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  1. #31

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    Re: Critique of my first DCL Experience

    The best part of a three night cruise, is you get to visit every restaurant once. Four night or longer and you start repeating, hoping not to get stuck repeating the one restaurant you didn’t like.

    On the other hand the longer voyages would give you an opportunity to experience all three rotation venues, and the chance to try Palo and/or Remy, or slum it at the quick service or Cabanas. Or when I get my 05E room with expansive Veranda I can order room service and eat on the aft deck and watch Castway Cay fade off into the distance.

  2. #32

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    Cabanas Breakfast Buffett

    I love all you can eat breakfast buffets. Chef Mickey’s and the Crystal Palace are two of my favorites. There is nothing better than Mickey Waffles and bottomless plates of bacon.

    On my previous RCCL trips I would go to breakfast 2 or 3 times each morning. I would tend to wake up before the wife, so I would head top deck to see if any of my friends were up, and then sit and eat with who ever was. Than head back to the room to see if the wife was awake. She was now that the door opened and closed twice in the past hour. But it would take her time to get ready, and the stateroom was cramped, so I would head back up to see if any more friends were up and about, and eat with them. Go down to get the wife, who is finally ready, and than escort her to breakfast and eat again. After that first morning I couldn’t stop burping bacon and watermelon. I remember RCCL having great bacon at the buffet.

    I was so looking forward to the Cabanas Breakfast Buffett. But as we discussed in the 12 ways to have a Miserable Cruise discussion, high expectations only lead to disappointment.

    I was not happy with the selection of food at the breakfast buffet. I remember RCCL having more options. I couldn’t find any Mickey Waffles, no Belgian Waffles, no Eggo Waffles, no omelet station, no eggs cooked to order station. The bacon was stringy and chewy, and the watermelon had seeds. Can’t remember the last time I had watermelon with seeds. There weren’t any strawberries except for garnishments here and there.

    The second night at dinner Atmaja and Ari asked about our breakfast, and I complained about the lack of Mickey Waffles. They looked at me puzzled and assured me that they had them at the buffet. I never found them.

    I went back the following morning to look, and still didn’t see them. I asked, and the people I asked couldn’t understand whey I was asking. So we went down to Royal Palace for breakfast al la carte.

    We missed our 6:45 assigned dining time at Enchanted Garden on the Disembarkation morning, so we were forced once again to endure the buffet. The wife wanted to skip it all together and hit a drive through on the way home. Hell no! I paid for breakfast and like it or not we are eating something before we get thrown off this ship.

  3. #33

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    Royal Palace Breakfast

    After a disappointing breakfast we decide to try the al la carte breakfast at Royal Palace. There is hardly anyone else in the place, and the servers seam almost annoyed that we are not up at Cabanas. I’m immediately starting to miss Atmaja and Ari our dinner servers. Service was terrible, and the menu selection was very limited, but at least they had waffles. The kids and I both order waffles. The kids get Mickey Waffles, and I get an Eggo. Seriously and Eggo? Come on? The servers pour syrup on the kids plates and walk away w/o giving me any, and they never come back. So I have to eat my pancake, French toast, and Eggo trio w/o syrup. Yuck. As the kids slow down they still have some syrupy Mickey Waffle left on their plates, so I decide to help myself to a few bites. Yuck… Something’s not right. They definitely use a different batter on the ship then at the WDW Resorts.

    So when it comes to Breakfast: RCCL 1 - DCL 0!

  4. #34

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    Lunch Buffett

    Nassau Day we decide to stay on the ship to swim and Aquaduck. As we approach the noon hour we grab the kids hotdogs from the quick service window and head into Cabana’s to see what they are offering for lunch. Not much. Nothing like what I remember on at the RCCL buffet.

    We have a bit of a snafu at lunch. We find a table to sit the kid to eat their dogs while we head to the buffet line. DD3 has to go to the bathroom, so I take her on the trek to find the closest restroom, and I unfortunately take the longest way possible. The Wife goes to get food, and DS8 goes to get a drink. When the Wife and DS8 come back to the table the kids food is gone. They bussed our table, even though the food hadn’t been touched. Sometimes they are too efficient.

    The Wife and DS8 go back to Flo’s to get two more hot dogs. And DD3 and I return to a table with a strange plate of food, no hot dogs, and no Wife of DS8. Strange. We sit and wait, and wait, and wait. Maybe DS8 needed the restroom, maybe he want back to the room for more privacy? After about 10 minutes they come back, they were waiting in a long line for hot dogs, and taking the long trek from midship back to the aft. The Wife and kids start to eat and I head to the buffet to try and find something appetizing. I settled for some coconut shrimp and stale pizza.

    RCCL 2, DCL 0!

  5. #35

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    Castaway Cay Lunch Buffett

    Not much to say here, it was okay. We ate at Cookie’s Too. Not sure if this location is the same or better than Cookie’s One? They definitely provided better seating and shelter for dining that on the RCCL private island. And there were no live chickens running around like on the RCCL island.

    The had all you can eat help your self ice cream, same as on the ship. I read threads previously that the we needed to hold out for the ice cream on Castaway Cay as it was better than on the ship. I was hoping that maybe it would be Dole Whip? No Dole Whip, same crap they serve on the ship. I don’t know that those other threads were referencing? That’s what I get for reading the Disboards. My mistake.

  6. #36

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    Re: Critique of my first DCL Experience

    One more thing….

    Movie and Show snacks… What is a movie or show w/o popcorn? Of course they offer it, but they don’t offer fresh popped popcorn (a Disney hallmark), they offer pre-popped bagged popcorn. I understand why, one burnt batch, and they would never get that smell out of the ship.

  7. #37

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    Automatic Gratuity

    Before we get off of the dining discussion, lets talk about Gratuities. I know this is a controversial subject, especially over at the Disboards.

    I’m generally a good tipper. If the service is good, I take my final bill round it up to the nearest 10, and tip 20% of that. Example if the bill is $46.35, I give a $10 tip ($10 is 20% of $50). So I will total out at $56.35 or more than likely total out at $57. If the service is lacking I tip less than 20%.

    I’m also accustomed to traditional land based restaurants where you only tip your primary server. The cruise industry practice of tipping the giving out tips the MaitreD, Head Waiter, Server, Assistant Server, Journeyman Food Runner, Water Boy, Apprentice Busboy, etc., etc. is just strange to me. And even though we tip all those people individually, apparently they still have to pool their tips with others. So why not just tip the primary server and let him split it up with the others?

    And what is the role/function of the Head Waiter and why is he/she getting tipped a $1 per person per night? On RCCL I remember interacting more with the Head Waiter, on DCL he came to the table once every night and was gone within 30 seconds. No different than when the manager at Outback makes their a quick rounds, should I tip the manager at Chili’s or Outback next time if he stops at my table? If this was a land based restaurant, the Head Waiter would be a salaried supervisor/manager position; and not subject to the tip pool. So why are we tipping them on the ship? Because Disney pays them crap?

    The tipping guidelines work out to be $32 per night for a family of four. That would be equivalent to 20% on a $160 bill (excluding beer, wine, and alcohol which would be an additional gratuity). I have very rarely ever had a $160 bill for my family of four (excluding beer, wine, and alcohol). Not at the California Grill, not at the Yachtsman Stackhouse, not at Napa Rose. I loved my dinner at Royal Palace and the Enchanted Garden, but they were not in the same caliber as the three mentioned above. If paying al la carte at a restaurant I would not have paid anywhere close to $160 for the any of the meals on had on the Dream. So I question the amounts in the tipping guidelines.

    On RCCL I viewed the tipping guidelines as simply that, guidelines. And I tipped what I felt was a reasonable amount for the service offered. However, Disney goes one step further than giving guidance on the amount to tip. They automatically charge your on-board account the suggested. You can easily offer more by adding cash to the provided envelopes. But if you want to reduce the amounts you have to go through the hassle of waiting in the long lines and embarrassment of dealing with Guest Services to remove or reduce the tip amounts.

    And what if we ate at the buffet every night (like that was going to happen)? Our three dining room servers still get tipped by us even though they provide no extra value to our dining experience. I don’t get this. Four cruises under my belt and I still find the gratuity practice at sea puzzling.

    Needless to say I gave the full recommended amounts to everyone. Only because I was too lazy and embarrassed to go to guest services. Atmaja and Ari disserved what they got, the head waiter not so much.

  8. #38

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    Re: Critique of my first DCL Experience

    Keeping on the Tipping subject lets talk about the Stateroom Host/Hostess. That make the same amount in gratuity as our waiter. Granted, he/she probably does as much if not more than the waiter to add value to our vacation, it’s just that I’m not accustomed to tipping housekeeping at hotels and resorts or why is it customary on a cruise ship. Even when staying at concierge level resort where you get turn down service at night I don’t tip the housekeeping staff. Maybe I’m just a cheep *******, but I was never thought that it was customary to do so.

    Because cruise industry employees are paid so little and live in such questionable conditions, we as the cruising public are supposed to feel obligated to provide extraordinary compensation through gratuities where as the comparable hospitality position on land are paid better so the gratuities aren’t required?

    Maybe I’m just an uncultured, ignorant American Tourist?

  9. #39

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    Re: Automatic Gratuity

    Automatic Gratuities and where Disney screwed up. I booked a message (more on that later) online, and immediately receive an e-mail confirmation with a note informing me that an additional 18% Gratuity will automatically be added to my bill. At the conclusion of the service, the therapists hands me a slip to sign, it shows the amount of the service, and a line for Gratuity and Total. Remembering that the “Gratuity will automatically be added” I 0 out the gratuity line and totaled the slip with the base amount of the treatment. So far looking at my credit card statement, I’ve only been charged for the treatment and no additional 18%.

    Was the 18% included in the base rate? If so it’s deceiving that they would try to collect additional gratuity w/o disclosing the 18% included amount. I understand the automatic gratuity is a new policy, so maybe they screwed up and started informing the guest before implementing it on the POS devices that total out the guests?

  10. #40

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    Entertainment & Activities

    So far we have covered booking and pre-embarkation; arrival, check-in and boarding; Photo Opportunities (and missed opportunities); The Ships appearance and immersive environment; Shopping; On-Board DVC Membership Perks; Getting Underway; Food/Beverage & Dining; and the controversial Automatic Gratuity. So what topic should we cover next? How about entertainment and activities?


    First let us flash back to me three RCCL experiences. I remember a lot of idle time looking for things to do. Out of sheer boredom I remember going to the art auction, to kill time and score some free Champaign.


    We had little or no free time on the Disney Dream. In fact there was too much happening that we couldn’t possibly get to everything we wanted to. Or decide what to do amongst the multiple choices. This is where a longer cruise would have been nice.


    I believe someone listed as one of the 12 ways to have a Miserable Cruise – “Try to do everything”


    By TA offered the following comment regarding the overwhelming amount of activities and the time allotted to do them. As a WDW veteran and DCL newbie, I thought it was a very appropriate observation.
    I agree the 3-night cruises on Disney can be overwhelming in terms of the activities vs the amount of time you have to complete them. It is kind of like going to Walt Disney World for the first time and you only have three days to do it all! It gets easier the more you go back and learn what you want to do and what you can skip.

    So here my biggest critique was too much to do. Nice problem to have.

  11. #41

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    Re: Critique of my first DCL Experience

    The other problem I had was with the personal navigator. Although it was listed out like a TV guide with the activities shown for each time slot, I for some reason found it confusing.

    Sometimes the activities were listed by venue. Other times there were listed interest groups (family, kids, adults only, etc.) which sometimes made it difficult to ascertain the venue location.

  12. #42

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    The Theater Stage Shows

    I saw two of the three theater shows, and they were both great productions. The story, as I referenced above was lazy. Rather than having a unique story, the story was “Disney”. The first, “Golden Mickeys” was an awards show, where awards were given out for best Hero, best Villain, etc. The underlying story was good, but the theme too heavily relied on Disney. The other show I saw was believe, which had a cute ordinal story, but with heavy Disney Character and musical number tie-ins. I missed “Villains Tonight”, but I assumed it too has a heavy Disney Character tie-in.

    I wish I would have made it to the D-Lounge or the District to experience some of the other activities. Next time the kids will spend more time at the kids club, and I will.

  13. #43

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    The Kids Club

    On embarkation day we went down to register the kids for The Oceaneers Club/Lab and took the tour. It didn’t seam like much to me. A couple of Shopping Mall style play areas (minus the slides) with a Disney Character overlay. And while I was less than impressed, the kids absolutely loved it. They couldn’t get enough of it.

    My son complained repeatedly that he didn’t get enough time in there. It’s not like he had any idle time, where he could have gone to the club.

    On Castaway Cay day we the first on the island, and came back to the boat shortly after lunch, as we were exhausted. DD3 fell asleep in my arms on the tram and sleep all the way back to the room (through security and everything else). Of course once we walk into the room to put her down, she wakes up. At this point she and DS8 get their second wind and want to go to the kids club. Hurray, alone time for me and The Wife! However when we get to Oceaneers Club/Lab its closed, all the councilors are running programs on the island. My DS8 than makes the following comment:

    “It’s too bad when the club is closed than all those kids have to spend time with their families.”

    Too bad indeed, Mom and Dad wanted some kid free time as well.

    I’m not sure what family activities to skip next time. But we need to do more to give the kids time in the Club/Lab. Unfortunately DS8 will more than likely be a tween and too old for the Club/Lab next time we go.

  14. #44

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    The Spa

    I make a concerted effort to get a message anytime I take a cruise or vacation w/o the kids. Up till now all my cruises were vacation w/o the kids. I have had some great messages in Vail, Vegas (Bellagio, Four Seasons, Mirage, Caesars, Paris), Biloxi (Beau Rivage), but three of the best have been at sea. I assume it has a lot to do with the international staff.

    I wasn’t going to let the presence of kids ruin my opportunity to get another message at sea.

    While the treatments were great on the RCCL ship, I wouldn’t write home about the facilities. They were barely a step above a gym locker rooms with a adjacent few treatment rooms, directly above one of the lounges. One day I had to endure the sounds of the art action happening one deck below. While it killed the mood, the therapists still worked magic on my muscles.

    I had read several post and horror stories on the Disboards about the Spas at sea so I had low expectations. Whenever I have low expectations I an usually pleasantly surprised, high expectations almost always leads to disappointment.

    I usually book my spa appointments as a walk-in and take what ever convenient time is available. But The Wife insisted that I book in advance so that it would be convenient for watching the kids. We would lake turns at the pool with the kids while the other was at the spa.

    Booking on-line was relatively straight forward and painless. Less than a week before sailing and there were plenty of convenient times still available. Nothing to report on here. But than I get my confirmation e-mail, and in the confirmation they make a big deal about the fact that additional 18% Gratuity will automatically be added to my bill. As discussed above I’m not a fan of Automatic Gratuities. I think it makes the service provider lazy. The downside here for the service provider is now, I’m lazy and have little or no desire to provide anything more than the 18% that will automatically charged. It’s a loose-loose situation for all. Enough on that dead horse it’s been beaten enough.

    Let’s talk about the spa facility…
    It’s nicer than I would have expected for a spa aboard a ship, nicer than some land based spa’s I visited. But than again, so is everything else on this ship. The locker rooms were nice enough, included a dry sauna, which was nice. Having both a wet and dry sauna would have been better, but space is a premium. So fas they have exceeded my expectations.

    The pre treatment relaxation room was nice. Though I find these co-ed rooms a little awkward, especially since I’m a larger man that doesn’t fit well into the one size fits all robes. But this is the new trend amount spas, so I must get used to it. I just drape a few extra towels and all is good.

    Just before my schedule time the therapist comes to introduce herself, and asks if I’m wearing shorts or underpants. That’s something new. She informs me that they will be needed for my treatment? Definitely something new, I thing that maybe this was a Disney thing, but it wasn’t required at the Grand Californian Spa. Whatever? Let me do back and put some shorts on. Than up some narrow stairs to the treatment room. Taking stairs to the treatment room was precarious, but again I understand as space is at a premium. The treatment room was typical, my eyes are closed 90% of the time, so there wasn’t much more I could have asked for.

  15. #45

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    Re: Critique of my first DCL Experience

    Than came the treatment…
    All started out well enough, but than came the pain. She found this spot on my shoulder blades and just keep digging in with her elbows and anything else she could torture me with. As I gasped in pain, she said she found a lactic acid patch that she had to work through. It hurt, and it hurts now as I sit here and am reminded of it.

    At the end of the treatment she asks me to sit in a chair so we can talk? This is a first, I’m usually handed a bottle/cup of water and escorted back to the relaxation or locker room. What does she want to talk about? As the dutiful client I obey and sit in the chair awaiting her return. I soon come to learn that she wants to discuss her findings. She discovered several pockets of lactic acid buildup that are concerning to her. She says that I need to have messages more frequently. She is quite adamant that I should return the following day for a second treatment. Than she reaches into her cabinet and pulls out several bottles of product and tells me that it is imperative that I purchase and use these products.

    At this point I feel as if she went out of her way to hurt me during the treatment in order to try and sell me something. I never had pain like this after any message treatment, and I have never had a therapist perform such a hard sell for product or follow-up services. Needless to say I didn’t purchase anything or schedule a follow-up treatment. And based on this experience, I’m not sure I will schedule another treatment on any future Disney Cruises, not as long as Steiner Leisure Limited is operating the facility.

    I said earlier that low expectations lead to pleasant surprises; apparently my expectations weren't low enough.

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