This was my fourth cruise, but my first on Disney Cruise Lines and my first to Alaska. My three previous cruises had been with Carnival. The first two were without kids. The third was with two kids ages almost 1 and almost 3. On this cruise my kids were ages 3 and almost 5.
The cabin was a step up to what I was used to from Carnival. The Deluxe Interior stateroom had a small tub which made cleaning the kids much easier then on my previous cruise with the kids.
This may sound silly to some of you but the extensive programming on the in cabin tv's was a godsend. Having small children, I spent more time in the cabin then I would have otherwise. For the children there were were multiple disney channels that were helpful in distracting them while in the room. They had everything from Pixar films to classic movies like Snow White and Dumbo. For me, there were over a dozen fairly current movies always available to watch while the kids were napping.
The one issue we had with the cabin is that the refrigerator broke and gave off a horrible ammonia smell for about a day, but I will talk more about that in the next section.
Overall the service aboard the ship was very good. The one time we did have a significant problem Disney reacted very quickly to fix it. As I said above I walked into my room one day and there was a very strong ammonia smell in the room. After calling guest services the room steward quickly brought an air purifier and wiped down the room to try and get rid of the smell. After a few hours the room smelt much better, but did start to get worse again the next day. When we called guest services again, they quickly sent more people to diagnose the problem. The source of the problem was identified and fixed. The smell was completely gone in about 24 hours after I first reported it. Disney might have been able to fix it a little quicker with a quicker diagnoses of the problem, but I was very impressed that the problem was fixed as quickly as it was. Plus, through out the process, the room steward and his superiors asked me several times how the room was to make sure everything was going ok.
It sucked to have a problem like this, but I have to commend Disney on how they handled the situation.
In general, I was not impressed with the food on the boat. The pizza on the boat was down right horrible and my kids who love pizza wouldn't even eat it. The buffet had limited options that ended up not being very good. In the end I tried to stick to the dining rooms for all meals since they seemed to have the best options. I did have some very good food in the dining rooms, but I also had some meals that I thought were very average. In general, I expected better then I received.
I do want to make an exception for Palo. I did eat there one night of the cruise and the food was exceptional. One of the best meals of my life, and I have eaten at a couple very high end restaurants with award winning chefs. It was well worth the 20 dollars per person.
Comparing the Disney Kids Club to that of Carnival's is like comparing an NBA player to someone on the High School basketball team. The Disney kids club blew me out of the water.
My kids are generally a little shy and were a little reluctant to go to the kids club at first, but by the end of the cruise my kids loved it. In fact, while waiting in the airport on the the way home my son said he wanted to go to the kids club.
The disney club had nice long hours and didn't require us to log them out for lunch like the carnival kids club did. Disney has made the process very easy on the parents, and I never felt pressured to pick up my kids. If I was paged while doing something else (like eating at palo) I could ignore the pages without getting negative comments from the staff. In short, I always felt comfortable leaving my kids there, and I never felt guilty for doing so.
I'm not a big fan of the vegas style shows that are popular on cruise ships, and typically avoided going to them on my carnival cruises. The Disney shows were significantly better.
In my experience, the carnival cruises had two singers and eight or ten dancers that did some sort of medley of hits from Broadway or pop music. Not horrible but pretty boring. Disney on the other had had at least 8 people who could sing and tons of dancers/characters in their shows. All of the shows had a theme and were generally interesting. Plus my young kids loved the shows because they got to see their favorite characters and recognized the songs from the movies.
Disney also provided extensive opportunities to watch movies, listen to nature talks from US forest service personnel, and games. Though I didn't' experience it personally, my parents and in-laws also had a lot of fun in the adults only area listening to the piano player.
I also read several reviews before going on the cruise that complained about the lines for the characters photo sessions. I didn't find this to be a problem at all. The lines moved very quickly and there were several times when we found a character wondering around the boat without being scheduled. The princesses were particularly amazing. My 3 year daughter is in love with the princesses and each of them was very good to her. They would take 30 seconds to a minute to talk to her and she would come away from each encounter absolutely beaming.
The value is hard to judge and quite subjective. When booking the cruise I was shocked by the prices and even more shocked at how expensive having a 3rd and 4th person in as stateroom was. We ended up getting a second stateroom for my kids then go 4 to a room because it only cost a few hundred more dollars to do so.
A Disney cruise is great if you have kids or are a big fan of Disney yourself, because you pay a pretty large premium to have the "disney experience." If it was just my wife and I, I would go on carnival again or try another cruise line because the price and the lower quality of food. However, I am sure that the experience my kids had could not be matched by another cruise line, and would book another disney cruise as long as my kids are going as well.