We just returned today from our 4-night Bahamanian cruise aboard the Disney Dream, and I am simply raving. We have already booked another trip on the same boat in August.
Background: Family of 4; me, working mom, 31 - travel extensively for work and accustomed to a lot of perks and reward programs. Dad, 40. Daughter, 4.5 and total princess diva. Son, 2.5 - still wants to be a baby boy.
We flew in to orlando the day of the cruise and used the disney transfer program to get to Pt. Canaveral. Major plus: our bags got there without us having to worry about it. Con; traveling to and boarding the ship on the same day is kind of a drain to do with 2 small kids. Disney made the entire process essentially flawless, but it was still exhausting. Next time, we'll fly in at least the day before...
Once aboard, we were pleasantly suprised by how well appointed our staterooms were. Being accustomed to travelling in higher-end hotels alone, I was concerned about the four of us sharing such a small place. Disney has done a marvelous job of making the use of the small space. We had a deluxe inside stateroom with the magic porthole. I would have preferred a larger ocean view room, but we booked at the last minute and this was what was available. For our next cruise, we've actually booked the smallest; standard inside stateroom. You spend so very little time in the room, save your money on the room and spend it on the excoursions or other amenities.
Making the most of your room: There is plenty of storage in the bathrooms. The closets are unfortunately pretty much full of the life vests, and there are only 3 small "dresser" drawers in the desk. For the kids, I packed outfits all matched up with socks and underwear each in a ziplock bag, and those went in the drawers. Grown up clothes stayed in suitcases, which fit nicely under the bed (thank goodness).
Helpful hints: Pack everything in bags - bigger bags in smaller bags, clothes in ziplock bags; toiletries in different kinds of bags. We also packed an over-the-door shoe rack ($5 at walmart) and a pop-up hamper and they were godsends. I also recommend packing a few of those cube-i-cals fold flat storage bins, they make good storage near and under the beds.
Our stateroom host was JOCY; and he was fabulous. He was always around, straightening, tidying, providing fun things for the kids. Keeping up on things in these rooms is criticial with the limited space and JOCY rocked
Enough about the rooms, because you don't spend ANY time there. First night, we had dinner at the Animator's Palette - a fabulous restaurant with some great entertainment. The food was exceptional, and it was nice to see the flexibility and comfort of everyone dining with kids. Makes dinner far less stressful when yours isn't the only 2 yer old who won't stay in his seat :) Each night, the food was spectacular; and we were pleasantly suprised to find that the dining was on a rotation, so each night we got to experience a different restaurant. I was always blown away by the food and the service was good. Slightly obnoxious because every single meal our server asked us to confirm that our service had in fact been "Excellent" and not just "good" or "very good". It was fine. Everything came out as ordered, special requests were accomodated, food was prompt. Kids were catered to, and that was that. Nothing about the service blew me away, but it met all my expectations. Get one of everything if you want it - you can have as much as you want. Nice touches like mickey shaped noodles and ketchup poured for the kids in the shape of mickey. The servers would even cut the meats for the kids.
First day, we docked in Nassau, and chose to do the Atlantis Aquaventure. For $169 for adults and $110 for kids, I expected a bit more. The transportation and organization was kind of a cluster, it took a while to get there, in a crappy bus, and they just set you loose on the property. The slides and pools and rivers are fabulous; as are the aquariums, but not worth the price in my opinion. Not to mention it was just plain cold the day we were there, but that's what we get for cruising in february. The lunch was just GROSS. The choices were horribly limited, the food was bad, and it took us nearly half an hour of standing in line to get food. We then had to stand in another line to order food for my baby (kids under 3 were free, but obviously don't get lunch. "Cruisers" had to get food from one line, then we had to get in another line to pay for food), and we paid SEVEN DOLLARS for a tiny, crappy piece of pizza. Kids loved the pools, they were too small to enjoy the slides, and they loved the aquarium. Overall a decent experience, but highly over priced.
That night we did dinner as a family, then dropped the kids at the kid's club and nursery. Lets talk about that for a moment. Since my littlest one is under 3, he was required to go to the nursery and not the kids center. Nursery is a small extra charge ($6/hr) which didn't bother us, but the fact that the place was ALWAYS booked was quite annoying. Our travel agent assured me that "no agent she'd spoken to had ever encountered a situation where the nursery was booked". We were able to drop him off on a whim once. the other time we had him in was booked weeks in advance. Turns out the reason we were able to drop in that time was because the kids club was "closed" (Open for play but not staffed), so even though we paid to put the baby in nursery, we were "stuck" with my 4 year old. Overall, though we were very happy with the childrens programs, and it was almost always a fight to get my daughter out of the kids clubs.
Day 2 was Disney's Castaway Cay. Fabulous! Everything you could want on a tropical island. I was able to do a yoga class on the private, adult-only beach and then meet up with hubby and kiddos and let them play on the family beaches. After a little while we grabbed lunch and then headed back to the ship because my little guy needed a nap. There was so much more to do, and we've made sure that our next cruise has 2 stops at castaway cay. We want to do the bike trails, and let the kids play in the splash park and kids areas....really well done attraction, disney.
Day 2 was also Pirate Day, and dinner and evening entertainment were themed accordingly. It was obvious that many of the passengers knew prior to boarding that there would be a pirate day; they had elaborate costumes and such. We did not know this (a little disappointed in my travel agent there), but still managed to have a lot of fun. We met pirate mickey, pirate minnie, peter pan, and captain jack sparrow crashed my morning yoga class. The night time pirate party and fireworks show had my 4 year old super excited (bitty fell asleep for it).
Fun day at sea was fun. We played a little while with the kids in the nemo splash pool (since little guy isn't potty trained this is the only place he can swim - bummer)and then the kids went to play in their respective centers and husband and I got a couples massage, relaxed in the FABULOUS spa with an amazing view, and had lunch together. We then grabbed my daughter for a well organized princess meet and greet and made what I'm pretty sure was her life. Back to the Oceaneers Club she goes, and husband and I go pack up our stateroom for debarcation. After dinner, we went to see the musical "Believe" and it was really well done. We all enjoyed it.
We've chosen to rebook and come back in august, right after my little guy turns 3 and right before my big girl starts kindergarten. Observing the cruise, we're inviting my in-laws and my husband's brother and his wife (newlyweds, no kids). There is so much to do that the cruise will be phenomenal for everyone, and though they enjoy spending time with my kids and seeing the magic that is meeting a pricess or high-fiving goofy can bring, they will also appreciate the adults only lounges, fine dining, and pools and bars. It's really the perfect opportunity to create the perfect vacation for every member of the family.