Pre-Cruise We were scheduled to take a morning flight from Philadelphia to Orlando on Wednesday, but because of the snow warning, we changed our flight to Tuesday morning. AirTran was nice enough to not charge us for the change because they had already canceled the Wednesday flight. We got to Orlando at about 3 and it was raining so hard, we had to take the rental car shuttle across the two-lane street. We picked up the car (free upgrade to a minivan, thanks Alamo!) and went to the hotel we had reserved that morning quickly on priceline. The hotel was the Radisson Lake Buena Vista right outside of the disney resort. We got two rooms. They didn't have any connecting rooms available, to they upgraded us to mini suites for free! One of the rooms equaled the size of the two rooms on the ship we had. We went to Red Lobster for an early dinner with my four-year-old and my three older ones, 17, 15, and 13, went to the Denny's in the mall behind the hotel. The next day, the kids and I went over to universal. NOT WORTH THE MONEY! Due to time restraints, we could only be there for two hours. Last year when we went to the park they let us buy tickets in different hourly increments. This year, they changed it so you have to buy the day pass. It was $56.99 per person! At about 4, we drove down to the Radisson Resort at the Port next to Port Canaveral. We decided to get only one room, because the price of the trip kept increasing. This was one of the worst decisions I have ever made. Sleeping in the same small (yes, only about 150 sq. ft.) hotel room with two parents, three teenagers, and a four year old is much harder than it seems. I ended up on the floor between the beds. My 13 and 15 year olds were on one bed (attacking each other non-stop), my wife and 4 year old were on the other bed and my 17 year old was seeping in the bathtub (seems like the best place in the room).
Check-In and Embarkation On Thursday morning, we took the 11 am shuttle to Terminal 8. We got out of the shuttle and gave our luggage to the porters. The terminal was under construction to accommodate the new Dream-class ships so it looked like a construction zone outside. The inside, however, was nicely decorated and had the stereotypical disney look that all disney things have. The greeters were wearing mickey mouse hand gloves. We got to the check-in line and were given boarding group 5 cards. Check-In was smooth except for the room assignments. To book a room just for children under 18, you have to have someone over 18 booked in the room also. We booked one room, 1043, with myself, 17, 15, and 13 in it. Our other room, 1045, was booked for my wife and 4 year old. The check-in counter person wasn't allowed to change our rooms, so she had to call for a supervisor who did it with no questions asked. I think there would have been problems if our rooms were not booked next-to each other. After check-in, we had to have our Key to the World card pictures taken. Only took about 10 minutes. We were handed the personal navigator and our number was called. We headed through the mickey portal and waited in the boarding queue. We boarded the ship and the little man from England announced, "Ladies and Gentleman, Please welcome, all the way from snowy Philadelphia, the ***** family!" He then told us that the cabins would be ready at 1:30. He recommended we go to the Beach Blanket Buffet for lunch before more people started to board. Good advice on his part. The Buffet was already MOBBED. We got there at about noon. We found a table for 6 and sat down to an amazing meal. After our meal, it was already 1 pm (we talked about rules like curfew, using the change cards, and manners). We headed down to deck 4 and walked around the promenade. At 1:30 we headed down to deck 1 to "move in" to the cabins.
Cabins We had Deluxe Inside Cabins 1043 and 1045 on deck 1. The cabins were located in between the forward and midship elevators, but we tended to use the midship ones (everyone says they are always crowded, but we never had to wait more than a minute, except for meal time). The cabins were 212 sq. ft. and there was plenty of room for 3 people in each. The closet was generously sized and the double bathroom design is genius (cense then, we have cruised on the carnival dream and the two bathroom rooms on carnival are a much better design than the disney ones.). There was plenty of drawer space for everything we needed to store. The beverage cooler was not cold at all. My wife is diabetic so we asked them for a mini fridge and it was in the room when we came back from he muster drill. There was a queen bed (supposedly convertible to two singles, but our housekeeping person said they weren't.), a single convertible sofa, and an upper pull-down bed in each room. Our 4 year old wanted to sleep on the upper bunk, but was scared the first night so he slept on the couch the other two. Our 17 year old got the other bed, the 15 year old got the couch, and the 13 year old got the upper berth. The 13 and 15 complained to us every day saying they should each get a turn in the queen bed, but we thought it was easier to just leave things as they were. Overall, the cabins were nicely designed and very family-friendly.
Dining The dining venues on the ship were all amazing. The first night we were assigned Tritons, the second Animators Palate, and the third Parrot Cay. The menu was different for each night. We all enjoyed the Animators Palate show dinner the most. We liked the food at Parrot Cay the best. We unanimously hated Tritons. The decor and the food were really bad. The waiters asked us on the last night what our least favorite restaurant was and we told them our comments on Tritons and they said they would tell the restaurant manager. The Beach Blanket Buffet was the casual dining room. The food was standard buffet food. Pinocchio's Pizzeria and Pluto's Dog House were the poolside counters. Goofy's Galley had fruit and Ice Cream. Each of these places had a bar as well.
Pools and Fitness The pools were heated and perfect for families. 4 year old loved Mickey's Pool. Teens loved Goofy's Pool. We loved Quiet Cove Pool. My wife used the fitness center every morning. She said it was one of the best she has ever seen. It totally one-up's the Carnival Dream Fitness Center.
Oceaneer Club 4 year old loved oceaneer club. He was never complaining when we dropped him off or picked him up.
Aloft My 3 Teens loved Aloft, well I think so. I never saw them at night except for check-in's. They were always up those steps that parents aren't allowed to go up. Did you know that the only way to use the elevators to get to deck 11 is if you have a special Key Card? Teens can swipe the card and they go up to deck 11 without stopping at any other deck. They said this was so no one who was not supposed to go to the teen club could never get in. What happens is if someone else is in the elevator, the teens were told to press deck 10 and then swipe the card so it stops there to either let off the passenger or to be used as a fake button press. They can swipe the card again to cancel the fake command. It seemed like a system that would be in place for an adults only deck on a different cruise line, not a teen lounge on disney.
Entertainment We didn't go to any shows, so I can't rate this section accurately.
Nassau My teens took the Atlantis AquaVenture and we took the Atlantis Beach Day Excursions. Atlantis is an amazing place and we are planning a trip there for another vacation.
Castaway Cay We were scheduled to dock at castaway cay on Saturday, but the Disney Magic was unable to leave the port so we had an unexpected sea day.
Overall Reaction The entire cruise experience was amazing. We will diffidently cruise again, well we already did. We have decided to avoid taking a disney cruise if possible. We think disney is very kid oriented so we would rather take a cruise more centered around active excursions activities, on and off the ship. Cruises are truly the best vacation you could ever take because of how they try to cater to everyone's needs.