Good day all; we embarked on April 7th for a 4 night cruise to Nassau, Bahamas, Castaway Cay, and a day at sea. We traveled with just my wife and I, and another family member with 2 teenage children. While this cruise was taken during spring break and we expected a crowd, this far exceeded what we anticipated. Even before the sail away party the pool area was packed.
We had rented a vehicle from Orlando airport to the Cocoa Beach area to stay overnight, and this worked out well, except for the car rental place in general. The process was a bit slow with them, and they certainly did add any staff for days ships were sailing; but they did provide a free shuttle ride to the ship.
Embarkation went smooth, Mickey and Minnie were in the terminal to greet you and take photo's, and this would be the first of MANY opportunities to see the characters. We quickly boarded, (it was open boarding and so they did not adhere to the assigned boarding times even though we were about an hour early from our assigned times). Once on board, expect a crowd for the entire time. There is no escaping it. Expect to be stepping around little ones, waiting for them to enter the elevator even when you are trying to exit. Strollers are ever present. Children stepping in front of you either at the soda machine, buffet line, or entering the theater. Just kids being kids really.
Our inside stateroom was a bit small, but the energy conservation feature they use where when you enter your room, you place your room key card in a slot, and this will enable all the power in the room; the thought is when you leave the room and take your card with you, everything powers down, nice feature. They video port hole was also a pretty neat touch.
The dinners were good, a nice variety of choices and things to try; the rotational restaurants is a nice idea, and as everyone says, Animator's Palate is a neat unique experience. My only critique is that it was pretty crowded, the tables too close.
Offering free soda was not as bad as I expected at all; they have four machines at either side of the pool, and a total of 4 machines inside Cabana's buffet.
The theater shows were very impressive; most ships have 7-10 singers and dancers on stage at any given time, at one point on the Dream I counted over 20! Just a shame they didn't have a live band; there is nothing like live music accompanying a show; but clearly, where would you put them. Just wish they had though. Fireworks at sea... not bad...
The ship was clean, and the staff hard working.
The ports; we did the Blue Lagoon Beach excursion, and this was so-so; yep, they give you a sand beach, and the water went no higher than your knees at it's deepest point. They did provide a lunch with the visit, but the Blue Lagoon staff clearly didn't want to be there (they were in no way affiliated with Disney Cruise lines, just want to make that clear); basic burgers, hot dogs, and chicken. You also received 2 drink tickets for soft drinks etc. Here too though as with many places nowadays, anything extra you have to pay for; nothing other than lunch is included in your beach visit. There were lounges and a few stationary umbrellas.
Castaway Cay was very nice, a lot of walking, they did have a tram available, but we opted for the long walk. We rented the bicycles, and while they mention you rent them for an hour (and this is about all you need when riding the bike trails), you are not really restricted on time; they don't check you back in when returning the bikes. It was a nice ride though. We also did the wave runners, and the tour before us people were returning with very interesting shells and the like; and we were told there would be a stop where you could exchange drivers; well apparently we went a different route, never stopped anywhere really, but it was a fun time. If you plan on going to Serenity Bay; take the tram, it was much too far away to walk; from the ship I think it would be close to a half hour or more.
The day at sea was nothing short of madness; it was a nice day; but every square inch of that ship felt full. The adults only area - full; main pools - full, what few activities they had - full, promenade deck - full. Patience was key this day.
Disembarkation Day confused me; if you had early seating for dinner, you were expected to return to your last restaurant at 6:45 in the morning for breakfast! No buffet was available, (we were told); and late diners were to go to their restaurant at 8am. They expected everyone off the ship bu 9:15! Whoa. This didn't sit too well with our crowd.
As stated earlier you will have more than enough opportunity to see the main Disney characters each day. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, and on occasion chip and dale, and also 5 Disney Princesses. There were about 3 opportunities each day to meet with all of them, and even some unscheduled visits on the Promenade deck; and though the ship would take the portrait photo's themselves, not only would they allow you to take all the pictures you would want with your own camera, they would take the pictures for you by just asking. All the characters and Princesses we terrific with the kids, giving each person one on one time and a short visit, never rushing anyone along. This was very impressive and touching at times seeing the Princesses with some of the little children.
In summary, my family members were not sold on cruising as this was their first one, and it was much too regimented for them. We thought this might not be a bad first cruise for them to try; big mistake. I think had we done any other cruise line besides Disney they might give it a chance, but you only get one chance at a first impression, and this impression was madness, crowds and patience, hardly a dream vacation. Why any adult who does not have any children and does not have a Disney character tattooed on their body someplace would take this cruise is beyond me. I kept reading Disney cruises are great for adults not traveling with children. If you are a fan of Disney, sure, give it a try, if you just enjoy cruising, I would advise elsewhere, unless you want to try it then by all means do so and pack your patience. To be fair, we even mentioned at the end of the cruise, after 4 days, with all this excitement for the children, we only witnessed one temper tantrum from a child. Pretty impressive odds.
For me the Disney cruise experience stood out certainly in their stage shows, and maybe when you get introduced when you board the ship, but not much else stood out to me. The crew, while terrific, were much like crew members we have experienced on other ships, all very good, but nothing different.
Did we have a good time, sure, it's Disney. Was it better than any of the other 10 or so cruises I have taken, not by a long shot. Would I do another Disney cruise, never, unless we were traveling with family with children, and even that would be a long shot for me.
In summary, if you have kids and you all like Disney, give it a chance, but expect a crowd.