My family and I have recently returned home from our four night Bahamian cruise from April 21st through the 25th on the Disney Dream. In our party was myself and my two year old son, my mother, and my three younger brothers and sister (age 11, 7, and 6), and my grandmother.
I am not the type of person to complain, and I always try to find the positive in a situation, and have never written a company before to complain, but the experience we had on our Disney Cruise I cannot let go. When a person books a vacation, especially a Disney vacation, they expect to receive "renowned service" and "world"class hospitality" that they guarantee on their website. Instead, our vacation was extremely stressful and completely disappointing from beginning to end. We left our Disney Cruise feeling like we needed a vacation from our vacation.
After landing in Orlando, we were directed to our Disney transfer bus to take us to Port Canaveral. I went up to the man who was loading luggage under the bus and asked him if it was ok to use my sons car seat on the bus that I had brought for the airplane ride. The man then snatched the car seat out of my hand and said no and proceeded to put the car seat under the bus. I was shocked that this man snatched my son's seat out of my hand, but I decided to let it go, and just board the bus before there were not seats for my whole party to sit together. As we boarded the bus with other families, I realized why he told me I could not use the car seat, because there were no seatbelts on the bus. For the next hour ride to the port, the other mothers and I struggled to keep our excited children sitting in their seats for their safety. It is common sense that if a young child is not buckled into a seat belt, they will try to get up. I do not know the laws as it refers to seatbelts and shuttle buses, but I would think a company that's main clientele are families with small children, that they would have seatbelts in their buses, even if it is not required by law. Since Disney says on their website that "nothing is more important than the well-being of our guests", having seatbelts on their buses should be a priority.
When we arrived at the port, we proceeded to check in. My mother and my grandmother were told they each had to put $300 dollars down on their Key To The World card based on our trip length. They were told they can either use a debit or credit card or cash for the $300, my mother used her card and my grandmother used cash. My grandmother was then handed a notice (copy of notice attached) saying that when she reaches the $300 her "charging privileges will be automatically "disabled" from her Key To The World Card, and she will have to go down to Guest Services to add another $300 to her card. She was also told when she is close to the end of the $300 she would receive a phone call informing her of her low balance. My mother who used her debit card to apply the $300, was also told her Key To The World Card would be disabled and she would receive a call from Guest Services to add another $300 when her balance was low. After two days, they both went to Guest Services to check the balance on their cards. That is when they are told that my grandmother's card was negative $278!! And my mother's was negative $1500!! Not only did neither of them have their card disabled at any point after the initial $300, but neither of them receives a call from Guest Services informing them of their low balance like they were told would be done. Then, my mother is shocked to find out after reading a printout of her charges, she sees that; first, when she checked in and applied the initial $300, the woman who checked her in did not inform her that the excursions she booked would be taken out of the original $300, because of that, the original $300 was immediately used up, and she was not told nor asked to add another $300. So, before she even stepped onto the ship the $300 was gone, and she was already put in the negative. Second, she also realized that when she made purchases with the $300 that she thought she had, instead of declining the card and notifying her of the low balance, like they told her would be done, instead they charged her credit card without her authorization or signature!!! We could not believe this was done. When we called the Guest Services Manager over, he very rudely said "I'm sorry, but we are not required to notify you". When we informed him of what we were told at check in, and the notice we received, the manager shook his head and shrugged his shoulder, pushed the print out of the charges across the counter back to my mother and then said "I'm sorry" again, like there was nothing he could do. I could not believe that these were people who Disney employed, yet they could be so unhelpful and act like they could care less about the situation.
When we returned home, I called the 800 number on the Disney Cruise Line website to speak to someone regarding the Key To The World Card policies, and if it was regular practice for a guest to be notified when their balance is low. Also, if the card should be disabled after $300 until another $300 is added like we were told at check in. I also asked if a guest uses their credit card for the $300, would their credit card then be charged without notification after they use up the initial $300. The first person I talked to on Disney's 800 number was a woman named Annette on April 26th at 9:50 PM eastern time. Annette told me that it is practice that a guest is notified when their balance is low and that the Key To The World card is disabled until more money is added. She also told me that even if a guest uses their credit card for the $300, their card will be disabled after the $300 and they will be notified by Guest Services when their balance is low. She also told me that if you choose to use a credit card to put down the original $300, Disney cannot just charge your card without notifying the guest first. After speaking to Annette, I then called back the Disney 800 number to see what another person would say, and just as I thought no one from Disney can give you the same information, everyone says something different. Every person I spoke to seemed like they were guessing or assuming what would be done, instead of actually knowing the policies. The next person I spoke to from Disney was named Grace at 10PM eastern time on April 26th. The information that I received from Grace was that it does not matter if a guest uses cash or credit; they will be notified by Guest Services via phone call to the state room or wave phone when their balance becomes low. She then said that if a guest uses cash they will disable their World card until another $300 is added. But, if a guest uses credit, that Disney has the right to charge their credit card without notifying the guest. It seems that everyone from Disney says something different. From Guest Services on the ship to Customer Service through their 800 number, no one seems to know the policies.
Another major issue I had with the Disney cruise was with my two year old son. Before I left for our trip, I called Disney's 800 number because I read on their website that you cannot bring outside food onboard. This concerned me because my son is a VERY picky eater, like a lot of toddlers, so I give my son a bottle of Pediasure once a day to insure he gets the protein and vitamins he's not getting from food. I was told by the Disney customer service agent that I was not permitted to bring Pediasure onboard, but that I will have no problem getting my son food that he would eat on board. I was reassured that Disney understands children can be picky and that the restaurants and room service will provide me with what my son will eat even if it's not on the menu. Well, this DID NOT HAPPEN!! For the next four days, the only thing I was able to get my son to eat was Fruit loops and Apple juice!!! The first two mornings I tried to have pancakes sent upstairs for my son, and was told they could not do that. I was told I would have to go in the morning to the buffet Cabanas by the pool to get pancakes for my son. On the third morning there we all decided to get up early and go to Cabanas for breakfast in the hopes that my son could get some pancakes instead of eating Fruit loops for a third day. Well I was wrong!! We got up there not long after they opened, and it was packed, there was NO WHERE to sit. We decided, since it was so packed to the point you couldn't even walk without bumping into someone, we all waited outside while my mother went in to find a table to fit all seven of us and a highchair for my son. After about ten minutes, she came out and said she has a waiter holding a table with a highchair for us. So, we all walk in towards the table and as we get closer we see the waiter standing by our table, then another waiter comes up, takes the highchair from our table and walk away while the waiter who was holding the table for us says nothing to him. He just allows the other waiter to take it. When my mother says to him "why did you let him take that, I asked you to hold it for us while I got the rest of my party" he just looks at her and says he will get another. I ended up leaving with my son and going up stairs and once again having to give him Fruit loops because there were no more highchairs left. How is it that a Disney Cruise, Disney who is a 54 Billion dollar corporation, does not have enough highchairs in their restaurants??? I mean, the buffet was extremely busy, but not every person on the ship was there, there is no excuse!
Not only was breakfast an issue with getting my son something that he would eat, but lunch and dinner was a nightmare as well. Every night for dinner I would ask our Head Waiter, Bruno, if there was any way I could please get my son a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or pancakes (since these are pretty much the only things he will eat while he's going through his picky phase), Bruno would tell me he will try his best, (which I know he did) and he would come back feeling horrible and tell me he's not able to get it. So now, even though before I even left for the cruise I called and was told by Disney that getting my son what he would eat would be "no problem", well it was a PROBLEM, it was a BIG PROBLEM!! So I'm told I can't take his Pediasure onto the ship, and I understood and agree to it ONLY because I was told it would not be an issue getting my son food to eat".WELL after FOUR DAYS of fighting and begging to get something for my son and I am denied EVERYTIME, the last night at dinner our Head Waiter, Bruno, with a big smile on his face, put a plate of pancakes in front of my son. I was so grateful and appreciative that he really fought to get them for my son, but by that time my son had diarrhea from eating only Fruit loops and drinking Apple juice for the last four days that he didn't want to eat anything!!! I do not blame Bruno at all, he really tried every night and he and his assistant was the ONLY crew, cast members, whatever you want to call them who truly provided world class service. He did his best to make sure we enjoyed our dinning experience. I can honestly say he was the only employee on that ship that didn't look like he was forcing a smile on his face. If Disney hired more employees like Bruno, maybe we would have had a little better experience. But, the problem still remains that after I was told I would easily be able to get my son food that he would eat, it did not happen, and my son ate nothing but Fruit loops and drank Apple juice for the entire trip. As a result of four days of nothing but Fruitloops and Apple Juice, he develop severe diarrhea. Then, because of the diarrhea I had to change his dipper much more frequently than usual. From changing his dipper so much, I went through all the dippers I had packed by the last day. I was told by Guest Services I could buy dippers at the store White Caps on the ship. Well sure they had dippers; the problem was that they only carried one size!!!! And that size was two sizes too small for my son, but I had no choice but to get them. Well, the next day on the bus ride and flight home my son wet through his pants three times, due to the dippers being two sizes too small. He went through three pairs of pants that I had to buy at the airport for $20 each, because our suitcases were already checked in. And, all this on top of him having diarrhea from eating only Fruit loops for the entire length of the trip, all because, once again, one Disney employee tells me that it will be no problem getting food my son will eat, but then another employee says it's not possible!! If Disney would have done what they said could be done, and get my son food he would eat, then he would not have developed diarrhea. And, without a doubt, I wouldn't have gone through all the dippers I had packed and had to buy dippers that were too small for him, which in turn caused me to spend $60 at the airport on pants he wet through anyway. In no way do I blame Disney for my son being a picky eater; I blame them for their employees not giving the proper information. For a cruise that's main clientele are families with small children, I blame them for not making exceptions or options for picky children (and I know mine is not the only one in the world). It's unbelievable that on a Disney ship filled with kids, I can't get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my toddler! To further ignite my anger over this situation with my son, when I get home and read into our ship charges more, I was stunned to see that along with everyone else in our party, My two year old son who I was not able to get food or a highchair for, and had to eat Fruit loops and Apple Juice the entire trip was charged $ 48 in gratuities!!!!! What was done for my two year old son to justify $48 dollars in gratuities??? NOTHING!!!
It just seemed that the disappointment and frustration never ended through the whole trip, every time we turned around it was something else. On the third day of our trip was the day Spent at Castaway Cay. Since the day at Nassau had been rainy and cloudy, we were all very excited for a sunny day at the beautiful beach at Castaway Cay. When we were at the beach, my little sister (who turned six that day) spend all day sitting at the shore line collecting little white shells, cleaning them off and putting them in her bucket. When it was time to go back to the ship she was so proud of her self and was so protective of her shells, she wouldn't let anyone else carry her bucket. She even asked me if when we get back home, if we can put all her shells in a glass jar so she can remember Castaway Cay forever. Well, once again the happiness on this Disney vacation did not last long and a six year old girl was left broken hearted on her birthday. As we are going through security to get back onto the ship, we put our items on the belt for the x-ray machine. All of a sudden the woman security guard behind the x-ray machine yells real loud "they have a bunch of shells" to another security guard. The woman security guard then proceeds to take my sisters bucket of shells that she spent all day on the beach collecting and meticulously cleaning, and dumps all the shells into a plastic bowel and says that she cannot have them. My mother then says to the guard "why can't she have a few shells"" this is when we got a response that not only stunned us, but the line of people behind us as well. This woman security guard (how I wish I got her name but I was so angry I didn't think to get it) responds to my mother's question by saying, in a very condescending tone,
"Ma'am, if we let her take these shells we will have no more left"". I think everyone person who heard that, their jaw dropped to the ground.. So, because of my sister's quarter of a bucket full of small seashells, the whole island of Castaway Cay will have no more shells left???? I guess it's a good thing she didn't take a beach shovel full of sand, or there would be no beach left!!! My mother then shook the shock of her face and said to the woman "so she can't take any of these shells? ", and the guard looks at my sister and tells her she can pick ONE SHELL!! What made this situation worse is that my sister did not cry, no, her heart was broken as she went through the shells she spent all day collecting to try and pick out just one to take home. That Disney Security Guard should be ashamed of herself, and so should Disney! Every child around the world when they spend the day at the beach, they swim in the water, builds sandcastles, and collects seashells. This is a part of childhood. Just like whoever is reading this letter did when they were a child. That's all my six year old sister, and any other child that visits Castaway Cay, wants to do. For thousands of years tribes around the world have taken seashells from beaches for making tools, jewelry, religious artifacts, musical instruments, and so much more, but yet my sisters few shells she collected will strip Castaway Cay of all their shells? Every day, at beaches around the world, tourists are spending the day at beaches and collecting shells. So, how is it possible that those beaches still have a never ending supply of shells washing up on their shores? It's because a shell is actually the outer skeleton of a sea animal, and once they die or shed their shell, the shell is then carried by the current and washed up onto beaches, hence the never ending supply of seashells. I can completely understand not allowing guests to collect coral, sea stars, sand dollars, or live shells (shells that are inhabited by a sea creature) because by doing this can disrupt the fragile eco system. But to not allow a child to collect small dead shells (uninhabited) is not right. I looked up the Bahamian laws on collecting shells, it states that removing anything alive from the ocean such as coral and live shells was illegal, and to dive in the ocean to collect shells is prohibited, but to collect dead, uninhabited shells from the shore line IS legal. But, I guess since Castaway Cay is privately owned by Disney, they can make up their own rules. It makes me wonder though, is this rule to protect the ecosystem (even though collecting uninhabited shells does not affect the eco system) or is it partly they want to refuse a child of collecting shells so their parents will buy them from your souvenir shop? A Bohemian man or woman can dive in the ocean, gather large Conch shells, kill and remove the living creature inside, then sell the shell to tourists for $15 or $20 dollars per shell at the markets, but a little girl can't collect a few small, pretty shells from the DISNEY beach on her vacation to show her friends at school???
As I mentioned previously while we were on our cruise it was also my sisters sixth birthday. When we booked our cruise my mother thought it would be amazing if she could try to arrange to have one of the princesses to come out with my sister's cake at her birthday dinner. Again, we called Disney Cruses 800 number to see if it was at all possible and she would have no problem paying extra for it. The customer service person on the phone told her that there should be no problem arranging that, and she would just have to set it up with Guest Services once we board the ship. Well, once again the information you get changes every time you talk to a different Disney employee. When my mother went down to Guest Services to try to arrange the princess, the Guest Services associate looked at my mother like she had four heads and told her that is not possible they don't do that. My mother was very disappointed and frustrated, not because she couldn't get the princess, but because one associate said yes and now another is saying no, but my mother did not make a big deal about it, probably because this happened on the first day of the cruise and we had yet to know how horrible the next few days would be. My mother also asked if there was any way to get some balloons to our room for my sister, and the woman at Guest Services told her they don't have balloons but she can have our state room decorated with two paper banners and a paper center piece for $40. My mother could not believe how much they wanted to charge her for two paper banners, and decided to just order her the cake for $35. You would think that if a child was celebrating their birthday on a Disney cruise it would be special and unique, especially for the amount of money you pay to go on a Disney Cruise. Well once again we were disappointed, at her Birthday dinner we walk in to the restaurant and they couldn't even throw a balloon or something on her chair to make her feel special. Then when her cake came out all the waiters get together and sing "Happy Birthday". So, having your Birthday on a Disney Cruise, is not different then having a Birthday dinner at your local Applebee's or TGI Friday's restaurant. They couldn't even have one candle on her cake to blow out and make a wish because they said it was a safety hazard, but yet you can be anchored in the middle of the ocean and shoot off fireworks above people's heads on a cruise ship.
When researching our Disney Cruise vacation, one of the main things the kids were looking forward to was meeting the characters. On the Disney Cruise line official website they say "Be sure to have your camera at the ready! There's no telling when you might need it to take pictures of Disney Characters you may bump into as you stroll the decks of the Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Magic or Disney Wonder.". I don't know how it is on the other Disney ships, but this was not the case on the Dream. We never once "bumped" into a character; instead you would wait online for over an hour to see a character while other guests try to cut you in line. Or they would schedule character appearances that conflict with some dinning schedules. For example, our dinning time was 5:45pm; Princess Mini Mouse had a appearance scheduled for 5:15pm. We had seen the lines for characters before so decided that we would get online at 4:45pm so that we could still make our dinner. Well I guess we were not the only people who had that idea, because by the time we got down to where we had to wait there was already a long line. Well, after waiting inline with my sister and two year old son to see Mini and it almost being our turn, a "pleasant" "cast member" walks by the line and says that it is 5:40 pm and anyone who has a 5:45pm dinning time MUST get out of line to go to dinner or we would miss our dinning opportunity. So after waiting in that long in line we never got to see Mini. I guess Disney thought that the children who had 5:45pm dining times didn't need to see Mini, or any other characters they scheduled at dinner times. Then on the last day of the cruise they had the Princess gathering at 9AM, we learned our lesson with Mini so we got there extra early at 8AM sharp.. Well that still was not early enough because again we waited for TWO HOURS!! And to add insult to injury my sister was not able to get a picture with all the princesses at once..Oh no, it had to be a picture with each princess one at a time". And of course they would do that, because they want to make sure that you have to spend $12.95 for one 6x8 picture PER PRINCESS!!! Now, as we are waiting online to see the princesses since 8AM (yet we are still far back in the line), the princesses finally come out at 9AM" then at 9:30AM what do we see across the Lobby Atrium about 10 feet from us??? Another long appearance line forming and out comes Tinkerbell!!! So now my little six year old sister has to decide if she wants to see the princesses or Tinkerbell all because they scheduled the characters within a half-hour of each other. Once again, the Disney cruise line provides more disappointment. In turn, most of our "Dream" vacation was spent either at the Guest Services desk trying to fix and figure out why and how Guest Services could be negligent with our Key To The World Card, waiting in line for hours to see characters, or waiting at least fifteen minutes every time you need to get in an elevator because every elevator that would open, would be completely full.
Finally, at dinner the last night, there is an announcement from the Activities Director, reminding everyone that they still have the last night to enjoy the "many activities" on the dream, and to not be tempted to return to your staterooms early. We all decided to take this advice and make the most of the last night, so we allowed the children to night swim and ride the Aqua Duck, and we all took pictures on deck. When we finally returned back to our stateroom around 9:45- 10PM, we find a notice on the beds with luggage tags that states all luggage has to be packed, tagged and outside our door by 10PM or we would have to carry our own luggage down at checkout in the morning!!! That notice was not there the last time we were in our rooms around 4:30pm, nor were there any announcements that we heard made about having bags out by 10pm. Instead there was the announcement urging people not to rush back to their staterooms on the last night of the cruise, to continue to enjoy the activities. Well, now we are left to pack seven people worth of luggage and tag it all in less than ten minutes!! As I was putting the bags outside our stateroom, I see the man from the stateroom next to us sweating and talking angrily under his breath as he puts his families bags out, it seems he also took the advice of the Activities Director, and stayed out to "enjoy his last night". So the end of a stressful, disappointing Disney Cruise was more stress and disappointment. We just wanted to go home.
Needless to say, our much anticipated Disney Cruise turned out to be a very big disappointment, which was very surprising because when anyone thinks of Disney, this is not the service or experience they would ever think to get. Again, I am not the type to make complaints, and there was some positive to our cruise such as the excitement on the children's faces when they finally did get to see a character, the beauty of the ship and dÃ©cor inside the ship, their prices in the Disney gift shops were not, for the most part, too expensive, and the beds in the rooms were extremely comfortable. Unfortunately for us, the negative far outweighed the positive. Yes the beds were extremely comfortable, but it should not take house keeping an hour and a half to deliver an extra blanket for my toddler who was cold when trying to go to sleep. And the food at the restaurants was very delicious and presented beautifully, (even though I could not enjoy it knowing my son was again having to eat Fruit loops) but the room service menu was very limited and seemed to have less and less options every night. I ordered myself a BLT sandwich one night, and when I received it, it was about a quarter of a sandwich and the bacon looked like it was minced or it was bacon bits and not real bacon. When you would walk down the hall to your stateroom, you would see people's room service plates out their door and everyone had chicken fingers and French fries because that was the only decent item on the room service menu. It became a joke with us at night because the room service menu seemed to dwindle every night, so we would call to see what they took away that night. The first night for dissert they had cheesecake, chocolate cake, brownies, and chocolate and oatmeal cookies. The second night, they would have cheesecake, brownies and chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies. By the last night, all they had was Chocolate chip cookies.
What was most disappointing was that this was our kid's first Disney experience. My mother is a widow, and works fulltime to take care of her three young children, who are actually her nephews and niece who she and my father had adopted and cared for since birth. Since my father's death a few years ago, she has been doing everything on her own and working full time to provide for her children. The last year my mother, myself (who is a single mother), and my grandmother have been saving to take the kids on what we thought would be an amazing and memorable experience. Not only was this the children's first Disney vacation, but it was the first family vacation since my father's death. What we expected our Disney experience to be, and what we ultimately got has put a bad taste in our mouth with Disney. We left our vacation more stressed then we had come. It says a lot when you are on vacation and just can't wait for it to end so you can go home.
In today's economy, people work a year or more to be able to pay for a vacation, so when a person takes their money they worked hard for and put it down on a vacation for their family, especially a Disney Vacation, they expect to enjoy themselves. When you think of Disney you think of smiling joyful employees and as they say "renowned service" and "world"class hospitality", this just was not the case for most of the Disney Dream employees. The exception to this was our Head Server Bruno, again his smile was natural and not forced like others, and he went above and beyond to provide exceptional service. He made it his goal to see that we enjoyed our time at dinner. Disney needs more people like Bruno.
Has this Disney Cruise Experience deterred us from ever cursing again? No, it has not. But, I know for sure none of us will EVER go on a Disney Cruise again, nor will we ever recommend a Disney Cruise to anyone, but instead we will share our night mare Disney cruise with people in hopes their Dream vacation doesn't turn into what ours did.
Mr. Walt Disney once said, "Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends." That is not what happened on our Disney Dream Cruise nightmare.