line for Families and the Best Cruise Line in the Caribbean. But that’s not why I love it. Everywhere you look, there are elements of magic and surprise. You’ll spot your favorite Disney characters hanging out…in their bathing suits…on board, and there’s so much to do that I think you’d have to be on board for a full year to take advantage of it all.

I’m a Dream girl (that’s my ship), so I’ll be referring to that a lot here, but just know that each Disney Cruise Ship (Dream, Magic, Wonder, Fantasy, Wish and Treasure) is special in its own way.

The Musicals

Almost every night on board, you can see Broadway-level musicals, like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” or “The Golden Mickeys,” an award show just like The Oscars but for The Disney obsessed. I cry almost every time I see one of these—the production levels are out of this world—with revolving stages, musical numbers with an entire cast of singers and dancers and breath-taking set design.

Shout-out to these actors, who not only put on one of the best shows you’ve ever seen but also do it on a moving ship! (Which seems dangerous to me, but what do I know?) There’s soda, candy, and popcorn outside, and if you buy a popcorn bucket on day one, you can enjoy $1.50 popcorn refills for the rest of your cruise!

The Parties

Almost all Disney cruises throw a themed party. On The Dream, it’s usually Pirate Night, a dinner and deck party featuring dancing, Disney characters, and fireworks. (Disney was the first cruise line to produce a fireworks show at sea.) People bring their best pirate costumes, but if you forget yours, you can wear the pirate bandana they give everyone onboard.

Stick around for those fireworks; they include music and storytelling that go above and beyond other fireworks shows. And get this: Disney uses fireworks shells made of special biodegradable materials, which Disney calls "fish food." For Disney Cruise Line’s 25th anniversary, Disney added a second night of fireworks to their trips, which more than doubles the magic.

The Movies

When a Disney movie, any Disney movie, premiers on land, you’ll immediately be able to see it on a Disney Cruise Ship. On The Dream it’s the beautiful, state-of-the-art Buena Vista Theater. Besides all the other brand spankin’ new Disney movies you can see for free, many new 3-D showings of Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars films. Sometimes, they’ll pull out old classics. I saw the original “Hocus Pocus” during a Halloween sail. And yes, of course, there’s popcorn.

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Lauren Passell hanging out on the beach at Castaway Cay.

via Lauren Passell (used with permission)

Disney’s Private Island, Castaway Cay

On The Dream and a few other Disney Cruises, you can disembark at Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. There’s tons to do for the whole family, from youth programming at Scuttle’s Cove to an adults-only beach called Serenity Bay, where you can rent bikes, water trikes, paddle boats, and more.

And here’s the magical part: if you visit the 22-acre snorkeling lagoon just off the family beach area, you can rent snorkeling gear and search for sunken treasures like a shipwreck and hidden Mickeys, which Disney has dropped to the ocean floor. Castaway Cay also has a special lunch and bar spot if you need a break from the ship's cuisine.

The Ship Itself

One of the best things about a cruise is dropping anchor and exploring new places, right? On Disney Cruises, it can be tempting to stay on board because the ship is just that magical. Everywhere you look, you see artwork of your favorite Disney characters and hidden Mickeys. There’s even something called Enchanted Art, which looks like a regular art piece but is actually a framed LCD screen with technology that recognizes your face while you’re viewing. It will show you several different animations based on what the artwork knows you’ve already seen!

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The pool on The Dream.

via Lauren Passell (used with permission)

If you’re ever lost on the ship, just look down. The stars on the carpet always point toward the front. And you can always remember what side of the deck your room is on by looking at the clip on your door—the starboard (right) side rooms have starfish clips and the port (left) side rooms have fish clips.

I can’t say enough about the water slides. On The Dream, the AquaDuck is technically a “water coaster” that has turns, drops, and g-forces similar to a roller coaster. It puts you on a raft in an acrylic tube so you can see out over the sea on your ride. Sometimes, instead of disembarking at one of the destinations, I’ll stay on board and take advantage of having the AquaDuck all to myself. (Also, at the pool, there are always Disney movies playing on a screen the size of a house, which I love to watch as I float or eat soft-serve, which is all-you-can-eat.)

I hope you get to set sail on one of these amazing ships. I’ll leave you with another tip: Do NOT forget to use the complimentary room service. They’ll bring Mickey Mouse-shaped chocolate ice cream bars straight up to your room for free!

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Lauren Passell and her husband aboard The Dream.

via Lauren Passell (used with permission)