The ship was gorgeous. I spent month watching her being built via the shipyard webcams but seeing her in person was breath taking. We were so excited to see her as we pulled into port. We did drive a rental and park at the port. It really was quite cost effective and made things easy for the four of us. The port was very crowded when we got there around noon. The security line went quickly, however the line to check in was VERY long. Even with the long check in line, and the line at the kid club desk, we were still in our room and had our luggage delivered as well by 1:35. Not bad ! We had lunch at Cabanas (buffet) after we checked out our room. It was organized chaos. Enchanted Garden was open for lunch as well but I figured the kids probably needed a less formal atmosphere after all of the driving and waiting.
They had two sail away parties that day and we attended the "non sail away" sail away party at 2:30p since we had the 5 o'clock show and 6 o'clock dinner. The party was okay but seemed more like an advertisement for what the ship had to offer. I was on the ship already so it is not like they had to sell me on it.
The shows were amazing. We saw "The Golden Mickeys", "Villains Tonight", and "Believe". Each show even kept my 2 year olds attention for the full hour. The theater did not seem over crowded but from what I hear they only do 2 show times now so that could change.
There were other activities, such as family karaoke and dance parties, where the D Lounge was pretty much empty but we still enjoyed them. The character meets in the lounge were pretty amazing too. One or two characters would pose for pictures while another would "play" with the kids.
The pirate party was a lot of fun. It was crowded on deck but not too bad. It is really neat having fireworks at sea as well. They do an early pirate party, then the fireworks, the Club Pirate which is geared toward older kids/adults. There was supposed to be some kind of buffet but I never saw it - it must have been lost along with my room service menu !
The pools looked nice but we never used them. Nor did we use the hot tubs - they were always crowded. Aqua Duck was really fun but the lines can be long most of the day. It was neat at one point you are right over the ocean when you look down through the tube. My son played in Flounder's Reef. This space was large and provided lots of fun splashing around for the un-potty trained set - although older potty trained kids can use it as well.
The food on the ship was always great. I am pretty picky about food quality and I was never disappointed. Dinner service did take a bit long in my opinion but I have no other cruises to compare it to. We averaged 1 hour and 45 mins each night and getting our drinks took awhile too. Each restaurant had a different menu and different themes. It was nice to change to a new one each night but keep your same serve team. The buffet and quick service food was always good/great. The quick service did have a bit of a line throughout the day but still never more than a 5-10 minute wait.
The crowds on the ship can be seen mostly on deck 11 by the pool, Aqua Duck, and quick service counters. They are also mostly seen in the atrium between dinner services and on elevators. Not sure we took the elevator more than 1 or 2 times because it was quicker to take the stairs. There was also some confusion and crowding when disembarking at the different ports but that was probably due to newness of the ship/staff.
We made use of Small World Nursery, Oceaneers Club, and Edge. My son was only just 2 and not potty trained so he was not old enough for Oceaneers. During our dining times, aside from the first night, we put him in the nursery. It worked well for us because we had a relaxing dinner while he got to play with some friends. The staff was friendly and knew how to work with children who were a bit shy/sad about being dropped off.
We did take him into Oceaneers to play as a family and WOW is all I can say. I was truly impressed with each themed play space. From Toy Story, to Monsters, Inc, Pixie Hollow, and Nemo to name a few ... there was a space for every child's interests. I will point out that it seemed a little less structured then I imagined it to be - for the kids who were in there sans parents. Everyone was just kind of running around like crazy with staffers just standing around observing. I don't know for sure if we were just there in between scheduled activities or if it is always like that.
My daughter was just a few weeks shy of her 11th birthday so she was given the option of using Oceaneers Lab or Edge. After taking one look at Edge it won her over. There were many organized activities such as pillowcase designing and ghost story telling. The staff did a good job keeping the kids busy and engaged and had great personality.
My son felt much better this day so we headed off the ship to enjoy a beach day. Disembarking was chaotic as no one knew where we were supposed to disembark from. We were sent a different place by each staff member until we finally figured it out on our own. The island is beautiful. Nice clean sandy beaches with enough loungers /umbrellas/chairs for everyone. Pelican Plunge looked like a lot of fun but we didn't try it out. My daughter did a little snorkeling with a friend she made while my son took a nap in the warm air. My husband toured around to check out the bars and BBQ while I lounged with a drink. I definitely recommend getting a Konk Cooler - very good drink !! The hair braiding on the island is reasonably priced, the ladies are very friendly, and they do a great job. The food that Disney provided at Cookies and Cookies Too was just so/so. Burgers, Dogs , Chicken etc. I wasn't impressed at all and would consider packing some snacks from the ship next time. This place was my little piece of heaven at the end of my WDW/DCL vacation though and I was sad to leave.
Disembarkation was so smooth. We had early breakfast, we ate in our schedule restaurant because we wanted to see our servers before we left but Cabanas was open as well. We were off the ship, through customs, and to our car by 8:15.
I want to add a note here about the medical staff. In the am on day 2 my son woke up non stop crying. This was not like him so we took him to see the doctor as soon as they opened. Upon examination he was diagnosed with 2 very bad ear infections. (This is our MO - every vacation thus far he has come down with ear infections. We will be using ear plugs in the pool from now on) The doctor thought of everything and gave us exactly what we would need to ensure 1) that he felt better and 2) that his ears would be clear enough for our flight home in 2 days. She even gave us a follow up call to check on my son. I was very pleased with the professionalism and courtesy shown by the staff in the medical facility.
I think taking this cruise as my first has probably spoiled us beyond belief. I am having trouble planning my second because I am so fearful that it will not live up.
We did not plan any excursions. I really chose the cruise for the ship first and stopping at new places was a bonus. Nassau was the day my son fell ill so we tried to take it easy. We did get off the ship to walk around the port and straw market but I have to be honest we did not go any further. I didn't feel super safe walking around those areas so I let my fear get the best of me and did not go any further into town. The market by the port was just touristy gift shop type items. If I were to go to Nassau again I would either stay on the ship or plan an excursion.