We booked this cruise 10 days before the sail date. We were lucky to secure a balcony. I am a believer of arriving at the port the day before the sail date. For some reason, possibly due to last minute booking, my wife's school and my work schedule, we decided to drive up to San Antonio, TX the day before and then continue the drive to Galveston the day of the cruise; big mistake.
I woke up around 3 am and began to browse weather information on my phone; severe weather heading our way. I woke everyone up early. Although the hotel's (Embassy Suites) breakfast is included, we decided to skip it and head west. We left the hotel before 6am and once we were outside of San Antonio on I-10, we stopped for a quick breakfast.
We continued our journey due west and about an hour later the storm hit us. We drove about an hour at about 25-35 miles an hour. Visibility was so bad that we exited the highway and parked the vehicle until a window in the weather opened up for us to continue.
Our daughters had no idea about this cruise. It was a surprise for our oldest one (both are under 6 years of age). The only thing they knew is that we were going to the beach for our summer vacation. Our oldest began to suggest that maybe it was a bad idea as we could not possibly enjoy the beach with such weather. As we approached downtown, traffic began to roll to about 5-10 mph. We figured that someone had wrecked. To our surprise, the traffic was not due to a wreck or disabled vehicle. It was due to flooding. For crying out loud, we are on an elevated express way and it flooded. Go figure!
Once in Galveston, we began to drive to the dock. As we got closer, our little ones stated that they could see the Mickey ship. (In March we sailed on board the Crown Princess out of Galveston) and the little ones waved goodbye as the Mickey ship sailed past us). I asked where, as I could not see the Mickey ship (the view was not blocked by buildings). When we were about a block from the pier, I brought up the back that we were actually going to board the pirate ship. Once we arrived at the port, I asked whether they would rather board the pirate ship of the Mickey ship. Without hesitating, the answer was Mickey ship! That is when we broke the surprise and told them that we were actually going to board the Mickey ship. Big surprised face is what we saw as a response.
I dropped the luggage; wife and little ones at the dock and off I went to park the car. We went through security and check-in was a breeze. Then off we went to get the little ones their bracelets for the children's club.
This is the first time that we sailed with DCL, we normally sail either Princess or Celebrity. I tried to get as many tips from Cruise Critic as I could in the short amount of time we had. Thankfully we were able to gather some great intelligence in order to make our sailing a smoother one.
Boarding the ship was a breeze. Once inside the ship, I asked where we could make reservations for Palo. One of the officers gladly showed us the room where we could make our reservations.
We then proceeded to our cabin, 7092 was our assignment. The room was setting was a bit different. We loved that the sofa bed was not the typical uncomfortable pull out couch but a fold down type daybed. The set up for the bathroom was rather different. We like the idea of the WC and the shower being in two separate rooms. The one with the WC was very tight. The one with the shower was big enough and we liked the idea of the tub (although shorter than normal) and the hand held shower. This is the first time on a ship where the mini fridge actually gets things cold not just cool.
After putting away out stuff, we proceeded to the buffet for lunch. By the way, did I mention that this is a small ship? I like small ships, such as Celebrity's Summit. My wife likes the bigger ships. One can stand in the hallway at the stern end of the ship and see where the hallway ends at the bow section of the ship. The only time we used the elevators was when the wife was wearing high heels.
After lunch, we went to explore for a bit, then went down to our room to get ready for the Muster drill. This is the first time that we have attended a Muster drill that is held outside. This by itself is not really a problem. The problem is that of those who decide that they can show up at their leisure; say 30 minutes after the alarm went off. If there were a mobility issue or something to that affect, I can understand for the delay. But these few families did not present themselves with anything that could excuse delaying the hold drill. In particular when you have little ones that do not understand as to why you have to stand outside with 99% humidity while being baked by the heat of the sun. For crying out loud, the little ones have priorities, such as shaking hands with the Mouse.
With the Muster drill finally over, went up to deck nine for the sail away party. Once the party started, our oldest one wanted to go elsewhere. I mentioned that Mickey was coming out in a few minutes. Yes, I got that yeah right look, Mickey has been MIA (missing in action) since we boarded. A few minutes later the characters came out and I was no longer considered as one with lack of candor.
After the party, we went down to our room in order to unpack, take a shower and get ready for diner (we had late diner which believe it or not, worked out great for us).
After asking, the response we received here was that if a child over the age of three but still in diapers, such child would not be allowed to participate in the Children's club. Well, I am glad to report that they did accept little ones (ages = or > 3) wearing diapers with the caveat that the staff is not allowed to change diapers. But instead, they will send you a text message requesting your presence at the club.
The reason we picked this cruise is because of the itinerary (Bahamas and Key West) and the fact that it included a day with unlimited pass to Magic Kingdom or any of their other parks.
Castaway Cay was great. The little ones enjoyed their day at the beach. I was able to go out for a little snorkel adventure. This island took a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy in 2011. I was saddened to learn that their pirate ship did not survive the storm, as I was looking forward to seeing this ship. I am glad to report that the island is in great shape. The snorkeling area is not bad either. There are corals and sponges that one can see. The highlights were to be able to swim along such a variety of fish and to see the little statues and other man made items left for people to see under water. The food on the island was rather overcooked to say the least.
I was delighted to be able to see Kennedy Space Center from our balcony at port Canaveral. Our day at Magic Kingdom was magical. Out little ones had no idea where we were going until we arrived at the park. Their expressions were priceless. We arrived at the park at around 9 am. Three out of our four room keys did not work as an entry pass to the park. We had to go to the Customer Service Desk and get printed passes to gain entry to the park. We were back at the ship around 8-830 pm. Everyone had a great time at the park and the weather was great. During this sailing, I had a side bar conversation with the ship's doctor who informed me that the last time they did this itinerary; they had torrential rains all day when they stopped at port Canaveral.
Key West, the wife loves key lime pie and is a big fan of Bobby Flay (she loves eating at his restaurants as well). So off we go to the Key West Key Lime Pie Company. We tried the regular key lime pie as well as the chocolate dipped key lime pie. After our key lime pie pit stop, we went on a tour of the island via Key West tour train. Afterwards we went back to the ship for a quiet lunch.
Overall impressions, the service we received was phenomenal. We had a problem with the thermostat in our room and it was taken care of within an hour. Our attendant, Pa, even checked with us to confirm if we had reported a problem and if it had been fixed. The staff at the front desk where great as well, as all of our questions were answered and they even asked us questions to make sure we had taken care of things such as making transportation reservations to Magic Kingdom. Our waiter, Antonio from India, was awesome with our little ones. The food; in particular dinner was not bad. But it was not good either. This was a disappointment; the exception was Palo. We liked it so much that we went back for one more special dinner. Breakfast and lunch were pretty good, both the sit down restaurants and the buffet. We also like the food from Pluto's Dog house snack bar. I feel that they have the best pool side burgers and hot dogs I have had on board a ship. The food was not over or undercooked. We also enjoyed the food from Goofy's Galley. The pizzas from Pinnochio's Pizzeria were not bad in taste. I was not too fond of the already cooked pizza bread (pie crust) but the overall taste was not bad. We also enjoyed the quiet time at Cove Cafe. The one thing that I did not like is the fact that I could not get something as simple as cookies at 5 pm. I was informed that I could call room service and they would bring me some. Well, unfortunately, the rest of the family was napping and I did not want room service knocking on the door. On board other ships, one can go to either the buffet or somewhere else and get cookies. Yes, Cove Cafe has some pastries. But on two occasions, I was in the mood for chocolate chip cookies and milk and eat them by the pool. I knew where to get the milk. But cookies were nowhere to be found at that particular timeframe.
Another evening, I was in the mood for a cappuccino and some type of pastry. Cove Cafe was closed as they were doing an overall cleaning of the area. An officer informed me that the Coffee shop was actually opened and I could go in. Well it was not open, as I was walking away; the officer came looking for me to apologize for giving me erroneous information. She advised me that if I wanted a cappuccino, I could also get one at Promenade lounge. Boy, this really impressed me, rather than just blowing me off, this officer ensured that I receive the correct information. I did not go down to the Promenade lounge as they do not have pastries down there. Regardless, I was impressed with this type of service.
A sore issue I would like to touch in the problem with the Shutters Photo Studio. This problem had nothing to do with the staff. Just like with Celebrity, I like the idea of being able to purchase a CD containing all the pictures taken on board the ship. They have a program where they scan your key card each time they take a picture. Unfortunately, they also use a face recognition program that is not working. We had about 80 pictures taken. Our folio had over 2000 pictures in it with photos of people we did not even know. It is my understanding that there was a glitch with their face recognition program and it was focusing on people wearing certain colors. The staff was great and at the end was able to give us a DVD with all of our pictures. Steph, from South Africa, even went as far as pulling out a laptop to let me look at the pictures on the DVD. As I was about to go to bed, it hit me that none of the pictures from Orlando were on that DVD. Down I go to speak with Steph. The next morning she had another DVD with the pictures from Orlando. There are still a few pictures missing but I will contact Magic Kingdom directly and try to rectify this. On our last night, we also received two sets of autographs from all the characters that we had requested the first night on board the ship. Out little ones were delighted to see this.
We did get to see some of the shows at the theater. We saw part of the Villains tonight show which was interesting but funny. We saw the end of Disney Dreams which was outstanding. After seeing Disney Dreams, we figured that the finale should be a must see. Well, it was not good at all.
The little ones loved going to the club. One of them would get bored easily but the staff would find something else to do. Sadly, it appears as if the staff working the Children's Club do not get many cash tips. I asked Benji, the assistant manager I believe, how they handled the tips. He informed me that they pool together all of the tips and by food for staff events and such. When I stopped by to leave a tip later that night, the staff member was rather surprised that we were handing them a tip.
Another disappointment was debarkation, in one word; chaos. Once those families that chose to self-debark from the ship, there is no organization for leaving the ship. Other cruise lines, you are given a color tag or something to that event. Everyone leaves the ship based on the order of the tag that they call out. In order to avoid all this we just sat down and waited for the lines to thin out.
The face of our little ones as they met with the characters, whether at the photo sessions or by chance while walking around the ship was priceless. Would we make DCL out cruise line of choice? No. Would we ever consider sailing DCL again? Yes, if we could find a similar itinerary as the one that we just took.