This cruise was definitely for the grandchildren, who loved every minute of it. We also loved the cruise but the much higher cost than for other “family oriented” cruise lines means this will likely be our first and only cruise on Disney.
Arrival and Embarkation: Smooth and quick, no issues. Parking garage directly adjoins arrival processing. Only surprise was that a power strip we carried with us was confiscated (returned to us at end of cruise). Other cruise lines we have been on (RCL, Princess, Celebrity, Carnival, Cunard) allow; Disney does not.
Cabin: Balcony cabin (8182) at far aft of ship. Some engine noise and vibration but not a problem for us. Quiet. As others have noted, more spacious than balcony cabins on other "family oriented" cruise lines, like RCL and Carnival. Lots of space and storage areas. Balcony adequate and nice view aft. Appreciated separate baths for toilet / sink and shower / tub / sink. Bed comfortable and AC worked just fine. Room steward (Arnis Devilla Cabral from the Philippines) was terrific. In short, no issues.
Dining: Buffet crowded, particularly at breakfast but this is the norm for all non-luxury cruise ships, right? Found food in all venues to be excellent. We enjoyed rotating through different dining rooms with same exceptional wait staff (Agung Joko Susilo from Indonesia and Nick Khotala from Thailand - love the international staffs on all cruise ships - major reason I love cruising) each night. Definitely do not skip nights at Animators Palate dining room. I did note there was not as much variety in buffet foods as many other cruise lines. There was little to no curries, Mexican, Chinese / Asian offerings. Think Disney is "missing the boat" on this and that is why gave "four circles" in my rating for dining. We did not visit either of plus cost-restaurants (Remy and Palo) on board.
Enrichment Activities: Not much that I noted and honestly, Disney does not market itself as a venue for this. Enrichment on this cruise comes from experiencing the foreign countries visited and the interactions with the multi-national crew members. If mind-stimulating lectures and presentations on weighty topics are important to you, recommend choose a different type of cruise. I think enrichment provided was average for a family-oriented cruise and thus so rated.
Entertainment: All outstanding. Production shows (three) are superb - all of them, not just Aladdin. Do not miss the production shows. Outside of the major production shows, particularly enjoyed comedian Jonathan Burns and juggler Max Winfrey. Disney is not as good, my view, for lounge acts (my exception, pianist Tim Moss). This being Disney, whereas other cruise lines use the central atrium area for adult oriented music changing through the afternoon and evening, Disney uses primarily for child-oriented dance parties with Disney characters and similar. There are a lot of venues for adult entertainment. The Tube area on Deck 4 is focused on adults after about 8:30PM. In fact, the only time I witnessed a firm "no" from a crew member to a guest was when a guest tried to enter The Tube area during adults-only evening hours with young son in tow - he was politely but firmly refused entrance and pleading was to no avail. Good for Disney! All the entertainment we attended was very much family friendly. Disney also shines in movie presentation, on deck 11 (Funnel Vision) and in the Buena Vista theater. We saw Toy Story 4, one week after premier, and the screen in the theater is larger than most (and, of course, very comfortable and great sound system). We also saw recent release Dumbo. Popcorn is available – for purchase. Disney also has better than average options available on TV in cabin, mostly Disney films, of course, but not all.
Shore Excursions: We used Disney to book excursions on Grand Cayman (glass bottomed boat for young granddaughter and submarine for grandson) and Cozumel (El Paradiso beach outing). All excursions we did were excellent and as advertised, no issues. We also very much enjoyed the day at Castaway Cay. It is definitely more low-key than latest similar offerings from RCL but as with all associated with Disney, what is provided is first class in quality. Beaches were beautiful with plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas for all who wanted. The picnic style lunch provided was good. The shuttle train is frequent. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day.
Fitness Center and Recreation: Did not use but Fitness Center but checked and clearly well-equipped and maintained. The AquaDuck Slide was very popular with our daughter and grandson and there were lots of family-oriented activities throughout each day. The Muppet detective "game" (not sure what to call) you can sign up for is a lot of fun for all and very inventive. In short, loads of activities and chances to "recreate;" most all are family oriented.
Pools: As with all cruise ships we have been on, crowded and hard to find a lounger in the shade. . .except in the strictly enforced adults only pool area on Deck 11 near bow. Presumably as most adults have children in tow and cannot enter this area with children, every time we checked this area, we found the pool to be near empty and plenty of loungers available. Again, kudos to Disney. There is also a very nice small hidden bar here, the Cove.
Onboard Experience: Very enjoyable. We do not gamble and Disney ships to not have a casino, so we do not miss and allows for more venues (like two large theaters). Lack of “all you can drink” drinks packages meant no intoxicated jerks encountered. I suspect since most adults (not all but definitely most) are traveling with young children, best behavior is the norm. Couple notes: (1) Very few men wear a tux on the two formal nights; any suit or sport coat with tie will fit right in. Saw no formal evening gowns on the ladies; cocktail dress or "go to church" attire was the norm. (2) The free coffee, all venues, is ABSOLUTELY the worst I have had on any cruise. The brand (shown at the buffet) is Joffrey’s. I have had that brand coffee – the brand is not the issue. Coffee is bad because it is brewed so weak; makes McDonalds and Burger King coffee equivalent to a strong Starbucks brew. So, if want a good coffee, resign yourself to buying a Cafe Americano for about $3. (3) There is no printed daily events paper provided; you are expected to download and use the free "App", which is excellent. That said, if like me you miss having that printed paper you can pull from your pocket as needed, go to Guest Services and request. They do have (called the Personal Navigator) and if requested (as we did) will be delivered daily each evening to your stateroom for the next day. (4) Bingo is too expensive, too many people playing, too few games per session, and for the number of people playing and cost, the jackpots are way too low. We normally enjoy playing bingo on cruises; on this cruise, we played once and that was enough. Ripoff, my view. (5) There is always an alcoholic and non-alcoholic "drink of the day," for about $5.25 each.
Children's Programs: We had our adult daughter and two grandchildren, ages 6 and 3 with us. Both grandchildren participated and both very much enjoyed. The "Club" is well run (not a surprise) and checking kids out is strictly controlled. We felt very secure leaving grandchildren there and they were never happy to leave. Of note, there are LOTS of opportunities each day for your child to have a chance to meet pretty much any Disney character you can name (from Mickey, of course, to Vamperina). These character meet and greet opportunities are advertised on the App and in the printed Navigator. There are also unannounced character encounter opportunities each day that you may unexpectedly walk into. You can buy the professional photo always taken as your child meets or just take and keep your own photos (and Disney employees accompanying each character are happy to take photo using your cell phone or camera). If you are considering signing up for a character breakfast or similar because you believe this is the only way your child will get to directly interface with a Disney character, you may want to rethink and put that money toward something else.
Public Rooms: All spaces are clean and very well maintained at all times. The Disney Fantasy is NOT showing its age.
Service: Impeccable and friendly, all staff and venues without exception.
Debarkation: I think this was the quickest we ever got off a cruise ship. Under 45 minutes from time we started moving toward an elevator to leave to time we picked up luggage (easy to find) and cleared customs and immigration. I don't know how done as there are no set times assigned to everyone for departure and no area you have to wait for your group to be called. When you are ready to get off the ship, you can.
Value For Money: My experience, the cost for a Disney cruise is more than twice as high as an equivalent length cruise and cabin on Royal Caribbean (and almost three times the cost for similar on Carnival). For me and my spouse, bottom line for us is that we are glad we took this cruise on Disney but doubt we will repeat. . .and definitely will not repeat without the grandchildren. The food is excellent and in buffet, we thought, superior in quality to all except Celebrity but the food in dining rooms was as good as other cruise lines, not better and there was less variety offered in the buffet than on other cruises (and the burgers on Carnival are WAY better). The main theater entertainment was superb but felt the entertainment in other venues was no better than on other family- oriented cruises and we missed having “adult focused times” in the atrium area. No can match (or even come close to matching) Disney for character visits or for movies offered but Disney ships simply not have some of the newest gee whiz stuff found on new large cruise ships (like the RCL skating and diving shows). Castaway Cay is terrific but so are the similar venues offered by other cruise lines (RCL in particular). The ship is beautiful and is well maintained (think slightly better maintained than ships on other cruise lines, except Cunard). The cabin was the best balcony cabin we have ever had, any ship. The staff is terrific but honestly, we always rave after a cruise about the superb service we get, all cruises and all cruise lines. So for us, worth doing once but (again for us) the very much higher cost to go on a Disney cruise is simply not worth it. Our cruise budget is limited and we would rather go on two RCL or Princess or Celebrity cruises (with money left over) than one Disney cruise.
Beautiful cabin with plenty of space; best balcony class cabin we have ever had.
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