The trip was less than magical. We just completed a Western cruise for 7 days a group of 10 of us traveling to spend extended family time together. I'll break down the highs and lows of the trip:
Spacious cabins is questionable when there are 4 occupants to a room. The cabins are looking very old and tired and the bathrooms while split to allow a separate toilet are tiny and dirty. This was no fault of the steward, just age and sheer usage. We often received towels which were thread-bare and had holes! The ship is in need of an update.
Our biggest complaint was the swimming and outer deck area. It's all TINY! We were traveling with 4 children ranging in age from 4 to 6 and could rarely use the pool area. The Mickey pool is tiny, and over-flowing with screaming children before 9 am. All of our group are good swimmers and could not handle the crowds in the tiny space. We actually got up at 7 am to sit on deck chairs so the kids could swim before b'fast. If you do not take part in any shore excursions this is also a good time to try and use the tiny pool area.
We did visit the adults area a few times, it's an oasis of quiet and welcome after the volume in the other areas. The pool again is very small but alas not well used.
We didn't sign up for any excursions offered by Disney preferring to make our own way. We can say the Castaway Cay Island was a gem and high-light. If we could have stayed there we would have! There is tons of room for everyone (no doubt as the island is now set-up to accommodate the larger Dream and upcoming Fantasy). There was no need to rush for chairs on the beach or float rentals, tons available. The kids loved Scuttles Cove and swimming in the ocean in Feb can't be beat!
The kids clubs are good however be warned there is a heavy emphasis on tech toys (lots of video games and computer stations) so if you don't want your child to be bug-eyed and starring at a computer screen all day schedule the club hours accordingly. The club activities when running are well organized and all 4 loved them, plus the supervisors are amazing, kudos to them for all their hard-work.
Be forewarned the characters do not circulate, they only appear for pre-scheduled appearances. Lines happen very early so if you have some princesses in the group you need to line up early to get any photos or risk not making it through. We lined up 30 mins ahead of the scheduled time and it still took an hr to see the first princess! Also, you need to line up for seats to the show otherwise most are gone approx. 30 mins before-hand.
We were impressed with the fitness/spa facility onboard and did go a few times during the week to work-out. The cardio machines are all new and top-end even if all you can watch is the same looped state-room TV. There are some limited weight machines available but the space is small, plus they do offer some pay fitness classes you can sign up for. The facility was rarely busy and a respite from the noise of the other ship areas!
The evening shows are Disney-style and family oriented and well put together. The whole family really enjoyed several of the evenings. A word of warning the "Pirates" show mid-cruise does not begin until 9:45 pm with fire-works an hour later, which is too late for any 4 yr old!
The cruise offers rotational dining but with the same staff. Our waiter was friendly but frazzled. We had repeated difficulty in getting the kids meals first and if you have any health concerns this is not the cruise for you! They are incapable of providing any vegetables not smothered in butter and salt regardless of how many times/ways you ask for plain. If all you want to feed children for a week is hot dogs and french fries this the cruise for you. We struggled at the buffets also to find any fruit that was fresh and not melon - apparently even embarking from Florida all they can serve is melon. Breakfast buffets are very crowded and we often would take a tray back to our room as getting a table was difficult many mornings. Our biggest frustration was the lack of anything fresh not smothered in dressings and sauces. The adults menu is nice but heavily salted and portions are very small so you will want a starter with your meal.
On a plus side the Palo adults-only restaurant was excellent and incredibly quiet. Any parent looking for a retreat should make one night there, book early as it is always full.
Arrival and Departures:
We booked travel outside of the Disney transport and had no issues. Boarding was easy and straight-forward with clear signage and friendly staff. A suggestion is to arrive early as you are forced to wait until 1:30 pm for your cabin and luggage to begin arriving so you need to stake-out a table in the only open restaurant or risk standing around with your carry-on luggage. Disembarking was easy, we even could have made an earlier flight than 11:30 am. They will instruct you to book afternoon flights but it's not necessary we were off the boat by 7:30 am and through Orlando airport security just before 9:30 am with two kids and all our luggage! Recommend booking through a separate taxi company than taking the over-priced bus shuttle Disney offers.
Also of note, both the grand-parents fell ill with what we suspect to be Norovirus. Thankfully none of the children but a word of caution to anyone taking a cruise. Disney is very good at offering hand-sanitizer wipes to everyone at each meal and stations at every port. We did hear of others onboard who were also ill during the trip.
Our overall impression was this was not for us. We felt very cramped in our cabin, even with a balcony. The boat is showing it's age and is desperate need of some dry-dock TLC. Eating healthy was next to impossible and the kids areas were so over-crowded given the demographics of this cruise. The pools were a huge disappointment.