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.
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.
Excursion met at 8:15am, then we were escorted outside through the port to be assigned to the open air taxis, with staff giving us paper wristbands along the way. We did take a driving up Ridge Road (and eventually back down) and the whole thing was some of the most terrifying driving I've ever experienced - not the fault of the driver, but just the lack of stop signs, traffic lights, all the blind hair pin turns up and down the hill! The excursion description mentions that we would have about 35 minutes at Sky World to shop for souvenirs and take in stunning views from the observation deck. We were there for literally 10 minutes. I saw no place to shop. It's a restaurant, but since it was maybe 9:30am, it wasn't actually open. We were given a drink ticket to redeem for a lukewarm bottle of water. The observation deck appeared to be an extra cost.
Continuing on with the harrowing driving down to Cane Garden Bay, we did enjoy the beach. Chairs were included. They were very close to the water though, even a few rows back - the tide kept sweeping away people's shoes! The waves weren't too rough, but they were the roughest we experienced out of our three beaches on this cruise. My mom got knocked down by two consecutively and was pretty traumatized (she can't swim and she was almost at the shore where they were breaking). We were given a second drink ticket and we went to get some fresh bottled water, but there wasn't any, glasses only. No drinks for us then.
Back for some more sketchy driving until we arrived back at port. There are some beautiful views and homes in Tortola and there is also some stunning poverty. I don't think I'd get off the ship again if we were to return.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Our meeting time was 8am. We were taken outside and lined up two by two; unlike on Tortola the staff did not put wristbands on us but gave them to us to fumble with ourselves. We were assigned an open air taxi and took a brief drive down to Magen's Bay; our taxi was the first one there and it was empty! Chairs are not included in this excursion. You can rent them, but they require a rental deposit that can only be paid in cash. We weren't prepared for this, but because we were there so early we got a picnic table, at least. Enjoyed our time at the beach. The water was so clear!
After the beach we journeyed to Mountain Top and had about 25 minutes there, wish it was a little longer! Found some nice, inexpensive souvenirs for co-workers and would have liked more time to shop. Following the time at Mountain Top we descended back in to town where we were given time for shopping. Up until this point, I would have rated this excursion a 5. "Shopping" is where it fell apart.
They drop you off in a local square where there's basically a tented handmade goods fair. The people will constantly try to get you to stop and look. They had some nice items but the experience was uncomfortable and we didn't have cash. Then we tried to go browse some of the actual retail stores. Every three steps we were accosted by taxi drivers asking if we needed a ride back to the ship. We clearly had wristbands on, and again, no cash even if we wanted to take them up on it.
We turned down a side street and an employee from the southern US literally hustled us into a "family owned" jewelry store. There was no option to ignore him or turn back. We tried to pop in and duck back out and they pretty much wouldn't allow that. Walked us around the whole store despite us clearly not being interested. "You're on vacation, buy yourself a gift!" Um, this cruise WAS the gift! We finally escaped and went back to the one shop where we were supposed to meet up for the return back to the ship. Finally someone said it was time to go and it was confusing because they only had a sign for Norwegian Cruise Line (Disney Fantasy was docked between to NCL ships) but they were in fact taking guests for both lines. Turns out the "pre-arranged transportation" was a ferry boat, which is not mentioned anywhere in the description. It docks at the pier next to the ships, so at least we were close by.
If we were to go to St. Thomas again, I'd either stay on the boat or take an excursion over to St. John. No one we spoke to had a negative experience at St. John!View All undefined undefined Reviews
The previous Disney Cruise we had taken was only three nights and while we did have a full day at Castaway Cay that sailing, we spent very little time on the island because there were still things we wanted to see and do on the ship! This time we had a seven night sailing and I was excited to have more time to explore the island.
I booked the Getaway Package for myself and my mom. My mom ended up not feeling well that day, didn't use any components of the excursion, and took her unused ticket to the Port Adventures desk that evening where they graciously refunded us. I wasn't expecting that but figured it couldn't hurt to ask! I had booked us the Extreme Getaway Package the last time (stingray encounter, unlimited snorkel and float/tube rentals, and one hour bike rental). We enjoyed the stingrays but didn't feel the need to do it again. I had a not great experience with the snorkeling last time, not limited to Castaway Cay - the mouthpiece never fits me correctly, no matter how I bite it, and I end up inhaling salt water. Unfortunately, had the same thing happen this time. I won't do snorkeling again unless I invest in a full face mask. The Nautilus and the Mickey & Minnie statues are quite far out, and I was so tired of battling with the mouthpiece and fighting my buoyancy vest that I only made it to the "shipwrecks" that are further in.
I did spend a bit of time floating on an inner tube. Also got a chance to swim out to Pelican Plunge and ride one of the slides. Very popular with the little ones! I was off the ship pretty early (all ashore was 9:30) and I was able to meet Daisy, Donald, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto during the morning. Captain Jack Sparrow mysteriously disappeared from the character greeting schedule on the Navigator App the night before, and I was disappointed because I had skipped meeting him onboard during pirate night with the expectation I could meet him on the island!
Being off so early I had no issue finding a pair of chairs (for when my mom would join me) under an umbrella at the first tram stop. Others said they felt Castaway was "crowded" but I didn't find it to be so. Not a lot of shopping, and they apparently don't stock any shirts larger than an XL (complaints I heard echoed by other guests). I do wish people wouldn't "reserve" the hammocks. Beach chairs? Go for it. Hammocks? Let other people use them if you aren't actively relaxing in one!
Had an enjoyably lunch at Cookies Too. Chicken was a little dry but everything else I sampled was fine. I did end up actually using the bike rental this time and was glad I did. I haven't ridden a bike in years so had a moment of trouble getting myself going but once I had the peddles positioned properly it was fine! Rode out to the observation tower, which was fine. There's not really a lot to see on an undeveloped island. Appreciated the cold water stations along the way. Also took the second path parallel to Serenity Bay to the very quiet beach overlook, but again, not much to see. Serenity Bay itself apparently lost a lot of shore in the recent hurricanes, and the chairs were right up against the water. The beach area itself out there was pretty crowded, moreso than I thought the family beach was.
Since this was a Very Merrytime sailing, it was advertised that the trams were decorated to look like reindeer. I saw no such thing. The few decorations on the island were nice, and I liked the Christmas tree in the arrival plaza.
I think the only thing I might do again on our next cruise is the tube rental. I'd like to try the WaveRunner excursion, or perhaps even parasailing!View All undefined undefined Reviews