How your vacation turns out depends on 2 things: how you plan it, and what YOU make of it. If you do your proper planning/research, and put a little (I mean a LITTLE [it is Disney after all]) effort into having an enjoyable time, you will.
Now for my review:
We were scheduled to arrive at the terminal @ 11AM. Our shuttle from the hotel down the street got us there at about 10:15AM. I expected that we would have to wait outside until 11AM. We walked right in, no waiting. Tons of Disney customer service people to direct you where to go. Oh and the porters unloaded our luggage and took it. I tipped him but I saw him give it to a little girl later. (cool gesture I guess, but I probably won't tip again because of it) we didn't see our luggage until around 5PM on the ship. We went upstairs to get in line for registration. We had our docs ready (completed online) so we got in line. There are 2 lines 1 for returning Disney cruisers (us next time) and 1 for 1st time Disney cruisers. We were early enough there was nobody in either line. We walked right up to the counter and were registered within minutes. We were assigned boarding number 5. I asked how many boarding numbers there would be they said "usually around 40". We were one of the first on the ship! We then (at the advice of other review writers) went immediately to register our kids in the kids programs (Oceaneers Club & Lab). No line there either. Wow can't get easier. When they started calling boarding numbers our number was called within 10 minutes. Pretty quick in my opinion.
Experience on the ship:
I won't bore you with a travel log as some people do. Our experience was fantastic on the ship. Yes, we did feel the boat move. My daughter described it well within an hour of leaving the Port of LA when she said "it feels like I'm on an elevator". Yes it does. At first this is a little disconcerting, but once we figured out what it was we dealt with it. I don't think that I ever "got used to it", but we were able to ignore it in most cases. None of us ever got stomach upset (if you know what I mean) sick, just a little dizzy at times.
We tried to experience everything we could aboard the ship, and did get to most of it lol.
The spa however was a major disappointment. The massages were nice, but nothing different than what you can get at any massage place (i.e. Massage Envy). The couples massage (both my wife and I in the same room) was more than 2x the cost of 2 single massages added together. I thought maybe it was because they offered something different like a bottle of cider or wine? NOPE? Then afterword (while you are still only in a robe) they pitch you their other services? I told my wife that was the first time I ever had a sales pitch when I was naked. Tisk Tisk Spa people (sub contractor NOT Disney).
The shows were all better than we expected. Go Disney, great job. In Disney Dreams the actor who played Peter Pan had an accident near the end of the show. He got cut on the face. He did excellent ignoring it. My suggestion would be to show up early (theater doors open half hour before performance) and get seating on the isle or in front.
Lounges/clubs (Route 66)
"Adult" shows were good too. We were hesitant to do these as we are somewhat conservative. Disney regulates this too. They were adult without being trashy. They call it "Disney Dirty" my wife and I had a blast. We also tried to play "Who wants to be a Mouseketeer". We didn't get picked, but was fun to watch.
First thing I want to say is that EVERYONE is scheduled a Character Breakfast. No one said anything about this on any of the reviews. Your ticket includes this and you are assigned a day and restaurant. See your welcome packet in your room when you get there (cool surprise for us). We choose the second seating (early show was more important to us). Disney did a wonderful job paring our family with another family of 4. We hit it off the first night and ended up spending a lot of time with them (They were our neighbors so good thing). Many people describe the food as average. That is all it is in my opinion, Average. Our servers Noel & Adela were awesome. Interact with your servers (don't be stuffy). They want to have fun too and they will treat you better! when ordering dinner, order as many things that you want. If it comes to you wrong don't be scared to get another one! The rest of the food on the ship was above average. I liked "Pluto's Dog house" I tried everything they served there I liked it all (I loved the fries and chicken fingers) except the Brats. I'm from the midwest and know a brat, those were not brats. We got advise from a friend to bring our own cups for the self-serve soda station (choices limited to Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, HI-C fruit punch/lemonade). Best advice we got. We bought screw on lid-tumblers. Several other people told us that they wished they had done that too. There is a self-serve ice cream station too. I suggest going to the soda station first to get a cup, then put the ice cream in the cup. (You get more than doing the cone thing wink).
There were plenty of opportunities to get whatever pictures that you wanted. Our kids got what they wanted then were disinterested in trying to get more. Lots of opportunities if that is what you are into. No Evil Witch (from Snow White) or Cruella (sp?). Bummer!
We went on 2. One in Puerto Vallarta (we scheduled this ourselves) and one in Cabo (thru Disney) we enjoyed both. We had originally scheduled one for the second day in Cabo, but we canceled it. I'm glad we did. We ended up just walking around Cabo and found our own way to the Beach for free. Port Adventures are hard to come by if you have children under 8. Disney does have them but there aren't many to choose from.
Odd & Ends:
Tipping: everyone that complains on here talks about the tips! I would hate to serve you if that is how it is. The service is phenomenal and is not part of the cruise price. These people will bend over backward for you if you ask! You should tip and Yes 24 hour customer service for 7 days is expensive. (around $340 family of 4). But you know ahead of time (if you plan correctly) so it shouldn't be a surprise. We felt that some of the people we had deserved more than the suggested tip amount and we tipped accordingly. If your experience is different, go to guest services and change it! (I'm getting off my soap box now)
Buena Vista Theater: way cramped. I am not really that tall 6'2", and I was sore after each movie that we watched there. Disney would do well to take a few seats out and give more room.
Rotational Dinning: Great concept (different restaurants on different nights same servers), however we got stuck on a bad rotation. We were able to go to all 3 restaurants at least 2 times. Unfortunately, we were assigned Parrot Cay 3 nights (2 times in the first 3 nights). Above that we were told (kind of herded) to go there for lunch on embarkation day, and we were also assigned there for our character breakfast. It left us liking the other 2 restaurants more. We ended up skipping dinner the third night there and ordered room service. Room service was good, but limited in variety.
Pools: Kids loved them. Wife and I enjoyed sitting on the deck relaxing while the kids played. If you ask them they would tell you it was a highlight of their trip. Family pool was too small to try in our (my wife & I) opinion.
Adults Only area "Quiet Cove": We did not feel the need to search this out. We found other ways to enjoy ourselves when the kids were in the kid programs without having to go there. We went there a couple of times. Kid commotion can be avoided anywhere on the ship, not just in the "Quiet Cove" area. It was definitely quiet and secluded from Kids. There wasn't a whole lot of traffic there even among adults, but there where those who seemed to be there all the time.
These areas are very adequate. Our kids loved going there. The Lab is designed more for kids ages 6-10, and the club was more for 3-6 crowd. The kids (with councilor escort) are free to go between both these programs. The ship has scheduled times designated as "Open House" times were parents are allowed to go in with the kids and participate/watch. Secure check-in (child without parent) is not allowed during this time, but "Open House" only happens at either the Club or Lab. Never both at the same time. If your child is checked into the Lab, then the Lab goes to "Open House" they escort them to the Club during that time and vice versa.
Overall, we had a great time. My wife and I were scared that we might be "STUCK" on a boat with everyones bratty childern. We were surprised at the end of the trip that we were not bothered by the number of childern on the ship. In fact the ship only felt crowed on the "Sail Away Party" and the "Pirate" nights when everyone was on deck 9 & 10.
I hope this review is helpful to you. Again your vacation is just that YOURS. It will be what you make of it. I wish you the best.