This was the eighteenth cruise my wife and I have been on together and the fifth time we brought our three year old son. We have been on Carnival, RCI, NCL, MSC, Princess and Holland America but this was our first time trying Disney. We live in Florida and have annual passes to all the Walt Disney World parks so I guess it was just a matter of time before we found ourselves aboard a Disney ship. Overall, we had a great time and I imagine that as long as our son doesn't grow up too fast, we probably cruise with Disney again. I should mention that my wife and son enjoyed themselves thoroughly more than I did. I love cruising and appreciated some of the differences associated with Disney but often found many things lacking on this cruise.
Embarkation took about an hour or perhaps a little more. Although Disney did keep lines moving, this was the longest embarkation that we ever encountered. We had an 11 am reservation. (Disney gives you a time when registering on line.) Somehow, we arrived at the port at exactly 11 am. The security line moved the fastest. After that, we waited in the line to check in. We were disappointed that they could not register our son and give him a bracelet when we checked in as other cruise lines do. Instead Disney sends you to another line. This line was the longest. After our son was set, you have to wait for them to call your boarding number. It was kind of like flying in coach. However, once they called our number the line to get on the ship was far longer that one to get on a plane but we finally made it aboard.
I have to say, the ship was worth the wait because my wife and I both found the ship to be magnificent. We have been on many new ships and some newer than the Dream but I don't think I have ever seen a ship in this condition. The carpeting literally looked like it had never been walked on. It was designed brilliantly and is very easy to navigate. The kid's area, I think was on deck 5, which is also the life boat deck. Porthole windows on this deck are lower to accommodate children. And of course these widows have views obstructed by the lifeboats, which didn't seem to bother the children at all. Deck four is the adult deck with plenty of bars and lounges as well as the promenade. All public rooms and for both kids and adults were very nice and well thought out.
Our cabin was equally inviting. We loved having the bath tub for our son. There was a full size sofa which was also nice. I thought it was brilliant that the coffee table was also a storage chest and our son loved keeping his toys there. Our bed was very comfortable. Our balcony was pretty standard but also fine. My only gripe would be that the safe was on the bottom shelf in the closet so I had to squat or get on my knees every time I had to go in or out of our closet. By the second night I just decided that I trusted our cabin attendant.
Speaking of our cabin attendant, he was among the best. He did an outstanding job and always left little touches for everyone in the room.
The food was kind of what I was afraid of having eaten at Disney restaurants before. We were thrilled to find Snow Crab legs and shrimp cocktail every day at Cabanas. However, the excitement began and ended there. We found other offerings at Cabana's to lack quality and freshness. On the first night, we ate at Palo and it was excellent and well worth the $20 surcharge. Our server was also outstanding. On night number two, we ate at Animators Pallete. This was the worst meal we have ever had aboard any ship ever. It was so bad; I can't bear to describe it. Most of it, I couldn't eat, which shocked my wife because I can eat some pretty disgusting things but even I through in the towel when they put a rock shrimp cheese cake loaf in front of me. I mean it was comically bad. It was so bad, we rushed to make another restaurant reservation at Palo and thankfully they accommodated us because the fourth night, we dined at Enchanted Garden and although it was not the worst meal we have ever had my entree was certainly awful. I had prime rib, which was cold, tough and flavorless. Every salad I had on the ship was disappointing. To be fair, I did order a tuna and avocado appetizer which was very nice. My wife had Sea bass, which was also good. We did have some good meals. We were impressed with the lunch served at Castaway Cay. We had Mahi Mahi and rib eye steak over at Serenity Bay, which was fresh and delicious. There was lots of fresh fruit and all baked items were fresh and awesome. There were plenty of Soda fountains around the ship as well as ice cream machines and they are everywhere at Castaway Cay as well.
Our son had a ball. He was able to sit through an entire one hour show and I know he loved it and so did his mom. Every Disney movie you can think of is available for free on demand in the state room, which made for a nice lazy morning at sea. He loved playing at Nemo's Reef splash park as well as the Mickey pool. Although he was scared to go on the Aqua duck, his mother and I made it twice and had a blast. Disney did a great job of making sure every kid on the ship gets to meet Mickey, the princesses and all other characters. Usually, a child could meet a character by just waiting in a short line. If a line seemed too long you could be sure to have later opportunities in the cruise. None of the character lines were as long as you would find at Disney World. Then again, no line on the planet is as long as what you would find at Disney World. Speaking of lines, be ready for one when disembarking. Disney's Imagineer's must think people love lines.
Overall, we enjoyed the cruise. We had some great family time and if you love to cruise and have little ones than I think Disney is a must do at least once. If your kids are older or teens, I think you're better off on RCI or Carnival. If you don't have children and are thinking of Disney, I believe you are paying more to rob yourself of an extraordinary cruise experience that Disney is simply unable to accommodate.