We just got off the Disney Magic - having done the Thanksgiving Cruise. Overall, a most enjoyable experience for the kids.....however, Disney still has quite a ways to go in terms of its food and experiences for adults. We cruised with our 2 children (ages 8 and 4). We've cruised with Princess and Carnival in the past, however, while I will confess that we've found the Carnival experience to be fun, the crowd on board that cruise line leaves a bit to be desired.
ARRIVAL and EMBARCATION:
This was a breeze. Being a Sat morning, things were quiet in Galveston. We got in and registered easily, and then had to wait for our Group No to be called. This is something Disney needs to look into coz. we were assigned group no 35. And they had only called groups 1-4 when we got there.....we thought we were in for a long wait, but all of a sudden they let us in. So our wait wasn't that long. Anyways, we were sent straight to lunch as access to the cabins was only open at 1:30 pm. The lunch buffet was decent, but nothing great.
Promptly at 1:30 pm, they opened access to the rooms. We had a verandah room, and it was sizable - larger than some hotel rooms I've stayed in!!! Folks have discussed this in earlier postings, so I won't go into it here - but the rooms are a definte plus.
Reading earlier reviews, we braced ourselves for a poor food experience, however, this was worse than anticipated. I will warn you that we consider ourselves foodies. Heck, even our 8 yr old prefers to sushi, Indian, Thai, and fusion food over chicken fingers. The first issue with the food was that it was just more or less the same stuff day after day. Sure you get to visit different restaurants throughout the cruise, but there's only so many days you can eat steak or some fish with a sauce. The last night was tagged as 'international cuisine'. However, Disney's idea of international was to have some French, Italian, German.....you get my drift. Coming from Houston, the city with the largest number of restaurants in the country, we expect MORE. It woudln't kill Disney to introduce some non-continental variety. Their manu is so 1970s..... time they came into the modern ages and did something with their menu.
Breakfast - 98% of the breakfast buffet was the same 7 mornings in a row. The only variety we noticed were things like croissant sandwiches one morning, and fried bratwurst slices another morning. I can only imagine how excited the breakfast chef must have been to introduce these wild variations. Must have kept him up all night coming up with these brilliant ones.
Let's talk desserts - not only the weakest selection of any cruise line I've been on, but really quite poor in execution.
Next, let's talk timings of the venues. While the buffets had extremely limited timings, what was insane was the fact that most night, there was no dinner buffet, and the buffet area was converted to an a la carte restaurant.....so if kids had to be fed, and they didn't want burgers, hot dogs or chicken fingers, you were out of luck coz. room service took 45 mins.....my 4 yr old didn't have the patience to sit through a 1-1.5 hr dinner with seating scheduled at 8:15, and so we preferred to feed him around 7 pm. By the last evening of the cruise, even he started complaining about his dinner choices, and was begging for anythning other than a hot dog or burger. Simply broke my heart that we had paid over $1000 a day for our cruise, and we were struggling to find something suitable for a child.
Finally, the much touted Palo experience - this is the adults only restaurant that supposedly provides a high end restaurant experience. Maybe I've been spoiled with having eaten at a LOT of high end restaurants, however, the food at Palo was just so-so. It was good to get away with the wife and have a nice quiet meal, and our server Suzanna was most excellent. However, while the variety of the food offered was signifiant, it wasn't anything that special. For my main course I had the osso bucco, and strangely, the osso bucco I had an earlier evening in the regular restaurant, where food was mass-produced was actually a lot tastier and succulent.
ENTERTAINMENT and KID CARE:
For the kids, this was simply amazing. Our kids spent a lot of time at the children's activities - and we had a challenge getting them to come back to the room at night. They were kept entertained all the time, and loved the fact that various Disney characters stopped by at various times of the day. In fact there were Disney character photo opps, and sightings all over the ship.
The main movie theater played a lot of the very latest movies - often in 3D.
The main shows in the evening was world class - fantastic sets, and fantastic singers. The singers were so good, that I thought they were lip-synching. But we were seated in the 2nd row for all shows, I am a trained musician - and noticed that they were not only really singing live, but did an absolutely phenomenal job at it. Just spectacular!
However, the rest of the entertainment for adults was a total snoozefest. Peter, the cruise director needs to inject more coffee into his daily diet. He's the least energetic of any cruise directors I've encountered. While the big shows are most probably planned and directed by the best at Disney, the rest of the entertainment most probably reflected Peter's 'Swiss' nationality - efficient, but drab. Since when was anybody was Switzerland put in charge of fun or entertainment!!!! What was unforgivable was that the 'adult' entertainment was not only drab, but was literally kids shows done at adult times - and categorized as adult shows. LAME!!! While most cruises have professional comedians, excellent musicians, dancing, casinos, etc. at night, Disney had jugglers and balloon blowers (yes, he's the world champ of balloon blowing, but seriously!!!!???). What shoudl have been registered as a crime is that by 10 pm, most of the folks on the ship were in their rooms......so for 7 nights we pretty much saw the same 50-75 faces at all the night events - and the remaining 2325 guests were sleeping by 10 pm.
Overall, a good experience - for the kids, and so we ended up booking another cruise from Galveston - largely coz. the Disney Wonder will be sailing out of Galveston next season.