Disney Vacation Club Member Cruise. This was my son's first cruise and my first "traditional" cruise since the one prior was on the Celebrity Xpedition to the Galapagos. It was just the two of us on a mom-son bonding trip.
Embarkation went smoothly, but lines were extremely long to get thru the scanners and into cruise terminal (arrived at 1015a for 1030a Port Arrival Time, got to check-in desk after 11a). Super long lines for photos but we caught one with Goofy before our boarding group was called. Headed straight to Enchanted Garden for a civilized, seated lunch. Our server was lackluster and seemed more intent on pushing me to buy an alcoholic beverage than actually fulfilling our food order. Food was mediocre. My cocktail was not so good. Many many mistakes on the part of our server.
Signed up for the free 2 hrs of Internet at port, but got no connection or signal due to "108 error". Don't expect to get any work done prior to embarkation.
Plus, I had to run around the ship to move my Remy reservation, move my Senses reservation, un-double-book us for a port adventure that showed up twice on our itinerary, reinstate one activity that had fallen off our itinerary, and take our photos and set up a PW for Oceaneer's Lab/Club(no one at terminal to do it), so we were busy criss-crossing the ship for these 5 stops. I made sure out last stop was the Oceaneer's Lab/Club so that my son could check it out. He was content to hang out in Disney Infinity room. Unfortunately, he didn't care for any of the other really cool and interactive areas.
With a promise that he would be back, I had to drag him out so that we could go check out the pool and AquaDuck. Short AquaDuck line and it was super fun. The line grew and he didn't want to climb all the steps to wait again. HA! Then all he wanted to do next was watch the big screen movie from inside the pool. LOL We did that for about 45 min and then I had to pull him out and bring him back to the Oceaneer's Lab/Club so that I could go to Senses...
I ran off to Sense for my appt, arriving 15 min early as instructed. After waiting 20 min past my appt time and still no sign of the doctor, I had to tell them that I just had to leave. No appt and I wasted precious time I could have spent with my child.
Luggage arrived outside of stateroom when expected, and our stateroom was large, clean, ready for us. I swear that this bed has to be the most comfortable bed on earth! Between the rocking of the ship as it surged forward through waves, my sound machine, and the blackout curtains, I slept really well and my son -- a notoriously bad sleeper -- slept like a log and refused to sleep anywhere but the drop-down bunk. HUGE plus for DCL on that win.
We were assigned late dining, so we caught the stage show at 630p; my son LOVED it, even though we've seen both versions of Beauty and the Beast films, and various stage productions. They did a fabulous job.
Met two other families at dinner that night and DCL did a FABULOUS job of matching up kids who had similar interests. Our server, Nova, was a sweetheart and almost over the top in her willingness to help me, a single mom. She was cutting my son's food for him, something I usually have to do. And she didn't make fun of the fact that I tried three appetizers but no entree for dinner. BTW, the escargot was awful -- mealy and definitely not fresh. I was so disappointed. But Nova's smile made it feel insignificant. Disney did acknowledge my note that we were onboard to celebrate my son's bday and servers sang happy bday to him at the end of the meal. It was a highlight for him and a great way to start off our trip.
Castaway Cay was beautiful. Most activities were cancelled due to weather conditions, but we enjoyed the beautiful beach, loungers, umbrellas and our rented float&tube. I did like how Disney provided drums of super-strong mosquito repellent for us to apply as we got off the ship (Zika risk in the area). BBQ lunch was awful (I had heard it was "delicious") and I ate only crisps (potato chips) and fruit from the fruit bar. We didn't see a single character on the island for photos the entire day. Although I saw servers on the not crowded beach, no one came by to take orders. And by the end of the day, I saw ONE photographer wandering around and chased her down to get our photos taken. She didn't enter our stateroom number correctly b/c the photos never appeared in our Shutters binder. Post office also wasn't opened when we arrived on the island and wasn't open when we left, either.
That evening, we wanted to watch the Avengers movie AND catch the Golden Mickeys, so we had to see the stage show, grab a quick bite on the pool deck, and then go watch the movie. My son's fave part was buying the Infinity Gauntlet drink cup. He's still playing with it. Best $20 I spent on that cruise.
We found the wave phones to be useful; I had to go back to our stateroom to grab our refillable popcorn bucket. By giving him one phone, he was able to keep in touch with me while I ran around the ship. He knew exactly where I was and I knew he was still waiting in our seats at the theater. Very nice to have onboard.
Maybe b/c it was a member cruise, but the lines for character meets were so long that by the time we got to the front, it was about 2 characters beyond who you came to see. We did not get to see a single character we lined up to see other than for the two ticketed Meet&Greets (Frozen, Princesses). Even the latter of the two ticketed events had a super-long wait.
They were also poorly prepared for many of the scheduled events. For example, at the arts&crafts event, there were not enough supplies for everyone. It took forever to get even a pair of scissors (for an activity primarily consisting of cutting out card stock figures), and then by the time we got a pair, the Cast Member in charge was rushing us to get out of there.
I had a great treatment at Senses by a fabulous aesthetician from Shanghai. She was so cool and sweet. However, she never mentioned that the flotation bed on which she performed my services in was an upcharge; it flotation bed was presented to me as if it were part of the service I had booked. I wish she had been more clear so that I least I could have expected the extra charge, which I am sure I would have opted to pay for anyway. It was just a slightly unpleasant surprise when I got the bill to see that I had been charged extra without being told it was going to be extra.
Afterwards, I knew I was going to have a dinner at Remy, so I got my son from Oceaneer's Lab/Club -- OK, the Disney Infinity Room -- and we went to get his dinner from Cabanas, which he loved. The selection is good for a kid, and he liked picking out his own seat with a beautiful ocean view. Afterwards, I dropped him back off at Oceaneer's Lab/Club, I mean Disney Infinity, and went to my own ocean view dinner. Remy was everything it was supposed to be. I did every upcharge available and do not regret it one bit. The drinks and food and caviar were excellent. It was actually too much food that I could not even finish the last three courses, but I soldiered on. I actually had a bit of difficulty understanding my server's accent, but he was kind, patient and attentive, so it was all good. This one meal came closer to making up for how mediocre (or poor) all the other food I'd tried onboard had been thus far. If only we could upgrade to Remy more than a couple times per cruise.... *sigh*
Afterwards, I got my son from OLC/DI and we went to see the late showing of the Christopher Robin movie. Could not get seats together but we sat near each other. it was a lovely movie and made us both laugh.
Another Castaway Cay stop (score!!) but again, most activities were cancelled due to weather. Our morning stingray encounter was cancelled, so since I knew we didn't like the food on the island, we ate an early lunch onboard -- technically it was a late breakfast in the Enchanted Garden -- and then made our way off the ship late. Nova was not our server but she spotted us and proceeded to help my son make up his breakfast plate, slathering the cream cheese on his bagel for him. Once on the island, I managed to find an afternoon slot for us to feed them and snorkel amongst them. It was certainly a unique experience, but not as much fun as building a sandcastle, using our floats, or wondering if the stringray that made its way over to the beach area had escaped from the enclosure... hahaha!
It turned out that we were not allowed to hang on to our snorkel gear past the stingray encounter, so I had to rent a separate set to do that; I had brought a set on the cruise, but it was back on the ship since I had been told we could hang out to our gear tp use for snorkeling once the stingray encounter was finished. In the end, it was quite a long swim out to the snorkel area, and with the rough waves, my non-strong swimmer son couldn't really make it all the way, fighting the current every inch. We turned back and just enjoyed the beach. My only complaint on this day was that they took away all our clean towels by 2p. I thought that was oddly early considering the onboard time was 445p. We had to get out of the ocean with no towels left on our chairs for our clean-up/shower-off. At least there were freshwater showers to rinse off at, and the sun mostly dried off the drippiest parts of us before we boarded our tram. The post was office opened on our return to the ship, so we bought a stamp for the postcard, from our stateroom desk, that we'd written to the grandparents. Side Note: it took about 6 weeks for that postcard to reach them.
That night, my son had a pirate makeover scheduled because it was pirate night. He loved loved loved his face painting and the outfit was beautiful. Same Jack Sparrow outfit as the Disney Store, without any sale or discounts. Next time, I know to buy it from Disney when it goes on sale and just bring with us and pay for the face paint. We also could not understand the accent of this particular cast member and she spoke faster than lightening, but she was 100% in her role and my son took his pirate vow seriously. She did a BEAUTIFUL job. We loved her and I tried to tip her, but she said she could not accept it.
We watched Hero on the Seas specialty show that evening and, while the singers are super talented, we were bored out of our minds without a strong narrative to tie it all together well. It didn't help that we sat near a lot of grumps who clearly did not want kids to be on this cruise (yeah, it's a Disney cruise so.....) and we were in the middle, so we could not sneak out early. From now on, aisle seats if we don't know beforehand what exactly the show will be... Because of the show, we went to pirate night dinner late. None of the other families were there, but our server still gave us a huge smile when we saw her. We love Nova! We went to the pirate stage show on the pool deck after dinner. It was so difficult to get a seat, but people were kind and my son is good at finding space. We especially enjoyed the novelty of shooting off fireworks at sea. Wonderful way to cap off the cruise.
We managed to play a little of Midship Detective every day of this cruise and he finished all three mysteries. It is a FABULOUS activity and one of his fave things about this ship. I am so disappointed to hear that it isn't also available on the Magic and Wonder. What a shame!
The cool thing is that we participated in a Fish Extender exchange and managed to drop off goodies while running around the ship paying Midship Detective. All in all, my kid got a lot of exercise, only had one ice cream per day on the cruise, and ended up losing 3 lbs while on vacation.
I bought a length of cruise Rainforest Pass and my feedback there is that they need swimsuit spinners and plastic bags in the locker rooms! After sitting in the hot tub or in the Persian Bath, you want to rinse off and wring out your swimsuit, not carry a dripping wet suit back to the stateroom through the public areas and corridors. So until they can install the swimsuit spinner in the locker room(s), I am bringing my own reusable "wet bag" on future cruises. Lockers also needed to often be repaired. I am very familiar with Digilocks, and it was frustrating that the ones in the women's locker room were poorly maintained, with a good 5-10% of them non-functioning at any given time, thus rendering those lockers useless.
Food portions are simply too big. I would much prefer half the size offered and be able to get seconds or try to sample more small portions. Even when I asked for a reduced portion, it came full size. So much waste.
Getting water from room service was nearly impossible. It came in little cups. They need to figure out a way to provide an entire carafe. I liked having a carafe of hot water in my stateroom, since I had brought my own teabags. Mint tea really helped settle my stomach after a big meal or to calm it during rough seas...
The included food was mostly mediocre, but specialty dining was almost 100% worth the extra spent. Then again, I'm from NYC to big ticket dinners don't cause sticker shock for me.
Charges were run through to the CC on file every night, so it was annoying to have to go there every night if you wished to apply a GC to pay your folio. They could retroactively credit your CC with money if you had a GC, but it just took extra time. If DCL could do it like the resorts and just run CC on final night, it might be easier for all involved. Perhaps the internet connection can't handle that. Who knows.
I found the ship to be spic and span, clean always. Once in a blue moon, a room service tray might sit in the hallways longer than it should have, but for the most part, the ship was clean from bathrooms to hallways to staterooms to restaurants. I have eagle eyes and I can't complain about what I saw.
Our stateroom was the tops and I can not imagine a family of 4 sailing in anything smaller! It was just two of us and I found it to be perfect -- not too big or too small. Great view from balcony between two lifeboats down to the water. There was a while metal panel that blocked our view towards the right, though, so we could not see as much of Castaway Cay while in port. Our room steward didn't start making us towel animals until he saw one that my Senses aesthetician gave me to bring back to my son. Then we got a couple of towel animals that made us giggle. But he always, diligently, had our room cleaned, dirty dishes removed, and gifts placed on our bed. Disney Vacation Club kept him busy with giving out gifts, for sure!
And as mentioned above, comfy bed (mattress, sheets, duvet, pillows), good blackout curtains, son loved drop-down bed and never even tried the flip-down sofa or *surprise* never asked to be in the big bed with me. Thank you DCL.
I felt that the split shower was a bit small, and tended to shower in the Senses locker room since I was down there having treatments or using the Rainforest Room anyway. It felt much more like a legitimate shower down there. I would buy a Rainforest Pass just to use the locker rooms. ha
I prepaid $200 for a length of cruise photo package, but there were really very few photo opportunities on this cruise. Any photographers we saw were "busy" photographing the "celebrities", so I had little more than a dozen photos between embarkation, Princess Meet, and Frozen Meet. Especially since our Castaway Cay photos never showed up. AND we got two of someone else's photos. Friends had said they gotten over 300 photos on their 7-day cruise, so I was expecting at least 170 for my 4-day cruise. Imagine my disappointment to not have even gotten two dozen. This felt like a rip-off.
I found a few discrepancies in my final bill and DCL was wonderful about fixing it. They charged me for my son's Oceaneer's Magic Band, but they removed it once I told them that I had indeed returned it to Guest Services on our departure day. Shutters also adjust my account by $30, in the end charging me the price of a 20-photo package.
Overall, I feel that Disney Cruise Line does not make it easy to cruise as a single parent. There's a lot of administrative stuff to do and with a partner, you can at least divide and conquer the many many queues you have to be in throughout the vacation. However, Nova was a lifesaver, doing a lot of the stuff I would have otherwise done for my son at our meals. She really got the Disney premise that this is also a vacation for the parents, so she always tried to help. She definitely deserved extra gratuity. We hope to sail the Dream again just to be with her. Read Less