The embarkation process was OK. We had expected some readily observable improvements to the terminal but did not recognize anything significant. Disney really needed to add space and seating areas due to their system of embarkation. I like that they gradually board people so that large masses do not flood the ship too quickly, but if you want to slowly embark the ship more seating would be nice. Disney also likes to announce your family by name as you board like they do at their character dining venues in the parks. The purpose is to emulate being announced to the "court" so to speak much as you would have been announced during the rule of monarchs. We like this touch although I have read others describe this gesture as "cheesy". My 7 year old daughter loves it. Once onboard the ship everything was peaceful and orderly. We proceeded to Cabanas (Topsider on the Magic and Wonder) for lunch. The Enchanted Garden restaurant was also open for lunch. Actually, my daughter and I rode the Aquaduck 2 times before eating lunch before it got crowded. We were #5 group to board and #1 on the 3 nt B2B leg so we were able to get in a few rides before it got crowded. Disney buffet lunches are better than all of the RCI lunches we have experienced in the Windjammer. Disney makes their foods in the kitchens and this is quite evident in the dessert preparations. I might pick up a cookie in the Windjammer on RCI but consider the desserts to be bland and relatively tasteless. RCI's desserts appear to be made off the ship and brought on to the ship. The desserts on a Mediterranean cruise with RCI were exactly the same as those in the Caribbean itineraries. I do not complain since the price is less on RCI and expect Disney's buffet to be better since I pay more. The meats are almost always not overdone sitting under heat lamps too long. The breads and meats are of a higher quality. There is always a freshly baked warm cake available that varies daily with sauces (such as caramel or vanilla) and nuts and other toppings. The fruit salad is freshly chopped and includes large portions of fresh Mango rather than the canned variety on RCI.
Our cabin, #2010-outside ocean view, was ready after lunch and was beautiful. We had originally booked a cabin on deck 5 inside intentionally so we could experience the virtual portholes with Disney characters showing up from time to time. Leslie, on the Magic, booked only me because we were going to transfer a deposit from another cruise and advised me to book the rest of the family upon our return home. This was a big mistake. When we tried to book the rest of the family with our travel agent we were told that Coast Guard restrictions for capacity on our deck and section of the ship would not allow us to book 4 people in the cabin. Since we had returned home, more people had booked on our deck. We were moved to #2010 instead and did not mind. We were 1-2 flights of stairs down from the restaurants and the theaters. The problem, however, was with the price of the cabin. It cost us an additional ~$250 dollars and the deposit and dates we were transferring were never picked up like Leslie had promised costing us the $100 shipboard credit for a total loss of ~$350. Disney guest relations would not budge and would not admit to their error. I had asked if I could at least get the price of the cabin on deck 5 inside and was told "no". If Leslie had let me know of this potential outcome I would have made the deposits for all 4 in my family while on the Magic which would have prevented this problem. An email to Disney guest relations was not returned. And yes, I was very nice. I am still angry that Disney did not offer me anything. I was not as interested in the ~$350 loss as I was in their admittance to the mistake and any gesture(such as a small credit of $25) and apology would have been acceptable especially since we have cruised with them 5 times prior to these cruises. The cabin is split as most everyone knows and consists of 2 sinks and a 4 ft. tub/shower. The beds have pillow tops and are raised like a more traditional bed so your luggage can be placed underneath. This allowed Disney to design the cabin with less drawer space which frees up more common space. We are picky about our beds but were very comfortable in these/we had lots of pillows (RCI is stingy with the pillows and we have been known to bring our own when cruising with RCI-their staff has acted irritated with us that we even ask for an extra pillow or 2). Disney uses wonderful H20 bath products. Since you pay more I expect better than RCI who use shampoo/conditioner combos in pump containers installed on the side of the shower.
I have read a review that notes the public areas were always crowded. The kids pool areas are always crowded but the Quiet Cove pool area is not especially on deck 12 and 13. I would routinely be on deck 13 above the pool with maybe 10-15 people in an area large enough to play soccer or football in. You can find seclusion if you know where to go and the times to go. Even the kids pools are slow late in the afternoon. We book the 8:30 dining time so I can take my daughter to the pools after the crowds have dissipated and so that we do not have to rush to get ready for dinner and shows. The promenade deck (deck 4 for the uninitiated) is also a great choice for relative exclusivity. It is important to note that the overall vibe is very different on 3nt, 4nt, and 7 nt cruises. Fewer people leave the ship on 3nt cruises since they have less time to experience everything the ship has to offer and this makes the common areas more crowded for longer periods of time. The 4nt trip was less crowded on the Nassau port day and the Aquaduck was easier to get on. The Aquaduck is also open when leaving port at Nassau so you can get a view of the water and island while riding. Check the Aquaduck times and you can figure out times to ride when it is not crowded by using some common sense. You may not want to shower before dinner or be willing to take another shower after dinner since the Aquaduck operates at night sometimes including times before, during, and after the pirate deck party and fireworks show. Getting back to the Quiet Cove pool area - Disney dropped the ball big time with this area. It is bland compared to RCI's solariums and too small. The bar is next to the pool and the blender whirs routinely. The afternoon band is not appropriate for this area. I would rather listen to the beautiful piped in sounds, such as the spanish guitar music, rather than the steel drum band. All of the hot tubs look like after thoughts. They do have glass sections in the bottomes so you see down to the ocean below but they are aesthetically unappealing. I like the adult pool area on the Magic and Wonder better and RCI's solarium pools are far better than Disney's adult pool areas. The kids pools have movable decks that cover the pool so Disney can throw deck parties including their awesome pirate party with Jack Sparrow and ensemble. I still think they could have managed better kids pool designs. Nemos reef water play area for little kids is smaller than RCI's area but my wife noticed it is covered so moms don't have to worry about sunburn. It is very nice with its own little slide on the stingray from Nemo's reef. The Mickey slide was popular with my 7 year old. My 15 yr old son enjoyed the teens own private pool and hot tubs. Peter Pan and Stitch came to play video games with the teens. My son was playing football with Peter Pan who selected Michigan while my son selected Alabama(RTR Julioooo). My son asked him if he was from Michigan. Peter Pan deadpanned with a straight face and said "uh, NO!! I'm from Neverland!!" The teens loved it. They have Ipod docking stations, foosball, and movie theater in the teen area. The other movie theater(Buena Vista Theater) shows 3-D movies regularly although I do not watch movies on cruises-I can do that at home-my family loves the movies and popcorn they provide.
The food on Disney is better than RCI's food. I do not care when I cruise with RCI that the food is inferior because I do not pay a great deal for their cruises(relatively speaking). I do expect better service and food on Disney due to the price. I would have liked to have had an omelet station. If there was one I missed it. Eggs are powdered as they are just about everywhere, including RCI, except at the omelet stations. They were fine however. I have to emphasize, if you receive unacceptable quality food on a Disney cruise make this known to the staff. Other than the common powdered eggs, all of Disney's food is freshly prepared. As an example, Disney offers fresh yogurts with several different flavors including a wonderful mango and honey yogurt. RCI does not offer this. If your servers can not answer a question then ask for the head waiter. I am confident they can assist you satisfactorily if you have reasonable expectations. We had a mix up with our table on the first night due to some people wanting to dine together. We were moved to 3 different tables. The head waiter ordered smoothies for everyone and brought us a very good bottle of Cabernet. Nothing cheap. We have always been pleased with their response. I did hear some grumbling about the service. I am confident Disney will iron out the problems since this is a new ship. Our staff was very experienced and had been with the ship for months already. Jorge from Spain and Aiko from Japan were phenomenal. I had the sea bass one night and it was perfect - not overcooked. I did get an overcooked nut encrusted Halibut one night (my daughter in Chef Ramsey style uttered "you donkey!!-but not loud enough for any one to hear). Our server Ivan, took it away promptly and returned with a properly prepared Halibut. BTW-Ivan was awesome - my daughter enjoyed his magic tricks. The wild boar I had another night was medium as ordered and filet fork tender. The sauce and potato/carrot preparation was wonderful. I had to keep my wife at bay after she tasted a bite. In fact, she ordered the same dish on the 3nt leg. I have read some reviews with people complaining about the 8:30 dining service taking to long and not finishing until 10:00 - 10:30. This does not bother us since we tend to be more like the rest of the world when it comes to dining rather than like most Americans who inhale and dash. We enjoy taking our time eating and frankly don't want to leave the restaurants. They are magnificent to us. Not like the RCI dining room with its expansive 3 deck jaw dropping area. Disney has smaller individual restaurants that you rotate to a different restaurant each night while keeping the same staff. We like this. We feel like we are not on a huge ship with a mass of humanity. Pietro in Palo ($20 pp) was fantastic. Must do and order the souffle even if you do not like souffle. You still don't have to eat it if you don't like it. My wife did not like souffle until she had Palo's. We have Marco from the Magic to thank for that. For those with kids and a late dining time I would encourage a nap in the afternoon. My wife typically takes my daughter down for a warm shower and puts her on our bed for a nap. After about 30 minutes I switch with her. On my way to the room I grab some chocolate covered strawberries and maybe some other sweets from Cove Cafe and maybe some fruit (Disney has an endless supply of great fruit). We switch off if she wants to go do something and 30-40 minutes later I wake my daughter who is now good to go for late dining. Cove Cafe did not have a staff on our trip that can make many of the coffee drinks we like to purchase at Starbucks. I would have bought their equivalent of a Venti Iced Caramel Machiatto with light ice every day if they knew how to prepare it. I think they are missing out on more sales due to this. A European style caramel machiatto is very small and mostly coffee. Disney provides several ice cream flavors as well as chocolate and caramel toppings. RCI typically has 2 flavors and no toppings. The petit fours we receive for being Castaway Club members and gold level are infinitely better than RCI's. The crunchy, buttery crusts and cakes with that crunchy outer layer is wonderful. I usually leave RCI's petit fours to the kids. My wife is an excellent baker and I can appreciate that Disney goes to the trouble of making their desserts and petit fours on the ship and deliver them the same day. We received cool bags and canteens as well. My daughter took hers to school along with her braided hair. BTW - If you miss Cabanas for lunch due to a movie time there are other places to get excellent food on the ship. If you can't find these places you don't have your eyes open.
Can't be beat. Disney pays top dollar for their talent and their costumes are custom fitted and beautiful with the very best materials. High tech shows with some pixy dust surprises. RCI's shows - serious yawners for us. My wife took a backstage tour and commented about the tattered look of the basic black and white costumes RCI intersperses throughout the shows (so you don't realize it is the same costume later in the show-they milk it). The dancer she was talking to lamented the fact that they do not get very good stuff and custom fittings at the same level Disney provides their performers. Disney spares no expense and it is obvious.
The gym was sufficient but barely. I like the Magic's gym better. There is no aerobic studio - they do train and do some aerobics classes on deck 13. I would like this better anyway. The rainforest was nice but we were told on the first day that due to the popularity of the area they would only sell 3 day passes on the 4nt cruise instead of a 1 day pass which we prefer. Every evening I would go to the gym (if only for 15 minutes to stretch due to back problems) and would slide into the rainforest to see how crowded it was (I also get a cup or 2 of the lemon water). Never saw a single person. No one in the heated tile chairs or cantilevered hot tub deck. There was evidence that customers had been in the rooms earlier but I would have been content to buy a single day pass for a couple of hours in the late afternoon or early evening. Also, the girl who told us we could only buy a 3 day pass was abrupt and pretentious with us. Oh well. Disney lost some revenue on that
The photo location is fantastic. You wave your key card in front of the screen and your photos pop up for viewing. They also give you a location to view the printed photos. Ours was Mickey green 02. The photos are in a beautiful leather bound book that you open to view the photos. This way you don't have to walk all over the place looking for your pics.
We dropped my daughter off at Scuttles Cove and ran the 5k fun run. Then went to Serenity Bay for some peace and quiet. No one playing music and running around yelling "Lobadoozee!!" - the drink RCI pushes on Labadee. Ate lunch at Serenity Bay. Disney lunches are in another league compared to RCI's at Coco Cay and Labadee. Definitely not your typical burgers and hot dogs. Although they have them I never get 'em. The ribs, chicken, cous cous with chopped fresh olives, red onion, cilantro, and bell pepper is awesome. They have fresh mango and papaya along with the other fruits i. e. pineapple and melons. No need to buy a drink package like on RCI. Your drinks, both on the island and on the ship, are included. We take our Canteens and fill 'em up after we finish eating. The desserts on the island are moist and fresh tasting like the spiced pineapple cake. The cookies are big and soft and taste fresh baked. The mahi mahi was delicioso.
Disney's debarkation process is easy. You go to breakfast and walk off the ship. Or you just walk off the ship. The Dream's debarkation is not as seamless as the Magic and Wonder due to the larger crowds. I am confident Disney will improve this. They had a line in the lobby trying to exit the ship. It is still much better than the RCI system. Since we are Diamond level on RCI we get to wait in a seperate area with pastries and drinks. Even so, still not as good as Disney's debarkation process. The drop off area is too small and needs to be expanded if possible. May not be possible. To many people converging trying to get on and off the ship.
Need I type anything. My daughter never wanted to leave and cried the last night because she didn't get enough time in the mutiple areas Disney has. My jaw dropped repeatedly as I walked through each section. AMAZING. The ship also has virtual artwork - not all of the artwork- that comes to life when it recognizes your face with facial recognition technology. There is a detective card you can pick up and solve clues with these "pictures". My daughter and wife enjoyed this activity. Each cabin has 2 "wave" phones. We kept in touch with these - inc. texting- while on the ship and the island. BTW - no tendering on Dinsey's magnificent and exceptionally clean island. Do not forget to remove the phone from your swimsuit before jumping into the pool. $250 to replace. My daughter and I went to Pelican Plunge water slides early and late and had no crowds. AAA gave us fruit baskets, free floats on Castaway Cay, and a $45 credit. My daughter had a great time at Scuttles Cove while we went to Serenity Bay for about 3 hours. While visiting this island you can understand why you pay more than RCI, Carnival, Princess, et. al. The upkeep and staffing requirements are significant. One distinction that stands out for us when comparing Disney to RCI is the way they allocate towels for the pools and islands. Disney has unlimited towels available in cabinets while RCI requires you to stand in a line and present your room key to exchange for fresh towels and does not provide fresh towels on their island. We use mucho towels and find it very convenient to discard used towels and grab as many fresh ones as we like whenever we want.
There will always be someone with a bad experience and that is regrettable. But, if you can't recognize the little differences in the Disney experience relative to the RCI experience you are like the American Idol auditioner who thinks they can sing but to everyone else clearly can not. Some people are just not capable of recognizing the difference.