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Jennifer Lewis

Age: 38

Occupation:Lawyer

Number of Cruises: 8

Cruise Line: Disney

Ship: Disney Wonder

Sailing Date: 2013-02-21

Itinerary: Miami to Bahamas

In general: We have cruised on Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Disney. Before this Disney cruise, we actually took a Royal Caribbean holiday cruise in December. Since it was just two months prior, we found ourselves doing a lot of comparisons. Disney cruises are for kids and families. Period. Anyone who tells you that it's a great experience for an adults only cruise is lying. Everything is catered to children, from restaurants, to shows, to pools, to entertainment. This was specifically glaring in the restaurants and with food options and quality of food. This is fine for us because we were a group of four (grandma, mom, and two kids ages 4 and 2.5). Be prepared to wait in lots of lines and be prepared to be "Disneyed-Out." Also be prepared to be surrounded by throngs of overstimulated and overtired rugrats. That is what a Disney Cruise is. We thought the food on Royal Caribbean was MUCH better.

Food - Pretty bad. Disappointingly bad, considering the premium price for the cruise. The menu options were varied and promising, but the execution of the meals and the flavors were bland and sometimes awful. Buffet food was also sub-par. The "fast food" on the cruise (pizza, sandwiches, chicken nuggets, burgers, etc.) all around the pool area were tasty. But the sit down restaurants food was very disappointing. Fish was way overcooked and flavorless. Same with steak. Instead of a whole cut of tenderloin steak, they serve you a few strips of a dry and tough pre-sliced meat. More surprising Lobster was not offered at all. In fact, I dont' think there was any lobster on the cruise at all. This is clearly a cruise where food is geared toward children, and not anyone with a gourmet palate. On Royal Caribbean we felt like we were eating at a fine dining restaurant every night because the caliber of the food was so great. Steaks, lobster, all kinds of seafood. On Disney everything was just bland and some dishes were down right ruined. But no lobster? Not even one night! On Royal, we had lobster three nights! It was a shame because the Disney Dining rotation was a neat concept. We ate in three different restaurants on three different nights, all with different themes. But the menus were all similar and the food was all equally disappointing. We had ONE decent dinner in Tritons on the second night. The sea bass. Steaks were not actual steaks, but strips of pre-cut steak badly cooked. An "avocado citrus salad" was two tiny chips of avocado sitting on a bunch of iceberg lettuce with some minute made condensed OJ drizzled on top. I tried a tuna-tatar appetizer with wasabi, but it just tasted bad.

The restaurants were clearly for kids. Which was nice because our kids could act out, make noise, etc., and no one would care. But if I was not part of a family and wanted to go on a relaxing adult cruise, this would not be it. Just because of the restaurants. Noise. Clanging. Crying. Screaming. Great for kids. Not so great for adults.

We were in room 7106, which was a balcony stateroom. It was a lovely room, and we would book it again. In Key West we did not overlook the dock, but peacefully looked out over the out-islands and boats coming in and out of the harbor. In Nassau we over looked the dock. In Castaway Cay, overlooked the dock, not the island, which was a little noisy, but fun to watch the staff come and go and set up early in the morning. The room was spacious by cruise standards, and easily fit two adults and two children. Much bigger than Royal. Our 4 year old was in the sofa that converts to a twin sized bed. 2 year old in pack n play. Love the dual bathroom set up and especially the tub, which made it so easy to bathe the kids after a day on the beach. better than Royals shower-in-toilet set up. Be careful because the drawers roll in and out without guards, so we had two incidents of pinched fingers. Water pressure was so-so. In the sink/toilet room the hot water was scalding and was difficult to adjust. Love that we got shampoo, conditioner, and lotion (Royal gave nothing at all). All good sized bottles. Lots of storage in the room, including enough room for a stroller. Would be nice if they had a step for kids to use to access the sink for tooth brushing, etc. we overturned a trash can and used that. Beds were very comfortable, so were pillows. (Better than Royal). Nice that there was a privacy screen to separate where kids were from where adults were, so we could read at night.

Compared to Royal. Stateroom significantly larger. Much more accommodating for a family of four with two children under age 8, who cannot sleep in a pullman bed. Loved the real bathtub and shower curtain as opposed to the shower in toilet area. No beauty products on Royal. Much more space.

Entertainment

We found the shows to be quite wonderful for Disney themed shows. You aren't going to see variety shows or comedians or anything like that. On a Disney Cruise you get Disney Disney and more Disney. It's all for kids, and the Disney shows were amazing. Special effects, costumes, production, were all incredible. One thing we did notice that was interesting is that a lot of the time, the performers were singing to a pre-recorded track, so the chorus you hear isn't just the performers on the stage, but a large chorus of performers that is recorded, as well. On Royal, everything was "live" as far as vocals, as compared to Disney. Sure, the solos are live, but the vast majority of the music and singing was obviously pre-recorded. The Golden Mickey's show was adorable, and we loved the way they incorporated the audience and certain members into the performance. Same with Toy STory the musical. During our performance there was a technical problem with making the character of Buzz Lightyear "fly." You could see the wires attached to him, but for some reason there was a malfunction. When the stage went dark, there was a moment of panic and then a bunch of dancers came running in to entertain the crowd while the technicians tried to fix things behind the stage. It was a great cover! Our favorite performance was the final night "Disney Dreams" which included reenactments of several princess-themed musical spots. My 2 year old son was transfixed the entire time. Also neat was the confetti and bubbles and other crowd-entertaining experiences.

Aside from the shows in the theater, there was also a variety of entertainment available for the kids. The Bon Voyage party included dancing and interactive activities for the kids, including these cute sparkle things the kids could wave and shake. And, of course, there was the famous pirate night and fireworks. Be forewarned, that the pirate party and fireworks are LATE at night, e.g., 10:30 PM / 10:45 PM, so the littlest pirates will not be able to make the show. Kind of sad. It would be nice to do the fireworks a little bit earlier, perhaps, so the under age 7 set can enjoy them.

Activities - lots for kids to do on board. Especially neat were the character experiences. But be prepared to wait in LONG lines. We had to wait for 45 minutes to meet the Disney Princesses. It's not Disney World, but be prepared for lots of lines.

Kids Club - This was another, surprising, disappointment for us. The kids club facilities were impressive...amazing, actually. Both the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab were gorgeous, taking up half an entire deck of the ship. But, facilities aside, we found the kids clubs to be disorganized, chaotic, and even a bit dangerous. There seemed to be no organized activities for the kids while our daughter was there. Just a huge mob of children running every which way. The kids scanned in and out with a special RFID bracelet. But there were no name tags for the children. No individual attention. No personalized attention. No organized activities from what we could see. There were groups of kids running here and there exploring and playing, but I did not see an organized group doing a craft. The only thing I did see was a haphazard "dance class" in the Oceaneer Lab. It felt like you drop off your child in this massive room with all this overstimulation, and then they fend for themselves. This wasn't very confidence-building for parents with younger children in the 3-6 age range, who require more structure. I could easily see a situation where a younger child gets hurt or injured due to the lack of ratio with adult care-givers and individualized attention. when we used the kids club on Royal Caribbean, it was a smaller program (and filled up quickly), but the children had name tags and there was much more structure, organization, planned activities and themes, and very strict ratios with adult caregivers.

I had much more confidence leaving my 4 year old child in the Royal Caribbean staff care than Disney. The Disney kids club truly reminded me of "Neverland" and all the kids were "lost boys" running about, doing whatever they wanted, without any adult organization. Perhaps the club facility itself is enough. But if you have a child who is shy or easily bullied, there could be trouble. Another example of the lack of attention - My daughter spent 2 hours in the Kids Club on Castaway Cay while I went to the spa. When I checked her in, I specified that she had dietary restrictions (we do not eat red meat or pork). When I picked her up after lunch, she proudly explained how she "ate all kinds of different foods" (including a hot dog and a hamburger). She ended up with a bad tummy for most of the afternoon because she normally doesn't eat that stuff. While I realize this wasn't a big deal... it was a burger. It would be concerning to me if my daughter had much stricter food allergies or food intolerances. Just something for parents to note.

Shore Excursions / Ports. Key West was fun, but not much to do there except look around the stores and eat Key Lime pie (which was awesome). In Nassau we went to Blue Lagoon Island, which was terrific and worth the extra price for the beach. The island is gorgeous with warm blue water, an inflatable water park, and on-land bounce park, dolphin and sea lion encounters, and a really yummy BBQ lunch included in the price. Just the ferry ride to the island is an adventure, as you get to ride past the gorgeous Nassau estate of Oprah! What did surprise me though is that Disney Cruise Line charged $55 for my two year old to participate in this shore excursion. On Royal Caribbean we did the same shore excursion two months ago and he was FREE. What's that about? My four year old daughter was half priced on Royal, and Disney charged her a full price ticket.

Castaway Cay - this was amazing. Beautiful. Clean. Good food. Wonderful Beaches. And so nice to not have to take a tender into the island. The ship pulls right up and you can walk off. I would live there if I could! My daughter enjoyed playing in the rented inner tube. And there is also a water slide that is available for children who are over 38" tall. My 4 year old went down the water slide with a life jacket on.

Embarkation. Pretty easy. We took the Disney transportation shuttle from Miami airport to the cruise terminal, and it was a relatively seamless experience and convenient. Since we didn't have car seats for our 2 year old and 4 year old, the shuttle bus was a must. No regrets on utilizing and paying for it.

BYOB - An added bonus is that Disney will let you bring on a bottle of wine per passenger. So we were able to pick up a couple of nice bottles in Key west and carry them on.

NO Upcharges. We loved that Disney didn't upcharge for everything the way Royal Caribbean did. Soft drinks were included. Even alcoholic beverages were much less expensive. $5.75 for a pina colada vs $9.00 on Royal.

Disembarkation - there is no buffet or room service available on the morning of disembarkation. This was hugely inconvenient. We were assigned a breakfast time of 6:45 AM. Imagine trying to wake two overtired kids up at 6am, so they can get dressed and get to the restaurant by 6:45 AM on vacation. Not good.

All in all we had an enjoyable time, and would probably go again. But we found the food to be sooooo disappointing for the price we paid for the cruise.

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