This is certainly true on-board the Fantasy, from chance character encounters to always helpful crew members to the art-nouveau details throughout the ship. We just returned from our fourth Disney cruise, and our first on the beautiful Fantasy! My nine year old son, weaned on Disney (he was in the parks twice in utero,) cited as a cruise highlight our head waiter, Daniel, who performed magic tricks and treated all the children at our table to extra attention. He also loved the interactive detective agency game onboard. Happily, my husband goes in for the video and escorted him throughout the ship for the three separate rounds of play the game allows. One other father quipped that Disney could make a fortune selling cold beer at each stop!
With rotational dining, elaborately themed restaurants, the entertainment of Animator's Palate, and an eager-to-please wait staff, eating is always a pleasure. An absolute highlight of a Disney cruise for us adults is Palo's brunch. Do book early, the second you have paid in-full. This dining experience is simply not to be missed in terms of breathtaking views, attentive service, and a decadent abundance of every kind of delicious food imaginable, artfully presented. Leave room for dessert! This trip we also tried the champagne brunch at Remy's. The space itself (aft port) was airy and sun-filled. Service was impeccable, rivaling what you might find at the best restaurants on-land. Personally, I might have died happy drowning in a bowl of their corn emulsion soup. The sea bass was one of the best fish dishes of the entire week, and my hubby found the veal a knock-out. Finally, dinner at Palo never disappoints. The challenge for us is when to book it. My BFF swears by the first night, but I find that a bit rushed on a busy day. This time we opted for pirate's night, as it is our least favorite ding menu, with its emphasis on Caribbean flavors, at the regular restaurants. We dined relatively early (6:30 pm,) which left plenty of time to don an eye-patch or other buccaneer garb afterwards and still catch the terrific deck show and fireworks. Stand-outs on the Palo dinner menu included the scrumptious Grilled Portobello Mushroom and Polenta and Chianti Braised Beef Ravioli, as well as our favorite entrees, the lamb and veal osso buco.
Tips for the ship
We travel with an over the closet-bar stack of drawers: it collapses and does not weigh much to pack. It proved especially useful on the Fantasy where drawer space is somewhat limited, even for three people. If you have them already, children's hangers are a welcome addition; they allow us to hang up our son's good clothes and don't take up as much space as adult hangers (nor are they made of wire which can damage clothing in transit.) Closet space, unlike drawer storage, is abundant, and Disney supplies enough hangers. Shove those life jackets under the bed, along with your empty bags, for storage and extra room. If you have children, let them pick out magnets to decorate their stateroom door before leaving home. It helps them (and you) find your cabin easily. It is almost a tradition on Disney ships, so why not join in on the fun?
Castaway Cay, Disney's private island
Castaway Cay is worth every penny you paid for your cruise; it is, in our minds, what helps set Disney apart in Caribbean itineraries. Be among the first off the ship. (No need to sit on the steps, as we saw some folks doing; just plan on being packed up, lathered up with sunscreen, and finished with breakfast on this particular morning.) We do it two ways. We used to drop off or son in the on-island daycare area then head to the adults-only beach for the morning. We would then pick him up for a family lunch and hit the family beach afterwards. That rocked! The private beach is stunning: you can wade out at least twenty feet due to the natural surf break or take a romantic walk on the crescent moon of the beach itself. Or you can head, as we did this time, directly to the family beach and nab primo real estate in the front row which will include an umbrella, two loungers, and two chairs for sitting in the surf. Snorkeling is fun and best done early before your fellow passengers stir up the water. Disney makes sure to hide extra surprises (ie.a sunken Mickey and pirate booty) under the seas, again with their emphasis on a unique, quality experience. Unlike other private islands on other cruise lines, Castaway Cay never feels overrun or swamped with people. Service is unparalleled. Our head waiter made a point of coming to visit with us during lunch.
Room for Improvement?
My only modest complaint about the Fantasy is that the hub of social activity occurs in the evening in one limited area mid-ship, making lines for character meets and photos particularly congested and long. Disney would do well to spread out photo-ops throughout a gorgeous ship. Because we were already dressed reasonably well for our Palo brunch, we did avail ourselves as a couple of a very cute photo-op with Minnie dressed as a princess during the afternoon.
Hope you enjoy your Disney cruise as much as we enjoyed ours! We look forward to setting sail again on Disney in a couple of years. (PS. Book a future cruise on the ship. You'll save 10% and can modify your reservation in any way you need to back home. They currently offer $200 dollars in on-board credit for sailings of a week as well. Just pick the shortest itinerary and an inside cabin to have to plunk down a minimal deposit for future fun.)