This was our first cruise with my wife and two kids (2 and 5). Sail date was May 3rd on the Dream. Traveled to the port via park and ride service, it is a process but saved over $50 vs parking at the port. Check-in went well and they let us on board before our boarding time. Very nice welcome by staff as you board into the grand first floor (deck 3), a staff member right away directed us to where we could eat.
We did eat first the lunch at Cabanas was good not great but the selection was amazing. Then to our room 6584 with a veranda at 1:30p.m to change. They opened up the rooms exactly at 1:30 (no luggage until 4pm), but we carried bathing suits like the forums said. At the pools by 1:45 and actually found a few chairs at the front row by the kids pool so we could watch the kids. For the first hour the pool was okay but by 2:30p.m the kid pool was so full it was dangerous. By 2:30 p.m the line for the aquaduck was 30 min long and growing.
If I could do it again I would secure an earlier on board time and go right to the aquaduck and pool and get the kids quick snacks from Flo's and use the pool till 2:30p.m when it got crowded and then go eat lunch at Cabanas.
At 3:40 we headed back to the room (no luggage yet) to change for the 4p.m drill. This was our first experience with the nightmare part of the ship the elevator system. 6 elevators mid ship and 10 total. Almost always a wait, 4,000 people on board not enough elevators, be ready to walk a lot of stairs carrying kids or waste your day at the elevators. You have been warned!
Dinner at royal palace was good like all the dinners, my 5 year old son loved the escargot. The beef dishes are way better then the fish dishes on board. The creme brulee was awesome and everyone loved the Mikey bars.
Keep in mind you can order whatever you want even extra and dessert from another restaurant. The 2 servers we had were very good. At enchanted garden on the 3rd night our favorite dish was the lobster ravioli my son and daughter both had a few servings.
I am not a Broadway guy but the shows are well done. But since we had the first dinner service at 6p.m our show time was 8:30p.m just way to late for young kids after a full day. Our 2 year old fell asleep every time and was so scared during Villains my wife had to take her out.
The sail away party was a cool experience. Go to deck 12 and get a spot on the rail, way too many people on deck 11 and the kids can not see anything.
The character meeting should have been much more available, but make sure you read the schedule to plan out when and where to be or you will miss out. DO NOT miss the princess meet and greet on Sat at the D lounge, they only let about 50-100 families in. The kids got about a minute with each of the 3 princesses plus pictures and they take the time to talk to the kids and ask them questions. Our 2 year old was mesmerized and the look on her face made the whole trip worth it, that was the best 5 minutes of the trip and it made me excited to see her so happy and even my son seemed to enjoy it. I even forgot about the elevator nightmare for an hour. And do not miss the character see ya all on the last night, set your camera to video as they all come out, but make sure you pick a line for the character you want to see. They only stay for 15-30 min.
Castaway cay is nice but too crowded and the sand was very rocky bring water shoes. It was nice to grab a drink or snack when you wanted. Water was on the cold side still. The best food items were the chicken and fish dish (mahi mahi), this was the best fish dish the whole cruise.
The pirate party and fire works start way too late 10:30 p.m, even on vacation the kids fall asleep before that. It should be done at 9:45-10p.m right after the 2nd show ends.
Room service is very cool and takes just 10-15 min. Ask for what you want even if it is not on the menu.
On check out day they blast you out of bed with an announcement at 7:08 A.M that the ship cleared customs and you can now leave and the announcement goes off every 15 min. Breakfast at Cabanas on Sunday is very limited.
Be ready for lines as you get off the ship and then customs but the lines do move along.
The ship is awesome,overall it was a good trip. Is it a good value probably not but getting to see those moments of excitement your kids get during the trip makes it work the price (if you find a good deal). I would consider a cruise on this ship again in a few years when my kids are say 4 and 7 years old.