What do we want and expect from a cruise? Entertainment, food, and service. We had higher expectations for Disney, because we had paid so much more than we had before, and we thought the Disney entertainment, food, and service would be that much better! I can not tell you how EXCITED we were. Not only to be on Disney, but to be going to awesome ALASKA. My whole family, from dad to the youngest, were just jumping out of our skins to get on this cruise.
Let me start with the pre-booking of excursions, spa treatments, and Palo dining options. When you are a first-time cruiser with Disney, you are allowed to pre-book things 45 days before departure, so that is what I tried to do. By that day, there were no Palo afternoon tea times available. Most of the at-sea-day time slots for brunch and dinner were filled by whomever gets to start picking their reservations 60, 90, 120 days before the cruise. We ended up having to have our Palo dinner at 8pm on the last night of the cruise. Not a preferred time slot since my stomach is on Mountain time. I went ahead and just picked a day for the Brunch, again not at a great time, but it was all that was left to choose from. I added some port adventures, but did not realize they would be charged to my account as soon as we stepped on the boat, and were completely non-refundable. At the time, it seemed so nice to have all this pre-planned, and I felt like, "Wow, they give you so much information to go through before you go on your trip!" Well, we didn't know, until we were on the ship, our assigned time for a Character breakfast was scheduled right before our reservation for Brunch at Palo. I went to Palo to see if we could reschedule brunch, and he was flat and unapologetic, "We are full. You can not reschedule." I thought to myself, "Okay, that's fine. I would rather my son have breakfast and get to see Mickey, than my husband and I have a nice brunch." So we missed-out on two Palo experiences that we had anticipated from the time we had watched the promotional DVD they sent us! At that point, I felt like a second-class citizen. It was as though I was begging for a reservation.
All the information I had brought aboard, had said our Lumberjack Excursion in Ketchikan started at 415pm ending at 615pm. The tickets we received in our stateroom had said 4pm. Our dinner time started at 545pm, and we thought we could still make it to dinner after the lumberjack show. We were at the venue at 4pm, and saw a huge line out the door. The sign said the show started at 445pm! What! 30-45 minutes later than we had anticipated? So we would be late for this Captain's dinner with lobster, oysters, and the "life changing" lava cake. (One of the Vacation Club employees had advised us that this, of all the dinner nights, was the one not to miss!) My husband RAN back to the ship to see if we could work-out something about dinner or the excursion. Marcos was the person he talked to, and he was sympathetic. He said not to worry about it, but we could possibly trade our lumberjack tickets for something the next day. Hubby ran back to let us know, and we decided to skip the Lumberjack Show, and just go back for dinner. Not 4 hours later, we had a voicemail saying, "The show starts at 445pm, and there are no refunds, sorry." How were we to know, when booking our excursions 45 days before departure, that this was the fancy dinner night? Just like booking my Palo brunch back-to-back with our character breakfast! Also, we had made the effort to get some advice before deciding not to walk into the show with our tickets in hand. If they had been completely straight-forward with us, we could have just watched as much of the Lumberjack Show we PAID for, and tried to have the dining room team at least make the lava cake for desert.
The time slots for pedicures and such were also filled-up by the Disney Elite who get to book-up all they want many days before us lowly first-time cruisers. I find that practice COMPLETELY unjust. The time slot I had for my pedicure was 15 minutes after the lifeboat drill (oh my word, don't get me started there. It was chaos and frenzy, and someone fainted from standing there so long in a packed space. Someone needs to change that practice, especially considering that there are 3 billion little kids and babies and pregnant mothers standing.) Anyway, I completely forgot that I had a pedicure appointment that first day, the little cards they wrote our spa appointments on were so sloppy, that I read "730pm" instead of "430pm." I would have gotten a call from the spa, had our stateroom phone been working! Well, I showed-up later and realized I was HOURS late for my appointment. I was given my pedicure by someone who doesn't normally give the pedicures, I think! She turned the little water-jets on before the little tub was full and had it spraying all over. Oh my word, I was so apologetic about missing my appointment, and tried to chit chat with the pedicurist. I asked, "Do you just love your job? Being able to go places, and meet so many new people?" She gave me a tight lipped face and shrugged. I asked a similar question to 5 more employees, and they all had the same response. Are they just required not to comment, or do they really dislike being there?
Now, I will continue my experience with the spa. That first night was nice enough, then I had a manicure the next day. The manicurist made sure I knew that she was the one I no-showed on the day before. She brought me back to the table and continued working on the lady she had before me. She had put the lady's feet in a nail drying device, and wrote her a receipt, and left the room to get her something. So, 15 minutes into my treatment time, she started working on my nails. Touche. I had left her hanging, so she was going to return the favor. She filed and worked on my hands while half turning and looking out the windows! It seemed as though she was interesting in anything but my hands. My nails were crooked, the paint she applied didn't last but 4 days before chipping (even without doing dishes or cleaning or cooking like I would have normally been doing). After the nails were painted, she picked up the nail dryer off the floor that another person's FEET were in 30 minutes earlier! She wiped it with a wet wipe and told me to put my hands in it while it was still wet. UHG. I was so grossed out!!! OF COURSE, I left a tip, and was as gracious and thankful as I could be. Then I went back to my room and fixed my crooked nails.
My husband and I had a spa appointment the next day (I know, I sound pretty pampered, right? I am so blessed) Well, he is over 6 feet tall, and I am hovering around 5 feet tall, and they gave us both the same sized heavy hard-plastic spa slippers. His fit perfectly, mine were not only unattractive, but totally unromantic to see me schlepping around in (which was the point of having a couples' treatment). The shoes made me trip and almost fall in the hallway! How silly! I, again, didn't want to make a fuss, so I just went through the rest of the spa treatment and facility with no shoes. After the treatment, they give you disposable plastic flute glasses with champagne in them, AWESOME! That was so nice. The champagne tasted pretty disgusting, though. I wanted to keep the empty cups for my kids to enjoy. But, get this, the lady wouldn't let me keep them, because they REUSE disposable plastic ware!!! I was astounded at the horrible experience I had each time I went there, but, being me, I didn't want to raise a fuss or complain. A lot of this information, my husband doesn't even know, because I try my hardest to be happy and not let things like this bother me. These little, weird, disgusting, rude things just added up to one big disappointment!
I love food. I love good food service. I heard that Disney is so good about accommodating special food requests. Would you consider asking for cheese on your omelet a "special food request?" Our server's name was Shane, and after asking for cheese on his omelet, Shane told my hubby, "It is pre made. That is how it comes." Dinner service, seriously, took HOURS. It seemed to drag on and on. The babies at the tables around us were way more impatient than we were. I was just so happy I had a 5-year-old who has a lot of experience at restaurants. Our assistant server really was the only one to make any effort to entertain our son at ANY meal. His name was Niks, and he treated our boy so well. The restaurant that was supposed to have changing wall colors, Animator's Palate, ran the show only one night for each set of diners. Some people had to eat in that black and white room three of the seven nights. Ambiance sometimes makes up for bad food or service, but it was missing too! There was one night we wanted to eat in a different restaurant (I couldn't stand Parrot Cay, it felt SO CHEESY), and they found 2 seats for my daughter and I at a table with 3 retired couples. Their server must have been the rockstar on this ship, she was delightful and attentive! Maybe these were special people we were sitting with, because they came and wipe the crumbs off the table (something our server never did). My little empty sugar packet papers were taken away after I put the sugar in my coffee (again, I got to stare at my coffee trash all night at my own table). Did we just get the worst server on the boat? Did he just hate us for some reason? The last morning of the cruise we came while our table mates were already eating their food, and had to wait until they were completely finished before our server came to take our order. Then he never came back. We had to wait around, then chase him down to give him his tip envelope (hubby did 2 laps around the restaurant before he could catch Shane's attention). I shouldn't have to run someone down to give them money.
When we were hungry outside our scheduled dinner time, we had a choice of a pizza bar, a hotdog/hamburger stand, a buffet, and a deli-type counter. Day after day, we were hungry, and these places were not open at the times were were hungry. We ordered room service, no joke, 12 times, because we couldn't find food. The buffet was scheduled to open right at noon one day, and I was so happy to be hungry right at noon! I go up there at 1215pm, and there is the sign saying, "Closed for cleaning." Nice. Then my choices were to either stand outside in line (in cold Alaskan weather) for a hotdog, pizza, hamburger... No thanks! I ordered the salmon from room service. Overcooked, on some slimy orzo! I was so tired of mediocre food. There was nothing else on the 7-item room service menu I wanted. I thought hubby was a nut job for packing a whole backpack full of breakfast bars, chips, jerky, and other snacks, but he was a real hero to our hungry kids. That is a SAD situation to have to rely on beef jerky to curb your appetite on a cruise! Ridiculous. Disappointing.
Now for the entertainment!!! Yay, Disney doing what it knows how to do. From the informational video they sent us, my teenage daughter was psyched to see the Villains Show. It never happened. Most nights it seemed like the routine kind of show you would see on any cruise line: a hypnotist, a comedian, a 3D Pirates movie (which played in the real movie theater 7 more times, seems like they could have performed the villains show that night instead). The shows we saw were: The Golden Mickeys and Toy Story the Musical. Both shows were just what we wanted in Disney Entertainment! Uplifting, and dream-inspiring. I was slightly bummed that the regular movie theater didn't play more of the real classic, inspiring Disney movies. It was nice that they played Cinderella. I was just hoping my family could enjoy more of those old ones for the first time in a theater. The television in the room ROCKED! There was movie after movie, all Disney, for them to enjoy. It had two news channels, but I think they were from Disney-owned networks, so they really didn't have any difference in info or perspective. The character breakfast was super important to us. The first Princess Gathering in the lobby (by the aft elevators) had a line to see the Princesses that stretched ALL THE WAY to the forward elevators! That is probably more than half the length of the ship. Alaskan cruises, typically, have less children than the Caribbean or other cruises. I could not imagine how long those people stood in line. We HAD to get our pictures with Mickey at our character breakfast, because I was not going to stand in those crazy long lines.
Now for the ship! The hallways are TINY. The elevators are TINY. I am a tiny person and don't usually mind, but give me a break! I wore my high heels to our fancy dinner, and the hallway floor is so warped I was stumbling along! Even in my casual shoes, I was concerned about the floor being so lumpy. The hallway carpet is in bad shape. Our bathroom smelled musty when we first entered, and the smell worsened until our room attendant scrubbed with some sort of bleach-based cleaner. I could smell the difference as soon as I walked in. Our phone didn't work for 3 days. I went to the front desk once each day to ask to have it fixed. I asked our room attendant, too. I had to walk from forward to aft and down 4 flors to order room service. The ship felt small. The teen and tween areas were so adorable! They were like upscale lounges with games. The younger kid areas were so fun for our son, but he had some ISSUES. He was usually upset when we would pick him up, and I just thought, "It's a new place. There's lots of kids. He is just having a hard time adjusting." My husband and I came in to pick him up during a "Piston Cup Challenge." Groups of kids had built a car out of soap and made a banner for their team. One teacher would send 2 cars down a track, the teacher at the end would take the losing car, break it in half, and crumble it into the trash can. My son was DEVASTATED. Crying and pleading for him not to break his car. My husband was LIVID. Our little boy worked to build and shape that car and cheered for his team, only for someone to take his work and destroy it. I am astounded at the lack of compassion and competency in dealing with children demonstrated in that single activity. We didn't let him go back for 2 days. When he was ready to go back, we would come check on him at least once an hour, and take him out for meals.