I was travelling with a family of 3 and our age group is late 20's (me) and my parents in early and mid 50's. We are not very experienced cruisers and we have only tried HAL Oosterdam before to Alaska. So I guess this review is more like a comparison of which cruise ship is better in what areas.
Right from the beginning, I got the impression that the Disney's staffs were not as well trained as HAL's. The man who checked us in was not as friendly as HAL's and we had a slow process, as one of our passport was not stamped by the US custom. When we cruised with HAL's, we felt people are generally very welcoming, but our first impression with Disney's staff was like seeing any other people in big cities, such as NYC.
The ship itself looks very elegant and beautiful. The dining rooms were decorated with many Disney themes, which I like it a lot. The ship itself looks a lot better than HAL's Oosterdam. However, this might be unfair because Disney Dream is so much newer.
We got a corner room in Category 5E. The cabin itself is very spacious and it has a lot more cabin space than HAL's VF (which is also a balcony room.) When the 3rd bed is set up, there is more space to walk around on Disney Dream. The over-sized balcony looks great as well. Unfortunately, since it was only a 3 night cruise, we barely stay on the balcony. I also like the separated bathrooms. It is more convenient with a party of 3. The only downside of this cabin is the vibrations at night on the aft. I could barely sleep when we were heading to Nassau since the bed was vibrating a lot. The second night was fine as the ship was barely moving to Castaway Key.
I never went to the Cabana after my first day lunch experience in the Enchanted Garden (buffet style), but it seems like their operating hours are less than HAL. Every single night when I want to get a cup of tea on deck 11, it seems to be closed. So I guess the operating hours on HAL is a lot better.
Enchanted Garden: The first day buffet lunch was terrible. I lined up 30 min just to get a plate (I checked in at 12:20 and went to lunch immediately.) There were many kids on board and I believe because of this reason, the line up was so slow as the kids I saw could not stand still. (e.g. there were a lot of gap from people to people when getting the food, so the people at the back weren't moving at all.) The worst of all was, I saw kids were touching the food with their hands and their parents did not tell the server about it. For me, after seeing kids touch the food with their hands, I would not touch that plate at all when it was my turn. On HAL, at least for the first 2 days, the servers will serve you food even on the Lido Deck. This is a much cleaner way especially when there are so many kids around Not to mention the there were limited food selection.
During dinner time, I disliked the food in Enchanted Garden the most. My lobster ravioli was served at a lukewarm temperature and there is nothing special about the food that they served. The main course was OK but not great, the soup and desserts were good. After dinner, the head server asked us about our opinions and we did tell him that our food was not very warm. I thought they would address this issue on the second night, but the same thing happened again.
Out of the 3 restaurants, I believe Royal Palace servers the best food on average. My lunch experience was good. But my dinner dining experience was not that great again. The cheese souffle was OK, French Onion soup was good, but my steak was not lukewarm again. However, on the second day, I finally know the reason why my food was always cold.. It was because of my assistant server. Since we had a party of 3, when I saw there were 3 plates delivered to the counter table, I knew they were our main courses. After sitting on the counter for 10 min, I saw the assistance servers starting to take the plates away on the other table when their main courses had not arrived yet. Then, when the main server saw there were 3 undelivered main courses plates on the counter, the assistant server came to our table and took away our appetizer plates then delivered our main courses. (We have finished appetizers long long time ago, but nobody bother cleaning our table.) When my plate arrived, the plate was cold. When I ate my medium rare steak, my steak sauce was warmer than my steak. I understand I only ordered a medium rare, but after sitting on the counter for over 10 min, everything would be cold!! I ate my food even though the steak was hard as rock. When the head server asked my opinion about the food again, I only commented the food was not very warm. However, he gave me a look and then questioned me that you have ordered a medium rare! He did offer to change my plate, but since I finished 1/2 of my plate and I was kind of full, I insisted that it was ok and I don't want another plate. Then the assistant server came and asked me how was the food (I think he overheard that I said the food was not very warm), he insisted to change my plate.. The 2nd time, my steak was perfect, juicy and tender.. The sauce for the souffle was good too.
Our final night of the cruise, we tried the Animator Palate. It is an interactive restaurant. This was the only night that they have finally serve our food warm. Food quality was good but nothing special.
Overall, the quality of food on HAL was a lot better (from breakfast in the main dining room, to the appetizers and main courses in dinner.) HAL doesn't serve good desserts, so Disney does a better job on desserts.
Hands down Disney offer better entertainment. Out of the 3 shows, I like Golden Mickey and love Disney's Belief. (I don't like Villains Tonight.) Disney also offers a lot of character greetings during different times. They are fun, but expect to line up for a very long time with a bunch of kids. They Disney Princesses Gathering had a very very long line up at 9:30 AM in the morning, even when we have arrived a port!! The fireworks was nice and we enjoyed it a lot. AcquaDuck was good, but we waited in line for 45 min. On the second day, we would like to ride it again, but after lining up for 30 min, a kid was stuck. So when they re-opened AcquaDuck, another kid was stuck. Therefore, we left and didn't have a chance to ride it again. Overall, there is no comparison at all of HAL's Entertainment vs Disney Dream. HAL was a pretty boring ship. The only entertainment I had was to eat all the time including an additional afternoon tea meal.
I felt the services were a lot better on HAL in general. Everyone we saw on HAL were very friendly. I guess this is because HAL hired a lot of Indonesian staffs and Disney has a more multicultural based. We felt we were treated like VIP on HAL and not on the Disney Dream.
Overall, Disney Dream is a very nice cruise ship and everything was decent (except for food and service). But we believe the food would have better if we have a different assistant server (at least we would have warm food to eat.) The ship is new and elegant, the cabin size and layout was fabulous. The Entertainment was great. I will not hesitate to go on a Disney Cruise again, but I guess I would prefer to try other cruise lines so I know which one suits my needs more.