I had cruised one time before on Carnival and was definitely underwhelmed. My husband and kids had never cruised before. I chose this vacation because theme parks stress me out to the max and I do not find them one bit enjoyable. Plus, ... Read More
I had cruised one time before on Carnival and was definitely underwhelmed. My husband and kids had never cruised before. I chose this vacation because theme parks stress me out to the max and I do not find them one bit enjoyable. Plus, going on vacation with young kids is stressful anyways, so I figured with the kids clubs it would be a good way for my husband and I to actually have some adult time and relax, while the kids were still getting a vacation and having fun.
Embarkation was easy. We arrived around 1:30 and were able to board immediately. For some reason after parking we had missed the spot where you give up your luggage and have it magically delivered to your stateroom. But it wasn't a big deal in the end, as our stateroom was already available at this point. So we just hauled ourselves and our bags off to the stateroom immediately to unpack.
The staterooms are great, actually roomier than I thought. We had a deluxe family oceanview stateroom with verandah, and I think the verandah was definitely worth the extra price. My kids really enjoyed sitting out there, and it gave us some extra space. The way the rooms are set up is pretty cool, I was confused at first because I didn't know that our room steward guy would come during dinner and magically make the bunk beds appear out of nowhere. I tend to micromanage things and stress out, but I quickly learned that on a Disney ship, everything is taken care of. And if you need something, all you have to do is ask and the staff will absolutely bend over backwards to assist you.
Anyways, there were bunk beds and one single bed, which was perfect for our three kids. They all fold down/disappear, and one turns into a couch.The queen bed was plenty roomy for my husband and myself, even though we have a king at home. The queen bed is also raised, so you can store your suitcases underneath. I took everything out of the suitcases and put them in the many drawers and closets that are available in the stateroom, because I hate digging around in suitcases constantly. The bathrooms are great, it was very nice to have the shower and toilet separated. Each portion of the bathroom has its own sink, another nice touch. We had a cute little bathtub in our shower portion of the bathroom, which the kids loved. The shower was great, water pressure and heat were both satisfactory. I guess my only complaint about the stateroom is that the one twin bed that pops out of the wall is right along the verandah door, so it's hard to get in and out of the verandah in the mornings before the bed is put away. Also we could hear some noise from I believe the hallway on the deck above, it seemed like people were just running around up there or something. Next time I'm bringing a small noise machine because I have a hard time falling asleep with any unfamiliar noises. But I'm fairly neurotic like that. The queen bed and pillows were very comfortable, and I sleep on a Tempur Pedic at home so I am spoiled.
Dining- overall I found this to be satisfactory, with some issues. I have an allergy to corn, which is hidden away in everything and is a very annoying thing to deal with. Our waiters at the sit-down dinners were very attentive to this, and the chefs made me special desserts even, so that was really nice. However, it was very hard to figure out what I could or could not eat during the day. The "quick service" meal options are the usual fare, pizza, chicken fingers, sandwiches, etc. When you're busy running around doing different activities, it's hard to try and check on different food options for quick meals. The staff at quick service restaurants did not always understand what I was asking, so I usually just ended up eating salad and fruit. I wrote on our comment card when we left the ship that they should really put out an ingredients list of common quick service and buffet foods either on their website or app, which would make it much easier for people with all sorts of allergies to eat, as we are quite experienced with reading labels. In any case, I think next time we will try to sit down in one of the restaurants for lunch as much as possible to avoid this issue.
We also went to Remy, and that was an amazing experience. I can't say enough good things about it, and it will definitely be on our list for next time, with a budget of several hundred of course. The only thing was I didn't know which night I should make a reservation for Remy, and next time I would definitely schedule it for when we would be at Animator's Palette. I loved the decor at Animator's, but the "Pacific Rim" cuisine I found lacking and was not really impressed by the menu. Looking at the menu for Royal Palace (which is what we missed to go to Remy), I would have rather gone there than Animator's Palette. So look on your Cruise App to see what the menus are, and maybe you can switch your dining around to accommodate your personal tastes.
Kids club- My kids seemed to enjoy this a lot, they are 8, 7, and 4. My older kids liked the Star Wars area a lot. My younger one was impressed that Cinderella came to hang out with them, and she also got her face painted one day which she was pretty happy about. We didn't use the kids club as much as we could have because this was our first time and we wanted the kids to see the shows and do everything. But next time we'll go on a longer one and I envision us using it a lot more. I am not one of those parents who feel guilty about putting them in "Disney daycare". Honestly, they love it and they are having a blast. Everyone should get to do something on vacation that they actually enjoy, which for me is having gourmet (quiet) dinners alone with my husband ;) But it is nice that you can pick up and drop off anytime, so we made sure they didn't miss anything big like the shows. You can also ask your server to put the kids dinner orders in right away, and then drop them off at the kids club likely before you even get your appetizer or main course.
Shows- very cute, pretty cheesy at times, but I enjoyed the singing/dancing and the actual characters. It was nice to see my kids' reaction to them, and they are only about an hour long so just the right amount of time for younger kids attention span. We all saw Star Wars for free, which was awesome. Yes, they charge for popcorn. But you can get snacks, soda, even ice cream for free on Deck 11 and bring it into the theater, no one cares. The theater seats are very close together though at Buena Vista, unlike a regular movie theater, so if your kid has to go to the bathroom in the middle of the movie like mine did, you really have to get up close and personal with everyone in your row, which is super awkward. Next time I would sit on the end!
We didn't do any port excursions. We originally had signed up for a kayaking thing on Castaway Cay, but unfortunately that day there were about 60 mph winds so all of the shore excursions were canceled. One thing I did notice was that the kids club on Castaway Cay opened at 9 AM, the same time as our kayaking excursion was supposed to meet. And not in the same place. So I'm not sure how that would have worked out. In Nassau we opted to go to shore on our own and wander around. My main purpose was to see the sights and shop a bit, but I had forgotten the pushy street salespeople that come along with any tourist destination you visit. We were constantly hounded by them, a polite "no thank you" will get rid of them, sure, but there are 10 more popping up in their place. I get it, they're just trying to make a living, but it was pretty stressful.
We got a taxi ($4 per person one way) to Cabbage Beach, which I would highly recommend as a public/free beach. It was beautiful and calm, not terribly crowded. There were more pushy salespeople, but after saying no a few times they left us alone pretty much for the rest of the afternoon. The only thing about Cabbage Beach is, there are no restaurants anywhere near (within walking distance) except for some expensive hotel places. So if you want to enjoy the day there, plan ahead and bring some food with you from the town center before crossing the bridge. There are people selling sodas, chips, candy bars. But like I said, I have food allergies. And it's not exactly a nutritious lunch for young kids either!
Castaway Cay was nice for two hours even with the 60 mph winds, until a sudden tropical rainstorm came swooping in, the sky turned black, and everyone freaked out. Obviously Disney has no control over the weather, so this isn't on them. But the "tram" things they use to shuttle people around Castaway Cay were not meant to handle hundreds of people suddenly rushing back to the ship in fear for their lives, so we opted to (literally) run back instead of waiting in line for the darned things. This was all quite unpleasant, and we were very relieved to get back to the ship. Even so, I look forward to going back next year, because I could tell it was a great place to spend the day. It's beautiful, the "family beach" is great because there are rock outcroppings that kind of buffer the waves a bit and make it easier for little ones to enjoy the beach. And it's a shallow grade instead of a sudden drop off. My older two kids really enjoyed the waterslide island thing at the family beach. There are tons of chairs, you can bring towels from the ship, and kids lifejackets are free to use, just as on the ship decks. We kind of just sat back and relaxed, kept half an eye on our four-year-old and let the other two roam around at will, that's how safe the place is. Of course, they did have the lifejackets, but still.
We didn't spend much time in the adult-only areas of the ship, which is something I would like to do next time. The bars/nightclub area seemed fairly dead the entire time we were there, which was interesting. Or maybe we were just in the wrong spot each time. After Remy we went to one of the bar areas (District?) to watch a football game, which as it turns out would have been on the TV in our room anyways but oh well. The bar was not crowded and the bartender (he was from Jamaica) was very pleasant to have a conversation with. All the staff really were nice and you don't get the impression that they are just faking it. A few of the kids club staff looked pretty worn out, but then again that job would be my worst nightmare so who am I to judge?
All in all, my main issue with this cruise was that it wasn't long enough! I thought a 3-day for our first cruise would be good, but I just ended up rushing around trying to fit everything in. Nonetheless, I feel like I know a lot more about what the heck is going on now. I was planning our next cruise before we even got off the ship! So next year at this time we'll be taking a 7-day Caribbean cruise, which I definitely look forward to. Especially to get to eat at both Remy and Palo next time. Read Less