The Disney Fantasy is evidence that Disney Cruise Line is really hitting its stride. Launched in March 2012, this 4,000 passenger ship ranks second in best overall cruise ships and best for families (second only to its sister ship, the Disney Dream) according to Cruise Critic’s Cruisers’ Choice awards. These awards are voted on by cruisers, so it is bragging rights for sure when rated by “the people.”Having cruised on the Disney Dream and now the Disney Fantasy, I can affirm that these awards are getting it right. Here’s how the Disney Fantasy stacks up on my scale, what I loved and the few that I didn’t.
No trip on the Disney Fantasy would be complete without a splash on the Aquaduck. Climb aboard your inner tube solo or with a friend or family member and prepare to be whizzed around the ship. You’ll have a unique perspective on Deck 11 as you race above the pools and past the Tunnel Vision screen. I love the neon lights that flash inside the tunnel–your senses will be sent into overdrive as you twist and turn through the waterslide tube. My husband has the dubious distinction of breaking the Aquaduck and causing it to shut down for 30 minutes because his foot accidentally touched one of the rollers that feeds the inner tube down into the slide. Be prepared to ride with a partner: it seemed many times we got in line, they were requiring pairs due to water pressure.
The Aquaduck is even more fun at night. We call it going “night ducking” instead of “night swimming”!
Animator’s Palate “Animation Magic” Dinner Show
This is the most fun of all the dining rooms in the Disney Fantasy rotation. Every table gets in on the action as you decorate your cartoon character. Then Disney turns everyone into an animator and makes our characters come to life in a cartoon projected on every screen in the restaurant! Okay, so my stick figure couldn’t hold a candle to some of the artwork, but it was a fun activity that had the grown-ups scribbling furiously alongside our teens and tweens and laughing together. So, yeah, score!
“Disney’s Aladdin-a Musical Spectacular”
This musical is the best of the Fantasy shows and entertainment. If you’ve been to Disneyland and had seen the “Disney’s Aladdin-a Musical Spectacular” performances there, then you get it. Sadly, Disneyland sent Aladdin off to the Cave of Wonders and will be replacing it with a Frozen musical this summer. So I guess if you want to see Aladdin, you have to set sail on the Disney Fantasy!
Make sure that you leave the second night completely open and do not book any Remy or Palo reservations or spa treatments or anything that will cause you to miss this fantastical, laugh-inducing show. Genie alone could riff all night and I’d be thoroughly entertained!
Inventive Bar Drinks
Mmm-I probably had you at bar drinks, didn’t I? This is the best deal going on the Disney Fantasy: a mixology class for $ 20 per person that has you sampling 5 of the most fun beverages and learning how to shake, stir, muddle and mix alongside the pros.
Nika, our mixology coach and bartender extraordinaire, created the most delightfully diverse concoctions: the Blue Margarita, the Caipirinha, the Summer Fantasy, PB&J, and the Baby Guinness.that made all the class attendees cheer with delight.
The biggest hits were Summer Fantasy (limoncello, raspberry and slapped mint!); the PB&J (Chambord and Frangelica); and the Baby Guiness (Kahlua and RumChata). I would say the Caipirinha was not my favorite-that’s Southern for “I hated it.” It was too sweet. But I totally understand why she chose that drink for the class because it is very popular with the Latin American communities. For the cost and the social fun, a mixology class is well worth it!
Since we’re on the subject of drinks, I have to give props to our favorite lounge. Hands down, Skyline was our favorite because you feel as if you’ve been transported to international cities with the projections. These seven “windows” were actually HD television screens that highlight seven cities: Paris, London, Barcelona, Athens, Florence, Budapest and St. Petersburg. The scenes changed depending on what time you are in the bar and reflected the time of day you are in Skyline. The bar’s modern décor oozed coolness, and dim lighting creates a cozy vibe.Hint: Look for the hidden Mickey waving to you from a Paris apartment!
This was my first spa experience with Disney. While I’ve been known to try spa treatments on other vacations, I’ve never carved out the time to slow down for a spa day. So good decision to finally take the plunge! I highly recommend a spa treatment at Senses Spa or the Rainforest Room. My vote is for the bamboo massage. Han, my massage therapist, had a sweet temperament and was a delight to talk to as I enjoyed the benefits of the bamboo massage. Designed as a warm, soothing massage, this treatment uses bamboo shoots of various sizes soaked in essential oil to massage your muscles. I even spotted a hidden Mickey in the light fixture! I could have oozed down the hallway afterwards, I was so relaxed.
Tip: Go to the Senses open house on the first day and see what the spa specials are. Often they combine several treatments together at a fraction of the cost. Or you could choose a Rainforest Room Cruise Pass, which is really a steal! The pass gives you unlimited entry to the scented showers, aroma steam, sauna rooms, private jacuzzi, and the coveted warm loungers, an area off limits to other spa goers. A week pass is $ 144 for singles and $ 193 for couples. There are a limited number of these passes available, so if you want one, jump all over it! (You can also pre-purchase online a day pass while available for $ 16 a day.)
For a romantic couples dinner, Remy is unparalleled. You’ve probably heard of the two adults-only dining options onboard Disney Cruise Line ships, Remy and Palo. Remy is fine French dining onboard the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, and Palo is Northern Italian cuisine on all four Disney ships. Yes, they are extra. Of course, you’ve already paid for your cruise food, so why pay the extra $ 55 per person for Palo or $ 85 per person for Remy? Because it is a culinary experience and gosh darn it, you’re worth it! Actually, this may not be for everyone, but for those who really love outstanding food, impeccable service and a dining experience, reserving one of these fine dining experiences for brunch or dinner is a MUST.
We started with a fabulous aperitif (dinner drink) of Prosecco, Grey Goose, Grand Marnier, cassis pearls, and dried pineapple. Having a 6:05 reservation meant a stunning view of the sunset. What a way to start the evening!
Remy is worthy of its own post, so I won’t ramble on about the food other than to say it is divine! Executive Chef Benoit knows what he is doing in the kitchen-no Remy the mouse hiding in his chef hat!
Don’t panic if you don’t score dining reservations to Remy or Palo online in advance of your cruise. The cruise holds back many spots for booking while on ship. Your teen and tween can even do the regular dining rotation and your servers will take excellent care of them in your absence. My two were the only ones at our table of eight since other couple had Palo reservations that night and their kids ate elsewhere.
I heart Castaway Cay. A little slice of heaven with tons to do or nothing to do, depending on you. There are so many wonderful choices on Castaway Cay. From Stingray Ray’s where you can swim with stingrays to Pelican Plunge water slides to exploring this Disney exclusive private island, there is something for everyone.
For your first trip to Castaway Cay, you may want to simply enjoy the island. This cruise, we chose the snorkel, tube and bike package. For the entire day, you have access to each of these. I like all of these activities combined together: snorkeling for the beautiful fish and coral and the coolness of swimming and peacefulness of floating in the ocean; tubing for the social fun and relaxation; and biking to explore the island’s landscape, for exercise, and vantage points at the Exploration Tower and Serenity Bay, the adults only enclave on Castaway Cay.
Our Table Mates
As luck would have it, we were seated with a fabulous family from Atlanta who also had 2 kids close to our kids’ ages. What an absolute blessing to be able to spend our evening meals together and become friends!
Something for Everyone
If you can’t find something you like on a Disney cruise, then there may be something wrong. With you. As my great Uncle Dick used to say, “If you don’t like this life, you’re crazy!” Sure, cruising is not everyone’s cup of tea. Just as the motion sick or people that hate large crowds. But overall, it is about as fun and leisurely means of island hopping as you can find.
Just the Right Amount of Time
It’s 7 Days and 3 ports of call. Compared to the Disney Dream with 2 stops in Nassau and Castaway Cay, I much preferred the itinerary and getting to try a Western Caribbean cruise. Plus, you are good and familiar with the ship on a 3 night cruise and…it’s over! Not so with the 7 night sail. I was giddy with excitement that we had 4 more nights of fun in store.
Exceptional Customer Service
From our servers Sasha and Phanom at dinner to Han my massage therapist to Nika at Skyline, we were the recipients of top notch service everywhere!
Customer service success story: My son lost his phone on our Cozumel day. We tried to retrace our steps and find it, but no dice. Amazingly, it was found (although we couldn’t make out the where from the notes left with the guest relations desk.) But the fact that it was found and turned in blew my mind. I was super impressed.
Not All-Inclusive by a Long Shot
So no one goes into a cruise thinking it’s ALL-inclusive in the sense that everything is included. Extras include alcohol, spa, excursions, merchandise, special dining, wifi, and photos. But Saturday morning sucker punches you when you get that final bill. Ouch! Ours was close to $ 1500. Given that we believe wholeheartedly in the Dave Ramsey philosophy of bring debt free and paying for vacations in full and not having them follow you home, cruising can make that hard to accomplish. So make sure you stay on budget and everyone doesn’t go nuts on their cabin charges. Better yet, maybe disable charging privileges for the kids.
The comic relief needs relief
Disney Cruise Line entertainment sets a high bar, and we really loved most of the shows, the special Star Wars attractions, and movie choices. But some were…meh. Specifically, the comedy acts were a bit tepid, especially some of what Heath Hyche did was funny, but when it went wrong, it was uncomfortable. He needs to drop his Elvis impersonation skit entirely.
Too Much Teen Time, Not Enough Family Time
Disney does the teen programming a little too well actually. It seems unfair for me to penalize Disney for doing so well in this area that my teen loved hanging out with her friends at Vibe. But I have to be honest: our vacation became a little light on family time because of it. I get it, she’s gaining her independence, and I’m thrilled she made friends and wanted to have fun with kids her age. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. Parents, if this is important, then set parameters for your teens and tweens about what is expected . I will say this: I did get my family photo with Mickey Mouse that I had been wanting even if it meant messaging both kids to get their tails over to Deck 4 immediately!
Watch Out for Your Bar Tab
Drinks onboard the Disney Fantasy can add up, so be careful! Here’s how you help offset your bar tab: bring alcohol on board. Every guest over 21 can bring onboard a maximum of 2 bottles of unopened wine or champagne (no larger than 750 ml) or 6 beers (no larger than 12 ounces) at the beginning of the voyage and at each port of call. These beverages must be packed in carry-on (not checked) bags or luggage.
You Aren’t Cruising for the Pools
They are more like wading pools or kiddie pools. Ok, so what, you’re on a massive cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. I can swim in a regular pool when I get home.
Port Adventures Excursion Did Not Live Up to the Description
One of our ports was Grand Cayman, so we knew we wanted to try Stingray City. The excursion we selected was titled “Stingray City Reef Sail and Snorkel.” The adventure was described as an opportunity to “[s]ail by catamaran to a series of shallow sandbars where you’ll see tropical fish and stingrays galore at close range” and that the location was “[h]ome to Hundreds of Rays.”
We saw ONE stingray. Seriously.
While the catamaran sail/snorkel was fun, I must say that the excursion did not live up to our expectations. We were very disappointed.
Word to the wise: you should always read the fine print with excursions. When we expressed our dissatisfaction, we were first met with the quotation of the excursion fine print: “Note: This tour goes to the original Stingray City site, not the Stingray Sandbar.”
Well, just what does that mean? Apparently, the difference between HUNDREDS of stingrays and ONE. Most people expect to see hundreds of stingrays when they go to Stingray City (regardless of whether it is the old location or new sandbar.) But after a little more “discussion”, Disney Cruise Line made it right and went out of their way to make sure we were happy, even going so far as to refund the cost of our Castaway Cay booking. They also sent a bottle of wine for the grownups and arcade cards for the kids. So kudos to them for making amends. Still, buyer beware (to put my legal hat on) and read those excursion descriptions carefully.
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