Spoiler Alert for Kids and Adults who "Believe" or Want To
About me: 60ish great aunt of these sailing kids, my 11th cruise, first and last on Disney
Who Sailed: Extended family of 8, 6 adults and 2 children, including a 5 year old who turned 6 on the cruise, in 3 balcony cabins booked a year before sailing.
Biggest Disappointments: Guest Services Handling of Gifts and Amenities (NOT our Steward, but Management) Before sailing, we arranged and paid online for the birthday child's cabin and cabin door to be decorated with a Star Wars theme as well as sail away champagne for the 6 brave, thirsty adults upon our arrival. As we walked to our cabin, said birthday child saw and loved many other decorated doors so we thought "HOME RUN"! Alas, when we got to our cabin, NO decorations on door or in cabin and one bottle of champagne when we had purchased two online prior to sailing. BOOM, not on board 20 minutes and already hugely disappointed. Guest services initially claimed no knowledge of the purchased decor and questioned second bottle of champagne until we produced receipts. Their lame excuses included paper sticking together, someone not turning the page over, decorations would be installed on child's actual birthday, second bottle of champagne is typically delivered on last day of cruise, etc. As soon as I told them my review would reflect my displeasure, the excuses stopped. To their credit, our wonderful cabin steward, Puri, had the room decorated by bedtime that night but we had to purchase door decor in the gift shop ourselves and install it while the child was otherwise occupied. The beverage manager caught up with me, in person, after dinner to apologize and two bottles of bubbly were delivered to our cabin the second day. Too little too late.
Biggest Annoyance: During character greetings and in the buffet, our 5 year old was practically trampled several times, not by other children, but by rude adults muscling their kids through to the front of the line. The use of stanchions at character events and in the buffet lines might help remind the adults of their manners, prevent injuries to smaller, more polite children waiting their turn and improve the experience.
Meh, Okay: Our kids are grown up for their age and know the "characters" are just people in costumes. They had fun seeing and having their picture taken with them but were not particularly enchanted. Half of the adults in the group were disappointed that there was no casino and all were insulted by Disney's philosophy that "alcoholic beverage packages encourage overindulgence". Both children felt the kid's club was "kinda like day care" and didn't want to go back. Unfortunately, our itinerary was entirely changed due to Hurricane Dorian, so the shore excursions had to be scrapped. No fault of Disney, but disappointing nonetheless.
The Good Stuff: Our cabin steward and dining staff exceeded our wildest expectations every day. The steward was met with a chaotic mess in the kid's cabin each and every morning and always turned it into a peaceful, organized oasis before we returned. Our waiters won the hearts of the children with nightly magic tricks and very special attention such as cutting their meat for them and producing their favorite A1 Sauce without being asked. Stone crab claws for lunch every day can't be beat anywhere, anytime. Impressive accommodations for smokers, very chic, not at all the typical "circle of shame".
Overall: Easily the most expensive cruise I have ever been on. Balcony Cabin size and furnishings are comparable to what Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and Carnival offer. Food, other than the crab claws at lunch, is also on par with the competition as is the excellent level of service provided by cabin and dining staff. Considering all that, the Disney "experience" should have commanded the difference in price. Sadly, for me it did not.
Most excursions cancelled by Disney, presumably due to looming Hurricane Dorian. Day in Castaway Cay was okay. Beach was very crowded.