It's been quite a year! I took a break from blogging, because...life and everything. Now I'm back, and I have some stories to share! The big one, which was a year and a half in the making, was our Disney cruise!
There definitely was a bit of stress involved at times, which happens when you take a three year old on a big vacation, but the great experience and fun we all had was worth it! There's so much to talk about, so I will detail different experiences in other posts, but for the summary, here it goes:
We traveled on the Disney Fantasy the week of August 24th, and the trip was 7 days long. I've been on two cruises before, both on Carnival, and those were years ago. My husband had never been on a cruise, and we had our toddler daughter, so I wanted to pick a cruise that was family friendly and fun for kids, so I chose Disney!
Our cruise, which was an Eastern Caribbean itinerary, was to make stops at Tortola, BVI, and St. Thomas, USVI, as well as Disney's private island, Castaway Cay (pronounced Key.) Unfortunately, we were in hurricane season, which I completely forgot about while initially booking, and Hurricane Dorian caused us to change our route over to the Western Caribbean, so we went to Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico instead, as well as Castaway.
From the moment we boarded, there was that "Disney Magic" that everyone has raved about! As each family boards the ship, cast members announce your family name. I'm unaware of any other cruise line doing that, and it was really special!
The ship was really beautiful, and Disney really pays attention to every detail! From the chandelier in the main atrium lobby, to the designs on the carpets, the decor is stunning!
For our room, we chose the Deluxe Ocean View Family Stateroom. I was nervous about getting a veranda room with a toddler, so we opted for just the window instead. Our room was great! There was a large floor to ceiling porthole with a padded window seat that I absolutely loved! The couch converted into a bed for Sara, and our amazing cabin steward, Brian, even put Frozen themed blankets on her bed for her! The main living area, which included Sara's bed was separated by a curtain from our queen bed, so at night, we could close it and watch TV while she slept.
There was tons of storage in the cabinets, and even the ottoman opened up for storage! The main bed was raised off the floor with enough room to stash our suitcases out of the way, and there were his and hers closets to hang our clothing. Our room was much larger than many hotel rooms I've stayed in!
The bathrooms are a unique feature on DCL too. Most cruise ship cabins have a tiny bathroom with just a small walk in shower. Disney knew this would not work for families traveling with small children, so they devised a split bathroom plan. There were 2 separate bathrooms. One with a toilet and sink, and the other with a bath tub/shower combo and a sink. This design allows for more than one person to get ready at the same time, and also bathe your child in a bathtub.
I was really impressed with Brian, who I mentioned was our Cabin Steward! He went above and beyond for us! Our first day on the ship, I was walking down they hallway, and somehow, without previously meeting us, knew exactly who I was! I'm not sure how he knew, but he did! He treated Sara like a princess, and said hello to her all week. She loved all the attention she got!
While booking our cruise, I chose the earlier dinner seating, which was at 5:45. I figured with a young child, eating earlier would be better. This was a mistake on my part. With all the activities and events going on throughout the day, by the time 4 PM rolled around, Sara just wanted to sleep. And when she naps, she can be down for a few hours. Waking her up only after 20 or 30 minutes to get her ready for dinner was very challenging for both of us. She was stressed and cranky, and there were tears! If you don't get to your dining room within a few minutes of your dinner seating starting, you won't get dinner, so it was very important to be there on time. There were a few occasions when she would not sit still, and she wanted to leave. One night, she would only sit in Mark's lap, but our amazing service team was so understanding, and even cut his food for him, so he could eat and hold her at the same time! Another night, she was really cranky, so Mark took her back to the room. The servers had their food brought up for them so they wouldn't miss out! On the next cruise, I'll choose the later seating at 8:30, so we will have more time to unwind before dinner!
The food and presentation on board was amazing! There's so much to go into detail about, so I'll cover more about the dining in a future post. But what Disney does that is unique, is they have a system called Rotational Dining. There are three themed dining rooms, and each night, you will be in a different one. Your server teams and your table mates will go with you. You are assigned a server team, and unless you choose a private table, you are seated with another family. Disney does a really good job of trying to match families with similar aged children and similar interests. We were seated with a family of two sisters, their mother, and their daughters, who were 3 and 7. They were from Vancouver Island, BC, so very regionally close to where we're from.
But Food! Food everywhere! Most food on the ship is free (included with the price of your cruise.) Even the pastries in the up-charge coffee shops are free. You just let the Barista know what you want. 24 hour room service is included, as well as all the soda you can drink! Most cruise lines charge extra for soda, or make you buy a soda package. Not Disney! They have fountains on the pool deck you can use whenever you want! There's also free soft serve ice cream available 24 hours on the pool deck. This was one of Sara's favorites!
Also on the pool deck was Cabanas, the all you can eat buffet. They had rotating menus and themes, so there was always something new to try! On Pirate Night, they even ended the evening with a midnight buffet here. We frequented Cabanas, and loved it!
There are some up-charge restaurants, however. Palo and Remy are two upscale adults only restaurants that charge extra, and you have to make reservations for. I skipped these for our first cruise, because I wanted the full experience of the included rotational dining. I may do a Palo brunch on our next cruise, though. There is also a sweet shop on the pool deck. On the Fantasy, this shop is called Sweet on You, and they charge for specialty ice cream, gelato, pastries, and candy. We did frequent this shop for their yummy snacks!
There were so many activities throughout the day, it was hard to choose what to do! Every day, you would get the program, called the Daily Navigator. You would get this either on your phone with your DCL app, or a paper form from Guest Services.
There were character meet and greets, which were Sara's favorite, games, trivia, movies, the works! There was a movie theater on board, showing recent Disney movies, as well as first run movies, before they hit the theaters on land! We saw Toy Story 4, Aladdin, and the Lion King. There was also Funnel vision on the pool deck. Showing movies all day and into the evening for those in the pools and enjoying the outdoor activities. In the evenings, there were Broadway shows in the Walt Disney Theater. The premier show on the Fantasy is Aladdin. There were also the shows, Wishes and Believe, which were super fun, as well as Stand Up Comedic Acts and magicians.
Up on the pool deck, there were several themed pools for both families and adults. There was a splash zone for kids not yet potty trained, or who were too scared of the pool, and also one of my favorites, the Aqua Duck, a water roller coaster! This ride is only available on the Fantasy, and her sister ship, the Dream. I rode it a few times, and it was a blast! Sara, however, wasn't a fan of the pool deck. We went up there a few times, but it was very hot, crowded, and loud, because of the funnel vision playing in the background. She preferred to stay inside instead of braving the heat and crowds!
Sara loved meeting the characters and princesses. I thought she'd be afraid, and I was preparing her for some time, but she was so excited to meet Mickey and Minnie! She even asked when she would see them when we first got on board!
There were two themed deck parties, Minnie and Mickey's Birthday Celebration at Sea, which was exclusive to the Summer 2019 cruises, and Pirates in the Caribbean, a themed pirate night on all Bahamas and Caribbean cruises. I'll cover these more in another post, but the parties were so much fun! We celebrated 90 years of Mickey and Minnie on the pool deck with songs and dance, and we had a whole pirate party, complete with costumes, shows, and fireworks for pirate night! It was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to doing it again on a future cruise!
Of course, there were plenty of activities for adults on board! There's all kinds of drinks available, including the "drink of the day," which a special reduced price drink. There's and adults only entertainment district, with bars, live music, and entertainment. There's a full spa, which I was eager to try out! They offer all the classic treatments, like massage and facials, and the Rainforest Room, an aromatherapy experience you can buy a day pass for. I didn't do this, but I did get a 50 minute hot stone massage, which was really relaxing after a week of non stop fun!
There's also adults only pools with a swim up bar, and loungers to nap on while watching the ocean go by. I did get to spend a little bit of time in these areas! One of the cool things they told us, is that you can tell if you're in an adult area or a family area by the chairs. In the family areas, the pool chairs are blue, and in the adult areas, they are the beige plush chairs. It's very easy to accidentally wander from the family areas to the adults only areas without meaning to.
One of the coolest bars on board was one called Skyline Lounge. Up behind the bar, there's a screen which will show a different cityscape every 15 minutes or so. The scenes are a combination of real photography and animation. You can see cars driving on the roads, and people walking around on the sidewalks and in the windows in the buildings. A cool little fact I learned is that if you look very closely, 75% of the people in the images are Star Wars characters! And it's true! You could see Storm Troopers, Droids, and Darth Vaders walking around! It was really something to see!
So if you're an adult traveling with children, and you want to experience the adults only entertainment, what to do with the kiddos? Well, Disney Cruise Line has you covered! There are kids only entertainment available for all ages! For those ages 3-12, there's Oceaneers Club and Lab. They have trained youth counselors who lead kids in all kinds of activities and games, and there are all different themed rooms! Sara loved Andy's Room with soft foam blocks she liked to stack, and Toy Story Theme. There's also themed areas for Star Wars and Marvel.
For kids 11-14, there's Edge, and from 14-17, there's Vibe. I saw large groups of teens and tweens participating in scavenger hunts and other activities from these clubs, and parents were saying on our private Facebook Page that their kids had made lifelong friends in the clubs!
The great thing about the youth clubs, is that they're included in the price of your cruise! Kids receive a wristband, similar to the Magic Bands used at Walt Disney World, and can scan in and out whenever they want! For younger children, a parent has to be there to drop them off, and pick them up. Safety is very important, and ID is required (which will be on file) and there's a secret word you set up during your online check in. Sara got to have her face painted, participated in a dance party, built a house out of blocks, and played some video games while enjoying the youth clubs!
For the youngest travelers, age 6 months to 3 years, there's A Small World Nursery. This is they only youth club where there's an extra charge. I believe it was $9 an hour, which is still reasonable!
We had such an amazing week on the Disney Fantasy! From the food, to the shows, islands, deck parties, characters, and games, it really was magic that only Disney can provide! There's something for everyone, and if you have a chance, I would really recommend cruising with them! Sara still talks about the "Mickey Boat," and asks to look at pictures and videos from the trip! We can't wait to go again!