My husband and I are in our mid thirties and we are somewhat experienced cruisers. We have sailed NCL, Royal Carribean and Carnival all more than once out of various ports, but we have three little ones now, 6 months, 3 years old and a ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid thirties and we are somewhat experienced cruisers. We have sailed NCL, Royal Carribean and Carnival all more than once out of various ports, but we have three little ones now, 6 months, 3 years old and a 4.5 year old so we decided to try Disney for Easter.
Having cruised before, and the reason I am writing this review, is because everyone says "Disney is awesome" but no one can articulate to me why it's better? Why pay 20-30% more for the same itinary as other cruise lines?
I will attempt to answer "but how is Disney better?" from my perspective.
Obviously, Disney knows logistics, so they are pretty good at making the miserable parts of crusing tolerable to even pleasant. For example, here's a long story about embarkation, one of my three "cruise low-lights", that Disney made so pleasant. So, you pick an arrival time when you pay in full and at like 60-90 days before sailing. We had 10:30 to 10:45 and we arrived at out port about 10-15 minutes late. We waddled through the line and were served in about two to three minutes - maybe 3-5 families ahead of us. They take a family picture of you for the ID picture they see when they swipe your room key so we didn't have to hold each kid up and they hand you a card, like NCL, telling you what boarding zone you are. We were five and they had called 4 so the cast member checking us in said "just head over, they will call your number soon, and if you have time, please feel free to get your kid's registered for the kids camp". Sure enough when we got to the boat entrance/gangway they called zone 5. Many people stood around waiting and Disney cast members we saying "pleas sit if you are not 5" so I suspect that if you arrive before your time, you will wait. We did what we could to be on time and it was flawless. Again waited for a few minutes to take the "Welcome aboard pic" and off we went onto the ship. The gangway is short and they allow strollers so in about 30 seconds we were boarding. A ship officer says "welcome, your name?" And we said our family name, and in the microphone they say "And we're welocming the family" and about 8 uniformed officers cheer, Mickey is there, it's silly but you feel like you are their guest and you matter. Here's the best part, there are crew members who are waiting, and they are your own personal Sherpa to get you from the ship door to the elevator so you can eat (rooms are not ready till 2). Our cast member let us stop and unload our kids and took our family's picture near a pretty mural with 2 different cameras and she got us to an elevator bank that was near the buffet and there was no wait, she even pushed the button for us and we parted ways.
We went to the buffet which was great. Some reviews complain about the lack of variety on the buffets but the reason for that is they can repeat the same 20 - 30 items over and over so you don't feel like "oh! I missed that! I couldn't stand the line!" You can go, get what you need, loads of empty tables, and the food quality is leaps and bounds better than any other cruise line. The buffet featured items like Jumbo peel and eat shrimp, crab legs, sushi, prime rib, and of course burgers, hot dogs pizza, etc. we ate and I took my 4.5 year old on the Aqua Duck water slide. I had forgotten to put our bathing suits in our carry on bags but we had sundresses on that we're dark and thick so we went on in our clothes, we had a blast. We went to the rooms at 1PM and they were spotless. They always were.
My second cruise "low light" is buffets on days at sea. It's hot, there's never a table, it's akward, the food runs out, but not at Disney. We ALWAYS found a table. I don't know how Disney does it but it is truly amazing. Get our food, our kids played in the Mickey pool that is only 3 feet deep AND has lifeguards! That's right! No bully 12 year old boys jumping on my little ones. The lifeguards keep peace and provide a level of comfort that we really appreciated! Not that we would leave a 4 year old in the pool alone but with the infant, if I looked away for a second, I knew the pool was calm - no one was acting crazy, it was just lovely and fun play. Bonus - you don't need to sign out towels, there's lockers of them all over, just take what you need, which, when you have an overtired toddler who is wet and cold, is a blessing.
Most everything else is what other reviews write, the Disney shows are great, free soda, characters, my kids adored the camps, wonderful waiter service, shows during dinner at the Animators Palate, etc. Disney also takes their chocolate VERY seriously so all the chocolate I had, even the ones on your pillow at turn down, were high quality. For Easter they gave us Ghiadelli chocolates as a turn down treat. The kids meals are fabulous - a trillion times better than NCL. If your kid gets "kids pizza" it comes with a few small slices of pizza, steamed veggies and fruit on a Mickey shaped plate. As the parent you can decide "eat your broccoli" or "bring her more pizza" - the waiters are sweethearts and will do whatever you ask. I'm pretty sure. The waiters even cut up your kid's food for you! And they de-she'll your lobster. It's incredible!
My third and final "low-light" is disembarkation. I always feel like one wants you anymore, it's time to hit the road jack, fresh wallets are walkin in! Disney made it the total opposite!!! You are invited to have breakfast according to your dinner seating time. We had late dinner and we had breakfast at 8 am. You are offered a hot breakfast with your waiters who you got to know and love all week! They serve eggs, bacon, cereal, etc. An abbreviated menu but no line, buffet or fight for a seat and your waiters, who are your new buddies, are there to serve you, and send you off. After breakfast, use the restroom and off you go. It's a slow line but constantly waddling. Took about 10 minutes to get from the elevator bay on the 3rd floor to the luggage terminal. Then you can hire a porter if you want. I do recommend it on your first try because Disney organizes your luggage by stateroom and the porters know where your stuff is. We zipped through customs and we were cleared through customs by 10 am.
Of the 15 or so cruises I have been on this is honestly the first one where I would have walked right back on the boat. I felt truly relaxed. The food didn't make me feel sick and give me "cruise bloat" for 3 days. I will cruise Disney again and again for as long as I am fortunate enough to be able to.
I hope this helps, safe travels! Read Less