Pre-kids, a Disney vacation is one I never saw myself taking with kids, never mind taking again and again. In my previous life as a certified travel snob, I had not yet come to the realization that a vacation and traveling can be two separate things, and that one is not better than the other and each has its value. While I am itching to get out and explore somewhere new, after the death of my father on New Year’s Day and the grief, stress, and everything else added on to a working parent’s plate, this Spring I needed a vacation. I’m grateful to Disney Cruise Lines for inviting us on a preview sailing of their newest ship, the Disney Fantasy, as this busy break from reality allowed us to escape from winter’s doldrums and provided me the impetus to create a new Cruising section of Have Baby Will Travel.
After three action-packed days at Walt Disney World, we were excited to board the Disney Fantasy and check out our “Boat House” for the next three nights. Our itinerary was for three nights on board – with Day 2 being a port of call at Castaway Cay, and then a day at sea to enjoy the ship. Having never cruised before, I found the boarding experience a little overwhelming, and had I followed advice on my own site about how to prepare for a Disney Cruise, I would have had an easier time of finding our cabin and getting us something to eat! First impression of the Disney Fantasy? It’s beautiful. Really, really beautiful. The fixtures and finishings are lovely and totally what you’d expect for a top-of-the-line, luxury cruise ship. Our first stop was Flo’s V8 Grill, on Deck 11, for some lunch. We enjoyed a smorgasboard of pizza, hot dogs, wraps, salad, and fresh fruit before venturing down to our stateroom on Deck 5 to get organized. For future reference, next to Flo’s on Deck 11 is the 24hr beverage station, where you have round-the-clock access to pop, coffee, water, and milk.
Our stateroom on Deck 5 (Cabin #5152) is classified as a Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom With Verandah, and we had the added good fortune of having an oversized verandah. The thought did make me nervous, but there was a child-proof lock that was high up on the door so that gave me some peace of mind.
The sail away party on Deck 11 was crazy – song & dance numbers, characters, fireworks – I thought it was for the special inaugural sailing, but apparently it’s like that to kick off every trip. Dolphins waved us off as we pulled away from Port Canaveral – we joked that they were animatronic ones created by Disney! Shortly after setting sail, we took part in the emergency drill, and then we were free to enjoy our cruise.
Just a few weeks shy of his third birthday, my son still usually has an afternoon nap. That didn’t happen on this day, as he was quite overstimulated – both kids were. Instead of venturing out and exploring the ship, we relaxed in our stateroom and took our time getting organized before dinner.
Our dinner seating was at 5:45 – a good one for us. Our first meal at the Animator’s Palate was probably our least memorable food-wise, but most memorable experientially. As you sit down you are given a placemat and some markers to create a character. After your waiter whisks your placemat away, some real Disney magic happens. And I don’t mean your servers cut your kids’ meat and get them to eat broccoli – although that happens too 😉 During the animated dinner show, your creations are there in the classic Disney cartoons, singing and dancing with Mickey and friends. It’s truly incredible, and even our overtired kids were entranced and impressed. The food was decent, but it pales in comparison to the wonderful overall dining experience.
Wandering back from dinner, we spotted a number of characters and princesses in the lobby. That was a delightful surprise, but had I been more on top of things I would have realized that all character appearances and their times are listed daily in the Daily Navigaor – the Fantasy’s newsletter that your stateroom host places in your room each day. Our host was Carlos, and although I’ve since learned that this how a cruise works. There’s no housekeeping, per se – your stateroom host makes up your room each morning, and turns it down at night. And for our room that included setting up the bunkie while we were away at dinner.
That evening’s show at the Walt Disney Theater was Alladin, and I heard it was great. Unfortunately the kids were utterly spent, so after a quick war over the top bunk, it was bedtime. Bub was too wired to sleep, so I packed him up in his stroller and set off to walk Deck 4 – the uninterrupted route around the ship that can also be used as a running track. Two and a half laps and he was gone – and slept the whole night through.
We were not far behind, but we did enjoy a few beers on our private verandah (approx. $30 + tip for six Corona from room service). The night air was fresh and we indeed slept like babies – if babies truly slept soundly and didn’t stir until morning 😉
Stay tuned for a re-cap of Day II but first a few first-day tips:
- There is good storage but the staterooms are compact. We were glad to bring our compact travel stroller, as once folded it fit under the bed and out of the way.
- You can’t live out of a suitcase on a cruise; to keep your stateroom liveable you have to be organized. After we unpacked we stored our luggage in the closets. But beware you don’t accidentally bring home the fabric laundry bag belonging to the ship. Still waiting for the credit card bill to see how much that accidental souvenir cost!
- Acquaint yourself with the map of the ship and your place on it. Had I been a little more familiar with where things were and how to get there, our arrival process would have been a lot smoother.
Read on for:
Disney Fantasy Magical Preview Cruise, Day 2…