Saturday, May 08, 2010

Final cruise post

Maisie and I had an absolutely fabulous, wonderful and fantastic time on our cruise and something about it felt very special. This cruise had a much different feel and vibe than our previous cruise which was a one week western Caribbean on Carnival. I can’t put my finger on exactly what made this cruise so special but it really was. Maybe because it was a transatlantic voyage or that we spent two weeks on board so we really got to know people and people got to know us, I’m just not sure but I’m glad that we got to experience it. Some people that I’ve spoken with have said it was because it was Disney but I really don’t think that was the case for us, even though Maisie really did love the Princesses and characters.

Many people also told me that once I experienced the Disney pampering, service, foods, shows and the entire Disney experience, that no other cruise line would come close. The only other cruise line I have sailed with was Carnival so that is all I have to use as comparison.

Food: On both Disney and Carnival I found the food to be good but not exceptional. They are cooking for hundreds of people and I’d say that overall it’s good banquet quality food. The variety of offerings was comparable on both cruise lines but because this last voyage was a special transatlantic voyage there were special menus beyond what you’d find on a week-long cruise and that was nice. Unfortunately though I have to say that many of the offerings didn’t quite live up to what they could/should have been. When reading the description or hearing the waiter rave about a dish and then have it just be “good”, I found to be a bit of a disappointment. One thing that Disney did excel at was that they were spot on at always delivering meat at the desired degree of done-ness.

Disney did have a better children's menu as in addition to the mac & cheese, pizza and usual kid's fare they had additional nightly offerings of things like steak, chicken or other more "adult" offerings. As with Carnival, the children's meals came out quickly and first so that they could start eating and not get impatient waiting. Maisie never ate off the children's menu as there were always things that she preferred on the regular menu. Our table mates were quite impressed with Maisie's choices and what she ate especially at one of the Captain's dinners when Maisie ate and finished an appetizer of liver pate followed by the lobster entree. As for the other children at our table, I think Marta ate pizza and fries each and every night and Colin had a bit of variety but mostly the kids items.

The nightly menus always offered a good variety of items and each night I managed to eat an appetizer, entree and dessert but because the portions were all very large, there unfortunately was a lot of waste. I swear, the first night I ordered a steak and it was the size of my foot!! I sure hope that the fish enjoyed all that I left behind.

One thing that I really enjoyed on the Disney ship that the Carnival ship did not have was the rotational dining. I liked that we rotated through the three main restaurants on board, Parrot Cay, Lumiere's and Animator's Palate and that our servers traveled with us. It was nice to experience the different restaurants while having the people who knew us and our likes and dis-likes stay with us. For the record, Lumiere's was my favorite of the three.

IMG_0278  A Maisie with our wonderful waiter Erasamo and assistant waiter Fransien.

I did dine one night, with one of my table mates, at the upscale adult's only restaurant Palo, and it was definitely a couple of steps up from the main dining rooms in terms of the offerings, quality and preparation of the foods as well as the extremely attentive service. Friends Ilene and Michael had told me not to miss this experience and because I was traveling alone (without another adult) I was like ya-ya-ya no big deal if I miss it but I'm glad that I got to experience it. On our Carnival cruise there was a similar upscale restaurant but Eammon and I never tried it but we may give it a go on our next cruise.

Another experience that Maisie and I had was, one night when we didn't go to the show we instead had a late night picnic in our room. We ordered room service and in our pajamas sat in the cabin, watched a movie and ate more junk food than we should have but it was fun and Maisie LOVED it.

On both ships, in addition to the main dining rooms there was a buffet that was open for all meals but Maisie and I never ate there. Also there were snack bars serving pizza, burgers, hot dogs and other items...again, there was so much food served at our meals that other than Maisie's afternoon ice cream we never ate at any of the snack areas.

Pastry: Carnival wins this category hands down. I can honestly say that the pastries, desserts and breads on the Disney ship were plentiful and beautiful yet totally tasteless...of course that didn't stop me from trying them all! My table mates and I all agreed that the cheesecakes were blah, the chocolate desserts had no flavor and the pastries were heavy. Honestly the best dessert on the ship was the chocolate covered Mickey ice cream bar. When we sailed on our Carnival cruise there was a French pastry chef and the quality of the desserts and especially the pastries were far superior.

Shows: I can’t compare shows between Disney and Carnival because on our Carnival cruise Maisie fell asleep each-and-every night at dinner and afterwards just wanted to go to sleep so we never saw any of the entertainment that Carnival had to offer. On the Disney ship Maisie and I saw some really good shows which included: Twice Charmed: An Original Twist on the Cinderella Story, Walt Disney: The Dream Goes On, Disney Dreams: An Enchanted Classic, Remember the Magic: A Final Farewell as well as one of their new shows, Villains Tonight. There were also shows by (some of which we saw and others we didn’t) hypnotist Ricky Kalmon, illusionist Jason Bishop, hip-hop comedians Alfred & Seymour, American Idol contestants Brooke White & Justin Guarini and even a crew talent show. Also offered on the Disney cruise were lots and lots of movies so Maisie and I saw Toy Story 2 in 3D, The Princess & the Frog, Up, Pinoccio, Earth, Tinker Bell, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, Chronicles of Narnia, the premier of Oceans and Alice in Wonderland in 3D and we didn't even come close to seeing even a tenth of what was offered.

Adult activities: Here I am not comparing apples to apples because what is offered on a 2-week cruise is always more than on a one-week sail. In addition, on this cruise I made time to attend more of the adult programs where on our Carnival cruise I was happy to sit by the pool and read a book when Maisie was in the kid’s club. On our Carnival cruise I only attended a towel folding demonstration (how to make the towel animals) and a galley tour and on this recent cruise I attended a few cooking demos, lectures about various aspects of Disney, it’s past, present and future as well as lectures about our ports of call and other nautical stuff. On both cruise lines I enjoyed the activities and all were well presented. The Disney ones all seemed to have more hype to them and sometimes characters would show up which made them fun. If I was someone who really was into all things Disney, I could see going ga-ga over the presenters and the programs.

Children’s activities: There were definitely more and varied activities for children on the Disney ship plus all the character appearances. On both cruises Maisie never really wanted to or asked to go to kids club as she would have always preferred to stay with me but on both cruises when she did go to the children's activities she had fun, was engaged and enjoyed herself. A few times on the Disney cruise and also since being home I've asked Maisie which kid's club she enjoyed better and she changes her answer based on the day and seemed to like them both about the same. This is good news for me since we're booked to sail on another week-long Carnival cruise in September.

Facilities on board: Here I have to say that both ships were comparable. They each had a kid's pool, a family pool and an adult only pool and all the pools were small. Both had a nice spa area, a gymnasium, walking/running track, basketball courts, Carnival did have a putt-putt course but overall, very similar. I didn't go to any of the night clubs on either ship but they were there on both. The Disney ship did not have any gambling other than Bingo and the Carnival ship had a large casino. Both ships had numerous bars but because I didn't partake, I can't comment on the quality of the drinks.

Cabin: The only real difference between the cabins from ship to ship was that the Disney ship had a bathtub in the bathroom and many of the cabins had a second bathroom with a toilet & sink but the size of the cabins, the furnishings and the amenities were exactly the same. On both cruises we had great room stewards who were attentive, nice and took good care of us but our steward on the Carnival ship seemed to always be around and every.single.time we left the cabin for even the briefest of time, he would get in there and re-straighten everything. On the Disney cruise after the room was made up in the morning, Aldo didn't come back in until he prepared the room for the evening. Both cruise lines had nice bath, shower & hair products in the bathroom but personally I preferred the Carnival items.

Crew: Both cruises had friendly, warm and helpful crew members who were always happy, energetic, attentive and who worked their tushes off to be wonderful. The service and pampering was honestly the same on both cruise lines and I can't think of a single instance on either cruise where a crew member missed doing something or where we had a bad or even an off encounter.

Final notes:

* Our Disney cruise was only at about 70% capacity and instead of the usual 600-800 children per voyage our cruise carried only about 200 children. This was very nice for us as there were enough children that there were plenty of kids to play with and share the experience but it wasn't overwhelming and the queues to see the characters and to have pictures taken were thankfully quite short with waits usually between 5-10 minutes and the longest one being maybe 20 minutes max. I'm really thankful that the cruise wasn't at capacity as I appreciated the emptiness of the ship and the ability to always go to the activities I wanted to attend and sit where I wanted to sit at the pool and just the less crowded-ness of the voyage. I don't know if I would have enjoyed the experience as much or have felt as relaxed had the ship been at capacity.

* One nice thing about Disney is that when you would go to have portraits or pictures taken with a Princess or character there was always a "handler" there who was more than willing to use your camera to take pictures for you. This was very nice because the cost to purchase the professional pictures was, in my opinion, outrageous at $20 for each 8x10-inch and $10 for each 6x8-inch photo and packages starting at $85...sorry too rich for my blood.

* I debated on whether or not to bring Maisie's stroller and am so glad that I did as it was one of the smartest things I did. During our days in port, Maisie probably only spent 10-15% of her time in the stroller but when she needed it, it was great to have it. In our ports we walked for miles and miles and Maisie did great but when she was tired I didn't have to carry her, she fell asleep and napped in the stroller and I didn't have to stop to let her rest. The stroller also was great for pushing around the backpack so that I didn't have to carry it the entire time. I can't recommend the stroller I use enough, the Maclaren Volo as it's extremely sturdy and super light-weight and when I needed to carry it I would use the carry-strap and just sling it across me and carry the folded up stroller on my back keeping my hands free.

* Maisie and I really enjoyed getting dressed up each night for dinner and I'm glad that I brought plenty of fancy dresses and Princess wear for Maisie. If you've read all the posts and seen all the pictures, you've seen that Maisie was happy to be a Princess all the time and often wore dress-up clothes during the day and just loved it.

* Other than a couple of pairs of panties and some socks, we ended up wearing every item of clothing that I brought along. There was of course laundry service on the ship as well as self-service laundry facilities but I heard from a number of people that there were often long wait times for do-it-yourself use. I brought along a Tide-to-Go so if I got a little stain on something I would use it, rinse the item in our sink and hang it to dry. We had enough clothes so that I didn't need to do laundry whilst on-board.

* Another item that I just love and is great for travel are the One Natural shampoo and conditioner bars. They work wonderfully and since they're neither a liquid nor a gel they don't have to go in your one-quart bag when passing through airport security.

* I just loved all the sea days and the transatlantic experience but if I do it again would probably prefer to do a westbound cruise so that instead of losing an hour each of six nights, I could gain those hours and get some extra sleep!

* Eammon wouldn't have fared well on the cruise as we either had rough seas or that imperceptible movement, both of which cause him to feel quite ill. From people who had done a transatlantic cruise before I heard that the high seas that we experienced were calm compared to what they experienced on their previous sails. Maisie and I both enjoyed the rough seas and found it comforting to be rocked to sleep at night by the movement of the ship.

* I thought that after 14-nights of all things Disney I would be Disney'd out but it really wasn't that way and I have to say that I could escape the Disney mania when needed.

* My one real regret of the cruise is that we didn't have enough time in each of our ports and of the ports we visited, I really want to return to Gibraltar and Barcelona.

Final pictures:

photo (3) B Colin & Maisie being great little travelers playing their games and waiting to check in at the airport in Barcelona.

photo (2)  C In the Sala VIP Miró Lounge awaiting our flight.

photo (1)  D Maisie and Colin working off some energy before our flight, running back and forth along one of the moving sidewalks.

Now, as Porky would say... Th-Th-Th-Th-Th-... That's all, folks!
(Yes I know Porky is Warner Bros but if he could close Touchstone Pictures (Disney) Who Framed Roger Rabbit, he can close this post too.)


  1. Big thumbs for the volo stroller. We've taken it every where...China too for Pearl's adoption and it worked great for Grace then. I love that stroller.

    It looks like you have had a great time. It's been fun to follow along.

    Next trip, out to see us??


  2. What an awesome run down! Sounds like you had an amazing time.

    I'm right there with Eammon with the sea sickness though. I would have been a mess. I get sick sometimes when Doug drives down the road. LOL!

    I love that Maisie has a taste for different foods. Bri is the same way. Girls with expensive taste. I love it!

    Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day!

  3. Sounds like that trip might have been a nightmare for me, sea sickness wise. Lucky thing you and Maisie enjoyed it.

    Well, it sounded like a fantastic trip all the way around. You and Maisie are going to have some awesome memories of your girls' big Disney adventure together.

  4. I've been lurking for awhile, but wanted to come out of hiding to say that it was really nice to hear about your experience on a long cruise with a little one. Hopefully, next year, I will have a daughter, and I plan on taking some cruises with her.

    I've been on a few transatlantic cruises and they are definitely special. I love them best of all, and westbound is great for the lack of jetlag when you get home! Glad you had a great time.

    PS...I don't think I've ever not had rough seas on a transatlantic. It's great!

  5. Thanks so much for the analysis of both ships. We have only been on 2 cruises....both Carnival. We have been wondering about a Disney cruise. Your info was very helpful! I am so glad you had a great time. I am impressed with eating Liver Pate (SP?)....I wouldn't try it. Thumbs up to Maise!!!

  6. What a great post! I really enjoyed reading your comparison of the two cruises. It sounded wonderful. Well, except for the rough seas part. We hope to go on an Alaskan cruise next year, but I'm going to have to check on that rough seas issue. I get car sick easily, so I have no idea how I'd be on a cruise... It is fun reading all about your adventure. I'm slowly catching up with you! :)

  7. Wow! What a great vacay you shared! Thanks so much for all the updates and information. It was great to read about your trip and for this Disney fanatic, another seed has been planted. I'd love to take Hannah on a Disney cruise in a few years and you have given me extra incentive to save my pennies!


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