This was the first cruise for everyone except me and DH (we cruised with Carnival 4 years ago and enjoyed it without kids). We chose Disney Dream because my 2 boys really wanted to cruise on the ship with the aqua duck. My DH wanted to save money and cruise with Carnival again, but as usual the kids won. I did a lot of research on here prior to our trip, so this is my attempt to give back.
We drove down from WV on Friday (13 hours) since DH hates to fly. Trip was not too bad. We went to Downtown Disney and played at Lego land shop on Saturday and then drove over to the port. Me and DH then went to Fish lips to watch the Magic sail out while the kids swam at the hotel pool. I would highly recommend Fish lips. We sat out back along the channel and had a wonderful view of the ship as it passed. It was nice to sit and relax and the key lime pie was amazing. We stayed at the Holiday inn at Cocoa, FL for the park and ride. While the hotel was clean and well maintained, I cannot recommend this hotel to anyone and left my review on trip advisor. They did not schedule a shuttle for us the night before despite reassuring me 3 different times that it was taken care of. I called down the next morning at 9:30 am to confirm our shuttle for 10:30 am and the front desk said they would try. We paid extra specifically for the park and cruise package so this was frustrating. They then told us to come down it would be there at 10:30 as promised, but no shuttle ever came. We ended up with a small refund and repacking our gear for the trip to the port 1 hour later than planned. Very frustrating to say the least.
We ended up parking at the cruise terminal which turned out very nice despite the price. I liked just walking off the ship to our car at disembarkation.
Embarkation--This was a breeze. Our arrival time was 12:00 pm. We got to the port at 11:45 am and were on the boat by 12:05. That includes time to get luggage to a porter and check in. It was completely easy. There was a very long line to check in to kids club so we bypassed this and headed on board hoping to find a smaller line inside.
First impression--Amazing, Breathtaking, all superlatives apply. In fact, my DM and DGM did not think we were on the ship yet. The atrium is spectacular.
We headed straight to kids club to check the boys in. There was one other person in line in front of us and in just 5 minutes we were checked in and had the opportunity to go inside to look around. We were the only family in there. Disney really did the kids club right. I wanted to spend time in there myself. Great staff the entire cruise. My boys did not want to leave and begged to go whenever they could. Lots of fun activities. On our first day checking it out, Donald came in and played a video game with the boys for 15 minutes. Then Goofy showed up and we got pictures with both together. We were still the only family in there so Goofy took the boys over to draw for about 20 minutes (he actually did a picture himself and autographed it for them - just wow!). It was magical and one of the highlights of the trip.
We then went up and hit the aqua duck a few times with about a 15 to 20 minute wait. The pool was not too crowded and we grabbed a few paninis from Flo's (these are wonderful). It was then time to check out our room. It was ready promptly at 1:30 pm. Luggage delivered by 3:30
Rooms--Lots of storage. Loved our balcony (we stayed in 4C 7624). Bed was so comfortable. Boys said sofa and upper berth were comfy too.
Regular Dining--This was the only bad point for us. We did not do Enchanted garden. Animators palate was loud, crowded, and food was just OK. I was really looking forward to the show with Crush since we love Turtle talk with Crush at EPCOT, but this was not nearly as entertaining. Royal palace also loud and only OK food.
Specialty Dining--We did Remy's on 2nd night. I would highly recommend both the restaurant and our dining time - 6pm. The ship leaving Nassau made the view even more spectacular. Our waiter, David, thoroughly spoiled us. He is French and could make anything sound lovely with his accent. Lucky for him the food was not just anything - it was wonderfully prepared and presented. We are by no means foodies and worried that we would feel cheated due to the high price of this meal. Let me say it was worth every penny. This was another highlight for us. Also take time to go to Meridian bar prior, the cream brulee martini was very good and the wait staff there were also great.
Show--Villains was our favorite, but we enjoyed the others as well.
Bahamas--We arranged private boat not through Disney. The person we rented through had a 23 foot boat and only takes one group out at a time. He toured us around the ships and Atlantis and then to a private island called Rose island. Lots of fun. However, I do not think I will go back to Nassau if I can help it. It is a very ugly port overall.
Castaway Cay--We got 2 days here by some miracle. Not sure the reason. The captain said it was due to bad weather the first day but the weather was not that bad just one small rain storm that lasted less than 30 minutes. Whatever the reason, my entire family did the happy dance when we heard the announcement. We did the stingrays the first day and my boys loved it so much that we scheduled again for 9 am the next day. We were the only family there the second day and had a VIP type experience which was priceless. We also snorkeled (not much to see and a long swim) and biked (lots of fun even in the rain the first day). The beaches were a little crowded at times, but you could easily find a hammock and chair with a lovely view. The boys loved Pelican plunge. The food at Castaway was buffet style but very fresh. The cookies were great especially with a little ice cream on top.
Disembarkation--This was a breeze. We ate breakfast at Cabanas that morning at 6:45 am then returned to our room for our carry on things. We then went down to the atrium and simply walked off the boat. No hassle at all. We found a porter right outside and he guided us to our luggage and took us to our parked car at the terminal. In my opinion, if you can do it, pay the extra price and park at the terminal. It was so nice to just be on your way after stepping out of the boat. We were on our way by 7:45 without rushing at all and made it to Universal by 9am to have some more fun.
Things we would do different---We would opt to miss dinner in the dinning room and just play in the pools and watch the movie on the jumbo screen. We did this the last night and it was so much fun. We then ordered room service which was delivered in under 15 minutes and was hot and fresh. Eating out on the balcony that night was amazing and we wished we would have done that more often. Also we only did one case for the mid ship detective and we wish we had had time for more.
Impressions of the family--The boys loved every minute. They said it was the best vacation ever and actually thanked us multiple times for taking them (a work of Disney magic for sure). DM and DGM loved it as well. They took some time on the adult activities but enjoyed the family times best. DGM especially like Castaway Cay. She had never traveled outside the USA and loved visiting this island for the beautiful water and scenery. She also appreciated the sense of security that Castaway Cay provided. It really feels like another deck of the ship (granted a very spacious other deck). She enjoyed spending time with her great grandsons and loved soaking up the sun on the beach. In her words, "This was the best trip I could imagine." DH said "It was a family vacation that any and all families would enjoy." He was happy we spent the extra money and went with Disney, and especially liked our dinner at Remy's.
Comparison to Carnival--We loved our cruise with Carnival. We may go back to them in the future, but for now we are going with Disney. In fact, we re-booked for 2013 while on board for the Disney Fantasy. I think 7 nights would be so much better for us. 4 days was way too short. My husband and I have an adult trip planned March 2012 with RCI on Freedom of the Seas, so I will make a fresh comparison of RCI to Disney at that time.