We selected this cruise because our first itinerary was a 3-Night Bahamian on the Wonder in February 2018, and that was much too short. This was a longer option, now that we knew we liked cruising, on a ship that was new to us, and nearly ... Read More
We selected this cruise because our first itinerary was a 3-Night Bahamian on the Wonder in February 2018, and that was much too short. This was a longer option, now that we knew we liked cruising, on a ship that was new to us, and nearly everyone I know recommended the Eastern Caribbean over the Western. The Very Merrytime designation was just a bonus. The travelers were myself, 28, and my mom, 62.
Embarkation was a bit of a mess. I dropped my mom off around 1:15 while I went to return our rental car at Alamo. The security line was very, very long when I dropped her off - people were being held outside at the drop off point. Not quite as bad when I returned. I later heard there had been an issue with scanning people onboard the ship, so everyone was getting checked in just fine, but the computers to scan their Key to the World and mark them as "onboard" was down. They were manually writing people down with pen and paper! By the time I made it into the actual terminal my mom was literally the next person for the check in counter so that was perfect timing. We chose a later Arrival Time because we know staterooms are ready around 1:30 and we like to go straight there and drop things off. This was a perfect strategy.
Our stateroom was a Category 9B Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom, #2010. I selected this because it was not too far forward, close to the laundry room, and I've heard low deck/midship is good for minimizing motion sickness. We enjoyed this room quite a lot. Very minimal noise, except around 11:15pm when they would vacuum Mickey's Mainsail above us, and occasionally drop things. I loved that the porthole was big enough to sit in! Not the same size as the very large ones in the Category 8 rooms, but still big and cushioned. We felt the room was an adequate size and there was plenty of storage. We did seem to have difficulty finding a good temperature - the thermostat only has five options and it seemed to always be too hot or too cold. Our stateroom host was Richard and we loved him! So attentive and thorough. Only potential negative to Deck 2 is that there's no access to the aft elevators.
Dining: Akemi was our server and she was delightful! I'd request her again in a heartbeat. Yasa, our assistant server, didn't really shine until the second to last night. He wasn't great about keeping water refilled. Our second to last night he made us little origami puppies out of the children's menu. We felt the food was adequate. I selected second dining (8:15) in the hopes it would be a little quieter with fewer children, plus I'm from the west coast and I thought it would be good for my internal time change. I still think it was a good decision but my mom said she would prefer first seating (5:45) in the future. Did not really care for the Pirate night menu. One thing I think Disney could do better is to switch up the menus between ships. Animator's Palate and Royal Court are the same as AP and Triton's on the Wonder, and Enchanted Garden has elements of Tiana's Place (same goes for the restaurants on Magic and Dream). We did not dine at Palo this time, but we likely will in the future. Remy doesn't appeal. Cabanas was fine for breakfast and lunch. We ate dinner there one night and it was just okay. Service was like molasses slow. The quick service options on Deck 11 weren't great. We ordered burgers one day and they pulled them out of a warming drawer and placed a cold slice of cheese on top. Not impressed! I did think Cookie's Too on Castaway Cay had a great selection and enjoyed lunch there. We also had a nice treat at Sweet On You, which of course does cost extra. A great thing about Disney Cruise Line: the bacon is always crispy! I'd had some really limp bacon at the Yacht Club at Disney World the morning before the cruise so was pleased to get some nice crispy stuff every morning for the week!
Entertainment and Activities: Jo, the adult activities hostess, was also in this same position on the Wonder. We LOVED her during that cruise, she was absolutely a highlight, and we were THRILLED to discover she'd be our hostess on the Fantasy as well! We went to music trivia and games for the first several nights and had a blast. One night they, for reasons unknown, decided that music trivia should be in O'Gills instead of The Tube, and not realizing the switch, we showed up late. It was PACKED. No place for us to sit, so we missed out on that trivia. We really enjoyed the show that JunNk put on, and thought the comedian Mark Riccadonna, was funny - apparently stand up comedians are infrequent. We didn't play Bingo until the last day and wished we had done so earlier, super fun (but pricey). The people in front of us won the $9,000+ snowball jackpot! The Merrytime Activities were not as great as I was hoping for. There's only one tree lighting, on the first night. And there is simply not enough room surrounding the lobby atrium for everyone who wants to view it to be able to. We missed Santa's Winter Wonderland Ball. Other activities conflicted with other things we wanted to do. The decorations were beautiful though! And I finally got to meet Belle in her Christmas gown, which has been a lifelong dream of mine.
Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular - not a favorite. They "revamped" it and they went way too heavy on Jasmine's feminist "I am woman, hear me roar" stance, in my opinion. The carpet didn't fly over the heads of the audience, there were no elephants parading down the aisles. Genie wasn't really laugh-out-loud funny to me. I much preferred the now retired version at Disney California Adventure Park.
Frozen: A Musical Spectacular - we also saw this on the Wonder and we like it a lot. They showed this on Thursday night, second to last. I wish they would have performed it earlier, because they showed Frozen II as the nightly show on Tuesday (which we thought was great, probably better than the first!). Would have been nice to see the stage version as a recap before the second movie.
Disney's Believe - the best of the lot. Liked that there were songs from "different" movies (Jungle Book, Mary Poppins) and not just the same Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast montage that Disney loves to show (though of course, they included those too).
Movies - in general, just okay. Not a lot of Christmas options and the few they had were on Funnel Vision, not in the movie theater. Heavy on Maleficent II and Dumbo, no options for Frozen II until after they'd shown it as the nightly show, despite it being out for over a week by that point. Descendants featured heavily on Funnel Vision.
Aqua Duck: not worth the hype, in my opinion. Rode it the day we were in St. Thomas. The first half is fun with the little dips, but from the time it curves around the deck and the whole second half it's a snore...just a straight line.
Goofy Golf was fun, we played it one night. It was just us and one other group, but that group had six people and took forever. We ended up skipping a hole and coming back to it to pass them.
Rainforest Room doubled in price earlier this year and I'm really not sure it's worth it anymore. It's about $34/person/day for the one day passes purchased prior to sailing, with the ridiculous auto gratuity added in. This doesn't include the salt scrubs, which are about $15 extra. We enjoyed the heated loungers, the showers were fun for a minute, the hot tub was nice but the design is weird and only seats really two people per tub, and I don't particularly enjoy the sauna/steam rooms. I wanted to shower in the changing rooms but apparently they don't provide washcloths? Could not find them anywhere if they do. My mom ended up booking one of the onboard specials for a full body + ankle/foot/scalp massage and a facial. She loved it at the time but was really uncomfortably sore the next day and missed a lot of time on Castaway Cay because of it.
Tortola: We did the Island Drive and Beach Break. It was the cheapest option for this port. The roads/driving...I was not convinced we'd make it back to the ship in one piece, honestly. The description mentions a 35 minute stop at Sky World with shopping. Uh, we were there for legitimately 10 minutes and I saw no shopping available. It was also like 9am so the restaurant wasn't running. We got lukewarm bottled water, a couple minutes to take pictures and use the restroom - the observation deck was extra? - then back on the bus. Cane Garden Bay Beach was beautiful but my mom got knocked over by some waves that soured her experience. Beach chairs were included, but they're set up very close to the water and the tide kept sweeping away people's shoes. They gave us coupons for another free drink but wouldn't let us have water because it came in a glass so we couldn't take it with us. Probably wouldn't get off the ship if we returned to this port.
St. Thomas: Chose the Ultimate Island Experience here, again one of the less expensive options. Magens Bay Beach was even better than Cane Garden Bay, but you had to rent chairs if you wanted them, and they charge a deposit which can only be paid in cash - we didn't bring any! Waves less strong here, and our shuttle was the first to arrive that morning so the beach was nearly empty. We liked the stop at Mountain Top and found some nice, reasonably priced souvenirs. Would have enjoyed a little more time there. The end of the excursion is where things went downhill. They drop you off downtown for "shopping". What this actually is involves being heckled by locals to look at their handmade goods, being aggressively approached by taxi drivers despite having wristbands indicating we were part of a group, and having a man hustling us into a nearby jewlery shop with no option to say no. My mom asked why we couldn't just use one of the taxi drivers to take us back to the ship sooner than our prearranged transport (which turned out to be via ferry, which isn't mentioned anywhere) and I pointed out again - no cash. Would choose a different excursion next time - no one said anything negative about St John!
Castaway Cay: I was happy I had more time to explore the island this visit. Pelican Plunge is fun, I met a bunch of characters, did some snorkeling. The snorkeling was a bust because no matter what I do, the mouthpiece never fits me correctly and I always end up breathing in salt water. I wanted to go out to the deeper "trail" but between the mouthpiece and the buoyant snorkel vest, it was too much effort. I did the Getaway Package (we'd done the Stingrays previously). Floated in the Family Beach area for a short while. Rented my bike out at Serenity Bay and did both bike trails. The trail to the Observation Tower was obviously more popular, and I think a lot of people don't know about the second trail that runs parallel to Serenity Bay. Next time I think I'll just do the float rental and enjoy time on the beach itself. It's not like the view on the bike trail changes, and unless I invest in my own snorkel gear, I give up on that (it's a recurring problem for me, not just this instance). Note that we found the shirt selection a little lacking in sizes - nothing bigger than an XL on the island!
Photo Package: We pre-purchased the all inclusive package, which costs $50 more if bought onboard. They will completely refund you or allow you to downgrade to the 10 or 20 image options if you're not happy. I was pleased with our photos on the last cruise so went this route this time. A lot of the special backgrounds in the atrium have a very long wait. On formal night, the line to take pictures in front of the Christmas tree was literally the slowest moving line I've ever experienced for anything. The pick up for the USB on disembarkation morning was quick and easy.
Disembarkation: Since we had second seating, we would have had the later breakfast, and I wanted to get off the ship sooner than that to head to Universal Orlando. We went to Cabanas, where I was very surprised to see a full breakfast buffet, not the continental options I was expecting! The line to disembark seemed very long and slow moving, and other more experienced cruisers said this was the slowest it's ever been for them. My mom was able to do airline check in via JetBlue so we didn't have to collect her bags, but since I was staying in Orlando for a few more days, we did have to find mine. Thankfully the customs line itself moves quickly, especially if you have nothing to declare.
Yes, we will cruise again, and booked a placeholder on board. We are strongly considering a Bahamian on the Magic in 2021, just trying to decide between a 5-Night alone, or a 3-Night back-to-back with a 5-Night Western Caribbean to Grand Cayman. Our other option would be one of the Mexican Riviera cruises on the Wonder, but we want to try a new ship, and the Magic stops at Key West, which we are interested in visiting. Read Less