OK. Coming out with anything but A++++ reviews of anything Disney can subject you to a backlash that makes coming out as a Trump supporter pale in comparison. We have many friends who are Disney addicts and have been on numerous DCL ... Read More
OK. Coming out with anything but A++++ reviews of anything Disney can subject you to a backlash that makes coming out as a Trump supporter pale in comparison. We have many friends who are Disney addicts and have been on numerous DCL cruises as well as numerous annual trips to the parks. Yeah, we aren't "those" people. Don't get me wrong, we LOVE Disney, but it isn't like air and water is to life with us.
Taking a DCL cruise was a bucket list item for us and with the kids getting older, now was the time. Found a good rate (for a Disney cruise "good rate" is kinda subjective) over 2 school holidays and we went ahead and booked it. Arrived the night before and stayed at the Hampton Inn Brickell in downtown Miami and it was awesome. Perfect pre or post cruise hotel. 15 min drive to the port and 35 minutes later we were on the boat. Now is Disney can just figure out a way to get the park lines to move that fast!
Once on the boat, we immediately went to the pool decks to let the kids start swimming and once we saw the pools, our hearts sunk. We knew the kids swim areas were small on the ship, but we didn't realize they were THIS small. Kiddie pool was maybe 15 ft across and at any given time there would be 20-30 kids running around screaming, splashing, fall on eachother, elbowing each other, etc. It was like a kiddie Thunderdome and watching my 7 year old autistic son try to survive that environment was more stressful than Id have liked. The main pool wasn't much better. VERY small and at any given time packed with tons of kids to the point where you could hardly see the water for all the kids and life jackets. This is what I don't understand. Disney has more money than most small countries and can afford to build whatever they want. They build a boat to hold 2700 people, of which an easy 1500 will be kids, and make the pools smaller than what you'd find in a run down apartment complex. On the "at sea" day, it was truly a nightmare with every child on the boat in and around the small pools. Im sure Disney has some sort of reasoning behind this, and Id love to know what it was. The 2 water slides were ok but always packed too. Ultimately, we were VERY disappointed in that.
As far as the room and the rest of the ship, it was very nice. The room was by the aft elevators and was in the perfect spot. Easy walk up or down a cpl floors to get to all the restaurants and the pool decks since they were all in the aft part of the ship. The room was very nice and clean. Beds were amazing. Split bathrooms was a genius idea and having the balcony was a welcome escape of the madness every now and then.
Food was BY FAR the best Ive ever eaten. ANYWHERE. Heard DCL does their food up well, but never expected this. They could take the lunch buffet to any casino in Vegas and serve it for dinner and charge $100 per person all night long. And that was lunch!! Dinner was even better. Cabanas was just amazing. Every type of food you could possibly want. Dishes from all over the world made it an adventure every time we went to eat. I got to try alot of dishes Id never had before. Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, you name it. Plus piles of fresh shrimp and stone crab claws and snow crab legs at each meal. Absolutely beyond compare. The sit down restaurants were great too. Lumiere's and Animator's Palate were as promised. Especially AP. We knew it would be fun, but seeing it in person made it even better. Having the wait staff rotate with you nightly to different restaurants was a great idea. They knew what the kids wanted and didn't want and treated us like old friends. This was a smart move by Disney. Ice cream and pizza was the one area where we came out ahead. Kids easily ate 40 ice cream cones over 4 days and we kept the pizza place in business. Not the best pizza, but it filled a void when you were hungry. Room service was good. the BLT was a big hit with us. The steak panini was great too. Would have liked to have a few more choices, but what we had was good. As for drinks in the room, bring your own soft drinks or be prepared to pay for them with room service. Knowing the kids would inevitably want a soft drink while in the room and knowing I wouldn't want to walk up to the pool desk to the soda fountain, we brought a pack of 8 oz pepsi bottles with us. Was definitely a smart move.
As for the ship, incredibly clean and well kept. Never saw garbage or anything dirty. Public areas were as clean as your stateroom. After a cpl of days, the Disney themed music kinda begins to wear on you. For the first day or 2 its fun, but after hearing songs from Mary Poppins 500 times while walking around the ship, jumping off becomes a viable option. I didn't go on a Disney cruise expecting to hear hard rock or even most pop music around the pool because most of it isn't really what Id call kid friendly, and Im ok with that. Instead Disney has a playlist of about 25 songs that are palatable to families and plays it on a loop. Over and over and over again. I am a huge U2 fan, but you can only hear "Beautiful Day" so many times before you wished Bono never wrote that song. Again, small things, but when you can't get in the pools and are relegated to sitting on a chair watching the kids, pool music was all we had.
The entertainment. Disney really stresses and PR's their kids clubs. They looked very fun and there were always kids in there, but my 12 year old daughter had no desire to go in one by herself and they aren't really set up to take special needs kids, so as a result we didn't use them. As a result, we felt like there wasn't much else to do activity wise. At night after dinner we literally wandered around the ship to pass the time while we waited for our stateroom to be turned down for the night. We did go to 2 of the live shows in the theater and the kids really enjoyed them. Very much Disney on Ice type shows...without the ice. We did get treated to many showings of Black Panther since it opened while we were on the cruise, but since Im really not amped about the movie to begin with, we didn't go. They had movies playing frequently in 2 theaters and for some, that's a great option but if you didn't really care for Marvel and Star Wars movies (my wife and daughter could care less) your options were thin movie wise.
Character appearances seemed pretty regular, but we skipped out on them. We have plenty of character photos from our times in the parks.
Alcohol. This is a big thing for me. Not because I want to get drunk, but I like to have a few drinks, especially when Im on vacation. Drink prices were pretty good and they had several packages for beer or wine. We bought a beer pkg the first day which came with 24 16oz beers of my choice, and a DCL cooler for $130. Yeah, thats alot of money, but if you stop and do the math and consider the convenience of not having to flag down a waiter or go to the bar for every drink (and pay another service charge each trip), it was worth it. Plus all the beers fit in the room fridge and our steward regularly brought us ice for the cooler. it was a very nice fabric soft sided cooler too, so having that by the pool and on Castaway Cay was great. DCL lets you bring on beer or wine and I brought a cpl of bottles of wine and my wife and I enjoyed them in the evenings on the balcony. We'd order a cheese plate from room service and it made a nice pre dinner snack with the wine.
Castaway Cay. Very well laid out island with alot of potential. Packing 2700 people on the beaches they have makes for some very congested areas. We were able to find a place a little away from the crowds, which made it better. Water was pretty cold (didn't stop the kids though) and the amount of rocks in the sand and water wasn't what we'd have liked to have seen, but it is what it is. Guess when they dredged up all that sand for the beaches they couldn't sift the rocks out. Id like to see them expand the area and give that many people a little more elbow room. The lunch on the island was just so so . Like I said, the island has a ton of potential and Id like to see them expand a little bit more.
Nassau is Nassau. Nothing special there. My daughter got to experience her first foreign city and that was fun, but after a cpl of hours t shirt shopping with her, we got back on the ship.
The other BIG thumbs down on DCl was the internet. It is sold in packages and unlike other cruise lines, its sold in MB packages, not GB packages. I don't go on a cruise to spend my time on social media, but having an almost teenage daughter, wifi connectivity is a matter of life and death to her. Logging on the first day, DCL offers you a free 50MB pkg to try to the system. Not really knowing how many MB it would take to use any of the apps on my phone, I logged on to the DCL Navigator app literally to see what the prices were for the other packages. I clicked to 2 pages on the app and poof, nothing. I had already gone through the 50 MB in 2 pages. After hours of begging from my daughter, I allowed her to access her Snapchat for 5 minutes the next day using the wifi, knowing we could find free wi fi in Nassau the following day. 5 minutes on Snapchat cost me $19.99. Unreal. This was incredibly chintzy and disappointing. Im guessing DCL wants families to spend time together on the ship and not on their phones, which I 100% agree with, but for those of us who have to stay connected for work, on top of the teenagers wifi addictions, it made for a bit of a headache. For me it was a welcome escape when I sent my boss a screenshot of the internet prices and told him unless he wanted to pay for them, Id read all work emails when we got back to Miami! As for wifi in Nassau, we found a weak signal in a Burger King and it was just enough for my daughter to reconnect to her friends for a bit. Lots of other places around town offer free wi fi, so just pick one and save your $ on the ship.
My wife, who is by far the big Disney person in our family, summed up the whole trip on the sea day as we were watching 30 kids fight to the death in the kiddie pool. "Im waiting for that aha moment. That moment where it hits us and we say Disney was worth the extra cost and effort. I never got it". For her to say that, it said something. We completely get the Disney thing and would never discourage people from taking a DCL cruise. On the other hand, we won't be taking another one ourselves. There is no doubt that our kids will have a better time on another cruise line with more activities (bigger pools, water activities, etc) and we will pay alot less for it and we will leave our Disney experiences to the parks. If you aren't a true Disney fanatic, I can't help but think you will probably be a little disappointed in your overall experience. The food and staff in my opinion really saved the trip for us. Disney got those things down pat and were the highlight of our cruise. Just know what you are getting for your $$ and you will be ok. Understand there is no escaping the Mouse when you are on a ship with him like you can when you are at the parks!!! Read Less