Disney Fantasy Cruise Review by CruisinChills
- Sail Date: February 2019
- Destination: Western Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah
Our traveling party: Myself (48), husband (57), our daughter (13), and our niece (24)
TRANSFER TO PORT FROM WDW HOTEL:
We had a few days pre-cruise at the Beach Club. On Friday we received a letter stating our meeting time and place the next morning (by 11:20 am, Beach Club Solarium). We boarded buses by 11:30 as everyone had already checked in, and reached Port Canaveral around 12:45.
Possibly the quickest and easiest embarkation I have ever experienced in my many years of cruising. Did the complete online check-in before arrival. Minimal wait at security (minutes at most), up the escalators, right into the check-in line where we received the simplest health form ever (just one for the whole family, rather than one for everyone), and were called immediately to the counter before I'd even filled in the two blanks on the form! I handed over the Port Arrival form, the agent took one group picture (rather than individual pictures) for our identification, and then she gave us a boarding card showing Group 22 and they were already up to Group 28 so we were free to board immediately! Honestly it was so quick we didn't even get a picture under the Mickey entranceway, or near the ship model! The longest line we waited in was to get our boarding pictures taken! I was super-impressed with embarkation.
We had a Deluxe Family Oceanview with Verandah on Deck 5 Starboard. It was a fabulous choice for our group -- the verandah was oversized and even though the room itself is a bit tight with 4 grown people, there was plenty of storage for clothes (and luggage under the bed). Our location was PERFECT, close to the elevators, not in a busy hall, just a quick trip downstairs to the aft public areas and a quick zip up the elevator to Deck 11 for the buffet or the pools. When (not if!) I sail on the Fantasy again, I'll be doing it in the same cabin! The cabin has a divided bathroom -- one has the toilet and a sink, the other has a shower and the sink. Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion (and bar soap) are provided in the bathroom; however, unlike at Disney parks, their wonderful H2O shower gel is NOT in the cabins. Thankfully we had brought some with us from our stay at the parks. ;-) (It's also available for purchase -- not inexpensively! -- in the shops.) I found the king bed very comfortable, the pillows OK depending on which one got put in my spot each night, and the lighting all adequate. I love the dividing curtain for the king bed from the bunk beds. The kids slept later so we could turn lights on in the morning and not bother them.
Well, obviously we liked the ship the first time, because we went back! I actually love the Fantasy. First of all, I think it's a really attractive, classic-looking ship. Secondly, it's really well-maintained, inside and out -- neat, clean, shipshape. Third, I think it has a really good layout of public spaces -- the only part that is a little confusing are the public lounges on Deck 4 aft, and it's really kind of a cool little warren in there so even though it's a bit of a maze, it's wonderful! The pools on Deck 11 are not large, but to be honest, I never even attempted to go in one. My "spot" is in the Quiet Cove adult pool area, preferably on one of the four round loungers with a good book. ;-) (But if I could make a recommendation, I think Disney could perhaps add a few more of these round loungers, perhaps on the starboard side ... with only 4 available, all on the port side, they're a pretty hot commodity, and people that get them are prone to stay in them all day long! Or at least their clothes and belongings are.) The upper sundecks in this area are also really nice. Back to the main pools, there are (obviously) a lot of kids there, and if you've got young kids, this is where you'll be. Kids just hang out in the pool and watch the movies on Funnel Vision all day long. The AquaDuck slide is also here, and the lines can get long. I recommend going on a port day if you stay onboard, or after 5pm.
Disney makes use of a rotational dining plan whereby you are assigned to a specific table # at a specific dinner seating, and then you rotate to each of the three main restaurants twice during a 7-day cruise (and a third time for one of them). So for example, our Key to the World card had the letters "ERAERRA" on it. This meant on night one we ate at Enchanted Garden, night two at Royal Court, night three at Animator's Palate, and then so forth. In our case, our extra night was a third night at Royal Court. Enchanted Garden has colored cielings that change colors during the meal, and the flower chandeliers open up as well. Royal Court is more princess/Cinderella-themed, with carriage bread baskets and the like. Animator's Palate is the most unique and interesting, with Mickey Mouse themed chairs and cleverly integrated screens on all the walls that can look like portraits, or come alive and entertain you during the meal. The menu is the same at each restaurant on any given night -- so for example if you are assigned to Royal Court one night, you are not "missing out" on anything they are serving at Enchanted Garden, because all three restaurants have the same offerings each night.
Now, the service and food. We were assigned to the second seating, which is at 8:15pm. (First seating is at 5:45pm.) The service was OVERALL very good. We were actually quite surprised and disappointed on the first night when our service was ridiculously, unacceptably slow. We placed our orders at 8:30 and didn't receive drinks until 9:15pm! Then the soups came at 9:30. The entrees did not arrive until closer to 10:00pm. At this point there was no chance of us making our next planned activity and we didn't finish the meal until after 10:15pm. Vacations are too short to be spending that much time in the dining room each night, but I know things happen and I am not a complainer so we just hoped the next night would be better. It was, but it was still considerably slower than I am used to on a ship, and again we missed an evening activity we had planned to attend. I still didn't want to say anything, but we began to arrive slightly early, and we had already reviewed the menus on the DCL Navigator App before we arrived so we knew what we wanted to order. Suddenly starting on Night 3 we placed orders immediately and were eating appetizers by 8:35! It made a huge difference and this level of service remained throughout the week. I don't know if someone else complained, or if there were some kinks the first couple of nights, but everything cleared up on Day 3. Our primary waiter was a little difficult to understand and very brusque those first two nights, and suddenly on Day 3, different person. Spent time with us, showed us fun games, and also got us our food in a timely manner. I'm glad I didn't complain and get him in trouble, but I don't know if someone else did. These are all hard-working people just trying to earn a living and I never would want to make their lives harder!
The food itself was good but I won't go for great. A couple of times I got soup that was lukewarm at best, and nothing else was super-hot either. There are not a lot of selections on the menu -- typically 5 main entrees being offered, not counting the everyday offerings of grilled salmon, chicken, or steak. Thankfully I was always able to find something that I could eat. I am not a fan of lobster but I know for some reason lobster is a HUGE thing with cruisers (and I have heard a lot of complaining on chat boards for other cruise lines where lobster has been removed from the menus), so fans of this particular dish will be glad to know there were a couple of nights where lobster was offered.
Other food offerings on the ship are Flo's 8 Diner on Deck 11 near the pools, which offers pizza, burgers, chicken fingers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, and fruit pretty much all day long, and the buffet on Deck 11 aft called Cabanas. I grabbed something from Flo's most days for lunch as Cabanas was already closed at 2pm when I'd return from my port adventures, and Flo's does a surprisingly good job of serving up decent food. The pizza was much better (according to my niece) than the pizza she got in Cabanas one day, and the fries were always fresh and hot. We did have lunch in Cabanas at least once, and there were similar selections (burgers, fries, etc) but with obviously a bit more variety -- some ethnic foods and pastas, for example, and also a wide array of desserts. (The only dessert I ever got there was on Star Wars Day, and it was chocolate brownie with a Darth Vader chocolate on top, and it was delicious.) We also had breakfast at Cabanas most days, ranging from just cereal and fruit to the full "English" -- sausages, hash browns, grilled tomatoes, etc. I can say that for me, the scrambled eggs were inedible -- I'm sure they're not actually eggs, and also they are cooked way too soft for my particular taste, but people must eat them because they keep making them! Far better choices for eggs were the omelets, whether pre-made or made-to-order.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES:
Not having small kids, this is the first cruise I've been on in many years where we did not have a child attending the kids' club. However my daughter (13) was a daily visitor to Edge, the "tween" club which is for ages 11-14. All the clubs (youth, tween, teen) have similar activities at different days and times. My daughter LOVES the programming, from GAGA ball to Heroes and Villains.
For adult daily entertainment, my husband, niece and I were mostly drawn to the trivia contests. There was a pretty loyal following for trivia who showed up to most of the 18+ contests that were offered. Most of these contests were held in O'Gills pub, on Deck 4 aft, which is a great little sports pub where for a little extra you can also get a nice warm German pretzel with your beverage. ;-) I would have enjoyed even more trivia or similar contests to be offered, especially on the last day when there was only one!
Having done this cruise before, and attended EVERY evening show in the big theater, this time we only attended one! We remembered enjoying EVERYTHING last time, but my niece isn't really "into" the shows, so the only one we went to this time was "Aladdin". It's still great, although I liked it better two years ago. Maybe it was the novelty. So, unfortunately I can't comment on the other entertainment such as the ventriloquist or the juggler. I would love to see something like the dueling pianos (Howl at the Moon) that is available on several of the NCL ships, that's for sure one of my favorites and there is nothing like that for adults here. We did attend a couple of adults game shows in the Tube (also Deck 4 aft), and they were all entertaining, especially the Star Wars Superfan challenge which we all go to take part in. ;-)
With the sole exception of the slow and brusque service on nights one and two of our dining rotation, EVERY SINGLE INTERACTION with a crew member was a positive experience. The staff onboard is so friendly, so helpful, always service with a smile. And just to be clear, we ended up LOVING our waiter. It was just a little bit of a rocky beginning. Everyone from bar staff (Jerkson in O'Gills Pub was our favorite) to Guest Services was outstanding.
PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS:
COZUMEL, MEXICO - We've been to Cozumel probably too many times at this point, so instead of the usual snorkeling or beach (the two main things to do there), we tried something different. We did a ship excursion to Cozumel Ruins, with a trip also to a Cacao "factory". Our guide Miguel was really good, the Mayan ruins were interesting although a short visit there is plenty. To be clear, these are NOT the famous ruins at Chichen Itza! Those are also offered as an excursion but you'd spent most of your day on a bus getting there and back. This was a chance to see some Mayan ruins on a much smaller scale while not spending all day traveling, and we enjoyed it. The cacao factory was not really a factory, it was a demonstration (ironically at Playa Mia which is where we did a beach break excursion two years ago) of chocolate-making and an opportunity to buy chocolate.
GEORGETOWN, GRAND CAYMAN - This is a beautiful island and certainly more picturesque and less run-down than Cozumel is. We did a ship excursion which was an "island tour and Saltwater forest". The tour was fine but not really what I expected. It was nice to see the island and we had like 5 minutes on 7-mile beach to take a picture. However the "saltwater forest", which is what drew me in, was not really a forest so much as a boat ride through a bay and then parking in a little clump of mangroves, where we then learned all about mangroves. It was interesting, but not really what I pictured when I read about boating through a "saltwater forest". This could just be that my imagination had a whole different scene in mind. That said, again we had interesting, knowledgeable guides.
FALMOUTH, JAMAICA - Having Falmouth before and stayed on board (well, the husband went golfing), we know there's not a lot to do right in this area. However, we had visited Ocho Rios on a different cruise line in the past and loved the Dunn's River Falls/Bobsled Jamaica excursion, so we did that again, albeit with the longer bus ride to get there this time. It was maybe about an hour's ride so really not bad at all. If you've never climbed the falls before, DO IT, it's a great experience. Strenuous, if you're not in decent shape, but the guides are really helpful! And then the "Sky Explorer" chairlift that gets you up to the top of Mystic Mountain to do the Bobsled Jamaica is a great experience on its own. It gets HOT up there and is EXPOSED, so wear sunscreen or even carry an umbrella to shade yourself! Also hold on to your flip-flops! The bobsled is a fun ride, like a self-run roller coaster (you control your own speed). One caveat, you have to exit Dunn's River Falls through the "craft market" -- I always wonder if the Jamaicans will ever realize that if they were not so aggressive and did NOT use so many tricks to get you to buy things (like posing for a picture, etc. etc), they might sell more merchandise? For example, my niece is a souvenir FANATIC, and would have certainly bought something (someTHINGS) had she been allowed to browse the wares. But because you can't even engage in a "hello" without immediately being set upon and wheedled, she, like us, just sort of walked straight through, not looking left or right, repeating, "no thank you, no thank you". I guarantee she is not the only customer they lose for this reason. She's not comfortable with the hard sell but would definitely buy if allowed the peace to do so.
CASTAWAY CAY - Funnily enough, we didn't love Castaway Cay on our first visit -- we perhaps weren't prepared for it, found people very obnoxiously grabbing up and "claiming" all the chairs in sight, the slides had long waits, the food was better on the ship, etc. However, this time we had some activities planned and it was a great day! My daughter went parasailing, which she LOVED, and she may even convince me to do it next time. ;-) Then all four of us enjoyed some time floating around in the lagoon for a while, and even though I found the water chilly two years ago in April, this time it was really pleasant (even though only February). Also there was no shortage of chairs or shade. It's just a really well-maintained (I expect nothing less of Disney) island. After our swimming, we embarked on a jet-ski tour. These were doubles so my niece drove my daughter and my husband drove me. It was fun although be warned the water was QUITE choppy just outside the cove, where we went out into the sea a bit. There is a lot of jostling and bouncing and especially with two people on the jet-ski, you can't stand up like you can when you're a single rider to alleviate the impact of the waves. We did enter another quiet cove and got to speed around in there for a bit, and then we parked on a sandbar seemingly in the middle of nowhere and just floated around in the water for a 10-minute break. It was quite peaceful there and almost felt like you were the only people in the world. Our jet-ski was low on fuel and the warning light (and accompanying alarm buzzer) was on the whole ride back, which was very annoying, but we did make it back in. We did not eat at the BBQ this time as we recalled it wasn't great last time, instead we re-boarded the ship around 2:15 and got some items from Flo's, and enjoyed the AquaDuck and pools before most people came back on board.
STAR WARS DAY AT SEA:
So, this is the main reason we choose this particular itinerary -- we LOVE Star Wars, and my niece is also a huge fan (as evidenced by her runner-up placing in the Star Wars Superfan challenge!) so we wanted her to experience this since we had enjoyed it so much a couple of years ago. While the second sea day (Thursday) is officially the "Star Wars Day", there are two photo ops available all week (the Star Wars Day At Sea background, and the Han Solo frozen in carbonite statue) that you can pose with. Additionally, there is a Star Wars movie every night in the Buena Vista theater, which is a great chance to see the "originals" on the big screen if you never had. (Although, my one big complaint is that these films started at 10:45 every night, which meant we watched an hour at most each night before we had to turn in if we were to have any chance of getting up for our excursions. I believe they should have been shown at least one other time during the cruise!) Then the night before, while not on the Navigator, at 10pm in the Atrium all of a sudden the Star Wars music comes on and the ship is "taken over" by the Empire, led, of course, by Darth Vader and crew. The Atrium was JAMMED with people on all three levels so while I did not see it advertised, obviously people knew it was coming! From that moment on throughout the next day, all the music on the ship's speakers, in the hallways, everywhere, was all Star Wars music, which is awesome, and on that day there are lots of other "experiences" you can choose, for example we had photo ops scheduled with the droids and with Darth Vader, you can also choose Chewbacca, or your younglings (3-12) can train to be Jedi. There are Star Wars-themed events, such as the BB-8 races in the atrium, where kids can sign up to race miniature BB-8's along a mat and the winners go on to the finals. The menus in the restaurants have a Star Wars theme, as do the drinks of the day ("Galaxy in a Glass", anyone?). It's just great fun, and best of all, SO MANY PEOPLE dress up for the event. This could range from just Star Wars t-shirts, the variety of which you can't even imagine, to the full cosplay experience -- one girl in a costume for a character I didn't even know (from Rebels) had spent two hours on makeup and getting dressed, and it showed. It's also the only day they show Star Wars movies all day in the Buena Vista theater, unfortunately the ones being played during the day were the ones I don't like! (1, 2, and 3, although I don't mind 3 and would have watched that one if it hadn't overlapped dinner.) There was Star Wars trivia, and the Superfan challenge, and it is just great fun for Star Wars fans. I have read a negative review on here from a grandma who "happened" to be on a cruise with a Star Wars day at sea and complained there was nothing ELSE to do that day if you don't like Star Wars. It could be a fair point, but for ME, I remember thinking, "it's too bad I'm a Star Wars fan, this would be a GREAT chance to get a lounger at the Quiet Cove, swim in the pools, ride the AquaDuck, etc. -- all the things that are usually much busier! To each his own.
WOULD I GO AGAIN? Are you kidding? Just as soon as I can save up for it ...!
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
ParasailingMy 13-year-old daughter was the only one brave enough to parasail but she LOVED it. The only reason I give it a "very good" rather than an "excellent" is that no one could ride on the boat with her (which I understand, they need all the space for parasailers), but then I'd think they would include a photographer on the boat to take pictures of this experience! My husband went back onboard the Fantasy and up to the upper decks on the bow to try to get photos, but couldn't tell who was who from that distance. This seems like a major missed opportunity for the charter company who runs this, or even Disney, who is not usually one to miss a chance to sell you something extra. We would have bought the photo for sure!View All 7 Parasailing Reviews
Watercraft Ski AdventureThis was fun but for me personally it was too choppy when you have to leave the cove and go out into the open sea a bit. We did go into another cove where the water was great for jet-skiing, and then we stopped on a sandbar halfway through where we had a 10-minute break to look at conch, float in the clear, clear blue water, etc. I really liked it but the jostling (as a backseat passenger) was a bit much for me. The kids loved it.View All 5 Watercraft Ski Adventure Reviews
Mayan RuinsThe ruins in Cozumel are interesting but of course not on remotely the same scale as the ruins at Tulum/Chichen Itza. That said, we didn't have to spend all day on a bus and ferry to get there, so that's the trade-off! Our tour guide was excellent and the chocolate-making was interesting but brief.View All 378 Mayan Ruins Reviews
Dunn's River FallsThis is a must-do in Jamaica if you've never done it before. Beautiful, picturesque, exhausting, exhilarating. Beware the craft market you have to walk through to get back to your bus, the vendors are beyond pushy.View All 221 Dunn's River Falls Reviews
Jamaica Bobsled ExperienceThis can be packaged with your Dunn's River Falls climb, along with the Sky Explorer. You ride a chairlift on about a 15-20 minute climb to the top of Mystic Mountain, then line up to ride the bobsleds. It's kind of like a self-run roller-coaster -- the track is similar to roller coaster with twists and turns (albeit no huge plunges), and you control your own speed with a hand brake. Then the track pulls you back up to the top when it's over, and you ride the Sky Explorer back down. There was also a lunch included at the top of Mystic Mountain, featuring some jerk chicken (which is spicy, if you don't realize it already!). The bobsled is really fun to do.View All 27 Jamaica Bobsled Experience Reviews
Sky Explorer ChairliftThis was part of our package with Dunn's River and the bobsled experience. You can do just this and the Dunn's River without doing the bobsled if you prefer, but the bobsled is great fun. This chairlift is a 15-20 minute ride to the top of the mountain (and the same coming back down). On the way up it is particularly beautiful, with great views of the bay and usually whatever cruise ship is docked at Ocho Rios that day. It is HOT and exposed up there, so wear sunscreen and maybe even bring an umbrella to shade yourself (like I saw one of the smart tour guides doing!).View All 10 Sky Explorer Chairlift Reviews
Island TourThis was a pretty brief tour of the island, with like a 5-minute stop at 7-mile beach to take a photo (and we were encouraged not to actually get sand on our shoes, what??). It also included a visit to Hell, the neighborhood and store where you can send a postcard if you're so inclined.View All 194 Island Tour Reviews
Saltwater ForestAnother interesting but not exhilarating excursion. The "saltwater forest" is a bit of misnomer, it puts an image in your head which is not realistic at all. What you actually get on this portion of the excursion is parked in a clump of mangroves for 30 minutes so you can learn about mangroves. The middle school science teacher in our group was enthralled, but for those less scientifically inclined, it was interesting but not something I'd ever need to do again.View All 4 Saltwater Forest Reviews