Usually when we travel, my husband and I prefer to be travelers rather than tourists if you know what I mean (we like to stay in smaller locally operated B&Bs, explore towns in the evening away from daytrippers, do active activities ... Read More
Usually when we travel, my husband and I prefer to be travelers rather than tourists if you know what I mean (we like to stay in smaller locally operated B&Bs, explore towns in the evening away from daytrippers, do active activities such as hiking, biking, and historical sites). So we did not think cruising was for us, but our two kids, age 9 and 5 had been asking to go on a Disney cruise for a while, so we decided to give it a try for my daughter's 5th birthday. We were not disappointed, and will definitely do it again.
-We live in Dallas, so sailing from Galveston was super convenient and inexpensive. Cheap, monitored parking right inside the port terminal.
-Since we didn't fly, we had virtually no limits on what/how much to pack. Normally, we pack super light (r.g. one roll on and a back pack each is our general rule), but with fancy dress night (New Year's Eve), pirate night, and our family Halloween costume (we were characters from Mary Poppins, so we HAD to wear it on a Disney Cruise, right?), plus Fish Extender gifts, we packed a lot more than usual --- with no problems from drop off at embarkation to pick up upon getting off the ship.
-Due to school schedule, we couldn't actually go on daughter's birthday in December, so we opted for a post Christmas, New Year's trip. It was the BEST New Year's experience for us, our kids, and my mom (who we brought along). There were so many neat things, surprises, and gifts from Disney. Came home with special logo champagne glasses, a limited edition NYE print, special Mickey chocolates, and memories of a lifetime. Our kids will be super bored with all future NYE celebrations after dancing all night, counting down with family, Disney characters, and new friends, and fireworks. We will strongly consider other special occasion sailings in the future.
-Everything on board as far as entertainment, food, and activities were fantastic. Disney knows how to make everyone happy. 5 and 9 was the perfect age because my older one wasn't "over" Disney characters, and my younger one was old enough to do most anything. Old one loved the magician, the juggler, the ventriloquist, quiz shows and the production shows (including the new Frozen) more than kids' club activities (though she enjoyed a few of those as well), while the younger one was happy as a clam in the kids' club when we didn't think she'd like the show as much. Neither of them even went to see a single movie there was other stuff to do. (But mama got to see 3 new movies without paying a babysitter plus one on tv in our cabin!!). Our kids never once said "I'm bored" or touched their devices on the ship that I can remember (hallelujah!). class.
-Of the 3 restaurants (plus adults only Palo), we enjoyed the food in all of them, but for the atmosphere we preferred Animator's Palette, Tiana's, Palo, and Triton's in that order. Animator's Palette had special exclusive things to see on the screens around the restaurant both nights. I won't spoil the surprises here. Tiana's had great music and character appearances. Triton's was more of a standard restaurant -- quiet with no entertainment. Some might prefer that (but if so, I say why are you on a Disney Cruise at all?) We enjoyed the food in Palo very much, but it was not so far an above the excellent choices in regular dining that anyone should feel like they are missing out if they don't want to spend the extra money.
-Our servers were friendly and helpful. They seemed to really love their job and our kids, and both we and our kids looked forward to seeing them each night and elsewhere around the ship.
-Disney's Castaway Cay is fantastic. Again, it's Disney knowing how to do it. I don't know if they arranged for that big beautiful sea turtle munching sea grass while my daughter and I were snorkeling, but if they did, they really are amazing. (If you are undecided on whether and where to go snorkeling for beginners or kids, this is the place to do it.) My husband and I rented bikes while grandma watched the kids and rode to the adult beach, cabanas, and lookout tower on the other side of the island. It was a nice, flat easy ride to get some exercise. I'd be interested to check out the cabanas and their part of the beach sometime if we ever go with another family.
-We did the Blue Lagoon Island beach day in Nassau, and at the last minute upgrade to get the dolphin experience. I'm glad we did. It was more economical than other dolphin encounters I'd seen elsewhere. There is a trade off on scenery, since this one took place inside a square shaped floating dock rather than in shallow water on a beach (they "shallow" part is steps that lead to a submerged platform in the middle of the square), but the experience was fantastic, and the bonus was that the experience is covered which we needed after a long day in the sun at Castaway Key the day before. The beach itself is smaller than Castaway Cay, and everything is an upcharge, but the boat ride to and from was scenic, and it was a pretty, shallow sugar sand beach for the kids to play in for a few hours.
-We had only 2 minor complaints, which I post here for information but want to emphasize that it did not diminish our enjoyment of our week at sea at all. First, our excursion in Key West with the glass bottom boat tour. Our tour departure was at 1:15 from the lounge on the Wonder, but it would have been nice to know in advance that we wouldn't actually be boarding any boat until about 2:30 and leaving about 2:45. You waited at the port for the Disney crew member to hand you off to the contracted tour operator, who handed out tickets then explained that we would take a trolley to the dock boat but would have about a 10 walk back to the ship when the tour was over (no trolley, which was not associated with the glass bottom boat operator). What actually happened was a 5-10 minute walk to the trolley, waiting for 10 minutes where it dropped us off (not at a boat) with no communication about what was happening, another 5-10 minute walk to the actual mooring site on the extensive docks. Only then, once we got on the boat, did someone announce over the loud speaker that due to weather conditions (I think wind), we would not be going to the reef on the Atlantic side, but a "coral garden" on the Gulf side and if that wasn't what people were anticipating, they could disembark the boat. And FYI the entire bottom of the boat is not glass -- there are 2 sunken viewing areas with glass window that you stand or sit around and look down into. This caused maybe 70-80% of the people that made it that far to get off the boat -- in a trickle, slowly. So those of us who thought "what else are we going to do? It's a lovely day, and a nice day for a boat ride and we'll see what we see" were delayed even longer waiting to depart. In the end, the ride WAS lovely -- our kids loved standing at the bow of the boat extended over the water, the crew was friendly and informative, and we saw ZERO fish after several passes because the tides had made the water to murky to see bottom. Because we could not see anything, they refunded the entire fee, and we got a free lovely boat ride, watched parasailers and soaked up the sun and the gorgeous turquoise water. I daresay those that got off were much more disappointed than those of us who rolled with the punches and stuck it out. My biggest complaint was really about the lack of communication. People could have been told at the port about the Atlantic vs. Gulf thing, and there could have been better communication about what to expect (not 1.5 hours until the boat actually left the dock).
-2nd minor issue was the engine vibration and noise in our cabin for the middle 3-4 nights. I'm not sure what about our course made the noise increase on those nights but be fine before and after, but it was quite noticeable at night. It did not prevent anyone from sleeping, but we all wondered what it was. I would also note that our cabin was just below Tiana's (I think), so on the last night in particular there was some thumping and clanging noise later than usual -- I suspect because they were getting ready to arrive back in Galveston and turn over the ship for the next lucky group heading out the next afternoon. Read Less