Allow me to introduce myself... I am a 36 y.o. mother of a 9 y.o. daughter. My husband of 19 years (yes, we met in High School) is a wonderful spouse and father.
We booked 2 separate reservations... One 3 night reservation at Walt Disney World -- Caribbean Beach (CB) Resort, park tickets, dining plan, and transportation from MCO to WDW. Our room at CB was ok (at best). After visiting Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Magic Kingdom in 3 days, we rented a car and drove from CB to Port Canaveral. We left ~9 a.m., and we had dropped off the rental and were inside the port terminal by ~10:30 a.m. The terminal was ~35% full... meaning that all available seating had pretty well been exhausted. Oh, and we had boarding pass #11.
Check-in was easy. Since we are Castaway Club members, we were routed to the shorter line for registration. Strangely, our pictures were taken for use with our Key to the World (KTTW) cards. We turned in our health form, and we showed our passports.
The wait in the terminal was fine, for us, but the computer terminals for kids club were down. So, the people who hadn't pre-registered for kids club had to stand in the ever non-moving line. Although, within 30 minutes of embarkation, the line started moving... So, I assume the computers started working again. RECOMMENDATION: Do all registrations possible on-line prior to arrival at the terminal!
With boarding pass #11, we started the boarding process about 45 minutes after the first group started boarding (which was near 11:45 a.m., if I recall correctly). After showing our KTTW card, we had to stand in line for 15 - 20 minutes for our group picture. We weren't really interested in pictures, so we were going to SKIP this step... (By this time, it was ~12:45 p.m., and we were hungry.) However, it was explained to us that this initial photo would set up our Shutters account whereby all of our pictures throughout the cruise would be located in one folder at Shutters. Really, this shouldn't be missed. And, they were right! The pictures throughout the cruise were ALWAYS in 1 folio that we could access without looking through all pictures to find ours!
Upon boarding the ship, Disney is still "announcing" families by last name. Unlike our cruise on the Wonder, however, there was a concierge-feeling of this embarkation onto the ship. After our name was announced and the (short) applause ceased, we were greeted by a Cast Member (CM) in white who told us about the lunch options and directed us to Cabanas on Deck 11. I voiced interest in Enchanted Garden, but the CM told me that the line (and wait) were long. Wanting to eat, we went to the 11th floor. Cabanas was MUCH better than I expected! There were all kinds of different foods from carved roast beef & turkey (both light and dark meat) to chicken breasts in pico de gallo to ribeyes to french fries, salads, seafood (shrimp and crab legs), and cold cuts and cheese slices. Once we were full, it was after 1:30 p.m., and we could go to our room. All of the doors in deck 10 aft were open. I thought this was new to Disney Dream... I found out later that "door open" means that the host(ess) is not finished with all prep/cleaning.
OUR ROOM WAS FABULOUS! It felt bigger than the room at CB, but it was MUCH, much cleaner than the room at CB. In addition to feeling bigger and being cleaner, it was an interesting configuration. This room is aft starboard. The bathrooms are 90 degrees from the main portion of the room. It gave the feeling of a foyer into the room. Then, the bed and couch were on separate walls... followed by... the GIGANTIC balcony that wraps around from aft to starboard! HUGE! Prior to getting this room, there was some disdain by other cruisers about "not being able to see the TV from bed." We noticed this, too, however, the TV is mounted on a swing-arm bracket so that it can be moved for easier viewing from bed. We enjoyed this feature! And... to the most important feature (the bed!), it was VERY comfortable... not to plush, not to hard. At queen-sized, it was bigger than the bed at CB, and much more comfortable due to nice linens and duvet.
Interesting aspects to the room:
1) You DO need a KTTW (or other credit-shaped card) to keep cabin lights -- even bathroom lights -- on. So, we brought a USED Wal-Mart gift card to leave in the slot during our cruise.
2) Both bathroom light switches are exterior to both bathrooms. Design flaw? Maybe. It's strange. And, when anyone got up at night, it woke me for the light to shine in my eye. Design flaw!
3) There is a "nightlight." I didn't understand this from other blogs... There's a light switch marked, "nightlight." During the day, you see an orange button on the switch. However, after dark, one of the room lights dims to light blue (i.e. nightlight). This may be an OK function in other rooms, but ours didn't have a privacy screen (probably due to configuration). The light was too bright for adults, but may have been nice for younger kids.
4) 110V electrical outlets... MISSING. Maybe other cruisers are aware of this, but I wasn't. We couldn't plug in cell phone chargers. iPhones would charge with the alarm clock, but other phones will not.
After leaving the room, our DD wanted to see Oceaneer's Lab. FABULOUS!! Holy Moly! Pictures CANNOT do it justice. She was greeted with an enthusiastic counselor who gave her the (dreaded) mousetag. It's pretty big... maybe 1" x 1.5" -- hard immobile plastic -- identification device. Per other posts, she chose to have it put around her ankle. It was OK for comfort (compared to a wrist), but it was hard for her to hike her leg up to waist-height to check in/out. She was a trooper, though!
Then, that counselor gave the 3 of us a very detailed explanation of the Lab, and then we walked over to the Oceaneer's Club (for smaller kids). She was clearly more interested in OL, but we found her once in OC... they're both SO visually appealing, I can see why she was interested in both! The programming, however, was much more 9-year-oldish in the Lab. She always had a BLAST in OL!!
Not necessarily the first day, but throughout the cruise we tried:
A) AquaDuck... VERY neat. Not to be missed! However, the line was about 20 minutes long... and, although it was fun, it wasn't so fun that we were compelled to wait over and over to re-ride the thing.
B) Mini-golf. Interesting. There were dotted lines on the greens to show a big person (goofy) or small person (max) where to aim the ball. Good idea. However, the lines weren't ultra-accurate (hehe).
C) Fooseball... This is just a favorite of mine :-)
D) Micky pool. This was very shallow, and more for children less than 9 years old.
E) Donald? pool (i.e. the other family pool next to Mickey's pool)... This was 5 feet 3 inches deep... It was a little too deep for our 9 y.o. The water was also COLD, brrr!
F) Buena Vista Theater... We saw Pirates in the Caribbean (#3) 3D. It was an awesome presentation! I love that they put a 3D theater on the ship. A+
G) Walt Disney Theater... We saw all theater presentations in here. It was a great theater. We sat in the back row of the bottom floor... center stage! It's not quite stadium seating, but close. I would have liked a little more vertical difference in seating because if an adult sat in front of a child, the child wouldn't be able to see.
G1) Golden Mickey's: A wonderful rendition! Great show not to be missed.
G2) Villains Tonight!: Cheesy plot line. I would NOT go to this show again. Pass.
G3) Disney Believe: I really didn't like this plot line. I fell asleep during the presentation. If we hadn't been in the middle of a row, I would have left. Disney Dream presentation on the Wonder was much, much better than Believe.
H) Deck parties: Both the Pirate party and Sail away party were not to be missed! They were both very energetic, and a lot of fun. We enjoy watching these from the upper deck. However, during the fireworks, there were just too many people on the upper deck. We needed to get down to kids club and had a very hard time staying together -- just the 2 of us -- to walk down the deck to get to mid-ship elevators.
Food and Dining:
Royal Palace (French-based)
I am not a fan of French food. There was, however, a steak on the menu. It was good. For a finale, I had the souffle. O..M..G.. That souffle was 100% worth the price of admission. Nothing was more delicious than this -- for the whole cruise!
Animators Palate (American-based)
The food was good. I had (another) steak. This was cooked very, very well with a very good flavor. I couldn't find a dessert to my liking... so, my fabulous server went to Royal Palace and brought me a souffle!! O..M..G.. it was just as fabulous the 2nd night as the first night! And, my husband and 2 other (adult) table mates had *the* dessert of our cruises!
Enchanted Garden (Health food-based)
The sea bass came very highly recommended. So, I ordered the sea bass AND a steak. One bite of the sea bass, and I couldn't take another bite -- yuk. However, all 3 other adults at the table thought the sea bass was *the best* sea bass they'd ever tried. Since I got the steak, too, I certainly didn't go hungry! The steak, again, was good. No souffle, though... :-(
Hostess: Mary did a fabulous job! Our room was always made to look picture perfect. She did a good job at turn-down service, too! This was a very nice touch!
Server: Second to none! She moved to another dining room for my souffle. Enough said? I think so! Her tastes, however, were quite different than mine. She didn't recommend the French Onion soup (Royal Palace) because she said it was too salty. It was very, very good! That soup is typically salty.
Asst Server: Not so great. He didn't refill drinks promptly. When asked to refill them, he took the empty glass, but didn't typically bring another soda back until specifically asked if another one would be coming. He couldn't seem to keep "Sprite for the Mr," and "Sprite Zero for the Ms" straight. We both got (surprise) wrong drinks at least once during each meal. And, he couldn't remember "no ice" in the daughter's apple juice. Alas, she drank (most of) it anyway.
Head Server: Never saw him. Seriously? Strange to TIP someone you never, ever saw. Weird.
Cruise Director, Rachel: Very cheery and peppy!
Shopping Director (Whitney):
I went to her presentation on "shopping" to get my free gift. The presentation was 100% about jewelry. OK, that wasn't necessarily clear before I attended. She talked about the 4C's of diamonds. OK, well, I already knew this kind of information. I got a signed slip to receive a "free 1ct midnight sapphire" and a free Sophia Fiori pendent IF and only IF I got off of the ship in Nassau and went to the Venetian (see port reviews below).
Future Cruise booking:
I filled out a card for quotation. The card was returned to my fish hanger at my room. This was a simple process, but I never *saw* or spoke with anyone about it.
Gift Shops... There are 4... 3 are right together.
We tried to buy a watch for our 9 y.o. daughter. We checked 20 watches. Each and every one of them had a dead battery. We passed on this. She got a vinylmation, instead, as her souvenir.
This review is about Castaway Cay (CC, no port selection for this)...
Again, there is SO much written about CC, that I don't have any new information.
We really enjoy CC. This has always been a fan favorite of our family. We did some family snorkeling which wasn't so successful. We did, though, see a ray!! After leaving our daughter at Skuttle's Cove, we went to Serenity Bay to snorkel. It was VERY good snorkeling over there. There were some sunken treasures where schools of fish were living. Cool! And, there was enough ground cover (rocks and such) to be very interesting. Admittedly, though, the entire bay is very shallow. We didn't get to waist-deep water until about 100 yards from shore.
Cookies BBQ... AWESOME. Great not to have to go back to the ship to eat. The food was typical American BBQ fare: grilled chicken, hamburgers, hotdogs, potato chips, potato salad, mozzarella bread, fresh fruit, cookies, and soda... oh, and ice cream! I had combo banana and strawberry. Loved it!