Let's face it, this is Disney, they're going to ensure your experience is nothing short of amazing. They lived up to expectation and then some. Not that we have experience with any other cruise lines to compare, but these things made us really appreciate our cruise:
- The crew and cast members: each and every single cast and crew member was consistently amazing. Truly excellent service.
- Our servers were amazing with the simple entertainment they provided: jokes and magic tricks for the kids, the crayon puzzles for us adults. We loved the dinner rotation and how they stayed with us and served us every night, so we really got to know each other. Heck, they even cut our kids' food and squirted ketchup for them.
- The sanitation procedures: hand sanitizer gel or wipes before getting on the ship, before entering restaurants or the kid's club areas. It's good to know they're doing everything they can to prevent spread of illness and germs.
- Security where your kids are involved. It's so well thought out, from the Oceaneer's bands to keep track of them, to the 'code word' to have your kids released to you from the kids clubs.
- Buffet options: there are plenty of options for types of food (to the detriment of your waistline, though). The dinner rotation is very clever, you get to try all the restaurants. There are sit down or buffet options for breakfast and lunch . Even the casual food was good - Goofy's Galley served some healthy options, and I loved how they dished up only what you ask for, so there's less waste or leftovers. And there's always pizza, hot dog, chicken tenders and fries if you really must. There's 24/7 room service, too, though we did not use it.
- The staff at Flounder's Nursery - I know I've mentioned the wonderful cast and crew, but the ladies at the nursery deserve a special mention. They were all so loving and warm, I had no reservations whatsoever about leaving DD2 (2 years, 4 months old) with them.
- Availability of so many activities, there's never a moment to say, "What shall we do now?" There is truly something for everyone - kids-only, adults-only, family-friendly, movies, talks, seminars (how to make those towel animals!), dance parties, quizzes, etc etc. There are separate pools for kids, adults or families, and a mini splashpad for infants (all kids have to be toilet-trained to go in the pools).
- World-class theatre productions - excellent stage shows with the convenience of a quick walk back to our stateroom after.
- Cleanliness: a big credit to the crew that are always around - vacuuming, sweeping up, wiping stair banisters, dusting frames, picking up trash, clearing counters etc - but blend into the background. Yes, I saw you - THANK YOU.
- The rooms, whilst small, have everything you need. Ample storage, an ipod dock on the alarm clock, enough hangers in the closet, and the split bath/ toilet is brilliant. We loved that we knew we'd have a tub for bathing the kids.
- Everything runs smoothly and is well thought out - very smart procedures for excursions, the Wave phones they provide for you to keep in touch with your family, the fleece blankets to stay warm whilst lounging on the deck (well, I guess this might be an Alaskan cruise thing), the ample supply of clean towels by the pools, flotation/ swimming aids for the kids... They are just so organized!
- The Navigator App for your smartphone/ tablet is an excellent source of information. Basically all the schedules and menus for the entire cruise are available on the app - if you're so inclined, you can really plan ahead, though I did find the paper schedules quicker to refer to. At least this is one area where Disney are up-to-date, compared to their ancient Wave phones. Perhaps they'll launch a Skype-like service in the future and get rid of those clunky devices...
- Whilst you typically get home from vacation tired and needing another vacation, you can really kick back and relax on a Disney cruise.
Make no mistake, there are down-sides to a cruise as well:
- Getting kids to sleep in a small room. There's a privacy curtain to separate the main bed from the bunk and sleeper couch, but it's a challenge especially if they usually sleep in their own rooms. The best thing is to exhaust them during the day so they just fall in to bed!
- The kids will be tired - there's just so much to do and see - and therefore might be tantrum-prone.
- You will likely over-eat: everything is just so appealing, you want to try it all and food is available all the time. But heck, you're on vacation... you can handle six meals a day for a week, right?
- You'll spend money at trinkets at Treasure Ketch (the onboard merchandise store). Either that or avoid the "buy me"s from your kids by not going in there at all (yeah, right).
- You'll want to go on another cruise... like, right now. Start saving!
Next - General tips for going on a Disney Cruise