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2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2017
This is my first review -- so hopefully it answers some questions. First off - if anyone has other questions, please reach out and I'll do my best to answer them. My husband and I decided to go on this cruise -- to try it out. We had ... Read More
This is my first review -- so hopefully it answers some questions. First off - if anyone has other questions, please reach out and I'll do my best to answer them. My husband and I decided to go on this cruise -- to try it out. We had been on Princess and couldn't stand all of the nickel and dime sales pitches. We heard Disney was different and boy was everyone right. We decided to do the Merrytime cruise since the date worked and Disney does such a great job with the holidays. Prior to sailing we reserved a beach shore excursion in Nassau that we ended up not doing (more below) and a cabana at Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay. We flew into Orlando the morning of the cruise and paid for the Disney ground transfers. We only waited on the bus about 5 minutes before it departed for the port. We arrived at the terminal around 1100. We went through security quickly and came upstairs. Since no one told us there was a special concierge check in (even though I read about it online - we didn't see it) we stood in the check in line. Once we were with an cast member she checked us in and then took us over to the concierge check in. We then waited in the "lounge". I wouldn't say this was a lounge -- it was more of a reserved seating area. Within a few minutes they took the back to backers onto the ship and there was then enough seating for everyone. Around 1130 we were taken onboard and immediately brought to the concierge lounge. Here they offered some small sandwiches, a full bar, desserts and went over our agenda for the week. What was really nice was they had youth activities people there, spa people, port adventures people, etc so if you needed to sign up for any activities you could do it right here and now without having to go all over the ship. We signed up for spa activities at times that were not listed online. This was much easier. We wish they had gone over the various food options the lounge would be offering each day but they did not. From there we went to our room, which was amazing. The balcony was much larger than we thought it would be. Once we had checked the room out, we decided to walk around the ship. We went onto each deck and walked around trying to get the lay of the land. We spent quite a bit of time trying to locate our muster area. There were no signs anywhere for the letter "B" and each crew person we asked gave us different instructions. We had some hard ice cream from the Cabanas buffet -- this was the only time we ate there the entire week. Finally it was time for the muster and we did our best to find it. Turns out the signs were inside the Walt Disney Theatre....makes it hard to find when the doors were closed. After the muster we asked the concierge about getting breakfast in our room. I thought we could do this since we had a larger stateroom and I was correct. Since we had a dining table this was allowed. We did this each day and it was quite a relaxing way to start our day. We turned in our selections each night prior to the concierge who placed the order for us. It would have been nice to have the menus already in the room so we would have known it was an option. The only room service menu in our room was continental breakfast and late night food. That night we went to the Golden Mickeys show which was nice. We also had a drink in the lounge (the happy hour in the concierge lounge was every night from 5 pm to 10 pm). We ate dinner at the Royal Palace which was really good. That day we decided to cancel our excursion for Tuesday and the concierge was able to take care of this for us. On Tuesday we spent a leisurely day on board. We ate lunch up on the deck -- at the hamburger/pizza/sandwich place. It was quite good. For dinner we ate at Animator's Plate which was good and we enjoyed the Crush show. We also spent time at the sports pub for some activities which were fun (we did this each night). The next day we enjoyed our time in our Cabana at Serenty Bay. It was very relaxing and low key. The BBQ was alright - not the best more like the buffet than i would like. That night pirate night was quite fun and the fireworks were really great. On Thursday, we spent the morning at the spa. It was quite a good time and there was a low key sales pitch which was nice - not nearly as much of a sell as we thought it would be. That night we ate at the Enchanted Garden and lunched at the Royal Palace. We disembarked very easily on Friday morning. We left the boat about 0715 and took the shuttle to the airport and we were off the bus at 0830. We did not do the express departure but let Disney take our luggage off which was much easier for us. We really loved our trip and would like to give a shout out to our waiter Roy and our room steward Erik who went above and beyond. We were never short of sparking water in our room. A few things we wished they did differently - it would be nice if it was bit clearer on where bottled water and soda were free. Since it is only on the pool deck, the concierge lounge and in our stateroom we wish they stated this as such. Otherwise it can be confusing. Secondly, we used the concierge sun deck quite a bit and really liked it. It would be nice to have a TV screen on at night so you could watch the pool deck shows if you wanted without having to stand in the crowds. Finally, we were very surprised they did not put more chairs on the pool deck at night so we could watch the movie. Like I said above, this was a great trip and we would consider taking a Disney cruise again. Read Less
3 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
My wife and I sailed on the Disney Dream the last week in Nov 2017 to Nassau and Castaway Cay. Overall it was a good cruise. We were by ourselves so will review the adult areas of the ship for those sailing without children. A Disney ... Read More
My wife and I sailed on the Disney Dream the last week in Nov 2017 to Nassau and Castaway Cay. Overall it was a good cruise. We were by ourselves so will review the adult areas of the ship for those sailing without children. A Disney cruise is obviously designed for families with children ages 5-13 (in our opinion) but they also have adult areas and activities. This was our 22nd cruise overall and 2nd on a Disney ship, prior was the Disney Magic. We preferred the larger Dream as it had more activities and common areas, also a larger adult pool area and more adult clubs. EMBARKATION: We booked the early embarkation at 11am as we drove over from Orlando. Plenty of parking at the terminal for $85 for 5 days/4 nights. I splurged for preferred parking right next to the terminal for $105 and boy was that a mistake – it was outside parking and a flock of birds must have liked my car as it was covered in bird droppings. I wasn’t parked under a tree so no clue why. Next time it’s the $85 parking garage across the street! Getting on was a snap at 11am, we were on the ship within 15 minutes. Bit of a line at security but it moved fast. We had lunch in the dining room rather than fight the crowds at the buffet. Cabins were available at 1pm. CABIN: We had a balcony stateroom with an obstructed view (9012) which was slightly cheaper than a regular balcony. We didn’t mind the obstruction as it gave us shade in the front area and sun in the back. We really liked the room layout, especially the two bathrooms (one shower/sink, one toilet/sink). There was plenty of storage in the room. Our cabin steward was excellent and kept the room clean and made up. TIP: In order to have lights and air conditioning, you have to insert a card in a slot by the door. Designed for your room pass obviously, but any card will work (credit card, etc). This way you don’t have to keep inserting your room key. FOOD: We liked the rotational dining concept with the same servers each night in a different dining room. Our servers were terrific, as good as you’d expect from a Disney cruise. Overall the food was very good. Mostly seafood which my wife enjoyed, I prefer beef and chicken and those dishes were good but not great. Steaks were a little tough. TIP: If you are adults-only, pick late dining as there are fewer children then and thus a quieter experience. We rarely went to the buffet as we heard it was crowded. For breakfast and occasional lunches we went to the dining room instead and had great meals in a peaceful setting. As we spent most of our ship time on Deck 11 by the pool and spa, we took advantage of the food café’s between the adult and family pools. The pizza at Luigi’s wasn’t good at all, but Flo’s Café had great sandwiches (inc panini’s) and a selection of fresh fruit. Tow-mater’s Grill had good hamburgers and other grilled items. We usually had a late afternoon snack here as we had late dining. Never crowded and you can take the food to your pool chairs if you prefer. Soda machines are to the back on Deck 11, also in the buffet on Deck 11. CLOTHING: Disney has casual dining now so you don’t need a suit/tie. You can wear jeans and shirts to dinner if you want. They do have an optional dress-up night which was our 2nd night at Nassau. The next night was Castaway Cay and they had the optional pirate dress-up night and fireworks display. POOL: Adult pool area was very relaxing and also had two large Jacuzzis. On our 2 port days, you could get loungers pretty easily. On our sea day, loungers were gone by noon but there were more loungers on Decks 12 and 13 forward for adults. The family pool area was always very crowded and I can’t speak for chairs there. I did the Aqua Duck water slide once, it was okay but not worth waiting in line for. I did it early afternoon when we were at Castaway Cay so there was no line. SPA: We booked a day at the Rainforest Spa online before the cruise. Onboard we visited the spa and booked it for 2 more days. The Rainforest has 10 thermal couches and 2 small jacuzzis (each seats 2) plus an assortment of saunas and fancy showers. Unfortunately it lacks any other chairs or loungers. The thermal couches are very warm so you can only spend an hour at most before the heat gets to you. If we did it again, we’d only go with the one day pass and use it on the sea day. Good news is it wasn’t crowded except for the jacuzzis. ENTERTAINMENT: A very definite plus for Disney! We loved the three Disney performances and the other night’s entertainer, a comedy ventriloquist, was very good. One of the Disney shows was their new Beauty and the Beast show which was fantastic. Just over an hour in length but included all of the songs from the movies. TIP: Get to the shows at least 15 mins early, preferably 30 mins early for Beauty as it was packed! The other thing we liked was their movie theater. That week they played Coco which was a new release so we saw it for free. They also played Thor: Ragnarok that week. NASSAU: We had been to Nassau so weren’t excited about it. We booked the cheapest Atlantis tour which included a guided tour of the “Atlantis ruins” and their shark tank, about 2 hours of walking. Then we were free to explore the resort. They ran shuttle buses back to the ship every 30 mins. As it was late November, the water was too chilly for any water activities in our opinion (we’re from Florida). CASTAWAY CAY: We like Castaway Cay but that day it was rainy in the morning and the water was chilly. We didn’t see many folks in the water but the sun came out later on. We did the Castaway 5K Race which was a lot of fun. You sign up at Guest Services or Port Excursions desk. The group meets at 8am and you head off the ship first for the 9am fun run. There were almost 200 runners but the course is well laid out so there was plenty of room for the fast runners, or plodders like us, and walkers. DEBARKATION: The breakfast times depend on your dining times – early dining had breakfast at 7am, late dining breakfast was at 8:30am. The buffet was open also, I believe, although there was some confusion with the printed schedule. You could walk-off the ship at 6:30am with your luggage if you had to go early. We were glad for a leisure morning and we didn’t depart the ship until 9am. Customs line was a little slow so we didn’t leave the terminal until 9:30am for our car. Again, it was parked right next to the ship so easy to find. Just had to go to a car wash in Orlando to clean off the bird stuff lol! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2017
The Disney Dream is such a beautiful ship! Incredibly clean, smooth sailing ship with delicious meals, yummy cocktails, specifically the "drink of the day". Even with misty, rainy weather, it was a wonderful trip! This was my 1st ... Read More
The Disney Dream is such a beautiful ship! Incredibly clean, smooth sailing ship with delicious meals, yummy cocktails, specifically the "drink of the day". Even with misty, rainy weather, it was a wonderful trip! This was my 1st Disney Cruise ~ such a different experence from other cruise ships because of the atmosphere being more family-friendly (no casino's and not a wild crazy party atmosphere). I loved every mea! The wait staff and room steward had great personalities. The shows were FLAWLESS, BEAUTIFUL and just excellent in EVERY way! I wish I could have seen them more than once!!! There are so many activities to do on the ship ~ trivia games, Bingo, shows, character interactions.... the stops at Nassau & Castaway Cay were fun for me! Although the weather was misty-rainy and had a little bit windy, the parasailing excursion I had booked was cancelled! It still turned out to be a beautiful day. I had never seen Disney (in any form) at Christmas, and it met my expectations. I can't wait to be able to sail with Disney again. Getting on the ship was so fast ~ we had a 1:15pm embark time, and we arrived a little before that. There was no line. It wasn't very long before we could go to our room, and the luggage arrived shortly after that. We did have a small problem with the safe in our room, and I stupidly dropped an earring down the sing ~ the guest services team were wonderful in helping get both of those issues resolved! (kind-of-embarassing, but they were very accomodating)!! Even getting off the ship the final morning was easy ~ we had 2nd seating, which gave us a later time for breakfast the final morning (8:30am). The pools were warm, even on the chilly evenings. The Aqua-Duck was a blast! Worth the wait in line. I discovered that late evenings (9-10pm) were the shortest lines to meet the characters. Don't miss ANY shows! They are terriffic!! We did not utilize the spa or special restaurants ~ but our table-mates did, and they raved about them. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2017
We are a couple in our early 30s, no children, we don't drink, love Disneyland and Disneyworld but we are not hard core fans that watch every single Disney movie. We chose Disney as our first cruise mainly for the good review and service. ... Read More
We are a couple in our early 30s, no children, we don't drink, love Disneyland and Disneyworld but we are not hard core fans that watch every single Disney movie. We chose Disney as our first cruise mainly for the good review and service. Embarkation was great, friendly staff once you are inside the terminal, the porters outside were very rude. They don't work for Disney though. We waited about 10 minutes to get the passport checked and headed to the ship. It is great when they announce your family and make the experience a little more special. The Sailaway party was kinda lame but alright, if you don't have kids you can skip that. Dancers were bad... i think the kids had fun though. Our room was clean - not spotless but reasonably clean, we had an inside stateroom which was larger than we thought. The whole ship looks pretty new, except for the Triton restaurant that still look like in the 90s. Food was excellent (except for the first night which the duck was really chewy) and we actually cancelled our Palo reservation because the food was good and we don't see the need to splurge more. Entertainment is lacking for adults only cruisers, there are 2 hot tubs that were constantly occupied, I don't like sitting in there with strangers. The water was too cold to swim. The adult only section was really quiet, I don't know how Disney does that, good to sun bathe and read a book. We tried to attend all the free activities but we don't fully enjoy the Disney Trivias because we are not hard core Disney Fans, we couldn't guess the song names / movie names by listening a 5 second clip. Shows were great except the juggling show, that was very lame as well. The Magic guy, Ventriloquist and country music guy were great! I fully enjoyed the Frozen show as well. The ports were alright, Nassau was terrible, you can skip unless you want to buy diamonds and rolexes. We did a Jet Ski tour that was great (not through Disney), rented a bicycle on Castaway Cay, nothing too special but I would recommend. We don;t have kids so we stayed at the serenity bay. The Barbecue was awesome, I took 2 bags of Lays chips on board as snacks. Overall I would do it again but my next cruise would be Royal Caribbean so I can compare the entertainment options. This is not a cruise for adults only unless you are a big Disney fan. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2017
Let me start by stating that a Disney cruise is expensive, but it is not overpriced. We went on the 4-night Thanksgiving sailing from Port Canaveral. It was a fantastic trip that I thrilled to have taken with my family. Port ... Read More
Let me start by stating that a Disney cruise is expensive, but it is not overpriced. We went on the 4-night Thanksgiving sailing from Port Canaveral. It was a fantastic trip that I thrilled to have taken with my family. Port Canaveral I really liked Port Canaveral with Disney's own terminal. Everything was organized and easy. Mickey and Minnie were taking photos with guests (although the line was really long). They were dressed adorably and had it not been for the long line, I would have loved a photo of my family with them. Be prepared! Everyone must be present to check-in for the cruise, so one parent can't wait with kids while the other parent checks in. I am surprised that there is a parking fee. It seems a bit much like gouging since there's plenty of land available for the parking structure (it's not like the port is in the middle of a major city, like Miami or New Orleans). I need to email Disney about this! The Ship The ship was beautiful, immaculate, and well-laid out. The details are incredible. Castaway Cay was awesome. My husband and 10 yo ran the 5K. They had a great time together and made fantastic memories doing this run/walk. The water was cold in November, but the kids went in anyway. The beach was wonderful and did not feel crowded. We went to the beach closest to the ship because I was with my older mother, it was perfectly lovely. The Food The food was wonderful. We are foodies, so I had low expectations. However, I was really happy with the food. Breakfast was the only time where are meal was as expected for a large cruise ship. However, lunch and dinner were wonderful. Do yourself a favor and change out of pool attire to have a sit-down lunch in one of the restaurants. It was really nice to be served a lovely lunch. The Cabins We had 2 deluxe family verandah staterooms on Deck 9. They were quiet and peaceful. It was great having a verandah, although I think I would have been happy with an oceanview stateroom. We traveled with a 2 year old and I did worry that he would fall overboard, so I made everyone crazy with keeping the door closed. The rooms were incredibly spacious with tons of storage in the built-in cabinetry and a large closet with space for long hanging items and shorter hanging items with shoe storage underneath. I bought extra closet storage items per blog recommendations, but did not need any of it! The bathrooms weren't spacious, but they were as expected. The tub/shower was a nice size with lots of storage. Attire "Dress for dinner!" I am a young mom, but I believe that it's important to have good manners. I am teaching my children to have good manners for themselves and those around them. Each night at dinner there were parents and kids in shorts and t-shirts. I even saw dads wearing baseball caps. Who wears a hat indoors? It's so very inappropriate. My rule is: If there's a white tablecloth, then pants and dresses are absolutely required; jeans, shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops are not appropriate. The lack of decorum was a disappointment. I am not advocating for Downton Abbey dress attire, but cruise casual does not mean shorts and a t-shirts at dinner. It means that you don't have to wear a suit or semi-formal dress at dinner. I believe that if you are paying $10,000 for a family cruise, then you should dress appropriately. It also makes your evenings feel special (and they are special!!) and your character pics gorgeous!! Please help me spread the word to others--dress for dinner! Entertainment The shows were fantastic and great fun. Don't miss them!! What I am glad I brought/knew Clothespins to hang wet swimsuits Washers/dryers are available for small fee; irons are available at no charge. Iron the first night to get it over with. Wrinkled clothes make everyone look frumpy. Highlighter for the navigator Sticky notes to leave messages A valet tray to hold whatnots (order on Amazon; I have the one that snaps closed allowing it to lay flat for packing) Pop up clothes hamper (I have having dirty laundry everywhere; I have a tall one and it didn't quite fit in the closet. I will bring a shorter one next time). Dramamine/sea band (the seas were smooth, but I was glad to have it just in case) Bleach wipes (you never can be too careful; I wipe down everything in a cabin/room when we enter) Activity books for kids Trading pins and lanyards for pin trading night (I ordered from eBay) Best Part Device-free family time!! Not having wifi (you can buy a package, but rumor has it that it's weak). No one could escape to their device and as parents, we loved it! I downloaded movies/shows/magazines to our Kindles, but never really used them. We did the $250 shipboard deposit so that we can get 10% off our next cruise (which I am in the process of booking now!). I never thought we'd love the cruise (my husband is not a Disney fan), but we are all in for another cruise! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
We chose a Disney cruise because we've never done one (Disney) and there were some sailings out of NYC which saves us a flight. To review a Disney cruise, I have to break it into two pieces: a) Disney and b) Cruise. For the Disney ... Read More
We chose a Disney cruise because we've never done one (Disney) and there were some sailings out of NYC which saves us a flight. To review a Disney cruise, I have to break it into two pieces: a) Disney and b) Cruise. For the Disney part, it was potential 24/7 Disney immersion. If you love Disney, this will press all the buttons. Ongoing character meet-and-greet, Marvel day-at-sea, a day at WDW parks, movies, theatre etc. That being said, if you’re not a total Disney nut, you may wish to think about either choosing a bigger ship with more amenities or another cruise line. I can’t personally justify paying twice as much for a cruise when there were a lot of things that lacked vs. my experience on other cruises. Karl Holz, President of Disney Cruise Lines, said it best: “We’re an entertainment company that just happens to have a cruise line.” Even though there were some OMG moments on the cruise, they lost their luster due to lacking in other areas. Definitely not the best run cruise line I've experienced. The food in the dining rooms were great, and the Animator’s Palate was a wonderful experience, but the food experience throughout the rest of the ship was lackluster at best. Cabanas (the buffet) was repetitive and wasn’t even open for dinner. Dining is done in early or late seatings and even though we booked 2+ months in advance, we couldn’t elect the early seating and we have two kids under 6. This made for a tough dining experience with the formal dining (tired kids waiting course after course). The other option was to choose the “fast food” but for some unexplainable reason, there are no silverware setups outside anywhere after mid-afternoon, and if the weather is lousy, there is NO option to eat inside unless you go back to your cabin. I honestly don’t get that at all. Very frustrating. If you find a Disney cruise that goes to their private Castaway Cay, lucky you. I thought it was great. That was a highlight for me for sure. The cabin was unremarkable save for the 2-part bathroom. There is a WC separated from the bathing area which could make for a more convenient morning when more than one person needs primping. The cruise propaganda kept going on and on about their Broadway-quality theatrical performances, and their claim is valid based on talent and set design but how many kids do you know that would enjoy sitting thru Les Miserables? I find that my other experiences in the theatre on similar sized ships to be more interesting and with much more variety. Again, if you LOVE Disney and don’t mind hearing Under the Sea a dozen times in a week, you’re probably in the right place if it’s worth the much higher fares to you. The service and cleanliness were not on par with what I expect based on sailings on other cruise lines. On NCL, for example, almost every single employee was effusively outgoing and attentive. I did not get that impression with the Magic. Not that the service was bad, but not up to par versus the rest of the industry. And I remember walking the ship in the early morning on NCL cruises and seeing them cleaning things I would never ever think would need cleaning, yet they were steam cleaning and wiping down every corner and cranny they could find. It was not rare that I’d find rice krispies or popcorn littering carpets and chairs throughout the Magic. Railings were grimy and salty at times (both public and in my cabin) which I’ve never noticed on any other cruise ship. There is also no private, quiet adult area on this ship. What’s that? You’ve heard about Quiet Cove, the 18+ area reserved for adults? Well, yes, I thought that would be my respite too. But alas, it’s a thoroughfare for families between the 2 main pools and the aft elevators. As well, deck 10 is right above which is a main thoroughfare for kids going to the Wide World of Sports courts. So its status as a quiet, adult-only area is in title only, not in practice. On the flip side, the kids club was just a free-for-all with a bunch of video games and TVs. When our kids would come out of the NCL version, they'd be so excited about what they did and the new friends they met but with Disney, I'd walk in and they'd be unengaged, watching TV or playing video games. More than one time I walked in and found my kids amongst a few dozen sitting a few feet away from a huge TV playing Mickey cartoons. Although they DO have counsellor-led activities, they're not nearly as engaged with the kids as what I've experienced elsewhere. TL:DR – unless itinerary, departure city or a need for a Disney fix is of utmost importance to you, I cannot recommend the Disney Magic. Either try a newer Disney ship or find a different line and save your money (or take two cruises!) Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2017
BACKGROUND Well, it finally happened! For many years, I had researched Disney Cruise Lines. I'd read about them, looked at itineraries, activities, staterooms and deck plans, but I would stop short of booking a sailing once I got to ... Read More
BACKGROUND Well, it finally happened! For many years, I had researched Disney Cruise Lines. I'd read about them, looked at itineraries, activities, staterooms and deck plans, but I would stop short of booking a sailing once I got to the pricing page. I just couldn't get myself to book a cruise on Disney and pay what I perceived to be over inflated fares for a product that I wasn't even sure I cared much for. But now, raising a young family and always looking for a new cruise line to sail on, the time to do a Disney cruise seemed right. I pulled the trigger and booked a 7 night Very Merrytime Eastern Caribbean cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy during Thanksgiving week. I will digress a bit and start by stating that, even though we love to travel, and our 8 and 5 year old children have already visited 10 countries at such a young age, we had never been on ANY Disney vacation. I will admit it; we were not Disney enthusiasts. Our kids couldn't even tell the difference between a Disney cartoon or a PBS cartoon! But after some encouragement from friends who take multiple Disney vacations every year, we took our first vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando with them a month before sailing on the Disney Fantasy. We had a fantastic time on that land vacation and it provided a much needed warm up for our upcoming cruise, but I quickly realized what Disney rookies we were when my son was asked by Disney staff at a pool game what his favorite Disney character was. He blankly stared at her, and then chose the Yeti from Expedition Everest which he had ridden on earlier that day. PRE PLANNING We booked this cruise almost a year and half in advance, probably the earliest I've ever booked a cruise. Yet, I had my first taste of what a strong fan base this cruise line has when, even that far in advance, we had a hard time finding two connecting balcony staterooms and settled for the only ones available all the way aft on deck 7. Also, 1st seating dining was already full so we had to take 2nd seating. No matter how many times I checked, even after we boarded the ship and placed our name on a wait list, we weren't able to change it. But the most painful thing about this pre planning process was realizing that, even booking this far in advance, the price was almost 2 times more expensive than our inaugural season sailing on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, 3 times more expensive than our Alaska cruise on Holland America's Westerdam, and 5 times more expensive than our last Caribbean cruise on the MSC Divina! Based on that, I set my expectations very high for this Disney cruise. ITINERARY Originally, we were scheduled to sail to the Eastern Caribbean visiting Tortola, St Thomas and Castaway Cay. Unfortunately those islands were badly hurt by hurricanes Irma and Maria so we were switched to a western itinerary visiting Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Castaway Cay. THE DAY FINALLY ARRIVED! After a torturously long year and a half wait, cruise day finally arrived for what would be my 30th cruise. We drove from our home in Atlanta to Port Canaveral the day before the cruise, but we decided to spend the night in Jacksonville, FL and drive the remaining 2 hours on the morning of the cruise. We spent the night at Hotel Indigo in Tapestry Park which was ranked #1 on Trip Advisor. Great hotel, with wonderful rooms in a terrific location, which provided a perfect place to spend the night. EMBARKATION DAY During our online check-in, we were assigned a boarding time of 1:30-1:45pm. Even though some may have considered this late time slot less than desirable, this was ideal for us. In all of my years of cruising, I've always preferred to check in later for many reasons. First, we don't need to rush to be first in line or wait for our boarding number to be called. Second, check in lines have usually died down closer to sailaway time. Third, we prefer to eat lunch before getting on the ship, and fourth, because staterooms are ready by then so we can proceed straight to ours instead of wandering around the ship waiting. This time was no exception. We arrived in Port Canaveral around 11am and had a very enjoyable and relaxing lunch at Grill's Restaurant overlooking the cruise ships. Shortly before 1:30pm we proceeded to our cruise terminal. Even though there are considerably cheaper parking options in the area, we always choose to park right at the terminal. We pre-paid online a few days prior to the cruise. We entered the cruise terminal and found zero lines at the security checkpoint, followed by zero lines at the check in counter, followed by zero lines to board the ship! The entire process was so fast and efficient that it seemed like a blur. I didn't even have time to appreciate any of the little details that Disney is known for. Before we knew it, our family name was announced as we entered the beautiful ship's atrium. I turned around and realized that my wife, who rarely shows any emotion about vacations, had tears in her eyes. Maybe there's something truly magical about a Disney cruise or maybe the effect of pixie dust is something real! THE SHIP Disney did an absolutely fantastic job designing the Fantasy. Even though it's a 129,000 ton ship, and this was our first time sailing on this cruise line, we quickly learned our way around the ship. And even though we thought that being all the way aft would be a negative, we were close to the third bank of elevators which made getting to the kids club and the buffet restaurant a breeze. Needless to say, the ship has Disney touches everywhere, but it's all done in a subtle and classic way. The Art Deco inspired decor makes the ship feel more like an upscale cruise ship or hotel than a Disney park. It took us a few days to realize that we hadn't smelled cigarette smoke since the cruise began. And it dawned on us that the ship doesn't have a casino, which is normally where the worst smoke smells emanate from. Also, the smoking areas are very limited which helps maintain most of the ship blissfully smoke free. We just saw one smoking area near an outdoor bar in the adults area. Needless to say, we are not smokers or gamblers when we hadn't even noticed the casino's absence, but it's something that first time Disney cruisers (and smokers) should be aware of. STATEROOM We booked 2 connecting deluxe verandah staterooms, one for my parents, and one for my family of 4, which included our 2 children aged 8 and 5 years old. These are the "smaller" balcony staterooms offered on this ship, but square footage was still larger than what we've experienced on other cruise lines for similar types of accommodations. However, the layout felt tighter. Part of it may be because these staterooms have a split bathroom which may occupy more square footage, and also because the bed is closer to the door and closet disrupting flow as one enters the stateroom (I prefer to have the sitting are closer to the door and the bed closer to the balcony). Also the coffee table, which doubles as storage space, feels like a large block oddly placed in the middle of the sitting area. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic stateroom, tastefully decorated and with plenty of storage space for our entire family on a 7 day cruise. As it's customary on most cruise lines we've sailed on, beds are raised enough to provide a place to store large suitcases. The split bathroom, with toilet in one side and shower in the other, may occupy more square footage but it was a welcome feature which came in handy more than once. The provided wave phones which can be used all over the ship as well as on Castaway Cay were a nice touch although we never used them. The sliding balcony glass door was one of the best designed we've seen and it also minimized the possibility of locking oneself outside as we had experienced on other cruise lines in the past. Needless to say, The TV system offered a lot of Disney content, including tons of free Disney movies. Non-Disney content was much more limited than what we've experienced on other cruise lines but thankfully we barely watch TV on vacation anyway. We did miss having the ability to do more things interactively from our stateroom, like making and changing reservations for shore excursions, specialty dining reservations, or simply checking and reviewing our onboard account as is now customary on other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean. FELLOW PASSENGERS I don't know if the reason is because this was a Thanksgiving sailing, when most schools across the USA are on break, or because this is how Disney normally is, but this group of passengers was one of the most homogeneous and less diverse I've experienced on a cruise in years. Maybe great for some, but not so great for those who consider meeting people from other countries, cultures, or ethnicities a highlight and an integral part of cruising. We also realized that many, if not most fellow passengers, were repeat Disney cruisers. It seemed that, every time that a staff member asked how many repeat Disney cruisers were onboard, majority of people would raise their hands and cheer. It always seemed that us Disney first timers were a very small minority. We also saw tons of passengers wearing their Castaway Club lanyards. One thing that I always enjoy is watching other fellow passengers wearing shirts or hats identifying cruise lines that they've sailed on in the past. I can say that, on this particular sailing, I literally didn't see one during the entire week. The only cruise wear that I saw was for Disney Cruise Lines. I almost felt as if I was breaking some secret dress code by wearing my Princess Cruise Lines baseball cap. Nonetheless, fellow passengers were in the most part a pleasure to sail with and the vast majority were courteous, polite, and happy. One negative that I saw was that it seems like Disney has a bad case of "chogs" (chair hogs). Even though there are clear signs everywhere reminding people not to reserve chairs with towels or personal items for extended periods of time, I saw a large amount of loungers already hogged as early as 6:30am which is when I would go for an early morning walk around the upper decks. Vastly more than I've ever soon on any other cruise line and in far more creative ways. So not even Disney's magic can make the chogs disappear on this cruise line! One things is for sure. Disney cruisers are rabidly enthusiastic about the Disney product. I got my first taste of it walking down the hallway to my stateroom and seeing so many doors, not only decorated, but in such creative and painstaking ways, many with professionally made personalized items. A lot of thought and time probably went into many of these door decoration displays. Although I have seen cabin decor before on other cruise lines, specially on Carnival, I have NEVER seen anything close to what I witnessed on Disney in terms of quantity and creativity. Our stateroom doors stood out because they were so bare. Amusingly, someone anonymously decorated our door with all sorts of Disney magnets on day two. A day or two later, we had even more personally made magnets wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving from another family onboard. It made us smile and brightened our cruise even more. ONBOARD EXPERIENCE Our sailing was a Very Merrytime cruise, which meant that the ship was decorated for Christmas. We have sailed during the Christmas season before, but nothing that we've experienced has ever come close to what we saw on this Disney sailing. Decoration throughout the ship was absolutely beautiful and tasteful, specially in the atrium. The list of Christmas themed activities was extensive which allowed people to really immerse themselves in the Christmas spirit. Participation in most Disney themed activities is very high. There are always long lines any time that there's a Disney character nearby. Even though having photos taken with any character was nowhere in our must do list, we ended posing with Mickey, Pluto and Stitch and our daughter participated in a Princess gathering. Pirate Night seemed like the highlight of the cruise for most passengers. I was advised by our friends back home to bring pirate wear (which we didn't do, thinking that it would be silly and unnecessarily occupy space in our suitcases) but nothing could prepare me for, not only the fact that most people did bring pirate wear on this cruise, but also for how elaborate some of these costumes were. I saw several families in movie quality, custom made, matching outfits that looked like something straight out of a Pirates of the Caribbean movie. It almost made me feel like a bad parent for not going out of my way for this night! Thankfully our children seemed perfectly happy to just wear the cruise line provided pirate bandanas and have a pirate Mickey painted on their cheeks. ENTERTAINMENT I was obviously expecting plenty of Disney entertainment on this cruise, and I was not let down. Disney movies and character appearances dominated the daily activities with a sprinkling of other activities throughout the day. However, what I wasn't quite prepared for is how limited non-Disney activities would be. Granted, most people sailing on Disney adore Disney themed entertainment, but for those who would prefer a more diverse selection of activities, the options were a bit slim. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed most activities onboard, but I would lie if I said that there weren't times when I just wanted something different. On deck during the day, Disney movies on funnel vision (Disney's version of the outdoor big screen) dominated daily pool activities. No pool games or silly competitions that are the norm on other cruise lines. The Aquaduck was a unique feature which we used almost on a daily basis. Lines did tend to get long, sometimes requiring a 45 minute wait, but we learned to go either very early in the day as soon as it opened or in the early evening when most people would retire to participate in other activities or to get ready for dinner. Stage entertainment was a definite highlight on this cruise. The Walt Disney Theater is a wonderful venue rivaling some great theaters on land. Aladdin was fantastic and earned a standing ovation from the audience. We also enjoyed Believe on our last night onboard although not as much as Aladdin. We also had the opportunity of watching the premiere of Pixar's newest movie Coco which opened on Thanksgiving day. FOOD Disney uses the rotating dining room concept with an assigned table and time but at a different restaurant every night. You get to dine at each one of the 3 main dining rooms at least twice during a 7 night cruise. For us, Animator's Palate provided the most entertaining dining. We enjoyed Enchanted Forest and Royal Court as well. However, the consensus about the food was inconsistent. Some courses, specially at the beginning of the cruise, were memorable. Others were mediocre at best. One night (our 2nd night at Animator's Palate) was downright awful. Although the rotating dining room is a great concept that breaks the monotony of eating at the same dining room every night, we sorely missed the flexibility that any time dining provides on other cruise lines. We hate having to eat at the same time and table every night. And having an 8:15pm dinner time absolutely sucked for our kids that normally eat closer to 6:00pm back home. They powered through it, but most nights ended with one or both kids either asleep at the table or having a melt down. We enjoyed dinner at Palo, one of two specialty restaurants onboard, one night. We thoroughly enjoyed having an adults only dinner. The facilities where these two restaurants are located are very adult oriented and provide a quiet and enjoyable haven away from the high energy, kid friendly rest of the ship. The execution was wonderful, however the quality of the main courses fell short of expectations. I ordered the rack of lamb, and honestly it wasn't as good as the rack of lamb that I had at the Royal Court on a different night. We've enjoyed better quality and taste on Carnival's specialty restaurants. However we've learned that specialty restaurants are in big part about the ambiance, which Palo delivered extremely well. One negative that soured the beginning of our time at Palo a bit was our waiter. Although he did a fantastic job, his introduction centered on how good Disney is because the other cruise lines aren't. He was aware that we were first time Disney cruisers, but I don't believe he knew that we are seasoned cruisers who've sailed on pretty much every other mainstream cruise line. On that particular day, there were two Freedom class Royal Caribbean ships in Port with us, and our waiter spent part of his introduction telling us how dirty those ships are and how inferior their product is (which in our experience, they are not). In my humble opinion, you don't uplift once cruise line by looking down at the others. It's tacky and unprofessional. Cabana's is the buffet restaurant, and the experience here is at par with what we've experienced on other cruise lines. Nothing that would set them apart, either above or below. I personally prefer the "islands" layout where one can go from one station to the next without having to stand in long lines and which feels less cluttered, but overall, Cabana's was pleasant enough to enjoy a casual breakfast or lunch. The free ice cream stations were great and offer more variety than what we've experienced before, but they are not open 24 hours a day like on Carnival. Probably a good thing, otherwise I would've indulged much more than I did. SERVICE Overall, this is where Disney truly shines and is leaps and bounds superior to what we've experienced before. We didn't come across one crew member who didn't smile or was eager to please. No matter what we asked for, we never heard the word "no". Instead, they would courteously and patiently tell us what they could do for us. Little details, like knowing our names and delivering our drinks of choice before asking at dinner time left a memorable and positive mark. Disney does an exemplary job training their employees. We also had a maintenance issue with our stateroom's toilet, and they responded and solved the problem within 15 minutes of placing the call. Not only that, but the following day we had 4 Mickey shaped Rice Krispies bars delivered to our stateroom with a personalized note apologizing for the inconvenience. We were already beyond satisfied with the way the Disney had responded to our issue, but this token of their appreciation took their customer service to an even higher level. KIDS PROGRAM The Oceaneer's Club and Lab are the kids areas on this ship. In a nutshell, they are fantastic. They are large, high tech areas, divided into different themed rooms with tons of activities for the kids. The check-in process is excellent. Kids are given magic bands which they wear the entire week. The kids location can then electronically be tracked. Staff could tell us exactly where in the kids club our kids were located. But as wonderful as the facilities were, our kids surprisingly told us that they preferred the kids club on Royal Caribbean and most recently on MSC. Why? Because Disney keeps kids confined in the kids club most of the time. On other cruise lines, several activities are held on other venues around the ship which allows the kids to be escorted around and not feel so confined. The other reason why my kids preferred other programs is because, on Disney, when they ate a meal at the club, they said that what was offered was horrible and repetitive (cheese sandwiches were common). On other cruise lines, the kids are taken to the buffet as a group where they can select what they want to eat. On MSC, they even have an entire section of the buffet decorated and devoted to children and that's where they are taken. For some reason which still is beyond my understanding, my kids fell in love with MSC's mascot, Doremi, who also had his own theme song (which they kept singing over and over, even weeks after we returned from that cruise). But they didn't develop the same obsession for any character or song on Disney. Go figure. PORTS As mentioned before, our Eastern Caribbean itinerary was swapped to a Western Caribbean itinerary due to the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. We had been in Cozumel and Costa Maya several times, but it had been years since I'd been to Grand Cayman by cruise ship, and obviously we'd never been to Castaway Cay. - Cozumel: We'd booked a Dolphin Swim Adventure in Tortola directly from Dolphin Discovery months in advance. They offered a discount which brought the cost per person to only $59 (vs. $139 if we'd booked it directly through Disney's Port Adventures). Once our schedule was changed to Cozumel, Dolphin Discovery graciously changed our reservation and honored the original price. Although we enjoyed this experience, it's not something that we will want to do again. After we finished, we returned to the Punta Langosta Pier where we checked out the stores for a few minutes before returning to the ship. - Grand Cayman: This is the one Port that I had been looking forward to. The last time I'd been here on a cruise was before our kids were born. Although the ship made it there on our last visit, we had to anchor off Spots Bay, far from Georgetown due to high winds and choppy seas. That also meant that all water excursions were canceled. This time, we booked a 2:15pm Shipwreck & Reef excursion through Disney's Port Adventures and crossed our fingers. We made it to Grand Cayman and anchored off Georgetown, but shortly after that, it started storming, and it wouldn't stop. We took an early tender to explore Georgetown before the excursion but ended at the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch to kill time and to take shelter from the heavy rain. Thankfully, the skies cleared and by the time the excursion began, we were blessed with a spectacular, clear skies afternoon. This excursion proved to be one of the highlights of this cruise. Exploring the Cali's shipwreck was fantastic. The water in the Caymans is one of the clearest I've ever seen. The reef was also wonderful, with tons of fish everywhere. Our excursion was over just in time to take the last tender back to the ship at 530pm. This is one island that I'd love to visit again with more time. - Costa Maya: Our stop here was short, only 5 hours. On previous visits we'd been to the Chachobben Mayan Ruins and explored the village of Mahahual. This time, due to the short visit, we decided to stay in the welcome center and just check things out. It has considerably changed since our last visit in 2011. It has received a major facelift and an enormous water park has been built. It's still as chaotic as the last time I visited though. Too many stores and attractions jammed into one place . Many stores sell the usual junky, touristy trinkets that aren't even made in Mexico, but there are several interesting stores that sell authentic, Mexican made crafts and other items. We purchased a few things and returned to the ship. - Castaway Cay: Disney's private island. From the ship, it looks like any other private island that we've visited on other cruise lines, but it has the advantage of having a pier. It's also much better developed, in true Disney fashion. Activities are similar to what other cruise lines offer though, down to the BBQ lunch on land. We enjoyed the water park at Pelican Point which was unique because it floats on the ocean and the only way to get there is by swimming to it. We also explored by foot the more desolate parts of the island and made it to the observation tower. It didn't rain, but the weather didn't cooperate, with overcast skies and gusty winds, which meant that most water related excursions and activities were canceled. Still, we enjoyed our time here tremendously. DEBARKATION We enjoyed breakfast at the Royal Court on the last morning at 8:00am. We said goodbye to our fantastic dining room staff and proceeded to disembark. No calls for group numbers or assigned times. Yet, debarkation was painless and leisurely. We were in our car, driving home by 9:30am. OVERALL IMPRESSION AND FINAL THOUGHTS So, the big question is, was Disney worth what they charge? Although I still consider that the prices that they charge are overinflated, after experiencing a week on the Disney Fantasy I believe that they are not as overinflated as I thought prior to our cruise and there are several factors that justify the higher prices. Disney does a great job and provides a very memorable and unique experience, like nothing out there. There are several superlatives, most notably the unparalleled service, the quality of nightly entertainment, the small details throughout, and the great kids facilities. But on the same token, there are many things that other cruise lines do just as well or better at a fraction of the cost. You do pay a premium for the Disney experience, but looking at many of our very loyal to Disney fellow cruisers, it's worth it to them. Will I ever take another Disney cruise? Perhaps, but I won't be rushing to sail on them again immediately. Not because there's anything wrong with Disney, but because we are the kind of people that prefer to try new things rather than to stay loyal to one cruise line or product. We would look at Disney again if they provide an itinerary which we haven't done before and if the price is right. But overall, we are extremely glad and grateful that we had the opportunity of sailing on Disney, and I can now see more clearly why they have such a loyal following. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2017
The buffet is the best in the business the dinners are just ok. We had excellent service from the wait staff and from our steward. The ship is one of best for beauty and entertainment. The rest rooms were messy they left cleaning products ... Read More
The buffet is the best in the business the dinners are just ok. We had excellent service from the wait staff and from our steward. The ship is one of best for beauty and entertainment. The rest rooms were messy they left cleaning products on the floor. I really enjoyed the believe show and the comedian Taylor Mason. We had awesome Christian speakers and the Mercy Me performances were excellent. I love the water slide the fitness center is equipped ok the life fitness equipment is some of the worst on the market. We really liked taking pictures with the characters and the Pirate party with fireworks was a lot of fun. I did not enjoy the tv options they did not have a movie option. The Cast away cay day was great in the adult only section the food on the island was very good. The cabin has plenty of space and was kept very clean while we were on the ship. Read Less
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