We are a Disney family through and through. DVC members, annual pass holders, and we do the parks at least once a year. We finally tried the cruise and it did not disappoint.
On the plane home, I started reading a bunch of reviews and was surprised at all the negative ones. I really think some of the negative reviews are coming from people who are used to other cruise lines and don't do Disney parks. For those not used to having to get to things early and wait in order to get good seats or see characters (much like rope drop at the parks), this cruise is going to seem super stressful. For those of us who are park pros, it's just another Disney day!
I saw a lot of bad reviews of the food, but we found the food to be quite good every night! They are serving 3000 people, so I didn't expect five-star dining.... but truly, it was delicious! My 15-year-old son had one meal he claimed was the best thing he had ever eaten. Cabanas was a pretty typical buffet, but we all enjoyed it. The kids of course all loved the soft-serve ice cream on demand.
We had adjoining staterooms and it was great. Having the verandah was completely worth the little bit extra we paid for it! We hung up as much as we could to save drawer space. I would suggest bringing a hanging bag for your toiletries. That helped a ton in the small bathroom. The shower//tub is VERY small and I spent much of the cruise pondering how 6-foot-tall men deal with it.
Every employee we encountered seemed happy and were very polite and helpful. Our servers, Radu and Juan were wonderful, as was our stateroom host, Goodluck. We tipped them all extra. We did not tip the head waiter extra above the standard tip just because we only saw him a couple of times.
The shows were amazing. Believe and Beauty and the Beast wowed our three boys! We missed the Golden Mickeys the first night because we were all exhausted. Spent the rest of the cruise regretting that decision because everyone raved about it.
The pool was as expected. Small and crowded. We had been warned and we know pools are cruise ships are notoriously small. The kids rode the Aquaduck a couple times right when we boarded and several times on Nassau day since we did not leave the ship that day. They enjoyed it!
Castaway Cay was amazing and lived up to every expectation and everything we had heard about it.
LOVED the constant hand wipe distribution at the restaurants and buffets. The ship was immaculately clean.
We discovered trivia on Day 3 and had such a blast. We wished we had hit those earlier!
Here are our criticisms:
1) We bought the popcorn buckets after the second night because our kids always wanted popcorn. But seriously. The popcorn should NOT be extra for as much as you're paying for this cruise.
2) The food at Castaway Cay was by far the worst food we had the entire trip. It was definitely not up to par.
3) The age range for The Oceannear's Club it WAY too big. Our almost 9-year-old and 11-year-old were both bored and never went back after the first day. They said there were lines for everything. I feel like they need like a 3-6 and then maybe 7-11 grouping? Our 15-year-old enjoyed the little bit of time he spent at Edge, which wasn't a ton.
We had adjoining cabins 6560 and 6562. Fantastic view. No complaints. There was a little noise in the evening (around 9-10) coming from the theater(?)... sounded like thunder. Otherwise, reasonably quiet. Great location near the elevators and convenient to most things!
Castaway Cay is everything everyone says it is. Amazing! Our only complaint was that the food was mediocre at best.