OK so I am an older traveler, but not stodgy by any means. I love being around all the nieces and nephews. However, it is quite a different situation when you are tossed onto a ship with 2500 screaming, kicking, demanding, coughing, sneezing, dripping, naughty children.
Embarkation was a mess...we arrived at 10 AM and had a 2 hour wait to get on board. Never had to wait more than 20 minutes to board on RCCI in all the cruises we've taken. The number system they have is virtually worthless. We had group number 28 and an asthmatic child that needed a breathing treatment, so we were allowed to go on board with group number 25, but only after we insisted and had stood around for 2 hours. Not nearly enough seats for people and the benches they have, are always taken up by people putting their luggage next to them so no one else can sit.
The elevators were a constant 10-15 min. wait,and it was not until about the third night I realized it was because the pre-teens were running back and forth to the banks of elevators on each end of the ship, punching all the buttons inside the elevators for every floor. This seemed to be quite a source of pleasure for the smaller children as well. Hence the elevators would needlessly stop at every floor, no matter the time of day or night and most times, no one was waiting for them. Also since the children are allowed to get food and drinks freely they were carrying it onto the elevators and spilling it everywhere. On several occasions the elevators had soda dumped on the floors, cup and all. I had to ask crew members to wipe up two such messes in one day.
Also, our cabin was only 4 doors down from the elevators/stairs and it seemed that knocking on the doors and running away at all hours, was a good source of entertainment for some of the kids. Our kids ranged in ages from 3-17. There seemed to be plenty for the 10 year old to do, but the teen was so bored, he barely left the cabin. The littler ones just wanted to be in the pool all day long.
Speaking of pools, I agree with other reviewers, the Mickey pool is a disaster waiting to happen. That pool is very poorly designed and very dangerous. Overcrowded to the point of people tripping over legs and arms when they would try to get in or out, kids jumping off the point of the Mickey ears and landing onto other kids, it was like that every day. The first step down into the pools is over 18 inches deep. I am 5'1" tall and nearly killed myself trying to step down onto the water deck around the pools. This is clearly to deep to step down. There needs to be another way to get into the pool for those who have knee/joint issues. And the surround sound by the pools was so loud , between the screams of the children playing and the volume of the movies, there was no option for a conversation. The adult pool was very small and the hot tubs were overcrowded every day. On the last day of travel, forget even finding a spot in the adult pool, or a chair to sit and read.
Ice cream bar...wonderful perk, however children need to be accompanied by adults. All day long there were kids taking cones and trashing them on the floors/decks just because "there was no one to tell them not to".
Food...terrible. I never had one meal that was enjoyable or cooked correctly. The service was friendly, but very slow. The themed food was terrible. Especially on Pirate night, "Jerk everything" is not a good idea for people who need to watch their health. Also, the idea of putting ketchup on the kids plates in the shape of Mickey's head is cute, but do it with a squirt bottle not a regular ketchup bottle. It took 5-6 minutes to do it for the two little guys and the rest of the table had to wait while they did this. Again, clever, if done correctly. Otherwise annoying. I ordered roast pork one night, it was delivered with pink juices running from it. Sorry, but I like my pork cooked thoroughly. Took 20 minutes for the server to return to our table and take it back, another 15 minutes for a new "fully cooked" plate of food to return. Meanwhile the family was done and ready to leave the table.
Cabana, what can I say...the food was terrible and the chaos to find a place to sit even worse. The first day on board our group had to split into three different tables in order to sit to eat. No help from the staff to find a table for us together or even two tables we could push together. And the tables were so crammed together there was barely walking room to pass. Alot of people bring strollers into the table area which only added to the issue. I will say having the utensils wrapped on the tables is a great idea. Steak was tough and over cooked, dried out, chicken was rubbery, I've had such great food on RCCI that I would rate Disney at the bottom of the scale. I ended up ordering off the children's menu four out of five nights because there was such odd choices on the adult menus. Can you say "French Fries at every meal"!
Character photo ops, were a mess. Hello Disney...LINES ARE YOUR SPECIALTY! WHERE WAS THE ORGANIZATION? People were lining up all over the lobby deck in all directions. Never knew what line they were getting into because the lines were so long. People and strollers blocking the courtesy desk area, the elevators, the hallways, all to get a chance to take a pic with a Disney character. No ropes/turn-styles to guide people and keep people organized, with maybe a sign at the end of the line indicating what line you were getting into? Family groups would break into different segments and hold spots in three different lines at once. So when the photo op for "Buzz" was finished, a group of 7-8 would come over and get in front of you, because grandma was holding a spot! Not fair to our little ones who had been sitting there for 45 minutes to see "Jesse"..and very annoying. Very badly handled by Disney. There should be a sign-up roster, so people can just go down and get in line when their number is up. Why make little kids stand in lines for an hour for a picture, it just makes the trip miserable. And wastes the whole afternoon, when you could be out enjoying yourself somewhere else on the ship. Doesn't make sense.
Shows...all for the children. One adult night comic show and I ended up watching the little ones so Mom and Dad could have a night out alone. I really missed the high caliber of shows provided on the RCCI ships.
The pirate show was nice, but everyone stands for the show on the pool deck cover and if you cannot stand for long periods, you will not be able to see it. Otherwise you had to sit on the floor of the deck and there was food dropped and dirty plates... french fries, pizza, etc all over the deck area. Yuck. The fireworks were nice, but too late, the little ones were already asleep on our laps.
DISNEY...I tried it, did not like it, and I will say I paid far more "per day " for these 5 days than I have ever paid for a 7 or even 11 day cruise on RCCI, and had much better service, food, amenities, all round enjoyment from RCCI than from Disney. Disney really dropped the ball on this one. Won't do it again.