I got it into my head I wanted to treat our family to a cruise for our 40th wedding anniversary. I researched all types of cruises and settled on Disney since we have adult children and young grandchildren. We chose Disney Fantasy just for the sheer novelty and because I wanted a cruise where children would be entertained. I couldn't have chosen a better cruise. Fantasy is a large ship with entertainment galore, places for all ages to have fun and fabulous food.
Disney knows how to handle large crowds and the embarkation went smoothly, disembarkation was unbelievably efficient and quick and in between most of the time you were not really aware of how many people actually were on the ship. There were always places to go to get some peace and quiet and always places to go and things to do with our children and grandchildren.
We stayed at the Hyatt Orlando airport, had a great room but we both had bad reactions to the food (which tasted wonderful at the time) I was mildly queasy and my husband ill for about 24 hours after we stayed there. At first I passed it off as seasickness but he was ill even on land at our first port. I remained queasy until the 2nd day and we both became well on board ship while it was moving, so seasickness was not likely. We were completely well after that. I recommend you eat in the airport.
Disney upgraded all our cabins and, though I am not sure why, I am very grateful. My husband and I had a large deluxe balcony stateroom that had a huge amount of room, places for us to relax and a wonderful but small balcony. Our children were all upgraded to balcony rooms from inside staterooms and they too had plenty of room. I think my daughter felt a bit cramped with a crib blocking their sofa, and she probably spent the most time in her room with her 20 month old. TV was great with options for news, sports, movies - great movies both Disney, Pixar and regular ones. This was great for our older grandsons and also for our daughter and her husband, who were able to be with their baby and still enjoy TV with the curtain pulled to provide quiet and dark when the baby slept. The bathrooms are split and more than adequate - I loved the round shower. We were provided with soft large towels. The host was very good, very helpful and did a fabulous job in the room.
Here is why I so highly recommend Disney. I use a CPAP machine for sleep. I lost a part which made the machine unusable but a Disney carpenter made an adaptor for me and this made the vacation one in which I could fully enjoy myself. I am extremely appreciative to all the service that is provided - it is truly 5 star from everyone. Stop a busy crew person with a request and they immediately fulfill it, no matter what.
All ages have a things to do. The most crowded area in the ship is the midsection with the family pools. If I have any criticism at all, it is that that pool area is always crowded, and the pools are always crowded. With so many people on the ship, Disney probably should have made more room - though I suspect no matter how much room they gave, families would fill it up. The water slide was great fun for everyone (except me - I just wouldn't go) and my 5 and 8 year old grandsons had a grand time with their parents, their aunt and uncle and their grandpa, going down many many times. My older grandsons loved the kids club, which they used many times, giving a bit of relief to their parents. The club is full of fun things to do, including high tech and low tech. My baby grandson, too young to go in the pools, loved the tot water play area, Nemo's Reef and there is a nursery for children too young for the kid's club. There is live entertainment and movies on a big screen, Disney characters abound for people to see and with whom to have pictures taken. They don't wander, you know where they are and when they will be there and go to the spot. You receive a handout in the evening describing everything going on, a description of the port of call if there is one, description of the shopping areas etc, etc for the next day. It is a thorough document.
Food is really good. You have plenty of choices and you rotate restaurants every night (you are assigned them when you board). You keep your servers, who get to know you. Our servers, Felipe and Julio were marvelous and got to know our grandchildren well enough to anticipate all their needs (not to mention ours). Lots of choices are offered and I can say we were never disappointed, often surprised and delighted by how delicious it all was. One restaurant, Animator's Palate defies description. The walls are covered by screens, animation interacts with the diners and the second night we ate there, we drew human figures which were then animated, danced with Disney characters on the screen and entertained us for dessert. Bravo Disney!
There is a teen section and we talked to parents whose teens played and enjoyed their time on board, only seeing parents for meals. What teenager wouldn't be thrilled to have that kind of freedom on a vacation? The ship is very safe and while any teenager could get into trouble if they really tried, it wouldn't be because conditions were unsafe - they are well protected by staff and the physical qualities of the ship itself. Large numbers of them roamed the ship in the late evening, but I never noticed anything but kids having a great deal of fun just being. I watched a staff member quiet a large group of teens late one night just before a movie. They were noisy, having fun, but respectful of the staff member and quieted down immediately. I think that was a true all over the place. As I said, we didn't have any teens with us, so I can only describe what I saw.
There is an adults only section, which my husband and I enjoyed very much. No place to truly swim but you cool off in the pools provided and enjoy either protected areas, shaded and cool or sit in the sun and enjoy the ocean breezes and sun. Late night entertainment is available - live music, a quiet drink, a movie, or comedian. The night clubs are very Disney - an Italian piazza, a French turn of the 20th century parlor, an Irish pub or a high tech bar where the skyline changes every 12 minutes so you feel like you are actually in a bar looking out over a European city.
Pirate night was a bit over the top Disney. The only times I was uncomfortable with the crowd was during this outdoor extravaganza. Too many people crowded in too small a place, everyone wanting their little ones to see and I really did not want to be there. In fact three of us left early to see Brave in the theater, skipping the fireworks and happy to do so. In fact, if I ever do this again, I will skip this entirely. My son in law witnessed a fist fight - the only negative thing I heard about during the week. I can see it happening - someone got in the way of someone else's child or blocked someone's view - it doesn't take much when there is a huge crowd of parents who are jockeying for position and their child is crying they can't see anything. No one on the staff would talk about it the next day but I suspect it was ended quickly and quietly as possible. Shame on those two men!
Ports of call were OK. Excursions were available - we toured Grand Cayman, saw Hell and spent time in the water at a turtle farm (my grandsons LOVED that). We saw Chacchoben Mayan ruins on an adults only tour (that was by far my favorite). My son and family swam with dolphins and stingrays at Cozumel and Castaway Cay. His children loved the dolphin swim but the stingrays lost their charm within 5 minutes. My favorite stop by far was Castaway Cay, Disney's island. This mainly because my family was together for the entire day and I had a glorious hour with my son alone, just relaxing and resting in the shade on comfortable lounges. Its a wonderful island, with lots and lots to do but the sea is so very inviting, why not just enjoy that? My husband snorkeled right off the beach and my son and son in law took an excursion to snorkel further out. The food was not up to the usual standards, but feeding 2700 people at one time would challenge anybody. The fruit was plentiful and delicious. The island too has an adults only section, but we did not go there.
Disembarkation was so incredibly efficient and you could get help moving your luggage through. Disney thinks of everything.
We did not use Disney transportation to and from the airport. I used ATC, which I recommend. They came on time to the hotel. Since I didn't have a clue as to what disembarkation would be like, I had requested the return to pick us up at NOON and we were done by 8:30 am! I called them and they were able to get to us by 9:45 am. We managed to stay cool until then. In retrospect, using Disney's transportation would have made it all the easier, but this was more affordable. We had all made our plane reservations for the dinner hour and had a whole day to hang around the Orlando airport, but we were together, so that made the day much nicer.
I recommend this wonderful cruise to anyone who is contemplating a big boat cruise with family and children.