The best family cruise? I will start by saying that the Disney Cruise is not the only cruise we recommend for families and it's not the only one with a kid's program or teen program, but - and this is a big BUT - it's definitely the best one.
The clubs and activities are awesome, the best I have seen on a cruise. I think one of the main pluses is that the presence of the Disney Characters - often enough excitement on it's own for a child or a child-at-heart!
The children's programs are specially designed for the following age groups, 3-4, 5-7, 8-9, and 10-12. And there is also a teen program and teen club, called "Common Grounds", which is off-limits to adults.
Disney's Oceaneer Club is home base for the 3-4 and 5-7 years old. The club is designed as a pirate ship and offers an oversized play structure for climbing and sliding, interactive computer stations, and an area for them to dress up as one of their favorite Disney characters.
Disney's Oceaneer Lab is home base for kids 8-9 and 10-12. The lab is designed with invention and exploration in mind and offers a giant-sized video wall, interactive computer station, and a special listening and reading station. The counselors will engage each age group in interactive experiences of animation, science, sports, fun, and visits from Disney friends. They also have special Lego and K'nex stations.
Disney Dock Pager System
An excellent feature is the pager that is given to parents to use in case of emergencies and also if the child wants to leave the play area. Each family is given a pager and you establish a family password to authorize check out. 8-12 year olds are provided the option of self check in and out, with parental consent of course.
Parents are encouraged to participate in the main "open house" on embarkation day to meet the counselors and to complete the information sheets. The Club and Lab hours of operations are from 9 am to midnight or 1 am. The ratio between kids and counselors is the best in the market - in the nursery 1:4, for the toddlers 1:6, for the 3-4 year olds, 1:15, and for the 5-12 year olds, 1:25.
About the ship
The cruise ship itself is great. It's a big ship with about 2400 passenger capacity. There are three main restaurants and several other dining options like a pool grill and also an adults only restaurant called Palo. The food is average to good. It is made to suit every taste. Each restaurant is themed to a Disney movie or movies. The restaurant staff are really great. You will make friends for life, as I did with my server with whom I am still in contact.
Apart from the fact that you have so much to do on the ship itself, the ports of call are varied and interesting. Disney's private island, Castaway key, is something else. There is something to do for all age groups, and somewhere to get away from each other. They have a family beach and teen beach and an adults only beach. The family beach is great for everyone, check out my picture.
The great thing about the cruise is that Disney spares no expense for you to feel the "Disney experience". The shows are 5 star Broadway style musicals. The adult and children's entertainment is great and amusing. The staff goes that extra mile to make you feel comfortable and welcome. I would give the Disney cruise a 4 1/2 out of 5. The only reason for not awarding the "5" would be the food - which is OK, but not "WOW".