Background - I am a seasoned traveller with 2 prior Royal Caribbean cruises behind me. We had 7 people (3 adults and 4 kids ranging from 4 to 12). This cruise was organized by grandmother mainly for her grandkids and probably ran 1.5K USD per traveler with 2 cabins on deck 7.
Cabins were immaculate and very well designed. Our 7yr old loved the bunk bed which came down from the ceiling. The cabin attendant (Lorenzo) was excellent and kept up deftly with the mess of our room. The veranda was nice, but we did not use it much except for the view, to dry wet clothes and to occasionally read in peace and quiet.
Food was excellent. Buffet breakfast was on deck 9 and was actually quite good, with enough variety to keep you coming back and a staff ready for those custom requests (can we get pasta with no sauce?). Dinner was rotated among the 3 main dining rooms with excellent variety, food quality and extensive choices. The wait staff was nice, but a little slow at times getting food to us, even though we were part of first seating. A few evenings the kids got antsy waiting for their dinner, whereby this could have been prevented by getting their entrees out with appetizers. When we hung out at dinner a little longer, our waiters would drop by to interact with the kids a little (one showed a few magic tricks).
Really wish there was some incentive to order and eat less. I overate almost every day, emphasis on the full 3-4 course dinner and long list of desserts. Even tried ordering some veggie and low-cal dishes along the way. After a while I started to notice that a large % of the guests on the ship were definitely on the obese side. Might be a correlation there somewhere between that and the sit-down screen-based culture of Disney.
Entertainment was pretty good with a nice show in the main WD Theater every evening (twice) to allow attendance regardless of dinner time (5:45 or 8:15). Movies were more recent (we had already seen 4 of 6), with 1 premiere I never saw (Into the Woods) that was mostly shown too late for little kids. Magician (Scott Pepper) was really good. Juggler (Michael Dubois) was very good. Impressed the hell out of me on a unicycle escaping from a straightjacket. But the next evening got a few more complex things right on the second try.
My greatest complaint of the trip was the absolutely unfair nonsense at Bingo (one of our family traditions). Not only were the cards ridiculously expensive ($40 for 1 set of 6 paper cards for each of +5 games), but the fun was completely ruined by the rent and use of electronic bingo computers. You pay extra $20-40 to get one of these things, giving you more cards played automatically by the device. As a player, you do absolutely no work, have much greater chances (more cards loaded on these), watch on the screen only the card closest to bingo and yell if you win. In addition, Disney cooked up another way to reduce payouts (biggest jackpots only can be won on blackout games if bingo is called within 46 #s called). After learning the "rules" on day 2 or 3 of our cruise we decided never to play again. I am still fuming over this experience...
Our Cozumel Dolphin swim experience was quite nice, but man did they push some tourist volume through there. Wife and I also had a fantastic lunch off the beaten track at a local restaurant near the port (La Mision / The Mission). And prices for silver and souvenirs near the port were reasonable. We also had good weather there.
Our stop at Castaway Cay was nice, but the weather was more iffy and the water a little chilly. Kids still spent a lot of time in the water though. Our Stingray adventure there was cancelled due to higher wind and low water visibility. Lunch was provided similar to being on the ship.
All in all, a nice family vacation. At the same time, I still think thus sort of thing is better for younger kids interested in seeing characters (Mickey, Minnie, Elsa, etc) and caught up in Disney movies. There are facilities similar to daycare for kids 3-12 (but much more fun and with alot more to do). Not entirely sure what the kids >12 do with themselves. Each age group had a club set up for them (up to age 17) but not sure what they did. Then again, we did not attend a lot of activities after 10pm. Most of the pools were on the small side and better for younger kids.
Not sure I would try to do it again, at least with Disney. But it was nice to try it once.
Small, but excellent and well-designed
Nice beach experience.
Nice experience, but cannot believe they got us for $180 for family photos...View All 456 Dolphin Swim & Encounter Reviews