This past fall, we headed out to Halloween on the High Seas aboard the Disney Dream. It was an absolutely magical experience that was surprisingly accessible for all of us. For this trip, we had a VI child, Peanut, and a mobility-impaired adult, Peanut’s grandfather. Everyone had an amazing time.
There is SO MUCH to do on a Disney cruise that we weren’t able to even come close to doing it all. For that reason, I’m just going to highlight the activities we participated in here.
A few weeks ago, I covered the first part of our adventure: A Disney Dream–Part One I’m covering the rest of our magical trip below:
Peanut, wearing a bright yellow life jacket over green and white swim trunks and holding a cane in his left hand, stands on one of the wide walkways on Castaway Cay.
Castaway Cay may actually be my favorite place on earth. It has wide walkways that are super-easy to navigate with a cane, self-serve soft-serve ice cream, soft sand beaches, free life-jacket-style flotation devices for kids (which also make said kids easy to spot in the water!), clear water, and accessibility. The best part? I saw wheelchairs designed for use on the sand. This is clearly a place that’s designed to be accessible.
Note: If you’re looking to send postcards from Castaway Cay, don’t count on the post office being open. Rather, go to the front desk on the main level of the ship and have them post your post cards for you–they’ll make sure they’re stamped and mailed from Castaway Cay the next time the ship docks there and the post office is available.
One of Peanut’s favorite parts of Castaway Cay was the Pelican Plunge. This is a swim-to floating water park off of the family beach. It features a small spray-ground, three water cannons that you can use to hit targets in the cove (all away from other people), and two water slides–one open, and one tubular. It is QUITE DEEP by the plunge, so I highly recommend having your kiddo in a life jacket if s/he isn’t a STRONG swimmer. This also made it easier for me to grab Peanut and haul him to the platform. The line’s usually fairly long, but it wasn’t too bad, and Peanut was an enormous fan.
Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure
Our guide hands out food at our floating table in the stingray area.
While on Castaway Cay, we went to Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure. If you’re looking for a shore excursion that’s tactile, this is a great choice. First, you have a brief orientation with a guide who teaches you some about the rays and explains what’s going to happen. Then, you head down the beach to the water. There are white ‘tables’ for the rays to swim through. You get to hold a piece of food, and the rays swim past you on the table to eat the food. While the rays are swimming past, you get to feel them. They’re soft, and surprisingly rough along their spines. Plus, given that rays are fairly dark-skinned and the tables are white, they’re also nicely high-contrast for VI kids.
After you feed the rays, you get to snorkel for an hour. This was awesome–and, surprisingly, Peanut’s favorite part. You get to swim around and look at the rays–floating is advised, because they’ll swim away if they feel/hear/see you come too close.
NOTE: Castaway Ray’s is very tactile-friendly, but it’s not super mobility-friendly, at least if you’re not using one of the special wheelchairs (those may make a difference). Efrit had to help Grandfather get back out of the ocean–the ground where the sand meets the surf is not remotely stable and was very challenging to get out of.
Peanut snorkels in the stingray area.
Peanut, Efrit, and Sprout pet a ray as it swims by on the feeding table.
Sprout holds a piece of food on the Mickey-Mouse-head-shaped target on the stingray feeding table.
The Family Beach
Along with the Pelican Plunge, my kids adored the family beach. As Kansans, this was Peanut and Sprout’s first time at a sea-side beach. They loved the white sand, and they adored swimming in the clear water. There are clear inner tubes for rent–these end up being passed around quite a bit, so we ended up getting to use one without having to rent it ourselves–and these were enormously popular. The kids loved swimming and floating in the ocean. This is, of course, entirely accessible no matter how well you see–and with their handy flotation devices, was entirely comfortable for me as a parent.
There were lounge chairs with beach umbrellas set out on the sand. Dad picked out a likely spot and read a book in the sun while Efrit, the kids, and I played in the surf. It was a wonderful day.
Note: WEAR SUNSCREEN. LOTS OF SUNSCREEN. REAPPLY! Efrit did not realize that the sun closer to the equator would be stronger than the sun here in Kansas City, so ended up looking like a cooked lobster. The rest of us, who wore our sunscreen, were lightly toasted but otherwise OK. You have been warned.
Sprout tries out an inner tube in the ocean while I hold it steady.
Clear inner tubes on the beach.
Grandfather, Peanut, and Sprout share a moment in the shade. The bright yellow life jackets they’re wearing are free of charge and easy to locate.
The Disney Dream
Peanut and Sprout meet Mickey Mouse.
I was impressed with how well the Disney Dream’s crew, particularly character actors, worked with Peanut to make sure he could appreciate and enjoy the experience. When we met Mickey, resplendent in his captain’s outfit, he was kind enough to let Peanut take his time to get a ‘feel’ for him–the character was patient and let Peanut feel him so he would know what Mickey ‘looked’ like. There was a huge line–there’s a huge line for almost all character encounters–but Mickey acted like there was no rush at all and let Peanut take his time. It was absolutely magical.
Donald Duck, dressed as a super hero, turns to greet Peanut at a Meet-and-Greet. Peanut is wearing a Cheshire Cat costume with the hood pushed back and a bright yellow Donald Duck hat.
Generally speaking, the characters don’t talk (aside from Princesses, of course). They gesture widely–which is great if you can see, but not as much if you’re B/VI. I can personally vouch that, in my experience, they were incredibly patient with my son and incredibly good with making sure that he got the same amazing, accessible experience with Disney characters that every other typical child on that ship did.
The Oceaneer’s Club
There is a (generally) kids-only area on the Disney Dream called the Oceaneer’s Club. We did indeed check the kiddos in while we were there, and they both loved it. It has huge tactile areas–there’s Andy’s Room from Toy Story, sized as though you’re on Woody’s scale, the deck of the Millenium Falcon, a Pixie Forest with tons of iPads to play Disney games on, and a Disney Infinity area that includes a set where you get to be the Disney Infinity Figure and play. There’s also a big dance floor where the kids can play games and meet some of the Disney characters–there was a dance-along with Pluto while we were there.
Peanut and Sprout at the controls of the Millenium Falcon.
Peanut and Sprout as life-sized Infinity characters.
Grandfather takes a turn driving the Millenium Falcon.
Both of my kids did fine in the Oceaneeer’s Club: we only got a call once because one kiddo was tired and ready to hit the sack. Peanut did mislay his cane and we had to ask for help finding it–he’s a major cane-tosser when he finds something he’s interested in (i.e. he will toss the cane on the ground and run off), so this was to be expected. The floor of the Oceaneer’s Club is level, and I think it’s fairly accessible. I’m not sure how the staff would handle a severely impacted child in a wheelchair, for example, but they did well with my kiddos with vision issues and speech impediments.
NOTE: Keep track of those red arm bands! You have to turn them in, or there’s a $15 charge each!
All in all, our cruise aboard the Disney Dream was an absolute dream come true. I cannot recommend it enough.