BACKGROUND: This cruise was a birthday cruise for my older daughter who is turning 5. We also have a 20 month old girl. We thought about doing the theme parks, but figured that is more stressful and we’d wait until the girls are older. So we decided on DCL. Also joining us were my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and their 7 yr old daughter.
Technically, I’ve done DCL once before, on the Wonder. But that was a free cruise due to my friend working as a doctor on the ship (I crashed with him). So this was my first true DCL sailing with a family.
CABIN: We stayed in 6138 (Deluxe oceanview with verandah), and in-laws had the connecting room. I was very impressed with the room. It didn’t feel cramped in there, even with the crib and diaper genie. We really loved having the two bathrooms and two sinks. And there was plenty of storage space for everything. I really liked that our large suitcases and even our car seat fit under the bed. The cabin location was great, and it was easy to get around everywhere. There was no vibration noise and not much foot traffic outside our room. Having the connecting room was awesome as the kids could go back and forth easily.
ENTERTAINMENT: Since our 1 year old goes to bed early, one of us typically stayed in the room after dinner while the rest of the group went out. Out of the shows that I watched, I really liked the juggler and Wishes show, and the Knight magicians were great also. I didn’t care for the rePercussion show at all. We had a great time at the various music trivia contests, and actually won the 90’s one. For kid’s stuff, my older kid really loved all the character meetings.
DINING: Overall I was quite happy with the food. The breakfast buffets were excellent- Mickey waffles, pancakes, made to order eggs, biscuits & gravy, fresh fruit, etc were all great. My kid loved the selection of Krispy Kreme donuts. My only complaint about breakfast is that it was very hard to find crispy bacon. We did one sit-down character breakfast and that was good, but we preferred the buffet options.
Lunch buffets were also great. I liked the selection of pastas, rice dishes, vegetables, etc. The desserts were solid also (really enjoyed the Oreo cheesecake). The breads were tasty, especially the focaccia (overall, the various breads on the ship were so good!).
Sit-down dinners were hit and miss. As others have mentioned, expect convention center banquet hall quality. We typically liked the appetizers and salads. But some of the entrees were not good at all. I can remember a few that I stopped eating after a few bites (chicken schnitzel, sesame tofu, seafood pasta). I did tend to like the filled pasta options (especially mushroom ones). Some of the sides were great, such as the delicious white asparagus. Food temperature was an issue, as many of the entrees were served lukewarm. I never really left dinner feeling stuffed. On the bright side, our servers David and Marko were awesome. We made sure to tip them extra. The other saving grace was that the dinner desserts were overall really good (especially the crème brulee cheesecake and the various sundaes). And the Mickey ice cream bars live up to the hype- they have a terrific dark chocolate shell.
We did Palo brunch also. That was a great mix of salads, bread, cheese, seafood, pasta, and desserts. I thought the chicken parm wasn’t as good as people here raved about. But we did have the chef make an off-menu calzone that was so good, and probably the best calzone I’ve ever had. The almond croissant and blue cheese walnut bread were great. For desserts, I loved the tiramisu and cannoli the most. Was it worth $40 + tip per person? I felt it was for me, because I liked having the variety of food. But for someone looking to save money, you’d be fine skipping it.
In terms of other food options, we were happy. The late night french fries at Flo’s Café were awesome. The gelato at the ice cream shop was also great, and priced reasonably. Loved the cheesy tater toys with fresh jalapenos at the Irish pub. And Cove Café made great lattes (with really fun latte art). I’m glad they offered a buy 5, get 1 free latte punch card.
My one suggestion for the food is to provide more ethnic options. The vast majority of the food options were American and Italian. During the entire week, I only recall seeing one Chinese dish (basic fried rice) and a couple of Indian dishes. I know many people don’t like ethnic food or spice, but I was really surprised by the lack of Mexican (tex-mex) options. I’d consider tex-mex food to very mainstream these days, and even kids love it. But in general, I was happy with the food, and gained 5 lbs!
SPA: We purchased the Rainforest room deal for the week. It was very relaxing to visit the various rooms and showers. We even took showers here a few days because the showers were so spacious. The spa uses Elemis toiletries, which I didn’t like as much as the DCL ones.
SHIP: The Fantasy felt sizable, but never overwhelming. We found it very easy and fast to get around the ship (especially without kids in tow). Elevators moved quickly. We found everything to be very clean also. My one issue is that the pools were tiny and therefore super-crowded.
PORTS: We couldn’t do much in terms of excursions due to the 1 year old. At Tortola, there wasn’t much to do for us, so we just walked around the square a bit. In St Thomas, we did the scenic tram, which was a great photo op. And we did bicycling at Castaway, which was a lot of fun. We spent the rest of the day at the beach there. The clear blue water was awesome (though slightly chilly).
I know our 20 month old won’t remember this experience in the future, but I think the 5 year old definitely will. Would we go on DCL again? We want to, but that will depend on pricing also. Even though we went during a cheaper week, this was by far the most we’ve ever spent on a vacation. Eventually I’d like to go on one of the new ships, but will target an off-peak week. Overall, we had a fantastic time and have lots of great memories.