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Lobster Bisque and French Sommelier? This Is a Disney Cruise?

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CRUISE SHIPS CALIFORNIA
AP

The wines are exquisite. So is the food --course after course at the new French restaurant where the menu has been designed by two award winning chefs, one American and one French who has two Michelin stars.

Dinner stretches for more than three hours -- lobster with vanilla bisque, Australian Wagyu, a tomato tart, fish, the best gnocchi I've ever tasted... cheeses we can't stop eating... Did I mention that our table for six is the only one in this private wine room with 900 bottles or that the young French-trained sommelier has pre-selected our wines to complement the dishes.

Did I mention that Remy, this decidedly adult and classy restaurant (no one under 18 admitted) is atop the new cruise ship -- The Disney Dream. Yes that's right Disney. The newest vessel in the Mouse's fleet aims to set new standards for family cruising and expects to host as many as 1,600 hundred kids each cruise on a ship holding 4,000 passengers.

If you thought the Disney Cruise Line was all about entertaining the kids, it is. But there's plenty to please adults aboard this classy new ship and the line's two others. In fact, on other Disney Cruises, I've met many adults cruising sans kids or with adult children. "They have such a great setup so everyone gets what they want," said David Berube who was sailing with his wife last summer to celebrate their anniversary, their teens at home.
"We are leery of taking a chance on another cruise line," explained Bernie McCay who is a father of four but was cruising just with his wife last summer on their fifth Disney Cruise.

I'm aboard the Disney Dream for a two-day look-see that followed the ship's christening at Port Canaveral, Fla Jan 19 (Jennifer Hudson, who once entertained on another Disney vessel, is the godmother and spends some time aboard with her family) and just before the ship begins its three and four day Caribbean itineraries.

This ship is 40 per cent larger than the other Disney ships (though smaller than Royal Caribbean and Norwegian's new mega ships) which means there is more dedicated space for adults as well as stand-out kids' and teens' areas equipped with the latest technology (think state-of-the art studios where tweens and teens can become DJs or newscasters and interactive "Magic PlayFloors", that enable younger kids to engage in activities where their movements control the game -- like flying over London with Peter Pan).

With the kids so happily engaged, there's plenty of time for the adults to relax. And that's the idea, said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "We wanted to create something great for each member of the family," he said in an interview on board, explaining that this ship enables families to "create memories," together as well as for each family member to do their own thing -- even on Disney's private island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.

There's a separate adult-only Serenity Bay Beach (there's a separate teen beach too) and the chance to have a beach-front massage. Take your pick of treatments in the 16,000-plus foot spa on board. Work out in the huge ocean-view gym or simply snooze at the adult-only Quiet Cove pool with its swim-up bar and adjacent adults' Cove Café for coffee drinks. (The ship is Wi-Fi so you can sip your Latte while surfing the web.)

No need to feel guilty because the kids--including babies (for $6 an hour you can leave your infants at the adorable It's a Small World Nursery) -- will be having too much fun with the energetic youth staff (some 80 on board from a dozen countries) to notice you've stolen a couple of hours for yourself.

You're even given two complimentary "wave" phones to use on board so the counselors can reach you -- and you can reach your teens and tweens via text or call.

So take your pick -- some fun in the sun, one of the dozens of on-board activities(In just one day at sea last summer, you could go from a sommelier selection tasting at 12:30 to a martini tasting at 2:30 and the mixology seminar at three) or an adult-only excursion (rum tasting in the Bahamas or a cooking lesson in Tuscany}.

But maybe all you really want is a leisurely meal without playing tic-tac-toe or coloring with the kids. Besides the intimate Remy (and this reservation is expected to be a tough one, despite the $75 per person charge at the restaurant named for the loveable French rat who dreams of becoming a chef in Pixar's Ratatouille), there is also the Northern Italian Palo where you can dine on the private outdoor deck overlooking the ocean, have tea or brunch on sea days or indulge in a first-rate meal. The extra tab (less than $20 a person) is well worth it for the thin-crust pizzas, Sicilian Pesto marinated grilled shrimp salad, grilled Portobello mushrooms, risottos, Lobster ravioli, beef tenderloin and stupendous chocolate souffle.

Ready for an after dinner cigar? There's a cigar bar outside Meridian, the bar between Palo and Remy.
And since supervised kids' activities last till at least midnight at no extra charge, parents can head to The District -- literally their own playground with a Pink champagne bar and Skyline where you're treated to ever-changing skylines from cities from Chicago to Hong Kong while you sip specialty cocktails .(I liked the Martini Royale from Paris with champagne, vodka and crème de cassis.) There's Evolution for late-night comedy and cabaret and 687 complete with a 103-inch plasma screen for sports events and its own exclusive red lager.

At Remy, the chefs -- Arnaud Lallement from l'Assiette Champenoise just outside of Reims and Scott Hunnel from Victoria & Albert's at Walt Disney World -- come to see how we and other guests are enjoying their new special tasting menus.

Wonderful, we say, and mean it, lifting our glasses.

Just one more sliver of cheese please.

Eileen Ogintz interviews families and experts around the world for her widely syndicated column Taking the Kids ™ and is the creator of www.takingthekids.com She's written seven family travel books, most recently The Kid's Guide; NYC and The Kid's Guide: Cruising Alaska. For more Taking the Kids, visit www.takingthekids.com.