Just off the May 17-24th Alaska Cruise. Had a fabulous time, was on a total Disney 'High' when I got off board, and now 3 days later I can look at the entire cruise more objectively.
DCL is great - good clean ship, staff are incredible, customer service incredible, entertainment can't be beat etc... but the food....ugh the food.
If you are cruising for food, don't cruise DCL!
The Wonder needs a dry dock - is showing some wear and tear in a few places, but nothing terrible. Our room had a terrible constant creak whenever the ship was sailing fast (at night). I am used to sleeping with noise, so it did not keep me awake, but could be bothersome to some people. Rooms are some of the largest at sea, comfortably fit my teen daughter and myself for the week. Just an inside room on deck 6, but that is all we needed.
The ship needs the stabilizers looked at - it was rocking and rolling all week when the ship would go faster. No one really seemed sea sick -it was like a big gentle rocking, but it was felt in every area of the ship and everyone was commenting on how bad it was. This needs to be looked at before they take this ship to Hawaii.
We had the classic comedian, hypnotist, etc.. and I am one of those people that love those corny cruise ship hypnotist type shows. They are good for a laugh after dinner. I love the DCl stage shows, they are very elaborate but are getting tired - come on really? The SAME shows for 12 years??? Time to update and get something new. I am not understanding the people who cruise DCL several times a year and keep going to these shows. Yes, they are well done and very good, but how can you keep watching them over and over again without being bored of them? I hadn't seen them in 2 years, so it was like watching them for the first time again and quite enjoyed them. That is with the exception of Toy Story the Musical - this was just plain terrible and we left after 25 mins. I tried to like it - I wanted to like it - but its just bad. Costumes and sets were amazing, but the rest is just bad.
The gameshows are fun - kids and teens loved them. My daughter won several prizes on board at these. She is 15 and I couldn't keep her out of the teen club, she loved it so much - its very much geared to the 14-16 yr olds. It seemed to be a main core group of about 20 teens (the very social/outgoing ones) who spent the most time in the club. She has since found them all on facebook and skype and kept in touch. They were all crying on the last night, didn't want to leave one another.
Now onto the food. I will say I am a bit of a picky eater- I don't like hot spicy foods and not big on fish or lobster. I eat mostly beef and chicken for meats. I would say I am a healthy eater, but not a 'health nut' - I do enjoy my McDonalds and Pizza from time to time.
On deck 9 is the 'fast food' or 'park food' as I called it. Pizza, hot dogs, chicken fingers, burgers (cold and not so good), wraps, fruits, etc... This is fun at first, but seriously I can only eat so many french fries and burger type things. The wraps were always soggy and didn't taste great. Ice cream was always good (mix half ice cream and half milk for a free milkshake!), pizza was ok.
So I was sick of this food, where do I go for lunch? The buffet.
There is a problem when you don't recognize 3/4 of what they are serving on the buffet, or what you do recognize seems to be covered in mystery sauce or something- some looked like bit pans of MUSH. The one thing I loved on the first day was the mac and cheese - and only ever saw it one other time (other than room service and kids menu at dinner). I tried several things- the vegetable lasagne (ie: pan of mashed potatoes filled with carrots and peas I think), different meats (chicken was so tough I couldnt chew it), etc... The best was the tex mex taco bar with NO taco meat! I kid you not! There was something called 'chili meat' that looked like chili - not what I would put in a taco. They did have a stir fry station that was ok and the crepe bar was open a few times and really good.
Room service was a bit redundant - not many choices. The steak sandwich was horrible. Other food I ordered was ok though.
I never went hungry, but never went WOW OMG THAT WAS SOOOOOO GOOD GIVE ME MORE - with the exception of a couple appetizers at dinner in the dining rooms (the cripsy cheese ravoli is to die for).
Also the buffet is hardly ever open - couple hours for breakfast (only ate there once and it was fine) and a couple hours for lunch.
Parrot Cay buffet breakfast was my favourite place. I had their pasta lunch buffet and it was good. I went to their asian buffet lunch and couldn't eat anything I put on my plate. The rice was hard and tasted really weird. There were 3 tables of Asian people sitting around me who couldn't eat it - so that tells you how bad the rice and food was!
Dining room was generally good, but redundant. I found the first 2 nights the best (Animators show dinner was my favourite). Then it started to go downhill for me. Discussing with my table mate, we found the menu too 'foodie' for the average person cruising. The mashed potatoes were not good old homestyle -they were mixed with things - kids wouldn't even eat them. I would love to see some more 'home cooking' type stuff on the menu and not so much 'foodie' stuff. I found the menus very redundant - almost the same stuff, just add a different sauce and call it something different.
I don't eat lobster, but my table mates did rave about how good it was.
Desserts were good. We looked forward to those every night. One funny thing is DCL has this chocolate mousse square dessert that they seem to use in EVERYTHING. Every buffet, every dining room, etc... has this - cut it into a square and pop a raspberry on top and its 'raspberry chocolate something or other' - put whip cream on it and its chocolate decadence- cut it into a triangle, mold it into a circle - becomes a different chocolate dessert every night. This became a game at our table - order the 'chocolate' dessert and see what they molded the mousse into tonight! Only once did I see actually chocolate CAKE (the baked kind!) on the cruise. It was pretty funny.
I had Palo brunch - yum! I wish I could have had those entrees every night. Why can't the regular dining room have some of this good stuff? Chicken Parmigian is not that hard to make! What about an Italian theme in the dining room and a good old plate of spagetti and meatballs?? A nice plate of lasagne? I don't always need 'fancy' food - I want some regular family restaurant stuff too! I can only eat steak and chicken breast so much before I am plain sick of it.
DCL caters to families, yet does not serve family restaurant food - seems odd to me. Kids have the same choices every night - chicken fingers, burger, mac and cheese or a hot dog. Then a couple of other options tossed in like a pork chop or small steak (changes night to night).
They really need to have the menu have a few of those fancy foodie things, and a few family restaurant type things.
So that is the negative food stuff out of the way. I have re-booked for my discount on board and really do probably plan to cruise DCL again - it feels safe, staff are incredible and earn their tips, we had a fabulous time - but I am actually honestly going to take a very strong look at RCI and NCL menus and teen activities before I make a final decision on my next cruise. We are past the stage where we 'need' to see the characters (dont even get me started on the line ups for those - another thing DCL needs to fix - I suggest a system where deck 1-2 goes at 11am-11:15am, deck 5-6 go from 11:15-11:45, deck 7-8 go from 11:45-12:15 - something where it spaces it out - the line to see the princesses wrapped from the lobby and all the way down to the restaurant past promenade lounge- upwards of an hour wait!). Or do a fast pass system? Seeing characters was impossible unless you lined up for hours. We opted to just get photos at the character breakfast :)
So we dont 'need' the characters - we need a nice room (I do enjoy a bit of time in there for a nap or alone quiet time), a pool (I wouldn't do alaska again - not our thing -we need warm weather - we are local to Vancouver and couldn't pass up an IGT deal -we went for the ship, not the ports), a decent teen club and good evening entertainment (I can't sit through those horrible carnival type 'vegas style shows'- I would have to be very drunk and I don't drink -so those are out). And hopefully good food options -I actually kind of stopped eating on the DCL cruise towards the last day - I snacked on fruit and bagels and desserts.
DCL wins me on family entertainment, teen club and the room, but I am going to take a really hard look at menus and stuff on other cruise lines before putting down a final payment!
Embarkation and debarkation quick and painless! Again -DCL DOES DO IT RIGHT!! I LOVED THE CRUISE in general - but can't eat that food! If I sail DCL, I might eat in port more often and I know I will be skipping the dining room a couple nights!
Our cruise director Christaan was very good - but I did find a few holes in the weekly planning of events- often times similar fun family activities overlapped one another so you couldn't do them all, and really had to pick and choose, meaning you miss something else starting, and then there was a gap in your day for a couple hours. Hard to explain. Also on the first day at sea, there was just nothing family related going on for quite some time - now if this had been a warm weather cruise I would be up on deck in a chair and reading - but this is an 'indoor' cruise - you can't count on people off relaxing around the pool on this type of cruise - there was a good 3 hours with nothing but a DVC presentation happening. Just something they need to look at - they are too used to the warm weather cruises.
DCL did it right at port again too - in Skagway we were laughing when we saw a line of passengers trying to get back on their carnival ship that had to be a 1/4 mile long (I do not exaggerate) - and there was never more than 7-8 people in front of us as we got back on the ship in DCL - very smooth streamlined process - Carnival not so much from the looks of it. And it was raining - fun fun fun.
Tracy arm day is incredible - go at noon, get a spot and stay in it -bring your blankets, some food, dress in layers (gets warm and then cold), and enjoy the view! Doesnt get more relaxing than this. Dont crowd up the front of deck 10 with all the others- pick a spot somewhere else- you will still see it all!
Overall I give it a 3.5/5 because of the food. Otherwise it would have been a 4.5/5. I rated shore excursions a 3 because of the pricing - very $$$ and also they consider your 10 yr old an adult. Go onshore yourself and pay for your 10 yr old as a child.