Our vacation started at Disney World, which was also totally disastrous. February is usually slow season, but not this time. We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria on property, which was nice. The Magic Kingdom was horribly overcrowded, beyond capacity. Kiddie rides had 80 minute waits for a few minute ride. This is okay for teens, but the little kids just couldn't manage it. There was no where to sit (or stand) at lunch, inside or out, and just getting a hot dog(at a stand up fast food place) was a 45 minute ordeal. Forget napkins...trying to make your way through a huge wall of people to get to condiments and napkins was impossible. Fast Passes were ridiculous, as the park was so over capacity that your fast pass, if you got it at 1pm, would be to return at 8 pm.
We were thrilled to leave Disney World to head to the ship. However, each little step was just so frustrating, from embarkation on, that we never were able to relax. The only place I wanted to go was my room, because it was the only place I felt I wouldn't get run over.
Last year on Disney through Port Canaveral, there were no lines, and we just walked right on the ship. This year, we showed up at the same time(not early or late....1 pm), and the process was extremely chaotic, with a line at the gate outside the port, then a long line through security, then no guidance to find the end of the line to register. After that exhausting process, we had to wait in the port building for our number to be called to board. Disaster. The building was extremely crowded, and after an hour of standing in lines, we then had to wait another hour to board. When they called our number, the crowd that rushed to board was so huge, with no line control, that everyone was quite uncomfortable, and frankly in fear of having their little ones trampled. Then after getting through that mess, Disney tried to push us through the "pictures" line, and by then, the adults were really starting to lose it. I was so frustrated by the time we boarded, that I couldn't even appreciate the ship. Bad start.
By the time we finally boarded, there was no time for a snack or drink, as it was nearly muster time. I did try to go buy a cocktail to ease my frazzled nerves, and get my 4 year old some milk, but no one would serve me (the daily Disney information sheet stated service would stop at the time of the muster, but the bar told me I couldn't get anything even though I presented 30 minutes prior to the stated closure time for the muster.) Frustrated again. After muster, I finally found a bar after fighting horrific crowds. My son and I sat down. I enjoyed a nice drink, but was horrified to find I had been charged more for my kid's chocolate smoothie than the cost of my cocktail.(I think it was somewhere around 12 dollars....the server had placed the smoothie in a Styrofoam Disney cup...souvenir cup....which I did not ask for. ) All he wanted was chocolate milk...which they couldn't seem to summon.
There were lots of new ship glitches, not unexpected. I never knew the name of our room steward, as she never introduced herself, nor oriented us to our room. Same with dining room folks...no introduction, no written placard with their name and position. We never knew who was supposed to take drink orders versus meal, etc. Stateroom info was nonexistent. The only place they had numbers posted was on the daily newsletter. I couldn't get through to the spa, as they failed to write that you have to put a "7" before the number posted. Couldn't ever get through to the specialty restaurants to book. Website was down prior to sailing, so I called daily from the moment I got on board, and never could talk to a person. They would call back, and leave a message, but the phone in the room was not working...couldn't tell when or if you had a message. Wake up service did not work...3 wake-up calls and I picked up every time, then it would ring again 5 minutes later...finally with a Mickey message that indicated it had finally worked. The doors to the staterooms are too small for room service to get trays in...very trying for the poor employee, and breakfast always came at least 30 minutes early, tough for my 4 year old. Game Room cards didn't work very well. Whew...but these little things are understandable on a new ship, and I"m sure they'll be worked out.
The capacity issue, however, will keep me from ever returning. Too many people, not enough public space. The pools were the same size as the older Disney ships. I think we had 1700 children on our sailing. My 4 year old couldn't even get his big toe into the pool, as they were packed with wall to wall children. Same with the single hot tub I could find. Mealtime was so loud and crowded as to be unbearable. Trying to walk in any public space was unbearable. The wonderful shows on deck could not be seen other than on the overhead screens, as the space was totally overwhelmed.
Dining rooms were unpredictable. I had one good meal. Other meals were really not good. Kids items were always great. Bar service in the dining room was disastrous. They just don't have anyone who knows what they're doing. One night I ordered a coffee drink. Instead of charging me for a coffee drink, they charged separately for each liquor in the coffee: Five dollars for the Baileys, five dollars for the amaretto, 4 dollars for the coffee, giving me a 15 dollar coffee drink. I didn't complain, but these are really inexcusable issues. The servers tried very hard, and were very kind, but were overwhelmed. The dining rooms were all so crowded, there was barely room to sit, no room to get out to get your kid to the bathroom. Bathrooms need to be very close to the dining room, which they were not, and they were not large enough to handle the number of children needing them at a moments notice at mealtime.
Evening shows were very good. Patrons however, were absolutely embarrassing. This is live theater folks, not your local movie house. I would leave the theater horrified, as ADULTS had left spilled wine, wine glasses, spilled drinks, trash, spilled huge popcorn bags, and every other imaginable snack and packaging, all over the floor of the theater. I had to apologize to a staff member on exiting, as I was so horrified that grown people could be so disrespectful.
Spa was great...the only quiet place I found on the ship. Workout place was also good, as no one seemed to be in there much of the time. The space was small however, compared to a smaller capacity Celebrity ship. So, if there's a sailing with fitness enthusiasts, they will be frustrated.
Private island was fantastic, although crowded til the end of the day.
The kid's club was a huge disappointment. Last year, the kids age groups were separate, and my boy had a ball. Every time I visited, all the kids were engaged in wonderful group activities. Now, Disney has grouped all the kids together. So, on the Dream, children can choose to participate in a group activity, or just run around and do their own thing. That's fine for teens, but again, the little kids need a little structure. When I would go pick up my son, I would find him playing Wii. The counselor would say, "he's been playing that all day." My kid can play Wii at home. Not exactly what I had in mind.
Disembarkation was a total disaster. Instead of scheduling different times for all to exit, they simply announced all at once that all could leave. Oh my goodness. 4000 people then proceeded to exit....out one exit. My limo left us, as it took us 2 hours to disembark, with lines like I have never seen before. To avoid the line, I thought I could get a coffee and a muffin. Forget that. No simple snack breakfast spot. It was sit down only. The dining room was so overwhelmed that you couldn't even exit...had to take my four year old plus our carry off luggage to the other side of the dining room to exit, as there was no place to walk to even get out of the dining room exit. Food was totally inedible.
I hate to be so negative. The ship is new and clean and nice, but Disney must get hold of the capacity issue before I would ever think of returning. I spoke with many other adults who felt similarly. I can say my dinner mates got into the specialty dining room and said it was great. My overall feeling was that there were just too many people, so it was hard to enjoy anything. I have never felt crowded like this on a cruise ship, and I've been on Queen Mary 2, and Solstice, as well as 13 other moderate to large cruises. I think to enjoy this ship, the capacity should be about 2000, not 4000. They may have enough staterooms, but not enough public space. Staff attitudes and energy were mostly great. Bartenders were a bit surly. Need more suites. I never can seem to find a suite to book on Disney. Room was fine though. Plenty for me and my son.
One other small issue. No ATM on board. So, I couldn't get cash for tips. They don't have a way to add these to your account in your stateroom. You have to go to Guest Services to add them. I went all of 5 times, and the lines were excruciating. I finally gave up. Not enough folks at Guest Services for this many people.