I've definitely heard the term "great product, not for us" thrown around a few times lately...and I have to say that this is probably the best way to describe our experience with Disney Cruise Line.
Now, there will be no bashing here-because we really did have an amazing time, and I think that if one is traveling with children, Disney Cruise Line is probably by far the best way to go. But I have to write from the heart about my experience, and writing from the heart means admitting things like: we checked with the onboard booking specials and could have gotten a great price (for a Disney cruise, anyway) on a cruise in October, but decided to forgo that option because as adults traveling without children, the experience simply wasn't worth the cost for us.
First things first-I do have to express my absolute love of Disney's alcohol policy, that being: if you can fit it in the designated carry-on, you can get it on the ship! We brought four pint bottles and some nippers with us, and I can't even fathom how much money that saved us in the long run. That, and it was nice to be able to run by the (free!) drink station and mix up a nice strong rum and coke or bourbon and coke when the urge grabbed us, rather than heading off to a bar and just hoping that they put a proper amount of alcohol in your drink.
However. In the end, the cost of the cruise itself was prohibitive enough that we probably could have gone on another cruise line (for instance, we could have spent half the amount on the cruise and had an oceanview room on Royal Caribbean rather than an inside room on Disney) and ended up spending the same amount on cruise fare plus alcohol as we did on just the cruise fare for Disney.
Another huge plus for this cruise was the adults-only area. Better lounge chairs, a nice quiet pool, and two jacuzzis-it was perfect. There were maybe two times when cast members had to ask children to leave the area, but the point is-they actually asked them to leave. Adults only means adults only! (And thank God for that). Plus it was right next to the spa, and we purchased Rainforest Room passes in order to take advantage of their amazing steam rooms and aromatherapy showers. We also enjoyed the adults-only Cove Cafe quite a few times-great coffee, great little snacks (mini caprese sandwiches and the like), and the best service on the ship!
Last but not least, I could never say enough good things about Disney's private island, Castaway Cay. Beautiful, clean, and again-an amazing adults-only area. Not to mention beachfront cabanas in which one can receive a massage. We partook in this "activity" and it was the most amazing massage I've ever had-mainly because of the location, but let's not get picky, right?
Now, for the not-so-amazing bits...the food was good, but not the best I've had on a cruise. I was only truly impressed on two separate occasions-when we went to the buffet for lunch on the first day, and when we went to Palo for dinner. Of course, the only time I was actually unimpressed was when I tried the pizza at the poolside counter. It was gummy and tasteless and kind of, well, gross. But otherwise, our dinner at Parrot Cay on the first night was above average, and the dinner at Animator's Palate on the last night was okay as well.
The deck parties (the sail away party on the first day, and the Pirate party on the second night) were very obviously geared toward children. I remember loving the sail away party on my Carnival cruise, so I was a bit disappointed with Disney's...the area where it was held (decks nine and ten) were simply too small for the crowd of people.
I think the Pirate party could have been a total blast had I not spent the entire time being jostled by the family standing next to us and worrying about the fact that the mother had her 5 or 6 year old son standing on top of a trash can on the top deck of the boat. This was the one time when I was truly frustrated that cast members were walking by us and not saying anything to this mother about her children.
Finally, our stop in Nassau was very disappointing, but I won't go into detail about that now, because it really is an entire separate blog in itself.
When I said that this was a great product-I still think that if you are cruising with young children (as in, any children under the age of 12), Disney Cruise Line is the way to go. Their deck parties and shows are geared toward kids. They offer discounted children's rates, which other cruise lines don't. Sodas and whatnot are included with your meals and if you get them from the drink station on deck nine, so there's no paying extra for a soda card once on board. They've got opportunities to meet characters left and right. Their rooms are bigger than other cruise lines. And I can only imagine that it would be a great vacation to do a 3 day cruise and then spend 4 days at Walt Disney World.
Would I do another Disney cruise? Yes, if I had the extra vacation and if the price actually dropped to $400 per person or less for an inside cabin. I would do it for the Cove Cafe, the adults-only area, the Rainforest room at the spa, Castaway Cay and the beachfront couples massage. And again, we did have an amazing vacation regardless! I just wish that it hadn't been quite so pricey, because I'm not sure we really got our money's worth.