Our third Disney cruise - second of the 7 night variety. I'll start with this, the 7 night and the 3,4,5 night cruises are very different, and there's really no comparison. If you can swing the 7 night cruise, do so. It's better, by far.
Disney does 2 things at sea better than any other line: 1) move people and 2) occupy and entertain children. The service is unparallelled in family cruising. If you have any sort of problem, just say something, and it's immediately attended to....
The trouble with the shorter cruises is that people cannot relax - passengers or crew. With the 7 night, there's a point at which you finally start to really breathe and take it in.... and the crew seems less rushed to pack it all in.
About those two things up above - 1. Disney can get you from point A to point B, off the ship, etc. better than anyone. You wait in line very little, or never. You see more characters, faster, on the ship than you ever could in the park. We never waited longer than 10 minutes. Unreal. We NEVER waited in a line to dine for a seated meal. And buffet lines were notoriously short. Disney also starts things on time. Punctuality is key when your clientele is a lot of small children who can be impatient. Disembarking is a breeze.
I will say this... I witnessed several instances of parents in huge hurries, red faced, agitated, etc..... They seem to be afraid to miss something.... slowing down and taking your time works just as well....and using the daily newsletter that has all the times and places for everything on board is a really easy way to make sure you're on time for lots of things. Realize, though, that some planning and forethought is required. The Mickey 200 vegetable car race (kids build cars out of vegetables) will be limited to 16 or so families... so arrive 15 minutes early, if you can to get a spot. Also realize that they run multiple events....The Feud is run at least twice.... if you miss one, it comes around again.
2. The children stay entertained. Yes, the pool is crowded. They didn't care. Yes, it can be difficult to get a deck chair. Get there earlier. Yes the kids clubs can seem dark.... they have great programs running all day. My 8 and 5 year olds loved every moment they had in the clubs. The counselors were outstanding - knew the kids on sight, by name. The entertainment is age appropriate and highly entertaining. The character sightings are both planned and spontaneous... and the kids loved every minute of it. The wait staff was very good and the children clicked with the servers.
I have never found the Magic or the Wonder - Crowded - and maybe that is because they follow a plan of movement so well. At times, the stores can be cramped, but you can also find late night times when stores are open and essentially vacant. Despite Disney's urging that you not save seats in theaters, people do, and yet, we had good seats for all performances, walking in 10 minutes before they began.
This is the one area where Disney should improve. The faster food on the deck is fine.... and the kids enjoyed. But the choices for children at seated dinners are really lacking. They are essentially the same each night. But the variety is lacking.
Our food was good, but never great. There were a few things that simply were not very good. Our server was not shy about steering us away from things he thought would not be good. Somewhat surprising, but we learned quickly to trust him.
We ate in Topsiders for two evening meals....and surprisingly, they were two of the better meals aboard.
Sit down breakfast is superior to the buffet, IF you have the time. With early morning excursions, you will not.
Disney Dreams - really great show - an amazing one at sea.
Villains Tonight - Good show, funny and clever. But Hercules is not one of the better known and beloved movies. But it's very good. Kids gave it high marks.
Twice Charmed - Very good show.
We had jugglers, a ventriloquist, a hypnotist, and a comedian on board. All were very good.
EXCURSIONS and PORTS