Background - Me, my wife and 12 yo DD. Past cruises are 7 Carnival, 7 RCI, and one Celebrity.
Friends with us were a couple with two DD's, 6 and 13, 2 cruises with RCI. Also another friend with her 11 yo DD.
We had heard so many good things about Disney and had been told that once we cruised Disney we would be hooked. We will get to that in this review....
Embarkation - We were given a PAT of 11:15 - 11:30. We took a taxi from the Residence Inn at 10:30, arriving at approx. 10:45. After turning the bag over to a porter, we went upstairs and got in the security line. Steady flow through security, and in 10 or so minutes, we were upstairs to check in and get our KTTW cards. We were given boarding number 7, and off we went to wait. We got in line for our pic with Mickey, and just like it was planned, as we finished up, our number was called. On the ship in just a few minutes after getting in line (boarding photo included). At this point we wandered our way to the elevator, and off to Cabana's for lunch. After lunch, the pool deck was packed, and the line for Aqua Duck was fairly long. As the kids attempted to swim in the oversized bathtubs, we sat and waited for the room to open. At 1:30 we made our way to deck 7 to find chaos. The barriers were still up and stayed up until about 1:40. Then it was a mad dash to the rooms.
Room - Room 7106, it was very roomy, and just right for the three of us. We liked the split bathrooms and the round tub/shower. Storage was plentiful, but the closets seemed smaller than other ships we have sailed.
Tween Club - Since our daughters were 10,12 and 13 they were off to explore the Edge. while there were plenty of activities in the Edge, they were not enough to hold the attention of our girls. Our 12 yo, and 13 yo found the teen club on RCI Freedom of the Seas more intriguing in November.
Pools and Pool Deck - The pools on all ships are undersized, but on this ship they are PAINFULLY undersized! on most any day, they become glorified bathtubs for kids and adults alike. Far too many people for even children to enjoy. The adults only pool in Quiet Cove is fairly enjoyable, and normally not too crowded. The Aqua Duck is fun, but on sea days the line is horrendously long. If you have little kids, they will enjoy Nemo's Reef, which is shaded, and there is another play area, called the Aqua Lab I believe, but also geared toward younger children. Another area where this ship was different, was the chairs near both pools are sit up chars, not lounge type chairs where you can lay down in the sun. The only reason I can think of, is so parents are forced to sit upright so they can watch their children. Finding a lay down chair in the "non-adult's only" area on sea days can be very challenging. I know this an issue on other lines, but it is exacerbated on this ship due to the chair layout near the pools. All in all, Disney missed the mark when it came to pools and deck layout.
Dining - Here is where I feel like Disney missed the mark. There were very few dishes that were great in the dining rooms, and I cannot think of one I finished and thought I would want more. The selection and availability of foods is an issue also. After lunch is over, you must go to the dining room, or a sit down at Cabana's. Other cruise lines have a buffet, or other selections available very late or 24 hrs. In my opinion, RCI or Carnival beats Disney in the food category. This was not a deal breaker in and of itself, but a place for improvement in my eyes. We had Nicolas and Luis as our waiters, and they were wonderful. They always took great care of us and our needs, and were very eager to please. Our head waiter was Fitz from Jamaica and he was the best also. He always made sure we were happy, and he was so funny too. Hands down the best head waiter we have had on any cruise.
Shows - We liked the shows we attended, but unless you are a Disney fanatic, or under 10, they were just OK. Definitely better than the stuff Carnival is trying to pass off as shows of late, but not as good as RCI, especially on Allure of the Seas.
Castaway Cay - Awesome. Thanks to our friends who had a Concierge room, they were able to get a last minute cabana, and cabana #17 at that. Since it is the last cabana on the family beach, we had the entire end of the private beach and a small "lagoon" all to ourselves. Combined with the wonderful weather, this location, and staff who kept us in drinks and such, we had a blast. Pelican plunge was fun also.
Overall - We had a great cruise, wonderful times with friends, and some of the best weather in several cruises. While we did enjoy ourselves, and are happy for the experience, I am not sure DCL is right for us at this point of our lives. If our DD was younger, she would enjoy it more. Given the price difference for DCL, we will most likely stick with other cruise lines in the future.