Our family includes me and DH, and our 3 kiddos: DS, age 9, and two DDs, ages 7 and 6.
This was our second DCL cruise; our first was a 5 day Bahamas "double dip" on the Wonder 2 years ago. We have also sailed on Celebrity Cruise Line.
We selected the 12:30-1:00 boarding time slot, and arrived at the terminal at about 11:45. There was no line to check in, and we had completed all of our paperwork ahead of time, so it only took about 10 minutes to get photos taken and fill out the illness verification forms and get our key to the world cards. We were given a boarding group number (13) and Castaway Club (yay!) lanyards.
We only had about a 15 minute wait until they called our boarding group number and then we were walking through the familiar ears and getting our photos taken.
We asked that they announce the kid's names and then we walked into the spacious atrium of the Fantasy to the applause of the crew... welcome aboard indeed!
The Fantasy is truly a beautiful ship, and that welcome can't be beat! We made our way to the kids club first to get them bracelets -- we had already registered them online a week prior. The line there was only one family deep vs. about 30 families in the terminal. The kids were quickly outfitted with their bracelets and then we took a quick tour of the Oceaneers Club and Lab -- WOW! Such a big, colorful and impressive space with all kinds of fun places to play.
Next it was time to get lunch. We headed to Enchanted Garden for the buffet. Our first food experience on the Fantasy did not disappoint. The buffet was thoughtfully set up, the food choices were fresh and diverse, and the service was good. (More on food later!) After lunch we headed to our cabins!
We had adjoining Deluxe Ocean View Verandah cabins (category 5) on deck 6. Cabin numbers 6560 & 6562.
On the Wonder we sailed in adjoining Navigators Verandah cabins, and these were similar in layout and size. Of course the balconies were much nicer in these, and we were able to open the partition between them to make one large balcony.
Waiting for us in our cabin was: the 24 pack of water we ordered. We quickly put as many of the bottles as we could fit in each of the refrigerators (about 8 in each); A bottle of Fairytale Cuvee, (Some friends we were sailing with sent us this lovely bottle of champagne); A fruit & cheese platter and some chocolates (from my parents); and our Castaway Club gifts! J
The Castaway Club backpacks were a nice gift. We put them to good use on excursions and on the way home.
Mr. Orlin was our cabin Host, and was wonderful. He did ask for one favor from us, that we put out the Service Room Please hang tag on the doors when we left for the morning, and when we went to dinner at night -- so he would know when he could clean the room. He said he has so many to clean, and it is hard to know when folks are there, or not. Makes sense. At the end of the week he told us that we were one of the few families that did this, and it made life much easier for him with our room, but was really hard with the rooms that didn't. So -- that is my little suggestion to make life easier for your cabin Host -- use the hang tags. J
Before we knew it our luggage was there, so we had some time to unpack before the safety drill. We had plenty of space for storage. I brought an over the door shoe holder, and we barely used it -- could have easily done without it. I really appreciated the two hooks in the wall near the bed, they were useful for lanyards in our room and swim suit cover-ups in the kids room. There was no need for us to bring anything to keep the doors between the rooms open -- there are magnets in them that serve that purpose. The coffee table in front of the sofa is a small chest that has a lid that comes off and can be used for storage as well. Our suitcases (even my oversized one) easily fit under the bed.
We had the first seating, and it worked out great. (We had late seating on our last cruise and did not enjoy it as much).
Our rotation was:
At Sea / 1st night ~ Royal Court
At Sea / Formal Night ~ Animators Palate (Dinner with Crush)
Grand Cayman ~ Enchanted Garden
Costa Maya ~ Royal Court
Cozumel / Pirate Night ~ Animators Palate (Pirate Themed)
At Sea / Semi-Formal Night ~ Animators Palate (Animation Show)
Castaway Cay / Last night L ~ Enchanted Garden
Our servers were Mr. Tino and Mr. Ivan... and we LOVED them! They worked together like a well-oiled machine. We didn't realize just how well they worked together until Mr. Ivan was ill 2 nights in a row, and we had a substitute in his place... let's just say we were all praying for a speedy recovery! Mr. Ivan did magic tricks for the kids, brought drinks so quickly it seemed they just materialized out of thin air, recommended wines, made Mickey shaped ketchup on the kid's plates, and remembered what we liked after just one day. Mr. Tino cut the kids food into bite size pieces, made suggestions and adjustments to the menu with the patience of a saint while waiting on our table with 4 children, 4 adults, one with a severe food allergy, and was lightening fast too. They were the dream team. The kids were so sad to leave them on our last day, DD cried when she had to say goodbye to Mr. Ivan. (I almost did too). We also loved the Head Server, Mr. Fitz, who wandered around the dining room making merriment, deftly de-shelling lobsters, and generally causing many a belly laugh.
The food was absolutely one of the highlights of the cruise for us. DH and I enjoy a well cooked meal, both love to cook, and consider ourselves "foodies" of sorts. We found the food on this cruise to be the best we have had on any cruise, hands down. The improvement from the Wonder was significant, and we didn't think that food was bad; this was just in a different class. Bravo DCL!
For breakfast we typically got room service coffee and juice delivered, and then ate in Enchanted Garden. We liked the atmosphere and pace here better than the more chaotic Cabanas. For lunch we typically ate in Royal Court or Enchanted Garden for the same reason. We had room service lunch one time, and it was the only disappointment (food quality) on the entire cruise.
The kids enjoyed watching the Sail Away party and we did go to a Dance Party in The Tube one night where the kids had a blast shaking their groove things (and so did I!) J
The kids loved the Oceanears Club and Lab, especially the girls. They had many great programs throughout the week that interested them. All the character interactions were nice too - although the lines were often long if you didn't get there early.
The Pirate party (the late one) was a bit intimidating for the kids (and us). It was one of the times when the ship felt incredibly crowded. We had to set the kids up on a towel bin back by the Mickey slide in order to see what was happening on the stage... and then realized the fireworks were going off on that side of the ship, so we had to get up and walk over to the windows to see them. It was pretty crazy. The buffet afterwards was pretty chaotic too.
As for the adults, we enjoyed one adult activity while on the cruise - DH and I did the Mixology class in Skyline bar one afternoon. It was well presented & fun! Buy your tickets ahead of time for this, it filled up and they were turning people away.
All the shows were fantastic -- Aladdin, Wishes, Believe (this one is a tear jerker), and the juggler in Journey was great. Dave the Magician was super fun too. We even saw The Avengers in 3D one night (while the girls were in the club).
On the nights there were no shows we headed to the pool deck for night time swimming and AquaDuck-ing. It turned out to be the best time to let the kids swim and use the Duck -- no waits, no crowds, and no chance of sunburn! One of the reasons we are glad we had first seating for dinner.
OTHER FUN THINGS TO DO:
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: The girls got all dolled up for one of the formal nights at BBB. The ladies in waiting were very sweet and funny. I will say though that this is something to do perhaps on a day when you don't have any excursions planned the next day... that stuff is tough to get out of their hair! J
Europa: We didn't spend much time in the adult's only bars, other than our Mixology class, but they sure were lovely to look at... even the bathrooms!
Other Adult Areas: We loved getting a coffee at Cove Cafe, and a sunset cocktail at Meridian.
Detective Game: DS did the detective game about 4 times with a friend, and the girls did it once, but needed a lot of supervision and coaching from us to do it.
Shopping: There are several shops on the ship. One is dedicated to duty free items, and has a selection of alcohol, and other items, including a small (very small) selection of toiletries in case you forget something. There is a high-end store that sells the Dooney & Bourke bags (there were none that were Fantasy logo that I saw), Swarovski jewelry, some Castaway Cay clothing items, Mickey watches, etc. There is a mid-market store that sells nice Fantasy logo clothing and souvenir items, the Frette sheet sets they use in the rooms, plates from Animators Palate, and robes. And there is a standard gift shop that sells DCL branded items, pins, pirate gear, snacks, etc., and it is connected to a smaller shop that sells girly things like princess costumes, character jewelry, little girls t-shirts, mouse ears, etc.
The pool areas & AquaDuck: As I mentioned, we typically did this at night. During the day on sea days we found the kids pool areas to be a mad house, and just too crowded for our liking. The line for the AquaDuck was about an hour long during the day, vs. 5 minutes at night.
We did 2 excursions on this cruise. One through a private company and one through DCL.
In Grand Cayman we did the StingrayCity excursion with Moby Dick Tours. I would highly recommend them. No photographer on board, they used our camera to capture shots of the kids interacting with the rays, so no added cost for photos, and it was a small enough group to get good interaction and instruction (abt. 30).
In Cozumel we did the Dolphin Interaction excursion at Chaakanab (sp?) Park through DCL. It was a great experience and one I would also highly recommend - but know going in that the photos are outrageously priced.
On Costa Maya we just got off the ship and got drinks at Senor Frogs and walked around a bit. Not much to see in the immediate area.
Of course we loved Castaway Cay, as we did last time. We snorkeled and enjoyed a relaxed day at the beach. My tip here is to be early off the ship to get a good choice of chairs. The only confusing thing about CC was that we were told we needed to bring photo ID to get back on the ship, which caused a whole host of folks to head back to their cabins who had been waiting in line for quite a while to get off the ship (including me). And then when we re-boarded... no one checked our photo ID!
What we loved about the Fantasy:
The ship was visually stunning and always spotlessly clean
Everyone we interacted with was happy, helpful and great with the kids
Many of the cast members regularly went above and beyond to make our day, kudos to those in teh kids club, our servers and room Host in particular
The shows were new and exciting Broadway quality productions that both the kids and adults thoroughly enjoyed
The Oceaneer's Club & Lab were well layed out, had many neat play areas, offered great programs, and the kids enjoyed themselves there
The interactive artwork was a really cool addition, and brought the ship to life in the common areas
The AquaDuck was a fun addition to the ship, and the kids loved it
We were never bored. We even got to rescue some Cubans.
Here is what I am glad I packed...
All kids outfits in individual Ziploc bags -- complete with underwear, shorts, top. Kiddo's name and date to wear written on front. This made life much easier, especially because our girls wear the same size and have many of the same items. Each child got a drawer, and all their baggies went in there. Each day they could take out a new baggie and put that outfit on. There was also a baggie with swim wear, and one with jammies & extra undies for each. The empty bags were perfect for packing damp or dirty items in. This also made packing suitcases easier - just squeeze out the air and you can fit more in one suitcase this way.
My Travelon Hanging Toiletry Kit
Plenty of sunscreen. We got the 2 pack of Nutrogena Kids Wet Skin spray at Costco and used ALL of it.
Sweaters for myself and the girls. It is chilly in the interior spaces of the ship sometimes.
My blowdryer. I did not like the one in the cabin, and with three gals heads of hair to dry, it was nice to have a high-powered one.
4 Swimsuits per kiddo - yep, we used them all multiple times!
Sea-Sick meds. Bonine for DH and I, and the Wallgreens brand for the small people. We started taking them before the ship left port, and kept it up each day. DH took for a few days after as well, as he suffers from Mal De Debarqument if not.
Here's what we packed, but didn't use at all...
Water bottles for each of the kids.
Battery operated mister fans.
A bottle of Rum we brought on board from FL.
If I could change anything it would be:
Plan more time with friends - we were like ships passing in the night. 7 days goes by faster than you think
Stay on the ship at one port to enjoy the more emplty pool during the day.
Book the Pirates League at BBB for Pirate Night ASAP, we missed out on that (it booked up FAST) and it would have been fun for DS.
What we would definitely do again:
Register the kids for the club before the cruise, and then skip the line in the terminal and get the kids bracelets in the club as soon as we board.
Get up early to be one of the first families off the ship at Castaway Cay -- that was completely worth it to enjoy a less crowded beach and top pick of spots.
Get to Cookie's BBQ early -- there's a theme here!
Chose early dining, we loved it.
Buy any t-shirt you like early in the cruise - they do run out of sizes in the popular items toward the end.
Was it a fantastic enough vacation to justify the price? Yes it was. We booked another cruise while on board.
It was a wonderful family trip that we will always remember... See ya real soon Mickey!
I am happy to answer any questions!