May 2013 we decided to take a cruise to celebrate our 1st Wedding & 12th Anniversary in October, as well as my Husband's 47th birthday, but it had to be a Disney one according to our 6 yr old daughter. Fantasy's Eastern Itinerary was a perfect choice for us.
Embarkation: We did the online check in, saves you so much time from what I hear, we had a port arrival time of 10:45 11am, unloading luggage and parking the car (all was relatively painless and quick) the wait to get through security was a bit long, but it wasn't as bad as some say it is, with all the excitement (especially listening to the little ones detailing all the characters they want to see) around you it does go fairly quick, I don't think it was any worse than waiting at airport security. The check in process upstairs in the terminal was very efficient, fill out the medical form, verify id’s, get pics taken and sent on our way. We even got my daughter her Mickey band for the Kid's activity areas(no line up at the time) We were given boarding group 5, and groups 1 - 4 were called very quickly, so before we knew it we were walking down the hallway to the first of many photo ops!! DO NOT turn down an opportunity to get your pic taken by the pros!! Especially if you want to purchase the picture cd from Shutters at the end of the cruise.
As we entered the ship they personally welcome each and every family, which right from the get go makes you feel like the special guest you are!!! We were welcomed aboard by Caitlin, who also does a lot of the kid’s entertainment activities and is one of the bubbliest girls I have ever seen (and she has super awesome hair). The moment we walked on the ship and had our first look around. WOW... I don't think we will ever forget it!! Beautiful ship!! There is so much attention to detail in the decorations and art work; I spent a few hours just wandering the ship admiring the art and pics. Our room was not ready til closer to 2pm but we had lunch at Cabanas, did some wandering around and amused ourselves til it was ready. Once we got in our room, hubby went for a nap and daughter and I went swimming! Our luggage was all at our room by 4 or so.
Stateroom #10582 this cabin is mid-ship Starboard side category 4A Deluxe Family Ocean view Stateroom with Verandah on Deck 10(Sleeps 5). I also did a review on the cabin; we had a very comfortable stay in it. And it more than ample room for our many suitcases and purchases from Sint Maarten & St Thomas! We had the best stateroom Host Ederson…he made the most fabulous towel art and sometimes used the throw blanket, we never had any issues with our room not being taken care, we rarely seen him and that is the way we liked it. When we did happen to see him he had a smile and a Hello My Princess for our daughter.
Shows/Entertainment/Activities: The Navigator is a must have each day, check the schedules and to make sure you do not miss anything. We attended all the shows we possibly could, we enjoyed each and every one of them; our favourite was 'Believe' and then 'Aladdin'. The Genie was the best part of the shows hands down!!! As for character appearances, we didn't find the wait times all that long (not like at the parks) For the Princess Gathering & Tinker Bell, we did have to wait about an hour or so, but it was so worth it. Best part though, as you walk through the ship you sometimes run into some of them, Goofy kissed my daughter’s hand; she thought that was pretty awesome(and she only likes the Princesses) Take advantage of any photo opportunity that you can, it definitely makes for some great memories! Pirate Night was a blast, so many people get right into it and it was so much fun seeing all the pirates!! You do get a pirate bandana which is a nice keepsake!! Fireworks off the starboard side of the ship, pretty incredible! Halloween celebrations on the High Seas, who would have thought!! My daughter’s treat bag in our room was full of nut free chocolates in the shape of bats, pumpkins, ghosts and witches. That was a great touch.. Thanks Disney!!! We brought along her autograph album from other visits to the park so we managed to fill it up and I had also brought along another one that I took to guest services to have all the characters sign it, as well as Captain Marco. You can bring anything that will fit in a Ziploc to have it signed. 2 per stateroom. Some brought Disney hardcover books, photo frames, scrapbook pages, pillowcases, t-shirts etc.
Evening Dining Experiences: They were beyond awesome, we were seated with a family who have a daughter close to the same age as our daughter, and they hit it right off as did we!! As for dinner service we were on the 8:15 RAERAER(rotational dining in the 3 MDR with same servers each night) We had Valentin(head server), Henry(server) and Putra(assistant server). Putra went above and beyond each evening after our meal to make the girls origami animals. As well they always had their chocolate milk waiting at the table. My daughter has severe allergies (peanuts/tree nuts/whole eggs) so each evening Putra would inform me if she could eat the bread/rolls and if not he provided her with her own basket of safe rolls. Every night for dessert it was the Mickey Bars, as they are peanut friendly according to DCL reservations as well as the dining staff. Henry, as he detailed the menu & made his suggestions would let me know what could be a possible worry -food wise. If she didn't want something on her plate or wanted something different her wishes were always granted(just like being at home) She loves red peppers, cucumbers and grapes, Henry would get them for her even if they were nowhere to be found in that night’s service. Ketchup in the shape of Mickey on the girl’s plates, cutting up their meat or whatever required smaller pieces, even trying to get them to have one more bite, Henry and Putra to the rescue!!! We found the dinner service to be incredible; each and every choice we made came out hot and fresh. Maybe that was just luck but we had no complaints with the evening meals, good size portions, wide variety of choices and some lighter fare as well. We didn't find the late seating to be an inconvenience; it’s the same time as our meal at home, so it worked out fine. And I found the dining rooms to be less crowded actually, fewer younger children. By far Royal Court was my favourite dining room; we had a table in one of the alcoves right by a port hole, less noisy as it was towards the back, made for a very enjoyable meal. Animator’s Palate was especially fun the night our place-mats came to life, table location was okay, would have preferred to be off to the side like we were in RC. Enchanted Garden is beautiful, but our table location seemed crowded and as with AP would have preferred to be off to the side more. We were fortunate enough to be able to celebrate my husband’s birthday, our anniversary and our new found friends it was the wife’s birthday as well. With each celebration we had a special dessert, special song with some of the staff and then the awesome birthday and anniversary buttons!! If you do not like to be the centre of attention don’t mention your celebration!! You will not leave the table hungry you can request another entrée or appetizer or even another dessert( I couldn't decide between 2 desserts one evening so Henry brought both of them out to me) The guys both had another lobster entrée because 1 tail just wasn’t enough!!
Food and Beverages: Cabanas was our choice for breakfast and lunch time meals, never had any issues finding a table, but that may have been timing or the fact we usually sat in the aft of the ship, most people tended to congregate at the entrance area tables. Pretty much anything you want to eat can be found; even the pickiest eaters can find something to satisfy themselves. Pizza, burger, hot dogs, Panini, wraps, sandwiches, fresh fruit and cookies (yummmm) can be found at Luigi's Pizza, Fillmore's Favorites and Tow Mater Grill mid ship portside on Deck 11. Then walk around to the port side and have ice cream for dessert!!! Beverage stations are located mid ship deck 11 both sides. The water is fine to drink, as it is filtered, I am very fussy about my water as I drink mostly water, I just wish I had brought a refillable water bottle with a wide mouth for ease of putting ice in it. So many ppl waste ice on board trying to fill up a small bottle) As well I wish we would have brought our own travel coffee mugs. They do have excellent coffee and the tea selection is very impressive. I did buy the odd alcoholic beverage for the keepsake glasses; I didn't find the prices all that bad.
Pools: Yes the pools can get very crowded on sea days, but there are so many other things to do that you can find a time to come back when it’s not as bad. Mickey and Donald pool we did go in a few times, water was usually warm (other than when they drained them to clean them) Aqua Lab was rarely busy; we spent a bit of time playing in the sprays. Aqua duck was so much fun, even with the wait it was worth it. Look down when you take off, you can see the ocean! We didn't go in the hot tubs that much, usually very crowded with kids swimming in them, they have a glass floor to look at the ocean, and Mickey’s slide was a big hit with the littler kids, as they could go down it all by themselves. Nemo’s Reef looked like it would be a lot of fun for the little ones with all the different sprays and features.
Kid Activities: Oceaneer Club & Lab are both secured areas even during open house they are very aware of whom is there and where the kids all are in the venue. Our daughter had so much fun at them, at times she didn't want to leave. Tinker Bell’s Talent show was one of her favourite, as well as pulling up a beanbag chair and watching a movie. Even in the kid’s area they were very aware of her allergies and made sure she didn’t come in contact with anything that may cause a reaction.
Key to the World Card: This is how you pay for anything you want to purchase onboard, it is linked to your credit card or you can pay cash and they will put a limit on it. You also use the card to get off and on the ship at ports along with picture id if over 18, even children need to present their KTTW card. It also powers the lights and climate control in your cabin. I think the best thing about this card was the fact it has your dining rotation printed on it so you don’t have to think too hard about where you ate the night before!! Although your serving staff will remind you each evening where to be the following evening! You will also need all your sailing party’s card in order to disembark.
Shopping: DCL merchandise of course, as well as a duty free and jewellery store. If you are a pin trader check around for their pin trading binders. Forgot something? chances are they will have it in one of the shops!
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: We chose the Crown Package with the Pop hairstyle, my daughter enjoyed the pampering and loved her wild hair They give them a sash, keepsake bag as well as nail polish, makeup and face jewels and finish it off with the Pixie Dust (takes forever to get out of her hair). Next cruise we are going to do the Royal Sea Package. The Fairy Godmother’s in Training were all so nice to us, one of them gave my daughter a Special certificate that was delivered to our room for having the same first name(uncommon name nowadays). Nice memento to frame from the trip.
Castaway Cay: perfect ending to a perfect week. The family beach wasn't all that crowded if you ventured down a bit. We walked from the ship to the beach and it’s not that far of a walk, the trams were frequent; we were the only ship in at the time so there wasn't huge crowd at all. A lot of the activities had been cancelled due to the wind, but it didn't affect us at all on the beach. Pelican Plunge was enjoyed by my daughter and I…Daddy took pics! Didn't enjoy the food as much as we did on the ship, I am not much of a BBQ rib, burger kinda person but it satisfied the hunger! We bought a tshirt and towel as well as a few magnets to remember the day. I also mailed out a few postcards, which we are still waiting to get lol
Staff: Without a doubt Disney worldwide has amazing staff, DCL is no exception. A good majority of the service staff can work up to 8 months at a time with 2 months off. That’s a long haul and yet they are still smiling. They truly go above and beyond to make your family feel special and valued. We had exceptional staff right from the moment we walked into the terminal until we drove away, we had the best of the best in service, smiles, friendly words and attention given to the smallest of details. Cruise Director Ray he’s the best!! Stateroom, dining, kids club activity staff, entertainers, guest services, photographers, sales staff, cleaners, maintenance, ship Officers….the list goes on and on…they are all part of the truly amazing staff found on the Fantasy. Not once did we experience any negative interactions with DCL staff & crew. (Although we did witness some pretty disrespectful cruisers when they were dealing with the staff, the staff members kept their cool and maintained their pleasant demeanor when most of us would have lost our cool) Interesting observation: There’s always someone cleaning, making sure everything is just right, in ports they were constantly doing upkeep on the exterior of the ship to keep it looking new. That was so impressive. Attention to detail!!! DCL takes celebrations, food allergies/intolerances, medical issues and any concerns you may have very seriously; everything is noted on your reservation and then passed on to the appropriate staff onboard.
Disembarkation: You are given Colour coded luggage tags with a Disney character on them, place your luggage outside your room by 1030 the last evening of the cruise (don’t forget to keep clothes for the next day though. Yes some ppl do forget), and pick it up the next morning after breakfast in the terminal prior to Customs. Look for the overhead sign that has your Disney character, all the luggage is laid out according to stateroom #. Porters are there to help you if needed, extra charge but well worth it. The wait for Customs was about 45 mins, but once we were done we were at our car, loaded up and off in no time flat. Don't miss having breakfast in the dining room, it’s a great chance to say 'see ya' to the new friends and staff you just spent the last week withnand get some pics!!!
Quick note on Gratuities. Unless you specify they are charged to your credit card and you are given a sheet of paper with this all details as well as envelopes for the Stateroom host, Server, Assistant Server and Head Server. Detach, put them in the envelopes then present them to them at your last meal with them. We added some extra cash and a little thank you gift for each of them. FYI For a 7-Night cruise it works out to be DR Server $28 pp DR Assistant Server $21 pp DR Head Server $7 pp and Stateroom Host/Hostess $28 pp
Items that come in handy on the cruise: Wide mouth reusable water bottle, travel coffee mugs, autograph book and pens, a small bottle of laundry soap ( Single use box of Tide $1 in laundry room). Magnetic board for your door as well as magnets to decorate it, just makes it a little more like home! Lanyards with a card/money holder, tote/small backpack for the excursions.
We can't wait to take another cruise with Disney and it will more than likely be on the Fantasy once again. I will be asking for our same dining room servers!! I would much rather take a Disney cruise then visit one of the parks any day!!! Having a child with severe nut allergies I didn't worry once about her food safety with all the special attention we were given by our dining staff. Even the Cabanas staff was so accommodating with her allergies.
Well Done Disney Fantasy!!!!!