This review is well overdue... We sailed on 1/22/12 from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera with two small children ages 5 and 3. We were reluctant to go on a 7 day cruise with such small children who had never gone on a cruise before. The only reference we point we have in terms of cruises were Carnival Cruises.
We were able to sign up for a "kids sail free" promotion and paid for a Category 6 stateroom. I knew that they were out of this selection, including staterooms in the category 5 when I signed up, so I was told by Disney Cruiselines that I would likely get upgraded. Sure enough, we were upgraded to a much larger category 4 stateroom which is a little bigger than the others (304 square feet).
The whole process with this cruiseline was just so well organized. Living in Orange County California and only minutes from Disneyland, we are very familiar with how the Disney Experience is. From the moment we got to the Los Angeles cruise terminal, the "Disney Magic" was clearly setting this experience a part from our other cruise experiences. Thole embarkataion process was so organized and so effortless. We were able to check in and do most of our paperwork online.
When we got on the ship, they announced every family by name and welcomed you aboard. They had lunch ready to go for us at the restaurants and had plenty of activities to start enjoying. The pools were open, the unlimited soft drink station was ready to go and we were able to get into our staterooms by 2:00PM. When we got into our room, we were surprised at how much room there was. We were on deck 8 and closer to aft than midship, which was a perfect location for us since we were close to the pools and quick dining options. It was a short walk to the theaters and also close to Animators Palate and Parrot Cay restaurants.
We didn't enjoy Parrot Cay as much, however, the food was ok. We enjoyed Animators Palate and Triton's restaurant the most.
We saw plenty of characters and had plenty of impromptu and scheduled character photo opportunities. They are walking everywhere and roaming around. If you go to a scheduled photo shoot, take the time to look at who's going to be scheduled and get there during the 15 interval or they'll close the line.
Also, if you want a good seat, be sure to get to the shows about 10-15 minutes early. People save seats, even though they aren't allowed to.
Be sure to read and comb through your daily Navigator so you can see what's scheduled and what specials you can take advantage of - such as buy one get one cocktails, spa packages etc.
We used the Oceaneers Club several times. The staff was great and by the middle of the week, they knew our children by name. We did not leave our kids in the Club for as long as we thought we would originally since there were so many family activities to do. We would drop them off an hour or two at a time based on what activities they had scheduled (daily activities found in Navigator). One of the best parts of the cruise was that during the second seating dinner, they would have the children's food served between 8:45PM and 9:00PM and the youth counselors would come down and pick up the kids to play while we finished our dinner and had a cocktail in Route 66.
This was a great experience for our family and I am glad we were able to do it before they repositioned the cruise back to the east coast. We did the port adventures but they can get pricey. Well worth it to not have to worry about navigating through Mexico yourself.