I have been on multiple Carnival Cruises and have also experienced RCCL. Although my sons and I enjoy Carnival, I have always been intrigued by Disney Cruise Lines. We planned a 6 day cruise January 2012.
My sons and I had a nice vacation. The ship was lovely. Our stateroom was very large, clean and nicely decorated. The service was excellent. It was easy to find our way around the ship.
A note on the cabin. We were in 7620 which was listed as a 7a (Navigator's Verandah). This cabin actually has a plexiglass rail and not a port hole. On some boards I read that this is what is referred to as a "secret balcony". It was nice as we paid the price of a less expensive balcony but got such a nice one.
The highlight would have to be the nightly shows. They were spectacular! I have never seen entertainment this amazing on a ship before.
The children's facilities were very nice. My boys had fun there. One of the positive things about the children's clubs were that my 7 and 9 year old got to be together. On Carnival they would have been in separate groups. Also, they could just have free time in the clubs verses joining in on the group activities. They enjoyed that.
Security wasn't the greatest in the children's facilities. My 9 year old had permission to check himself out. My 7 year old could only with his 9 year old brother. They never checked the security on the computer and my 7 year old would just leave when he wanted.
My son found being on a Carnival a bit more personable as the leaders in Camp Carnival knew the children by names. I can see how this is not possible on Disney due to the amount of children...but he missed that.
Unfortunately there were many negatives. Disney has always been so expensive compared to Carnival. I expected so much more from this cruise or at least equivalent to Carnival. A few of their shortcomings were with the photographers and most importantly the food.
They are always taking our photo on Carnival. I love going every night to find our photos and the Carnival photographers are amazing. I always joked that they must follow us around the whole week as they get so many good shots of my sons. On Disney they took 2 photos of us. Once at embarkation and once at dinner. All other photos were taken if you waited in VERY LONG character lines. The 2 photos they took were disappointing. A good photographer wouldn't have waited until my sons were smiling. They didn't smile in either photo and not worth the money. I looked at other photos to see if they got many good ones of other families and I wouldn't have paid for the others either.
Typically, I never complain about food. I am glad that someone else cooked it and cleaned up after. Honestly, the food on this cruise was AWEFUL! There was not one meal or appetizer in the main dining rooms that I enjoyed. The presentation was terrible as well. I tried the fish, the chicken and the beef. One night I ordered the steak. It was a very thin but big piece of beef. It was tough and slathered in gravy. The gravy was so salty and it tasted like it came from a can. The steak was accompanied by corn on the cob. The corn looked like it was cooked yesterday and reheated. I do not like to complain to the waiters. I know they are working very hard. Plus, I didn't want to make our tablemates feel uncomfortable by me complaining. I just ate what I could and smiled. All the meals were bad. I am sure that the waiter would have brought me something else but by the time I got my meal, my kids were ready to leave. These restaurants were not nice (except for Triton's), they had the atmosphere of Denny's except Denny's food is actually better. The kids meals were not great either.
Another aspect I found frustrating was that as soon as we ordered they would bring my sons' meals. They arrived way before my appetizer. My main meal arrived 45 minutes after my sons were served and I only ordered one appetizer. As we had the late dining time it was 9:30 by the time I was done and did not want to stay longer to order a dessert.
The buffet was worse. We went twice and then simply avoided.
Carnival has elegant, beautifully presented, delicious meals. Carnival has prime rib, lobster and a much better selection. There was no lobster at all on this cruise.
I think if I would have paid the same price as Carnival, I wouldn't be nearly as disappointed. The fact that I paid almost double for this cruise makes me sad that I chose Disney. I really felt ripped off. Clearly there are people who think Disney is fantastic. There was a line up at the desk to book the next cruise. I was not in that line up.
In the end my boys and I had a nice vacation but three of us can have fun in a motel in the middle of nowhere.