Over all, we had a great time. And my kids especially enjoyed it; they have fantastic kids' programs for all ages (both oldest son and youngest son ended up with the 11-13 year olds all week).
So bottom line, if you have children or grand children, this is a fantastic cruise! Lots and lots of activities for the kids, lots of family type events, etc. They do have adult only sections so once you drop the kids off at their activity (youngest son and oldest son came and went on their own since it was the 11-13 year olds), then you can find some quiet areas. Also, after 9:00 p.m., a lot of the lounges that were open for kids were now off limits. Not an issue normally but we really wanted to do some family game nights and we never found a place to do that after 9:00 p.m. That was kind of a bummer for us.
The food was just OK. Some dishes that were supposed to be hot were cold, others had little flavor while other dishes were fabulous! I guess we were spoiled by the Regent Seven Seas Mariner but now that I look at their current prices, I really cannot compare them to Disney. It's like comparing a Four Seasons hotel to a Best Western or Holiday Inn Express (we love BW and HI). Apples and oranges. But for the value, it was excellent. We spent about $1200 per person and we had 2 seperate staterooms. The same 2 staterooms on the Regent Mariner would be a lot more! Also, you do have to tip and pay for all alcoholic drinks on the Disney Cruise. On the Mariner, it's ALL included. On the Disney Cruise, we had to pay for just about everything including internet. It does add up but not what we would pay on the Mariner! (We paid an additional $1500 for shore excursion, internet access, surcharge for the adult only restaurant, alcohol, club sodas, lava flows for the kids and laundry).
The noise level was over the top. I guess I should have expected this since it was a holiday cruise and the ship was full. Lots and lots of small children. Even some of the 11-13 year olds were allowed (by their parents) to run wild. Not my kids' style, thankfully! When we walked into the dining room the first night (and this was after watching the kids run up and down the hallway), it was quite loud. All hard surfaces and many of the parents ignored their children as they banged their spoons and forks on their plates. It did settle down a bit as the cruise went on and we changed dining rooms each night (rotation dining). We ate a peaceful and quiet dinner on the 2nd night in their very casual restaurant since none of us felt like dressing up (formal night). On the 3rd night, my husband and I went to the adults only restaurant (an extra $20 surcharge per person) and it was a lot more like what we experienced all over the Mariner. It was very quiet (except for some large adult parties) and the food was outstanding. We cancelled our reservations for Saturday night to have dinner with the kids; I kind of wished we had not done that and enjoyed yet another great meal at that restaurant (called Palo on the Disney Wonder). I asked my husband to move to the later seating but he really wanted to eat at the main seating (he gets up early to workout since he is a triathlete). So I told him to get ear plugs! I was told by our server and main server that the second seating has a lot less kids and is somewhat quieter.
I was very impressed with the service! On the 1st night, I guess they could tell my husband was a bit annoyed (mostly at the 4 year old, curly haired blonde boy that played the drums on his plate all evening while his mother at the other end of the table completely ignored him), the Head Server asked us there was anything he could do for us. Well, the bok choy with oldest son's meal was outstanding! And my husband was hoping for some green vegetable. So he came back in a few minutes with a huge bowl of the bok choy and a 2nd bowl of steamed broccoli. Also, whenever we went to the Outlook Cafe and Lounge (an adults only place), "Vendy", our server from the Czech Republic) automatically brought me a class of La Crema Chardonnay and a club soda with lime. This so impressed this other family on the 5th night when I sat down to say hi! The bar tender at Diversions was equally responsive to our needs.
My husband and I had some difficulty finding activities we liked. The trivia games were fun. I'm not a big fan of Bingo but that seemed to be a big hit with a lot of other folks. The live entertainment was very "Disney" and more suitable for smaller children and total Disney freaks (there were a lot of these on the ship!). They had a great movie theatre and showed first run movies. Unfortunately, I missed Cars 2 and I do not want to see The Help until I finish the book (which I read on the cruise). They also showed the new Muppets movie the morning it opened (at 12:01 a.m.). We liked most of the lounges and enjoyed meeting other parents with kids our age. The adult only lounge at the bow of the ship was a popular place to get an after dinner drink after the kids took off for their kids club. Very quiet, adult's playing cards and we met quite a few folks there. It also had a killer view! There was no Bridge playing on the ship. But a lot of grandparents. I was surprised that this was not an activity like it was on the last cruises we took (the 1st being NCL with my mom in 2000 and again on the Mariner to Alaska, all had Bridge time).
The kids clubs were fantastic and I think this is what would bring me back to a Disney cruise. They had 5 different areas: The Vibe for ages 14-18 just for teens (and they did not allow anyone younger), The Edge for ages 11-13 and the kids could come and go as they pleased, The Oceaneers' Lab for ages 8-10 and Oceaneer's Club, ages 3-10 with some younger activities. Kids could come and go as they please at the Lab but ONLY with parents permission (they had to wear an electronic bracelet). Unfortunately, the activities were a bit "babyish" for youngest son and he did not have very much fun. But then on the 2nd day, we met a family with the same aged children and she told me that her almost 10 year old was going to The Edge. Since they never checked the kids, I thought I would just let youngest son go in. He loved it and fit right in! My youngest son hangs out with his big brother's friends (all in 7th grade) all of the time. They also had a Nursery, play room for the babies and toddlers. We never went in there :). My kids spent most of their time in The Edge with all of their activities including Xbox 360 games, Wii, card games, scavenger hunts, t-shirt painting, Dodge Ball, or on the Sports Court playing soccer or basketball. We also discovered that we all love Foosball! Looks like Santa may be delivering one of those this Christmas. We often hung out at the Outlook Cafe or in loungers near the bow while they played.
On Saturday, it was too windy on the Sports Court (we were heading back up Baja at this time), so my husband set up a server (he bought a router at the Wal-Mart in Puerto Vallarta) and they had a Quake Fest in the Diversions Lounge with 4 college aged kids. It was quite the site to see the 7 of them playing Quake! I relaxed and read.
So if you thinking about this cruise with your grandkids, it was fabulous. Disney does a great job with the kids and the adult areas were extremely nice. Don't expect the food to be "Cafe Firenze" but it was OK. Also, if you absolutely LOVE Disney and enjoy all that Disney offers in shows, characters (my husband got to ride the elevator with Donald Duck), than it's also fun. The Disney Vacation Club members were all over this cruise and they eat, breath and live Disney. ;) With no kids, stay in the adult area sections, eat at the late seating (8:45 p.m.) and hang out in the lounges.
So my friends asked me to be honest about the noise. It bothered both my husband and me and we have kids! So maybe another cruise line geared towards adults might be a better choice if you are sensitive to the noise level generated by children unless you want to try my suggestions. They were very strict about not letting children in the adult only sections.
They had a fabulous Cadillac Lounge in the Route 66 area (yes, an entire area devoted to Route 66) and the piano bar was great. I told them they needed to add a picture of the Cadillac Ranch in Texas to be complete! Also, the carpet had the entire Route 66 map from Santa Monica to Chicago. But for some reason, it stopped at Santa Rosa, NM and resumed at St Louis. I gave them a real hard time about skipping Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas especially since the National Route 66 museum is in Oklahoma!
The location of our staterooms was key. Mid-ship (minimum movement), on the same level and right around the corner as The Edge, only one deck from the main dining and lounges. We also had easy access to the elevators, stairs and laundry room! I guess my biggest disappointment was the quality of food (which would explain why I actually lost weight!).
The pool areas that were open to the children were zoo like on sea days (again, the ship was full because of the holiday). Neither one of my children opted to swim on the ship; just too hectic! But the younger kids seem to enjoy it quite a lot.
A comment on loungers in the pool area. I noticed a lot of people dropping off their stuff to save their place and then take off. The Disney pool staff was well aware of this practice and if they saw this happening, they would take the towels off the loungers to free it up for someone who would actually use it. Of course, if you went into the pool for a little while, they would not do this. But some "campers" were obvious. For instance, my youngest son and I wanted a place to sit and eat lunch. We had a table but not chairs. I borrowed two chairs from a table behind me just long enough to eat. I thought I would wait until they came back and return their chairs. They never came back. The Disney staff also did a great job with getting more chairs, etc.