This was our first Disney Cruise. It will probably be our last. Before I go into my opinion of the "philosophy" of Disney Cruises, here's some specifics:
Embarkation-Couldn't have been easier. We received our keycard and boarding time at the airport. We waited no more than 10 minutes on the bus until it left for the port. We were about 15 minutes early for our embarkation time and waited about 15 minutes to embark. The only glitch we noted was the traffic jam where they take your family photo. You are herded into a narrow corridor where you encounter a slow-moving long line simply to take a picture they'll try to sell you later. Otherwise, checking in at the airport and getting on the ship was a breeze.
Getting to our cabin- The people that greeted us onto the ship said our cabin would be ready between 1:00 and 1:30. We went up to eat and finished there by 12:45 or so, so decided to see if our cabin was available. Much to our surprise, all cabin areas were roped off! No access was allowed until they opened the areas. We returned about 1:10 to find them still roped off. Apparently the people that greeted us were confused. Again, at 1:35 we tried only to find long lines waiting to gain entry. Within 5 minutes, the ropes to the starboard cabins were opened, but not the port. After another 5 minutes waiting, the assembled passengers staged a minor mutiny and opened the rope themselves and we went to our cabins.
Cabins- Are clean, functional and spacious. I LOVE the dual bathrooms and having a full sized tub. More cruise lines should consider it! The video on demand was also wonderful. We watched a couple of decent movies there...something I rarely do! The bed was very comfortable. The only complaint I had is the thin ceiling. I heard every movement of the people above us.
Sun Deck areas- The pools, both adult and children's are way too small. The adult pool is only about 15' x 15'. There's an adult wading pool, but no one used it for anything; it's a waste of space. The water was so warm that not a lot of people used the pool anyway; it was more like taking a bath than swimming in a pool. The children's pools were always so crowded that I watched children get hurt repeatedly by jumping onto each other.
The glass bottom hot tubs were very cool. We rarely had a wait to get into one, despite there being so few of them.
Otherwise, we never had a problem finding a seat in the sun or shade.
Lounges, shows, entertainment-The games run by Simon were wonderful. Due to a question asked during the newlywed game, we were dubbed "Splash Mountain" for the remainder of the cruise. Karaoke, that I usually hate, was fun. Giving shots as prizes for singers helped lubricate the fun. Having these games helped our experience greatly.
The shows were poor quality and not much fun. I fell asleep during the Villains show. I took a nap instead of the magician show, but was told that I missed the only worthwhile show.
The Aquaduck is a lot of talk about nothing. The 30 second ride isn't worth the 45 minute wait. Go to a water park near where you live; you'll enjoy it more.
On other cruises we've taken, sea days were events for parties on deck. I can't speak to the children's deck area, but utterly nothing happened at the adult deck. Sea day may as well have been one of the port days for the amount of activity on the deck.
Food - No complaints at all. The food was plentiful and tasty. Portions were slightly small, but after each meal I was stuffed. When I wanted a late snack, pizza at 'Maters was a welcome treat. The Barbecue on Castaway Cay was standard BBQ fare, but fine with me. A little known secret is that they serve steak at the barbecue on Serenity Bay. If you don't have kids, eat there.
Our waiter, Mircea, was outstanding. He put up with a fairly rowdy and slightly spoiled crowd with wry humor and exceptional service. He helped make it better for all of us.
Animator's Palette was interesting. Crush spent most of the time talking to my adult daughter and even commenting on how she was getting "hydrated"! That was fun. The other dining rooms are simply beautifully decorated rooms with less obvious gimmicks.
Ports- We've been to Nassau enough times to view it as simply a dirty tourist trap. Luckily though, due to Disney's incredibly generous alcohol policy, Nassau became our grocery store for beer. I bought a 12-pack and carried it onto the ship. Were it not for that quest, we probably wouldn't have left the ship that day.
Castaway Cay was the most redeeming quality of this cruise. It is beautiful, spacious, clean, and a lot of fun. It's larger than most "private islands" the cruise lines lease, so they provide trams to take you to the various locations. There are bicycles available to rent and some pretty trails to use for hiking and biking. They even let you swim with the penned stingrays for free.
Snorkeling is a treat there. The snorkeling area is screened off so predators are less of an issue (but there's a huge grouper that startled the heck out of me). They've placed several objects in the enclosed bay for you to find. Some of them are quite fascinating. Snorkeling serenity bay is tough because it's very shallow, but I chased their resident Barracuda around. A first for me!
Serenity Bay was always very quiet and understated. There wasn't much shade available, but it was a great escape from the bustle of the kids beaches.
The Disney Cruise "Philosophy"- Disney caters to a younger crowd, to the point that there were few activities for people over 25 or so. The adult entertainment didn't even open most nights until after 11:00 PM; fairly late for people past middle age. The entertainment at that time is primarily hip-hop stuff; no ballroom dancing or quiet piano lounges. Again, meant for 25-year olds!
The Midship Detective Agency, an interactive sleuth game designed for young kids, turned out to be the most fun I had on the ship. Since there was literally nothing else to do, I played that game. I noticed several other adults playing too. It seems a bit sad that the most fun we older adults had on this ship was a game meant for 8-year-olds! Regardless, thank God it was there or I'd have gone out of my mind with boredom!!!
To sum it up, if you're over 30 or so without kids, the only thing to do on this ship is drink and play games designed for 8-year old children. You'll probably want to spend your money and vacation time elsewhere! If you're cruising with children, you have little choice, but don't view a Disney cruise as an example of what actual cruising is.