Let me start by saying I have been on many cruises, but this was my first going as an entire family. There were 6 of us total; my parents, brothers ages 9-12 and me. We flew in the night before and stayed at the Springhill Suites by the airport. We took their free shuttle back to the airport the following morning and checked in with Disney Cruiseline transfers, which also checked us into our cruise. This process was very smooth and efficient. We received our key to the world cards and then waited around 20 minutes to board our bus. On the bus they showed some cartoons and some videos of the ship. The total time from the airport to the pier was 53 minutes. Once we were at the pier we went through security and directly on the ship. We then went to Parrot Cay for a nicely prepared buffet lunch. The cabins were ready by 1:30 and we left port around 5:00pm.
Our first 2 days of the cruise were at sea. There were many activities daily to keep both the adults and kids busy. The kids enjoyed the Oceaneer's Club and the were very good at keeping us notified of when the kids were ready to leave. The bad of the kids club is they put on these large pieces of plastic attached to a bracelet. The bands are big and bulky and the kids were constantly asking to have them taken off because they were scratching their skin. I would recommend them to be placed on the ankle for comfort. DCL also had the regular stuff such as Bingo and Karaoke daily. The pools were crowded as always on sea days, but the adult pool was nice and quiet for when the adults needed quiet time.
The first port we arrived at was St. Maarten. We did the afternoon beach bash shore excursion. This excursion takes you to Orient Beach. It was a little over priced for what you got. We were at the beach for 2 hours and of course everything there was extra. The cost of the excursion was already $44 for adults.
Our next stop was at St. Thomas. Here we did the Butterfly Farm and Coral World. Both were interesting and the kids seem to enjoy them very much. Unfortunately DCL was docked at the pier not convenient to town so you had to take a cab into town. After leaving St. Thomas we were about 15 minutes from port and had to turn around due to a medical emergency. Apparently this happens frequently on DCL per the ship staff.
The next day was a day at sea and a beautiful sunny day enjoyed around the pool! The not so good was we had to divert for a second medical emergency to Grand Turk and ended up staying docked their for many hours. Due to both medical emergencies we missed Castaway Cay. This was very disappointing to us as this was the one port we had never been to. The captain and staff was very apologetic as these matter were out of their control. Instead we had another day at sea and some extra activities added to keep everyone busy.
So, overall I think DCL is equivalent to other lines I have been on. They charge a bit more for their cruises, but they don't seem to add multiple additional charges for things like other lines do. The cabins are good sized, but in turn the balconies are very tiny! The rotational dining is wonderful. The staterooms were not as clean as I have seen on other lines. When they were splitting our beds we noticed the mattress cover was full of hair...GROSS! They do a wonderful job with kids and keeping them busy.
One last thing I have never experienced on a cruise before...the cabins were very noisy. I could hear the people next to us coughing at night. Also, when the cabins creaked very loudly making it very hard to sleep. Even the kids were complaining about the noise. We had 2 cabins and both had this issue.
Overall, DCL is fun and great to do with kids...