We have previously cruised on Carnival and RCL as singles and as a couple. This was our second Disney cruise. We were on the four day Dream in November. Family consists of me (47), DH 45 and DD 8. We really enjoyed the Dream and wanted to check out the Fantasy so we rebooked for Western Caribbean 5/26. This review will include parts of the Dream for comparison. The Dream and the Fantasy are very similar with the main change being the overall decor and the addition of Aqua Lab, Satellite Falls and another pool. The theme in the adult areas differ as well.
Embarkation -- we had a rental car for the Dream and parked at the Radisson and used their shuttle. It worked fine and was a good price but I didn't enjoy waiting for the shuttle and loading folks from Carnival after disembarking. We used DCL transport for the Fantasy. It's pricey if you have a large group but we decided to take the plunge for the three of us. We really liked not having to worry about our luggage from the time we checked it at the airport until it arrived in our cabin.
We had checked in online and completed check in with KTTW cards and lanyards at the DCL transport desk at MCO. We were boarding group 9. By the time we arrived at the cruise terminal and checked DD into the kids club, they were calling our group. We skipped the boarding picture as we had one from the Dream and headed straight onboard. I wanted to wait list for parasailing and Jet Ski at Castaway Cay so we headed up to Port Adventures. While I did that, DH and DD went to Oceanear's Club b/c DD Mickey band was too tight.
Here's a tip, if you have registered your child on line for the Club and the line is long to check in at the terminal, head to the Club once onboard, there was absolutely no line.
We went to Cabana's for lunch and spent some time on the pool deck waiting for 1:30.
Pools: Unfortunately, the Fantasy has the same issue as the Dream when it comes to the family pool areas. The pools are just too small for the number of kids on the ship (over 1,000 during our week on the Fantasy) The Aqua Lab is a good addition but over the course of the week, I rarely saw more than 10 people there. My daughter was kicked in the head twice in the Donald Pool. The addition of the pool above the adult area is confusing. It's not really clear if it's for all, plus it's very small and shallow so not much help in alleviating the crowds. Satellite Falls is a great addition, I went there several times, very calm and pleasant but doesn't really help if your kids want to swim. Pools and deck area is very crowded on sea days. DD would go to Club during busy times or we tried to direct her to Aqua lab, Mickey slide or Aqua duck. Pool issue is one reason why I wouldn't do the Eastern Caribbean with 3 sea days.
The Aqua duck was fun -- DD rode it 15 times. Fortunately she is tall enough to go by herself and her height allowed her to ride with a friend who didn't meet the ride alone height requirement. There were long lines the first day that dissipated over the week. There were long lines on sea days. It was great fun at night.
We didn't do Detective Agency -- we said we wanted to b/c we missed it on the Dream, but we never got to it.
We had some excitement our first day at sea with the rescue of the 4 Cubans who had been at sea for 3 days on a small raft. Ray the cruise director kept us informed as it was happening and gave us an update at the show that evening.
Room -- we were Deluxe Family Oceanview with Verandah. Plenty of space for 3 -- we didn't use several drawers in the dresser or the storage in the chest. The cabin slept five, my DD said the Murphy bed mattress was hard but it was only the 8th sailing so it might soften over time. She slept on the lower bunk and it was comfy. The queen bed is very comfortable; love the pillows and the linens. Luggage stores great under the bed. This was the same on the Dream. The cabin was very spacious. I really like the split bathroom -- worked well for our family. Our steward was great, we didn't see him much but he kept the room clean -- he may need some more practice with towel animals ?
Entertainment-- we were late dinner seating. We had this on the Dream as well. Early seating wasn't available on the Dream. We thought it would be a problem with our DD age but it actually worked great so we opted for it again. The late seating enables you to stay on deck or out and about a little longer while early seating is getting ready etc. I preferred the show before dinner b/c I'm not sure we would have gone after dinner when our bellies were so full of the good food. Most nights, DD and I went to the show while DH stayed behind to watch a movie on demand and he would meet us for dinner.
We attended all of the big shows but skipped the magic show. DD and DH wanted to see Tangled in 3D. DH also went to the big showing of Avengers in 3D which was the headline show one evening. The welcome aboard show was okay, I think the point was that there is plenty for tweens and teens to do onboard. I couldn't wait to see Aladdin and it didn't disappoint. Well done and the cast was great. I had heard a lot about Wishes and we had met the lead while waiting to meet Buzz Lightyear earlier in the week so I was looking forward to it as well. It was good but I didn't think on par with Aladdin or Believe. We saw Believe on the Dream and the Fantasy and it's my favorite! The show the last night was okay, a little disjointed but still entertaining. We saw the Golden Mickeys on the Dream. We tried to go to Villains Tonight on the Dream but DD was scared about two minutes in so we left. All in all I would say the three big shows on the Fantasy are worthy of your time as is the Golden Mickeys on the Dream.
We also attended the Pirate game show in D lounge on Pirate night -- that was cute- and the Family Dance party in the Tube the last night of the cruise -- DD had fun dancing on the stage in the club.
The negative of late seating is you are tired by the end and it's hard to rally for the adult entertainment. As a result, we didn't spend much time in the Adult clubs on either the Dream or the Fantasy. DH went to O'Gill's for a drink and a mixology class. Other than that our exposure to those areas was limited to being rendezvous points for Port Adventures.
The Pirate show with Mickey was moved indoors on the Fantasy due to the threat of weather. It was cute but much more fun when we saw it outside on the Dream. The Pirate show before the fireworks was okay; I thought it was a little long. We didn't see it on the Dream and I don't feel we missed anything. The fireworks were great on both ships. There is a big crowd trying to get off deck 12 after the fireworks so it's best to just hang back for 20 minutes or so if you're not staying for the dance party.
DD is still into character pictures so we would do that most nights between the show and dinner. The musical duo that performed during this was good and added nice background ambiance. The character lines were well managed and so much better/shorter than in the parks -- plus air conditioning. The entertainment crews managed the lines and were very friendly. We had ample opportunity throughout the cruise to meet the characters. One thing the Dream and Fantasy do not have is the character breakfast I have heard about on the Wonder and Magic. I think that may be due to size. It would be nice if Disney added more characters. Rapunzel was in one of the shows but didn't do a character greeting, same with Mary Poppins. Phineas and Ferb were on earlier sailings but nor ours (DD was disappointed.) It would be nice to have Merida from Brave on the ship as well.
One tip I picked up from Mousesavers (great site) was to bring an item and pens to Guest Services to have all the characters autograph. We brought a pillowcase with different color fabric markers. I asked for the princesses and primary characters to sign. I brought it down shortly after we boarded and it was delivered to our room around 6 on Friday night. DD was surprised and excited to receive Mickey mail. And we had a free souvenir and didn't have to bring an autograph book to character greetings.
Dining -- we never made it to seated breakfast so we ate all breakfasts at Cabanas -- lots of selections. Our favorites were Mickey waffles, donuts and the fresh fruit. When lunch time arrived, we ate at Cabanas if we were on the ship. That selection was not as appealing to DD so we often got grilled chicken or strips from Flos. We could have gone to Royal Court or Enchanted Garden but the timing never worked out.
Dinner was good at every restaurant. We had great servers with Simoun and Paolo. We were disappointed the first night that we were at a table of six and it was only the 3 of us. Disney had done a great job of matching us on the Dream with another family with a girl exactly DD age so the expectation was set. And I had made a similar request with DCL reservations at booking but oh well. In the end with 3,600 onboard we had our own table which we came to enjoy very quickly. It gave us a chance to catch up on the day and we had great service. The first few nights DD chose to do Dine and Play with the club and left dinner early but I think she came to appreciate our private table and stayed with us the second half of the week.
Our head server, Simoun offered recommendations for every course. And if we chose something else, he often brought the recommendation for us to try. This was great because I tried things I normally wouldn't and really enjoyed it. After the first night, Paolo had our drinks waiting for us at the table. And they went above and beyond. One night DD asked for marinara sauce for her pasta in Animators Palate, Simoun went to Cabanas to get it. We didn't go to Animators Palate on the Dream so we made sure to go both nights on the Fantasy -- both shows were great -- do not miss the show the night of your second seating. We dined in the restaurants each night. We thought about going to Cabana's one night but really enjoyed our servers.
Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boo Boutique: I think we were one of the first trips to be able to make reservations in advance of sailing. We reserved the Empress package for 5:15 on Pirate Night b/c we didn't want to rush back from Cozumel. We didn't realize how big Pirate night was when we booked the Dream but realized it once onboard. This time I had a costume packed for DD and knew she would want pirate make up over princess. The salon is nice and the pirate maids/fairy godmothers do a great job of staying in role. The empress package is reasonably priced (Disney wise) for what you are supposed to get -- sash, sword, bandanna, makeup, manicure and face jewel. You also get a pirate certificate and a booty bag where you keep the nail polish and lip gloss. The only disappointment was that by our appointment, they had run out of pirate face jewels and pink pirate bandannas. The receptionist didn't tell us and the pirate maid stayed in character and said the inventory had been pillaged. DD got a red bandana and face glitter instead but was very disappointed about the face jewel. I gave feedback to Guest Services that it would be helpful if they managed their inventory a little better especially since reservations were made in advance of the sailing.
Ports: Since I knew the pool issue from the Dream, I tried to book Port Adventures that involved swimming. We had swum with stingrays and dolphins at Discovery Cove in November so we didn't consider any of those adventures. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side on port days. Invariably it was overcast and we had a brief shower at some point during our adventure.
Grand Cayman -- Boatswain turtle farm. The actual tour is very quick. DD enjoyed picking up the different size turtles. Then you have the option to swim in the freshwater pool with slide or snorkel with turtles and fish in the lagoon. DD and DH snorkeled first, then we had the included lunch and then DD and I swam in the pool. Then it was time to go. There was some road blockage on the drive there so I would say the excursion was cut short by about 30 minutes. The included lunch was okay but DD didn't like it. We hit Flos when back on the ship -- really long lines. I think a lot of the adventures didn't include lunch and Cabanas was closed when a lot of the tours returned. The tendering was uneventful and ran smoothly.
Costa Maya -- Catamaran Snorkel. Well organized. The bus and catamaran were clean. The guides reviewed safety rules and split the group based on expertise. We were beginner. I didn't realize a guide would go with each group which was great. He dove to the bottom and stirred up the fish in the reef and found a yellow stingray for us. This was deep water snorkeling so be prepared for current changes. We also had a rough 45 minute ride back b/c a storm was brewing -- take your Dramamine. It was raining when we returned to port and it was Wishes night so DD and I hustled back to the ship (we returned from the tour a little late) DH stayed behind to check out Senor Frogs and Carlos and Charlie's. He wasn't long behind us though, he didn't like Senor Frogs and Carlos didn't take AMEX.
Cozumel -- Playa Mia Beach Break. I didn't realize it included open bar -- DH very happy ? Buffet lunch, paddle boats, kayaks and water trampolines also included. There was also a fresh water pool. We really enjoyed this adventure -- Cozumel beaches and water are beautiful. And the rain held off until the end of our tour.
Castaway Cay. I knew from the Dream to hustle off the boat if you wanted to get a spot near the water. I fast walked to the beach near Cookies Two while DH and DD did character pics. The first row of chairs were already taken but snagged some in the next row. The beach did fill up pretty quickly. We lucked out when we waitlisted the first day of the cruise. We got parasailing and jet skis. Parasailing was great but again take the seasickness pills if you are prone to issues. You are in the boat for an hour basically driving in circles. You have great views of the ship and island from up in the parasail.
We had lunch at Cookies Two -- based on Dream and Fantasy experience, I'm going to say it's just okay. The best part is that papaya and mango were added to the fresh cut fruit choices.
Unfortunately, it started to cloud up and getting windy at the time of our jet ski reservation so it was cancelled (money credited quickly without asking) and it started to rain. We waited it out for a bit then headed back to the ship. We didn't use our prepurchased float rentals so that was a bummer. When we were on the Dream we rented bikes and snorkeled. The snorkeling is a bit cloudy but the biking was great, I highly recommend it. Castaway Cay is a great respite and we may pick a cruise that goes there twice on our next go round.
Disembarking: We used DCL transfers so our bags were taken directly to the airport. We also did onboard airline check in, however, we had one glitch in that we didn't get luggage tags in our room Friday afternoon. When I inquired at Guest Services, I was told I hadn't said I wanted my luggage transferred. It was quickly resolved but keep that in mind when booking DCL transfers.
We had breakfast in Enchanted Garden and tried to hang out as long as possible (our flight wasn't until 6:30 in the evening) they really try very politely to have you off the ship by 9. Since Disney had our bags, customs and disembarking were a breeze. We were on the bus headed to the airport by 9:10.
Another tip from Mousesavers was to book a day room at the Orlando Airport Hyatt if you have a late flight. This was about $100 including taxes. We spent the day at the pool and then had a late lunch in the airport food court. We saw several families from the cruise at the Hyatt pool. It was a nice way to end the vacation (and another pool option I planned to counter the pool size on the ship).
Random thoughts: the free soft drinks and self-serve ice cream is great. The wrap station at the very end of the walk up restaurants on deck 11 has great fresh fruit. There is a discounted alcoholic drink of the day every day. We didn't realize this until the last day on the Dream so took advantage on the Fantasy. Most were yummy. Don't get the souvenir glass, it costs more and if you leave in on your sink or dresser, the cabin steward will toss it. We heard that the adult area has discounted mimosas and Bloody Marys until 11 am every day. We didn't learn this until the last day on the Fantasy. The concession snacks outside the theater are reasonably priced. The small refrigerators in the cabins keep things cool. You can bring on beverages. We did this on the Dream with water since we had a rental car.
We used the Fitness center several times and didn't have to wait for cardiac equipment. They do provide water but the container is open. I would stop at the self serve beverage station and get a water with a lid on my way to the Fitness room (plus it was colder) That plus taking the stairs as often as possible helped stave off the potential for cruise weight gain.
All in all a great trip. The Fantasy and the Dream are beautiful ships that are managed well and well maintained. If you have time, take the Fantasy. If not, you won't be missing out on too much if you opt for the Dream.