We were first time cruisers on a family reunion and now we are convinced, a Disney cruise is the only way to take a vacation. From the moment we arrived outside the terminal, we were greeted with smiling faces wishing us a "Magical Day". The process of going through the terminal moved smoothly with crew/cast members sharing in our excitement. At the last moment, without thinking, I threw all of our printouts from the on line check in (ie. contract, contact info) into our checked bags. No problem, it was only one brief stop in the terminal to take care of that.
Once on board, we were a slightly irritated by the swarm of waiters trying to sell us the water bottle package while we tried to eat. After the 5th time, we gave in and immediately, the requests stopped. Unfortunately, the bottled water tasted like sweat and not worth "the deal". Next time we'll tell them outright that we already packed our own (and we will).
The cabin was ready by 1:30 but our bags did not arrive until during our dinner so we did not have our leis for the send off party or our nicer clothes for dinner. Next time, we will put that in carry on since we were able to get into the cabin so quickly.
The food was as expected...wonderful! Not so much that we felt stuffed and unable to move after eating, and we never left hungry. Our wait staff were difficult to understand at times due to accents but we worked around that. After Ivan cut up her food, my teenage daughter asked if we could take him home! They work hard, and non-stop for 86 hours a week, with the bulk of their pay coming from gratuities. And they earn every penny of it. The restaurants were as entertaining as the shows. We were at table 65 on the aisle and had great seats with Mickey dancing next to us. The other members or our party were in the corner (table 34) and did not see as much.
The shows were just as you would expect from Disney. We loved Ron Pearson, the comedian. His shows were good, clean, fun with lots of audience participation. Sit close to the stage if possible. The music and dancing were great and we were thrilled to see some of the performers working other areas of the ship (lining up people for characters) so that we could talk with them about their experiences.
Castaway Cay was excellent but the sting ray excursion was not worth the money. It was a large area to snorkel with the rays, but they stayed near the shore where the feeders were. There was very little else to see in the deeper waters so we ended up sitting on the shore with our feet in the water letting the rays swim around them. Again, Disney does it right because after a hot day at the beach, we were greeted at the boat with fresh ice water and a cold wash cloth! Our heroes!
My 11 year old son went to Ocean Quest only twice and had bad experiences both times. The Quest is for 11-13 year olds, and apparently, the 13 year olds ruled the roost. After waiting for his turn on the video games, an older boy would cut in front of him...he was not aware of any sign up procedure for the games. He felt bullied. My 14 year old went often to the teen stack but as the evening went on, she felt increasingly uncomfortable with the 16 and 17 year olds dancing/grinding with each other. Staff did frequently ask them to keep their hands to themselves... She loved playing dodgeball at midnight, illuminated only by glow necklaces. Karoke was always a good time. Bingo became very expensive ($30 for a sheet; $70 for a family pack-I guess I wouldn't be complaining if I won...oh well...) The game shows and trivia contest were fun (nothing like a little friendly competition and yes, we did win...) When the sun was too hot (the pool was not worth sitting near and was too small to enjoy) our family enjoyed some down time sitting in the air conditioned Diversions Sports Bar (kids allowed prior to 9 PM) to play board games and fooseball. Very few people took advantage of this space during the day. I enjoyed reading next to the large window and watching the dolphins take up the currents. Deck 4 was also very comfortable and quiet with nice cushioned loungers.
The last night was spectacular as the Captain moved us quickly through the day to get as close to Port Canaveral as possible. The shuttle launch went off at midnight and it was a spectacular sight to see from 70 miles off the coast! It was the highlight of the trip for some of us. More Disney magic thanks to the Captain.
We left the boat quickly while other members of our party stayed on until later in the morning. Leaving went as smoothly and quickly as boarding. Some members of our party had damaged luggage and is waiting to hear from Disney.
Just need to say again: DISNEY DOES IT RIGHT! and Have a Magical Day!
PS: We stayed for 2 nights at the Radisson in port Canaveral...Friday night was free so we upgraded to a suite. Beautiful accommodations with a Sleep Number bed that allows you to adjust the firmness. The pool was gorgeous with a cabana man tending to our needs. Upon return, we spent a night at the Hilton in downtown Disney and were able to see EPCOT and the castle from our 7th floor room. Check in for both hotels was at 3 pm but the Radisson allowed us in at noon and the Hilton let us in at 9 am.