Background information: This was my sixth trip with a grandchild and my second with Disney. (My other 14 cruises were with my family in 1950, and with my husband). My granddaughter is 12 and I am 75. My previous grandchild trips were a bus trip to Ireland and London in 2007, a Med cruise on NCL Jade in 2008, a Baltic cruise on HAL in 2009, a Hawaiian cruise on NCL America in 2010, and a cruise on the Dawn Princess around Australia in 2012. When I was trying to decide what to do with this granddaughter that would not be a repeat of another grandchild trip I decided on a back to back on Fantasy for the two different itineraries- West Caribbean and East Carribean. This is apparently most unusual for someone to do on Disney. This is the review of the second part of the trip - Eastern Caribbean.
Re:Embarkation: Disney absolutely requires that everyone is off the ship by 9:00. Early dining people have to eat earlier and get off earlier. I asked if we could eat later, and they agreed. We had a 7 am wake-up call and we went to the late breakfast at 8. Everyone else had their carryons with them. We got off a little after 9 and went through customs, and went back up to the arrival hall and waited until 9:30 and then they checked us in. I had remembered the customs form and the passports, but forgot the signed papers for the second cruise. They said no problem we will just print them out again. They also did the luggage check in which means that when we disembark, we do not have to bother with luggage at all - just put it out in the hall the night before and it will appear with us at Houston airport (and it did - that worked well). They gave us a card to get on first, and we waited until about 10 or 10:30 and then they let us back on. After we went back to the room, I took a bag of laundry to be washed. Our room attendant said she would help me if I needed it. (I figured that no one would be wanting to do the wash if they were just getting on the ship and anyway no one except us was there yet). The procedure appeared clear - but wasn't. You picked wash or dry. You picked a washer that was not in use. You put your card in and the machine 'processed' the request and told you that you were OK to load the machine and put in the soap. And then the washer wouldn't start. Eventually I figured out that I had to accept on the touch screen where I picked the washer without waiting to load or put the soap in (i.e. the washer had to be already loaded when you did the procedure). The washer was $2 and the dryer was $2. I had an excess $14 on my bill at the end from trying to get the washer to work (they removed it). We ate lunch in the Enchanted Garden which was open on embarkation - we did not have to eat in the buffet by the pool as we do on most ships. Right after that, we went to Lounge D to meet with the Cruise Critics and Disney people. The first cruise there was no Cruise Critics meeting. We went to the safety drill at 4:30 - I went on my scooter and they put the handicapped people with mobility devices on one side, and dismissed us early so that we could get an elevator.
Ship info: I rarely had a problem getting an elevator and it was nice that most of the elevators had mirrors on the back wall so that I could see how to back the scooter out. One thing that they do NOT have is a computer area. If you want to use a computer and you didn't bring one with you, you could check out a laptop, but it was configured so that you could not do anything except log on. You could not write your email off-line and then log on and send it - you had to pay for typing the email in. You couldn't even play solitaire. However the minutes that we had bought on the first cruise and had not used were carried over onto the second cruise which has never been the case on any other b2b cruise I've been on.
We had cabin 2020 (second deck) which was convenient for the Enchanted Garden. The huge enormous king bed was fixed in place and could not be moved. I don't like king beds anyway and this one took up a lot of room. It also meant that I could not bring my scooter into the room as I usually do. I had to plug it in out in the lobby. This was VERY inconvenient, and I had to walk farther to get my scooter than would have been necessary. The TV was nice and we could see all the Disney cartoons and movies for free. One thing about the TV though - there was no way to get weather or anything except Disney shows or news like Fox TV or MSNBC or ESPN. This was a problem in St. Thomas. Also they did not have the port talks or any of the games re-broadcast on the TV. They did have a good bow camera.
They gave us WAV phones which were a handy way to contact each other. I finally decided I had to sleep on the phone side of the bed because if I was on the other side, I absolutely could not get to the phone to answer it because the bed was so big. My granddaughter had to sleep on the couch because the bed was fixed and couldn't be separated into twins. She asked for an additional blanket because it was cold. I never did get the hang of the thermostat. It would start out freezing in the cabin but in the middle of the night I would have to get out from under the covers because it would be too hot. We had to use our room cards to turn the lights on, but I discovered that anything plastic would do - didn't have to be an active card. There were periodic noises in the room but I could never figure out what was making the noise because as near as I could tell the shops were over our cabin. It sounded like someone playing quoits.
Dining: Fantasy has an 'interesting' way of rotating you through the three restaurants - always at the same number table with the same servers. The head server almost insisted that I agree to have the same servers for the second part of the cruise so I agreed, but I would really have liked to have had a change. It was also the same food as the first time, so if I didn't like it the first time, I probably wasn't going to like it the second time either - sometimes I wouldn't remember and the waiter would remind me. The food was OK - not abnormally good or abnormally bad. Sometimes I didn't like it much, but there wasn't anything so bad that I had to send it back. Some of it was a little too salty, and I think sometimes they tried too hard. I would have liked something a little less fancy. Some of the desserts were really good. The Lido (called Cabanas on this ship) was closed in the afternoon, but at least one of the sit-down restaurants would be open even on port days which was nice. Breakfast in the Enchanted Garden was a buffet just like it would be in Cabanas.
Disadvantages - the major disadvantage for me was that we were not EVER given a table with other people. Each family MUST stay to themselves. Normally on a cruise I enjoy meeting and talking to other people who are on the cruise and I usually do that at meal times. There was none of that on Fantasy. You MUST eat with your own family even at breakfast and lunch. I never got to talk to any of the other people on the cruise. It was nice that soft drinks were free, but neither of us drink soft drinks. The chairs did not move well on the carpet, so I couldn't get close to the table. It was sometimes easier to pull the table to me. When I asked they said they couldn't make the chairs easy to move or the children would play with them. When we were in the second presentation at the Animator's Palette, we were to make cartoons and they took those cartoons and animated them. Unfortunately I could not see what our cartoons looked like because some woman stood in front of the only screen I could really see and blocked my view. No one said anything to her. I thought she was very rude.
One great advantage that this ship had - they managed magnificently to give my gluten allergic granddaughter food that she could eat and wanted to eat. She ate like a queen and I did not have to worry that she would get sick from the food. This included the lunch at Castaway Cay. They had a special lunch for her there too. But room service for breakfast was only continental breakfast with no possibility of gluten free bread. The table had crayons and a children's menu with games on it for her to do while she was waiting. Sometimes the server would give her a puzzle with the crayons (how do you move one crayon and get a square).
Activities: I normally like to do Trivia, but I didn't see any Trivia except Disney trivia and I'm not a Disney fan. There were various activities for children, such as an interactive game where you were steering a ship and that was fun. There was Bingo which my granddaughter went and watched (I told her not to play). And there were video games which were $10 to play. I didn't find out about that until I got the final bill. The character photo ops were completely uninteresting to me. My granddaughter refused to try the big slide. I would have liked to do it, but didn't want to do it if she didn't want to do it. The pools always appeared very crowded - I did not try to swim on the ship. I think my granddaughter went to swim once. They had a premier of "Monster University" and my granddaughter went to that and enjoyed it very much.
I signed her up to do the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, but it wasn't exactly what I thought it would be, and in my opinion it was a waste of money. I thought they would wash and style her hair, but all they did was mousse it to her head all skinned back (not pretty), put a hair piece in with so many clips that it hurt her scalp, tease it, and put sparkles in it. I thought the style was unattractive and the hair piece hurt my granddaughter's head so it didn't even stay on until dinner. The nail polish was not a manicure - just slapped some nail polish on her nails.
Children's Clubs: My granddaughter was turned off to the children's clubs on the first cruise and did not go on this cruise.
Entertainment: My granddaughter loved the guitar player and the magician and also the showing of "Monsters University". She didn't think much of the fireworks show on the first cruise, so we didn't go the second time.
Port & Shore Excursions: Almost all the excursions that my granddaughter was interested in and that I could actually manage to do stated that if I arrived at the venue with anything other than a collapsable wheelchair, I would be refused service. Disney seems determined that no one who is not completely mobile should ever get to take an excursion. This was a major annoyance and made things much harder for us than was necessary. I did the Disney excursions for the first cruise but they made it so difficult for me and gave me so much argument, that I didn't take any Disney excursions this cruise.
I went to the main desk and filled out a form so that my granddaughter could get on and off the ship without me because I wanted her to be able to get on and get something that I had forgotten and then get back off again. We only had to do that in St. THomas and even with the form filled out, they still gave her an argument.
Service: I have no complaints at all about the service. Service in all areas was excellent
Castaway Cay: We did the snorkeling, and the parasailing. The parasailing was great. The snorkeling they didn't take the time to instruct us and didn't give her a mask that fitted and even though they gave her another one that one didn't fit either, so she didn't enjoy that snorkeling as much as the first one at Costa Maya. I felt that they were just running us through the excursion as fast as possible.
Disembarkation: Disney makes sure that you get off by 9 am and to do this they make you have your bags out the night before 10:45 (which is the day you have spent at Castaway Cay so you are tired from that) and make you get up at an ungodly hour and take your carryon bags with you to breakfast. This does clear the ship quickly. I knew we would be tired the last day, so I got packed on our last sea day which was the day before Castaway Cay. I totally recommend that you do this
Our flight was not until 5:30pm so we checked into the Hyatt there at the airport for the day. The cost for this was $111 (including tax), and we could watch TV, use the phone and bathroom, and swim in the pool. I took a nap. We didn't try the pool. The only restaurant open for lunch was a pub and my granddaughter did not want to eat in the pub, so we had room service. The gluten free items were very expensive and the meal cost $64.00 including tip (chili and gluten free chips, chicken Caesar salad, gluten free chocolate dessert and a pizza for me)