This was our 3rd Disney Cruise. We love the family-oriented mindset of Disney and choose these cruises because we want a safe experience for our family. On this Merrytime Christmas Cruise we were onboard for the entire week of Christmas and it was a really fun time for all of us. Many of our expectations we met or exceeded and as always, the crew and service were exceptional. There were a few considerations that almost ruined the trip for us however.
First was the photography. It is a contracted service called "Shutters" and is nothing like the great photo experience offered in the parks. This group seems entirely concerned with making money although the fact that they print out every photo taken (pictures that nobody wants) seems to defeat their purpose. The photo opportunities are great but they do not allow families to link their room keys to compile all the photos. We had 4 staterooms so they wanted us to pay the $200 4 times! Even though we made sure that we used the same room card every time for every photo, they still found ways to prevent the photos from showing up in our album. We spent hours going through the photo banks trying to find some of our precious photos, only to find that there was really no reason that they hadn't been added to our collection. One of the reasons we booked the cruise was to get some great family photos of a rare moment when every family member was present. We were very disappointed with the outcome. Why can't Disney use the same photo plan on the ships that they use in the parks?
Second problem was communications. In this day and age we expect much more than old technology and non-intuitive equipment. The WAVE phones they provide are so hard to figure out that we didn't even use them on the first two cruises. This time my tech-savvy son took the time to figure them out (with several calls for help) and we tried to use them. We found them bulky, difficult to keep charged, and of course totally useless for communicating with out deaf kids. For that, we utilized the App which allows texting "chats" but limits how many people can be in a group and has the frustrating propensity to drop the people in your group. We hungered to be able to use simple WIFI communication but of course that is spotty and extremely expensive to use onboard. Without the ability to easily communicate, we were often upset and several times missed opportunities to do things together as a family. This is something that Disney should address.
Now that I have complained about the two things that seriously pained me, please let me take a moment to tell you what Disney does well. Number 1 has to be the variety and pleasantness of the service staff. We have been so impressed with how these people make every effort to make our experience fun and memorable. The Disney idea of having the wait staff travel with us to each meal gave us the opportunity to learn about and make friends with some truly charming young people, and our room steward was as cute as he could be.
The food onboard is not gourmet, but the atmosphere is a lot of fun and the kids are overjoyed to be able to get pizza and ice cream on their own as well as being able to order room service by themselves. The characters make everything more fun especially when they unexpectedly appear. We loved taking photos of the grand-kids with them. We aren't greatly impressed with Castaway Cay as we expected more of a village with shopping and eating opportunities but the kids enjoyed swimming in the ocean. As far as entertainment goes, some of the offerings get old after multiple sailings but I have to say that Beauty and the Beast was very professionally done and we all loved it.
We had no problems with the embarkation or the disembarkation but we did have quite a bit of damage with out luggage as others have noted. Our cruising experience was amazingly calm until the very last night. The captain warned us it would be a bit rough but none of us realized how nauseating a little rough can be. That has never happened before but it is something we will be prepared for in the future.
Will we sail with Disney again? Yes. Do we hope they will take our comments to heart and fix the things that need attention? Yes. We hope others who cruise with Disney will have as much fun as we did. We had a great Christmas together and made some good memories.
Excellent. Couldn't be better. The little bottles of shampoo have been replaced with wall-mounted large bottles. Great idea.