My family of 2 adults, a dad and a mom and 2 teens, girl 15, boy 13 were announced by our family names and applauded by no less then 25 Disney cruise members as we entered the grand atrium aboard Disney's brand new cruise ship, The Fantasy.
We had arrived at the cruise terminal at 10:45, we had pre-embarked over the internet and had an 11:30 boarding time slot, we were early. No problem, Disney cast members were there at every turn telling us exactly where to go. We waited with one family ahead of us and then handed in our papers, smiled for a security photo and went and sat down . 15 minutes later they called our group and we entered the ship to the applause I mentioned in the atrium. For the rest of this trip it was US who applauded the cast members.
The ship itself is very large and due to some common alchemy with the other ships in the Disney line has a unique smell and it smells good, like a little clean and a little tropical breeze, it's hard to More
As far as aesthetics this ship is the most beautiful ship I have ever seen/ cruised, and this is my 10th cruise. It is designed more along the lines of the classic ocean liners with a sweeping clipper bow rather then the tacky, white elephant cruise ships. This ship is very stable on the seas. In 6-8 foot swells we felt nary a pitch or list.
The food was very good, rotating into themed dining rooms at dinner gives a different feel for each evening and the food reflect the uniqueness of the rooms. Animator's Palette dining room allows you to draw figures on a placemat that are used in a little cartoon displayed on the dining room walls. It is nothing like any other cruise ship and is the most amazing and entertaining thing I have ever seen at dinner.
Disney literally spared no expense in the building out of this amazing ship. The halls have laser cut metal works in lighted alcoves. The kids labs are decorated in the standard of the E ticket rides at the Disney parks. The decks are all trimmed in woods, rails and tiles that are spotless. The walls have huge tile mosaics depicting various Disney movies scenes, absolutely incredible!
The entertainment was very good. Production values far and above other cruise lines. Laser, smoke, optical, light effects were all state of the art and worked well in the evenings shows. As a bonus we were treated to a showing of the "Avengers" in full 3D. For the rest of the evening I talked like Thor, "This liquid, I like it, ANOTHER!"
The Aqua Duck water slide is operated just like a Disney ride with operators, cameras and dispatch stations. The slide itself is tame but fun, you kind of forget you are on a cruise ship until the slide TAKES YOU OVER THE EDGE OF THE SHIP AND OVER WATER!
The food In the auxiliary restaurants , Cabanas and Flo's (A 3 counter take out only) is very good. Egg omelets , made to order, fresh fruit, pastry, carving station, lamb chops, raw bar, sushi, and this is big, all the SODA and ice cream you want, no added charge! (Like Carnival).
The spa was great, huge area on ship devoted to just about everything under the sun for relaxation and looking good. The fitness area was cramped as the free weight area doubles for exercise room and spinning room. As long as no class is going on its ok, but once a class starts you have to go train on an elliptical trainer. No children are allowed in the fitness area and it is enforced. The rest of the rules are pretty fast and loose as I saw some people who had no idea what they were doing just sitting on exercise machines and a woman I am pretty sure was Nancy Grace riding an elliptical trainer barefoot.
Lastly this may be sensitive subject but most folks are pretty interested in "what kind of people take this cruise". As I have been on 4 different cruise lines ships, I can say without a doubt, this ship was cruising the most friendliest and classiest group of folks I have ever encountered on a cruise ship. If you want to booze yourself to a drunken stupor next to a bunch of tattoo clad power drinkers stay away from Disney and book with Carnival. This is a family oriented cruise it costs more and is worth it. You don't get first run movies in a full sized theater on any other cruise lines. There is no casino, but there is a Bibbity Bobbity, where small girls can become a beautiful princess. There is no waiters pushing booze on you but there is a Quiet Cove where adults are allowed their own pool and whirlpool, bar and coffee place to unwind. There is no "hairy chest contest" but there are 2 separate bathrooms in the cabins, one with the toilet and sink, the other with a bathtub/ shower combination.
A few of the crew members are still "earning their ears" but they are surrounded by veterans who know their jobs. Everyone from the cabin steward (Who was great) to the guy squeegying the deck at 5:45 AM gave me a smile. This is the advantage Disney has, the crew members actually seem to enjoy their jobs.
Castaway Cay (Key) since its a fully owned and operated by Disney property, I will briefly mention. IT ROCKS! It is a paradise, we snorkeled, ate good food, had a bike ride around the island, ran a 5K, laid in hammocks and built a giant sand castle of the ship, all in one afternoon. My teens actually didn't spend a lot of time at the clubs but met friends they just hung out with. They did their thing and mom and dad did theirs.
This is the best cruise, overall I have ever been on. Disney cruise crew is so service oriented that unless you are trying to have a bad time, you won't. Like the cruise book they send you says: "After embarking the ship, RELAX, you're on vacation". Less
OVT- Ocean view, Deck 2. Midships very smooth ride. Located on or one deck from main dining rooms.
Getting an elevator was no problem at all on this ship. You disembark from deck 1 from our ports so all we had to do was go down 1 flight of stairs to hit ports. Sometimes at night we could hear some rumbling as if someone was pushing a cart back and forth under us in the crew portion of the ship. We were located right below the ship services desk so no noise from above, as almost no one was complaining.
The bed were super comfortable and the double bathroom is a must for families.
Castaway Cay (Key) a small island in the Bahamas, that used to be a stop for drug runners, is a fully owned and operated Disney property. IT ROCKS! It is a paradise, we snorkeled in a white sand beach. Disney has placed some stuff left over from the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride that used to be in Disney World on the sea bed. So besides fish there are cool wrecks to dive on.
The food was good, all included for no extra cost was chicken, burgers, hot dogs, salads, fruits, ice cream, sodas. There were also bars that you could charge drinks on your Disney cruise card.
We rented bikes and rode the 5 k course around the island. Some of the bike ride was on an airstrip that was used by the drug runners (According to Wikipedia).
My son ran the morning 5K. He finished 7th and was given a medal, but guess what? EVERYONE is a winner on Castaway Cay so everyone gets a medal!
Not a runner? how about a sleeper? they have hammock so all you have to do is walk or take a tram to the beach and just relax the afternoon away.
We built a built a giant sand castle of the ship including life boats and smoke stacks! My teens just sort of smiled at it but the other little kids loved it!
I wish we could have had more time at Castaway Cay because it was the last port before home and we didn't want the cruise to end : (
OK here we go on St Maarten shore excursion. We booked independently from the Disney shore excursions from a website called "Island Marketing". I picked a "ATV Adventure" with an emphasis on Adventure. This turned out to be the most bizarre shore excursion I have had in 10 cruises and over 25 ports. First off there was supposed to be a guy holding a sign outside the terminal that said "Island Marketing". HA! We asked about 20 cab drivers and finally found an unmarked van with a guy on the phone with no sign. There was another family of 4 waiting in van already so we got in and hoped for the best. The van took us to what looked like an east LA alley. There were issued ATV's and given the operating instructions of "Dis is gas, dis is brake, dis is emergency break, you be fine". Our tour had these highlights: Our guide rear ending the car in front of him, our guide arguing with some local gal on the street corner, our guide doing stunts on ATV and causing his gas tank to fall off, twice, our guide burning his hand fixing gas tank, our guide exchanging money from a local tough to enter his turf, our guide and us being attacked by wild dogs that came out of the jungle. Our final destination was a beautiful peaceful beach with services and calm clean waters that had topless women walking all over it. The other family with us were so horrified they left the beach for the hour we were supposed to be swimming on it. We were finally back at the east LA rental yard where we tipped the guide 20 bucks for bring us back alive, then he arranged to have a taxi take us to ship. Whew!
MEH! (That's the current vernacular young people use for "Indifference") This "Sky ride to Paradise" is a waste of money. We took a cab ride around the island that gave us great views and took us to all the hot spots. Paradise is just a high point on a hill that barely over looks the bay. There actually is a building roof that obstructs some of the view. The gondola is operated by just 2 guys, one at the bottom and one at the top, and someone selling tickets in the booth. Save your money pay a taxi to take you to see the sights, Paradise isn't worth it.