Just back from a cruise on the Disney Dream. Kids loved it; we liked it. As I hadn't been on a cruise for 40 years, I didn't know what to expect. Here's a quick rundown of our experience.
PROS: Beautiful ship, helpful cast members, lots to do. Disney does a good job with crowd control -- the ship was crowded, but the only truly uncomfortable moments were in the pools during the day "at sea" (and even then, I didn't find the experience as upsetting as many reviewers seem to). Roomy cabin, plentiful food available most of the time. Aquaduck was fun. We went on it lots of times. Loved playing in the pool watching "Funnelvision." Kids loved the kid-accessible hot tub. Check-in, luggage handling, and disembarkation were all quick and painless. Kids spent very, very little time in the club but seemed to enjoy it, and the counselors were very helpful when we needed a special service. Kids loved karaoke and enjoyed the shows. Older child enjoyed the Midship Detective activity -- did it twice!
CONS: We do like Disney, and the kids loved everything, but the unrelenting stimulation was a little intense for the grownups. Food wasn't particularly good (disclosure: the grownups didn't eat in Palo or Remy, which could have affected our opinions, and perhaps we could have ordered better), but the kids are still in their chicken-nuggets-and-pizza phase, so they were happy. Servers were very helpful but with an intensity that approached mania. In their defense, they work really hard, have thousands of meals to get out there, and have some self-interest in making a good impression quickly. Some meals were better than others. Enchanted Garden meal was sort of bad; Animator's Palette food was pretty good, but it was too loud in the room to follow the show; Royal Palace was pretty good; Pirate night food wasn't good (but it was the kids' favorite night!). Aquaduck might be a little tame for older kids, but ours (and the grownups) loved it.
WISH I HAD KNOWN . . . just how fun Castaway Cay was going to be. Loved it. We stayed to the bitter end, ignoring everyone's suggestions to go back to the ship early to eat food better than was available on the island and to spend time in the pool/Aquaduck when it wasn't crowded. Beautiful beach, waterslides, bikes, sand, clear water, carefully manicured/controlled Disney ideal of a perfectly bermed deserted island . . . our favorite day of the trip. ***Make sure you do the monkey bar/climbing rope platform early in the day, before low tide. We tried it out and planned to go back to it, but by the time we did, it was closed due to low tide.***
SUGGESTIONS: Monkey bar suggestion (above) and note that the bar Waves, which sits below Goofy's Sports area, was almost always empty and quite pleasant to sit at with the kids. Also, IMO, particularly if you have a fair amount of luggage, spring for the onsite port parking and use a porter to help with your bags at disembarkation. Once you spend a ridiculous amount of money for a short cruise, why not spend a little more for your convenience. For the price of a tip, we were spared the headache of juggling the bags AND were magically spirited to a much shorter customs line.