Previous cruises: 2 on Carnival, 1 on Norwegian
Number in Party: 3 (wife, 3 year old and myself), plus in separate rooms: grandparents (2) and friends (family of 4)
Type of Room: Ocean view on Deck 8, grandparents and friends both had balcony rooms on deck 8
Cost of room: For the 3 of us it was $1500 inc. taxes, we purchased through Costco Travel
Sail Date: January 26, 2014
Highlights: Great food, entertainment, service and Castaway Cay was the best day of the trip
Downsides: Dress policy was not enforced at the sit-down restaurants and embarkation/debarkation was a bit of a mess
Embarkation: We were delayed by a late off-site parking shuttle bus, so missed our assigned check in group time. We had to wait in line to check-in (around 11am), about 20mins, then about 5mins to upgrade our room to the same floor as the grandparents and friends ($100 fee). Finally, it took about 15mins to line up and get on board the ship. The gangway was jammed, so they let people not wishing to have their boarding pic taken around the jam and we were finally aboard. We went for lunch at the sit down restaurant on deck 2, which consisted of a buffet. At first, there were few people in line but as more people boarded it got pretty busy and took a while to get some food. We then went to check out the Oceaneer’s club and register our 3 year old son. For whatever reason, their computer system had problems checking us in. It took multiple people about 30mins to sort it all out. In the meantime we looked around the clun and marveled at all the activities available for all ages. Everything was very clean and well maintained. We had to drag our sone away in order to check into our room. Our room was ready by the promised time of 1:30pm. It took some time for our 2 checked bags to be delivered however. They actually sent the wrong bags to our room, I’m assuming the baggage handlers didn’t get the memo that we changed rooms at boarding. A call to guest services fixed the problem quickly and we had our bags delivered soon after.
Room: Modern, clean and well designed. The entrance ‘hallway’ is a bit tight as it also contains the bathrooms and the closets, but I think that is true for most rooms of this type. The bed was very comfortable and a good size. As everyone mentions, the storage space under the bed is very convenient. The sofa converted into a full size bed, that was long enough to accommodate even me, at 6’2”. The bar fridge was big enough to accommodate a 6 pack of beer and a couple bottles of wine. At first it didn’t seem cold enough but later in the trip we found that some of our drinks were icy so it did get pretty cold. The tv was a flat screen, around 22” and featured most Disney movies plus some limited tv, not that we watched much of that. There was a small desk and chair and many electrical outlets all over the room which was handy. There was a radio with iPod dock and a chest that had storage space inside and could also be used to sit on or as a table top. The best feature was the huge ocean view window that took up most of the wall. Our son could sit on the padded edge and look outside. The split bathroom was also handy and well designed. The shower/bath was plenty big for bathing our son and for taking showers. I didn’t feel cramped at all.
Food: Very good, best we’ve had on a cruise so far. The buffet options at Cabanas were plentiful and of good quality. For breakfast I enjoyed the multiple selection of smoked salmon and fish with bagels. Lunch had a lot of rice and seafood dishes along with plenty of veges, fruit, grilled meats and pasta dishes. The sit down restaurants were enjoyable and catered very well to the kids in our party of 9. We were able to order off the adult menu for our son, although the kid’s menu did feature some decent options besides the requisite hotdogs and mac and cheese. The ‘adult’ food options were very good, my favourite was on the first night with a great rack of lamb. Other nights I had mahi mahi, and other fish dishes. The only let down was a very ordinary conch soup starter which was floury and didn’t feature any conch that I could tell. The kids loved the interactive features of the animator’s palace restaurant, made for a fun dining experience. We ate at Palo’s one night ($25 each) and really enjoyed the food there. We started with some antipasta, assembled tableside, and enjoyed a multi course meal with impeccable service. Dessert at the end was also very impressive with a pretty spectacular chocolate soufflé. My only gripe, which others have also expressed, was that dress code was not enforced at the sit down restaurants. These are very nice venues and it seemed appropriate to dress accordingly. Unfortunately many guest were in casual clothes, including shorts and flip flops, which really took away from the atmosphere.
Fitness: I went to the gym once and it was a good facility. Plenty of cardio machines, ie. treadmills and ellipticals, I didn't have trouble finding a free machine. There was a large selection of weight machines and also a set of free weights, although no barbells. The room didn't feel crowded even though there were plenty people in there. The locker rooms were very nice and spacious. I didn't check out the other facilities but the overall gym/spa looked nice and was clean and modern. The walking track on deck 4 was nice and featured the same rubberized deck covering that was on the main deck 11, making for comfortable walking. 2 and a half laps equaled a mile.
Excursions: We didn't take any so can't comment on them. We stayed on ship the day we were in Nassau so that our son could enjoy deck 11 with minimal crowds. Turned out to be a good decision as it was a lot quieter than on other days.
Entertainment: Once again, very good. The nightly theatre productions were very entertaining and featured pyrotechnics and good audio/visual effects. The actors were good and there were plenty of Disney characters to keep the kids happy. These shows were also not too long, my 3 year old made it through no probs. We didn’t get to catch a movie, but the movie theatre was pretty impressive, large enough to be the same as any movie theatre on land and also featured 3-D films. The oceaneer’s club was great, but unfortunately my son didn’t want to be apart from us so we couldn’t take advantage of checking him in for a few hours. Hopefully on our next cruise this won’t be a problem! The main deck, deck 11, was were all the outdoor action was, from the Aquaduck, to the mickey slide, the Nemo splash park and 2 pools along with the huge movie screen. Our son enjoyed all of it, except for the aquaduck since he was too small, 42” height requirement. The pool was busy but we never had a problem finding chairs or space to wade around. Cabanas was close by to grab lunch, or snacks at mater’s grill. Just around the corner was the adult pool section and it was amazing how quiet and calm it was being so close to the activity at the main pool area. Most days, a steel drummer would play which helped add to the ambience. This is also where the Café was were you could get decent coffee drinks, from an espresso machine (for a charge) along with a selection of pastries (included). It was also a calm oasis, with comfortable chairs and lounges. The Disney Island (Castaway Cay) was most impressive. Not only does the ship dock there (instead of having to take tenders from the main ship), but there are multiple beaches to choose from so it’s not hard to find chairs or space on the beach. The waterslides out in the water were fun, and so was the bike trails. The 3 restaurants (2 main and 1 adult only) served good grilled food, cooked over hardwood charcoal. There was a small splash park for the kids, sheltered basketball courts, volleyball courts, multiple bars and restrooms. We spent all day here and really enjoyed it. People started leaving for the ship early so it was pretty quiet between 2 and 5. The adult beach is beautiful and quiet, a great place to relax.
Drinks: So we took advantage of the bring your own booze policy and brought on a case of beer and almost a case of wine to share with our friends, who also brought on a similar amount. I’m a beer snob so brought on a good selection of craft beer. I was happy to find that Sam Adams boston lager was available on board along with Kona brewing longboard lager and Golden Ale (in some select bars), and a house beer at the 687 pub that is contract brewed by a brewery in Oregon (according to the bar tender). Otherwise, the selection on offer is the usual cast of macrobrew characters, with imports including Heineken, Stella, Bass, Guiness, Newcastle and Boddingtons. Wine corkage at the restaurants was $20. Each day featured a drink special, including $3.95 bloody marys. We were discreet with consuming our own drinks, and even enjoyed them on Cast Away Cay. Prices actually aren’t bad, with beers at $4.50 to $5.50, plus tip.
Service. Very good. Everyone from our room attendant to the restaurant waiters were very friendly and professional. Our room attendant made sure to keep our ice bucket filled and turned down our room when we were out and about so we never had to wait for service. Our assigned waiters were excellent, great with the kids and personable. We ordered room service twice and it took about 15-20mins each time. These people work hard and they must endure a lot of difficult guests and a hectic schedule. I ended up giving them extra tips at the end of the cruise because I felt they worked hard for it.
Debarkation: We started getting announcements at 7am about getting ready to get off the ship on the final day of the cruise. The night before, you had the option of leaving checked luggage outside your door for pick up. We walked off with all of our luggage. Beforehand, we enjoyed one last sit down meal, breakfast. I had assumed that people were disembarking since 7 that morning but when we went to the main entrance (around 9am) there was a crush of people waiting to get off. After some time, they finally opened the gates and we all moved/pushed through to the gangway and through customs. Not sure if there was a delay in the debarkation time. Anyway, it seemed pretty unorganized and hectic, it took about 30mins to get through customs and out of the terminal.
Overall: Disney really knows how to run a cruise. Everything was pretty top notch in my opinion and for the price we paid (off season), it was great value. Yes, the boat caters to the kids with all kinds of entertainment for them, but adults had plenty to do as well and I would be very happy cruising without our son as there were plenty of adult areas and entertainment that we didn't get the chance to enjoy (e.g. the district, and some adult only shows). Also, I didn't feel pressured to buy anything, e.g. photos, drinks, excursions etc. as I have on other cruises. Which was somewhat surpising given the merchandise juggernaut that is Disney. Anyway, I would definitely do this cruise again, especially at off-season pricing.