This was our 4th Disney cruise and 19th cruise overall as a family, others were mostly with Cunard, Holland America and Princess. Our teens are 15 and 17, and so they have been able to enjoy the Magic, Wonder and now the Dream over the last 10 years. We really enjoy the Disney cruise experience but only with the kids. I admire those who cruise with Disney without children, just not for us, especially with 1000+ children on board.
We did the 3 day experience as the 4th day at sea would not have offered too much more. We stayed in Orlando the night before. There are lots of lower cost and excellent hotels in Orlando although we did look at Cocoa Beach hotels. Normally we get a hotel near the port, especially if there will be traffic issues getting to the port. It took us about 50 minutes and we have never had a problem with driving there. We rented a car and chose to park it at the port parking lot at $15 per day. In previous times, we had always rented a car one-way for getting to and from the ports but the rental and drop-off rates this time cost much more than just keeping the car the entire time. We also then avoid the shuttle or taxi, even though we each only had one carry-on luggage.
We arrived at 11 am and were on board at 12:30 pm. You can arrive earlier but the first group was not allowed to board until 12 noon anyway. Arrive earlier if you can for the pictures with characters, signing up at kids clubs etc. but as others reviewers have noted, there is no food available (maybe a vending machine, I think) so bring some snacks along if your kids will get restless. From noon till the lifeboat drill at 4 pm, there are no activities available and all the shops are closed, so you will notice that it is busy on Deck 11 with Aquaduck and the pools, and the restaurants. This is to be expected. After the lifeboat drills, we never found it too crowded anywhere except for the pool deck and Aquaduck. Not sure how to resolve this problem but I have to agree with other posters that more pools are required when you see all the crowds and definitely longer operating hours for the Aquaduck are also required.
If you get onboard before 2 pm, go for lunch in Enchanted Garden as it serves the same buffet found in Cabanas. In Enchanted, they will find you a table and with the table cloths, glassware, etc., it's all so much more pleasant than having to find your own table at Cabanas. Waiters will also bring you the iced tea or free sodas. As soon as lunch was over, we toured most of deck 5 with Oceaneers Club, and then the rest of the ship. This was a good time to do it before the rest of the crowd came on board. Our kids headed to Vibe, the teens club, but it was such a short cruise that they never spent a lot of time there. Nice spa but never got to spend time there.
Shows were all good. We enjoyed the additional content from Tangled in Golden Mickeys, the new Believe show was classic Disney and Villains Tonight was good. Least favourite was Villains as I wish they would stick with classic Disney and leave the Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan jokes out, IMO anyway. Golden Mickeys is shown twice at 6:15 and 8:30 on day 1 (Thursday) and the other two shows are shown three times, usually 4, 6:15 and 8:30 pm. You are assigned an evening show based on your dining time but we watched Villains twice. No one asked to see our shipcards. Pirates night was on day 2 (Friday night).
Food was overall good to excellent. Seafood done very well, meats usually overcooked with beef that was ordered medium arriving very well done. We ate it anyway. The lobster medallions with beef tenderloin was a disappointment as you got two slices of lobster tail, almost paper-thin, placed on top of the beef. I was expecting a lobster tail's worth of medallions. Anyway, it was all good. Here is a link to a website where someone has posted all the menus.
We spent time at the adult lounges, Pink and Skyline. Very nice but nothing to wow us. Would have liked a piano bar and quiet music. Physical comedy (juggling, etc) of Jeff Civillico was OK.
Not much at Nassau if you have been there before. Years ago, the aquarium part of Atlantis was open to everyone at no cost, next to some shops. This has all been closed off. The $39 cost per person to see the aquarium would not have been justified based on what I have read in the posts on Nassau, especially if you have experienced world-class aquariums elsewhere. $4 per person one-way cost by cab to Nassau didn't break the bank anyway. We went back early to the ship to go on Aquaduck. Castaway Cay is always our favourite. We wish we could have a second day here instead of Nassau.
We had an inside cabin to save on costs but also to see what the TV portholes were. We really liked it, especially with all the different Disney characters coming across the screen every now and then. Spent minimal time here anyway.
With our rental car waiting for us, we took our time on disembarkation morning. They advise you on the final night of the cruise that you eat breakfast on disembarkation morning at the same restaurant where you had dinner the night before. For us, with early dinner seating at the Royal Palace, this meant our breakfast hours were 6:45 am. Yikes, too early, I'm on vacation! For those on late dinner seating, your breakfast hours are at 7:30 am, I think, at which time they escort you off the ship. We found out that Cabanas buffet is also open although they don't publicize it. We took our time getting up, had a leisurely breakfast at Cabanas, sunshine all around on outdoor decks. It was a great way to end the cruise. We tried to disembark at 9 am when Cabanas closed but there was a long lineup from the lobby all the way back to the entrance of Animators, almost half the length of the ship. Finally, at 9:45, they asked everyone to disembark. We had another 30 minute wait in the terminal as there were only two Customs and Immigration officers. As we walked to our car around 10:15 am, people were already starting to arrive to start their cruise.
All in all, a very nice trip.