This was my 7th cruise, but first on a Disney ship. I am converted forever! Yes, they are more expensive... and worth every single penny! I figured that my 3 year old would never want to leave (which is exactly what happened) but to my surprise, neither did I!
The Dream is a large ship, but immediately feels like home as soon as you embark. Our daughter had already had a photo shoot with Mickey at the port, the first of many. At the parks, it is extremely difficult to meet characters, so if your kids want a chance, this is the place to do it. Our daughter met Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, all of the Disney Princesses, Goofy, Peter Pan, Tinker Bell and Jake. Many of these, she was able to meet multiple times and we got hundreds of photos on our own camera, which was surprising as well. The characters were so great with her, so patient and kind. And Snow White has become her absolute favorite Princess now, calling my daughter by name during the Princess Gathering from meeting her the day before. That is so impressive.
The cabins are quite a bit larger than normal, and the split bathrooms (sink and toilet in one, shower and sink in the other) were very convenient. Plenty of storage space, I never felt cramped with three of us in there. We had an ocean view family stateroom, with a HUGE window (I'd say 5 feet by 3 feet) that makes the cabin seem even larger.
The food is good in the buffet (Lido Deck) and in the restaurants. I wouldn't say great because it was GREAT at Palo, one of the adult only restaurants. Italian food, but very upscale and I was extremely impressed as it was only a $25 pp charge. This was easily a $40-50 meal. Bars are great too, and I felt the drinks were reasonably priced throughout the ship ($6 daiquiris pool deck, etc.)
We tried the martini tasting as well as the cognac tasting. None that we tried were anything we hadn't tried before, but they both were awesome experiences as the bartender was extremely knowledgeable, so we learned quite a bit, and it was fun!
We've been to the Bahamas several times before, so instead of getting off the ship in Nassau, we had a spa day. Wonderful facilities. We did a couples massage and facial in a huge room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the beautiful water. Amazing. I have had better massages, but I still felt it worth the price for what we got.
Castaway Cay is a blast! I thought it might be kind of cheesy and overpriced, but it wasn't! I felt like I was in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, the island was decorated and well kept. 3 separate areas- one with tiki bar/restaurant area and watersports, one with a great beach and where you rent your bikes (which we did, and had a blast biking throughout the island with our daughter), and one adult only area with cabanas.
The service was impeccable throughout the whole vacation. Usually on cruises it is hit or miss, but every single person from the port to the ship, to the island, were smiling and nothing but helpful. Claire, our server at Palo was awesome. I usually don't remember servers name 3 weeks later, but that just shows you the impression she made. Just fantastic service all around. The characters as well, they were amazing.
We will be back on this cruise next year for sure. It is now an annual trip and I absolutely can't wait!