We booked the 5/15/10, 11-night sailing in December enticed by discounts and the Mediterranean itinerary. This was the first cruise for our family of four (parents plus two elementary-school age boys). Typically, we are a family that camps or enjoys condo/cabin rental on our own, so we were nervous about the structure of the cruise. The following is our quick impression of the cruise experience. Note: We recommend the 11-day over the 10-day itinerary as you will need the rest day/day-at-sea in the middle of the trip.
Accommodations: We were upgraded to a ocean-view, deluxe stateroom. The four of us were cozy, but the beds were comfortable. Having a small fridge and the upgraded bathroom were convenient features. Being able to see the sunrise and sunset through a window quickly became a favorite part of the day. We are generally sound sleepers, so noise reported in other reviews, did not pose a problem for us.
Meals: The formal seating for dinner experience depends entirely on your server. The stiff routine of going to dinner at the same time wore on us down in the second week, and we took the opportunity to eat at Topsider's buffet several times due to the following advantages: 1) ability to eat outside with a port view; 2) same menu selection as the dining rooms; 3) casual dress and atmosphere was more comfortable for the kids; 4) the food was often hotter/fresher in the buffet. The food was generally good, but not spectacular. We never ate at Palo's since we were unable to secure a reservation.
Ship Experience: The kids' clubs were a bonus. Our kids loved going to the Oceaneers' Lab allowing us some unexpected freedom both aboard and ashore. The kids seemed to get enough supervision...although one of the counselors stated that they only had 500+ kids on the cruise (up to 1100 on Caribbean cruises). The ship's Cast-Off and Pirate Parties seemed to be heavy on dancing with little activity. The Disney character breakfasts and meetings were highlights. There was a lot of interaction with the characters each day. Loved the mix of US, UK and European cruisers.
Ports: (Note: don't expect much help in planning your shore days from the Disney Desk staff. They didn't have museum/attraction hours or many shore contacts at their disposal, or, a willingness to look them up on the internet. They seemed to rely on the shore excursion staff. Hopefully this will change later in the summer)
Valletta, Malta: Grand Harbor was beautiful. Grandmaster's Palace and St. John's Co-Cathedral were worth seeing. No swimming near the Blue Grotto due to jellyfish. Mdina was indeed quiet and small. The saluting cannon at noon in the Upper Barrakka Garden was exciting for young kids. Try the pastizzi for a quick snack.
Tunis, Tunisia: Medina was crowded and geared to siphon money, but the quality of the pottery was amazing. Sidi Bou Said was beautiful: lovely views of the sea. Carthage was filled with garbage and not presented well. The port facilities are being upgraded. The taxi service at the dock was hit-and-miss as far as the quality.
Naples: Private tour of Pompeii and Amalfi Coast was incredible. No bus access down into Positano or Amalfi so hire a private van ahead of time to maximize your time (AP Tours was great). History buffs will need more than 2-hours in Pompeii. Sorrento was also picturesque. Others on the cruise loved the Museum of Archeology in Naples, but it closed at 6 PM before we could get back.
Civitavecchia: Rome in May was still crowded, but more manageable than in Summer. Disney did a good job with the excursion as the guide was knowledgeable and accommodating. Not much to see near the port.
La Spezia: Line up early for the tender on this a.m. Took the train to the Cinque Terra: don't buy a train ticket, buy the Cinque Terra card for both train fare and trail access. Trail between Monterosso and Vernazza was closed due to slides, but should be open by mid-June.
Ajaccio, Corsica: Rented a car to drive to the west side of the island. Saw Les Calanches, Piana, and Cargese on a beautiful drive. Spent 2.5 hours on a deserted beach near Sagone in crystal blue water. Loved this stop. Getting a taxi or rental car on a Sunday from the port is a hassle, so plan accordingly. Also, Corsica is expensive.
Villefranche, France: Loved the charm of Villefranche; however, by afternoon the beach was crowded. The outdoor market in Nice was easy to reach by bus (#81, 1 Euro) from 3 blocks above the tender port. Tender port has free Wi-Fi. Made it up to Eze from Nice on the #82 bus for a great view, but not much else. Definitely eat dinner on Deck 10 at Topsider's on this night for the view.
Barcelona: Great city to depart/arrive a cruise. Plenty to do and the taxis are reasonable. Didn't use Disney transfers as it was only 25 Euros to go from the airport to our hotel, and 35 Euros from the boat to the airport. Recommend Hotel Fira Palace due to the price, proximity to the Magic Fountain, ability to sleep 4 in a single room, and for the workout facilities. Spent 2 days in city prior to the cruise...just enough time. Easy embarkation process at port.
Thanks Disney for a rewarding experience.