January 2015 - Disney Dream to Caribbean - Bahamas
I have to say that this was our family's first cruise ever, so I have nothing to compare it to, but we are very familiar with Disney itself. I didn't think I would be one who had anything negative to say about a Disney cruise, but I did have some issues with it.
First, Disney is definitely the leader when it comes to cleanliness, managing large crowds and safety. They did an excellent job with that.
My first disappointment was with the food. I only dined at the included restaurants, not Palo or Remy, but in all the times I've been to Disney World, I'm always wowed by quality of the food. That didn't happen even once on this cruise. One example: On the first night, I choose the Lobster Pasta. It turned out to be instant kid's mac and cheese with three small chunks of lobster lying in the middle. My one year old ate most of the pasta; I left the rest. I was hoping it was just a fluke, but the rest of my dinner meals seemed to follow suit.
My other issue is with the size of the kid's pools. They have two super small pools and one splash pad for the babies. We went in January (not a popular time) and the kids were stuffed in like sardines. I wondered what it looked like in the summer. Do kids have to take a number and wait for a cubic foot of space to open up? Yikes... As far as the splash pad, it had a strong smell of chlorine bleach, it was freezing cold and it had ten year old boys running around knocking over the babies, so mine had no desire to be there. However, babies are not allowed in the other pools even if they are wearing a swim diaper, so she just threw a major temper tantrum and we had to leave. As I said, I have never been on any other cruise ship, so maybe all the pools are microscopic. However, I noticed another cruise ship docked right across from us, and the pool was huge and empty (what I would expect on a January cruise). I couldn't help but think that those people probably paid only a percentage of what we did and they had a large empty pool to enjoy.
The disembarkation morning is terribly early. We were supposed to be at the breakfast reservation at 6:45 with our bags ready to get off the ship. The kids were exhausted after 3 days of cruising, so we didn't make that. My advice would be on the morning before you disembark, pick up a few muffins and fruit and juice from the buffet area and put them in the fridge. Then, the kids can enjoy a quick bite when they are ready for it before they kick you off the ship at 9.
All in all, my advice to anyone considering going would be if you have children, don't go until your youngest is at least 3. Also, consider feeding kids before dinner and then dropping them at the kid's club to play while you enjoy your meal in peace.
The kids loved the cruise and are already asking to go again, so we probably will go again sometime. But I definitely learned a few things on my first trip that will make the second one easier!