My husband (38) and I (37) love going to Disney World and have read a lot about the Disney Cruise line ships and when they announced 4nt cruises out of Galveston we decided to give them a try. We are avid cruisers with 18 cruises on various lines (Celebrity, MSC, Carnival, Princess, and RCI) in the last 10 years. We do not have children but did not think that would matter so much because the cruise was the first week of Feb. while kids are in school. We knew there would be many kiddos on board, but didn't have any idea that more than half of the 2800 people onboard would be 6 yrs and under. Call me naive, but I thought we would have a ton of fun because we love Disney so much. I was wrong.
First off, the ship was laid out very well, but still overly crowded with lines for just about everything. This caused many people, adults and kids, to have crank-pants syndrome. I understand Disney is going for a "Classic Cruise Liner" feel, but we would have liked to have seen more Disney theming. The restrooms had pictures of an old-time lady and gentlemen, where we would have liked to have seen male and female Disney character pictures to distinguish between the genders. There were things like that all over the ship where they could have made the atmosphere more fun by staying true to Disney and still keeping a Classic Liner ambiance.
Our stateroom was especially large compared to other ships we have been on. We were in a Category 6A cabin with the noted solid wall verandah. The bottom half of the balcony was a wall, so you could not see the water if you were sitting in the chairs. Not ideal for us as we like to sit on our balcony and read while watching the water go by. The double bathrooms were a bonus, but the toilet/sink one was so small it was difficult to maneuver. I am a size 8, but if I were much larger, it would have been extremely uncomfortable. The shower/sink side was well laid out and didn't pose a problem. The bed spread was worn and had that old-hotel feeling as well as the couch which was a pull-out sofa bed. At night, the steward removed the bed spread and all you had to cover you was a thin blanket surrounded by a flat sheet on bottom and top. It did not keep us warm and provided no weight to speak of. There was an extra blanket and the bed spread in the cabinet over the TV so we also used those each night, but I'm a bit of a germ-a-phobe and didn't like the possibility that the bedspread might touch my face. The curtain between the bed and sofa areas was a bonus as I could be taking a nap and my husband reading in the other area and the light was shut out so my side was dark. Also, there was abundant storage for our clothes and toiletries. A family of three on a week-long cruise would still have plenty of room with all the closet and cabinet space provided. The shampoo, conditioner, and lotion were of good quality and smelled nice without being too feminine.
Our dinner rotation was Animator's Palate, Parrot Cay (two nights in a row), and Lumiere's. Let me start by saying the food was REALLY GOOD in each of the dining venues. The food was not so fancy that it wouldn't appeal to most people, and the selections were quite varied. I was most excited about seeing Animator's Palate because of the things I had read online and the Disney Cruise Line DVD we watched ahead of time. Unfortunately, we were disappointed. It did not have a restaurant feel at all, but felt like a Disney Park quick-service cafe instead. The chairs were vinyl and cheap looking like in a diner. The room took way too long to change colors and most people were finished with their meal and left before the full transformation had time to take place. If you stay through the entire change, Mickey Mouse eventually comes out with a parade of wait staff and does a little dance. That was a nice touch, but I felt bad for the families who missed it because there was no indication anything special was going to happen if you waited. Both A.P. and Parrot Cay were very casual with a buffet type feel even though it was table service with table clothes. The noise level was extremely high and my husband and I could not hear each other talk. Fortunately, we were given a table for two at each of the meals. Still adults and kids were shouting and not all of the parents had the desire to keep their kiddos from running around the "restaurant" screaming and causing trouble. Our servers, Oksana and Jay were amazingly friendly, helpful, and efficient. They had pleasant personalities and really seemed to care if we were enjoying our food and experience. Without them and the delicious food, the experience would have been total chaos. Lumiere's was still loud and uncontrolled, but the atmosphere was more what you expect from a cruise dining room. I understand the practicality involved with the casual spaces considering the number of messy eaters onboard, but it was too low-rent for the amount of money a Disney cruise costs.
The shows we saw were good to great. There was a magician onboard who was very entertaining and funny. He did a great job including everyone in the humor instead of focusing toward one age group. The other shows were good, but not as character driven as we would have liked for a Disney cruise.
Pirate Night was a fun experience. Many people played along with the theming by wearing some sort of Pirate inspired attire to dinner which made it most enjoyable. Even the servers dressed up, which was fun. Some guests wore the pirate bandanas provided by the cruise line while others went all out in full costume with a very good mix in between. We were quite comfortable in our pirate gear at dinner that night. The Pirate Dance Party on deck (9:30pm) was not as expected. The music was a variety of 80's music to current hits with the cast members teaching you line dance style moves to go along with the songs. The pool deck was so packed with people, you could not turn around, much less do the big movements they were teaching. Eventually Disney characters came out and started to dance also, with Mickey Mouse showing up at the end to save the party from the bad pirates. There were no Disney songs played at all. When there is a multitude of familiar tunes from the ride and the movies, we thought they would have chosen to play at least one considering the branding. A few of the songs were not even family-friendly songs, but at least the bad words had been edited out. The Pirate Buffet at 10:30pm had a fun selection of tacos, fajitas, chips and dip, and desserts, including a crepe station with a myriad of toppings.
The free soft drinks in the dining rooms and on the pool deck were a nice addition to our cruise experience. The alcoholic beverages we had were all good, but a little strong. We are only occasional drinkers and one was enough to make me tipsy. The average guest will find the strength and quality of the drinks to be very high. Alcoholic drink prices were right in line with other cruise lines and land-based bars with most being around $8.50. Domestic beers were about $4 if I remember right.
Overall, if you are not an avid cruiser you will find a Disney cruise to your liking, but I would stick with one of the two newer ships. The Magic did not have enough pool area or splash grounds for the number of kids on board and they were packed so tight children were accidentally getting hurt in the water. I never did see any parents in the water because the pools were just too crowded. The adult pool had a reasonable number of people in it, but parents couldn't enjoy being in the pool with their kids.
Cozumel is a great port, and has a number of things to offer. We like renting a small car and driving to the far east side of the island where there are no crowds. The water is rough in some spots, but there are several protected areas where you can swim without an undertow. There are also a few bar-type eateries there as well that serve safe food, drinks, and ice because they have their own filtration systems. We have eaten there almost a dozen times over the years and never gotten sick.
We ended up with several bonus hours on our Galveston cruise because of the heavy fog. The captain ended up anchoring us 2 Â½ hours outside of Galveston in the night because the port closed for all incoming and outgoing traffic. Instead of being able to debark around 7:45am as expected, we were delayed until 12:30pm. The cruise director's staff came up with several activities to fill the extra hours and the staterooms were left available for those who wanted to go back to bed or sit quietly and read or watch movies/TV. They handled the delay very well. Debarkation was a bit chaotic because of everyone getting off the ship together, but I feel it would have gone very smoothly if the weather had cooperated. They had the bags organized well and plenty of staff on hand to help. They were just flooded with too many people at one time instead of the shifts of people as originally planned.
Overall, we would not recommend a Disney cruise unless you have kids who are pestering you to go, and a lot of extra money and vacation time to do so. The other cruise lines we have been on offer excellent children's programs to keep kids engaged and having a great time without having to wait in line for an hour to have their picture taken with a character. If it's characters your family is after, your time and money are much better spent going to the theme parks where you don't have to wait in huge lines (we always go in the off season, so maybe they are huge other times?), and there are more opportunities to see and interact with them (like at Character Dining venues). For the price we paid for our low level balcony on the Disney Magic, we could have gone on the brand new Carnival Magic (both out of Galveston, TX) for an entire week in a better balcony category. Or we could have gone on our preferred Celebrity Solstice class out of FL staying in a balcony for a week, with the only extra $ being our airfare to FL.