When selecting our vacation we decided on a Disney Cruise. Our only question was, what destination. We are big Disney fans. We booked this cruise in March for an August sailing. Being that we booked so late, we also paid more than those who book early. We actually booked three staterooms. Two on deck 1 and one on deck 6 for our group of 7. While we had some problems, our overall experience was great. We'll have some of the best memories ever and most in our family are already trying to figure out how they can go on their next Disney cruise. My wife and I have reservations. Embarkation was absolutely amazing. Super smooth and organized, we were on the ship relatively quickly after arriving at the port. We booked airfare and transfers all through Disney. We also booked all of our port adventures through Disney. This was our first Disney cruise and the first cruise of any kind for our "kids".
From the moment we boarded the ship we could tell we were on a Disney ship, not just because of the statue of Ariel just outside Triton's restaurant or the Mickey symbols all over. It was the service. We were pulled aside after being announced as having arrived and were given a quick lay of the land, a brief itinerary for the next few hours and an opportunity to ask questions. Disney service is very hard to beat. When we reached Deck 9 and the buffet, we had trouble finding a table for our group of 7 but a cast member (Disney crew for those unfamiliar) helped us out right off. We had our meal and it was announced that our staterooms were ready. Our cruise had begun!
Throughout the cruise there was always plenty to do. We had one under-18 on the ship and the club for them is called "Vibe". The counselors there were not as strong as I would have expected and it took until the last day of sailing before we finally got our kid comfortable with joining in and that took a phone call to Guest Services and a discussion with the youth activities coordinator. This shouldn't be necessary and won't be if your child is outgoing and quick to make new friends. Those who may be a little more shy might find it difficult to break through. Parents should use the open house time to visit the Vibe with their teen to help get them acclimated.
The only real disappointment on this cruise was the dining experience. Disney does a rotational dining through three dining rooms on the ship. We had late seating, which is what we usually do when cruising. That was fine. It was our dining service that didn't meet expectations. The food was "too fancy" for us generally, but we did find something to eat for every course. It took nearly two hours to get through the meal, every night. Our servers were late with bringing condiments and dressings for the dishes that required them and even forgot who ordered which dish at times. At least twice they brought the wrong food entirely and had a hard time explaining some of the ingredients that were "new" to us. The wait staff was very friendly, but they really missed the mark in those areas. The character breakfast was horrible. Cold food, bland, poor service and the handlers for each of the characters were short with us. On a positive note, the dining rooms on Disney had different size tables that accommodate an entire sailing party, and there weren't many occasions where multiple sailing parties were combined. This worked well for us as we used dinner time to catch up with everyone's experiences from the previous day.
We also dined in Palo once and another pair in our group did as well. Both were OUTSTANDING experiences. Everything from the servers to the food was exceptional. Truly exceptional. The view from Deck 10 aft was amazing. Unbelievable. I can't say enough good things about Palo. It is a MUST DO.
We saw three of the main shows. The send-away show on sail date in the theater, the Golden Mickey's show and Toy Story the Musical. The first two shows were excellent. We were even surprised at how good the Golden Mickey's show was. Toy Story the Musical was a big disappointment. Great costumes but the music was uninspired and they did nothing with the storyline but mimic the original movie, but with less time to develop a plot of any kind, it was very disjointed. It wasn't worth the time and pretty much everyone agreed. Remember, we are big Disney fans.
The views and vistas of Alaska are amazing and the overall service aboard the ship was great. We will have some of the best memories from this vacation, no question. It is really my wife and I who noticed things that we felt were just "on par" with our previous experiences where we expected Disney to be "a cut above". It was really great, but it wasn't better, even though it cost more.