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Fantasy Review -Ship and Ports - January 30, 2016


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The family and I recently returned from a 7-night voyage on the Disney Fantasy and outlined below is a very thorough review of the ship and ports of call visited. Our itinerary included stops at Tortola, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay. Our travelling group included me (35) my wife (33) and daughter (3.5). This was our fourth cruise and second with Disney. We have previously sailed the following: Celebrity Silhouette, Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and Disney Magic. I will review our cruise chronologically and will touch on everything from food, entertainment, adult spaces, kid spaces and of course the ports. A few other subjects may come up as I start to write, I hope you find the review informative and gets you excited for your families cruise on the Disney Fantasy.

 

Embarkation

This was our second time embarking at Port Canaveral and it was another smooth process. Let’s back up a bit though. We arrived late Friday and within 30 minutes of landing we had our rental car and were on our way to Cocoa Beach. We rented from Budget and stayed at the Best Western Cocoa Beach. The drive is about 45 minutes, all highway. You encounter two tolls that cost $1.00 each so be sure to have those dollar bills handy. The hotel isn’t 5-star but it certainly does the trick the night before the cruise. The rooms were a nice size which was good since we travelled with three large suitcases and a few carry-ons. This time we were in the tower and had a view of Cocoa Beach which was very nice. We woke up early on Saturday and headed over to another building within the hotel complex for some breakfast. This is more than just a continental breakfast as it offers; scrambled eggs, pancakes, toast, bagels, sausage, cereal and an assortment of juices. More than what you’ll need before eating like royalty for a week on a cruise. We kept our rental car overnight and after breakfast we headed over to the Budget location on Astronauts Drive (eight minutes from port) to drop it off. It was very busy there that morning as you there were a couple dozen people coming back from their vacations to pick up cars and a couple dozen dropping off cars to begin their vacations. The number of people will appear intimidating if you’re like me and want to be uber organized and get to the port as smoothly as possible. That said; while the process looks a little chaotic it is quite organized. The free shuttles arrive from port with people who have disembarked and pick up people embarking. There were a few lineups to board shuttles and we were all divided by ship. That day we had a Carnival and Norwegian ship in port as well as Fantasy. We arrived at the terminal at around 10:45am which was a little early given our PAT was 11:00am. One of my biggest concerns was the fact that we didn’t have luggage tags and how this would be handled and would we encounter any troubles receiving our bags. This was absolutely no issue at all. The porters have unmarked luggage tags and labeled them for us and off the bags went to board the ship. It did take a little longer than normal to receive our bags but we’re talking maybe 30-45 minutes. Enough for me to notice but not significant at all. We whizzed through security and once in the terminal there was no line up for check in. Within 15 minutes of arriving at the port we were all checked in and my wife and daughter lined up to meet Mickey who was already in front of the model ship taking pictures with guests. While they lined up for a picture with Mickey I headed over to the Youth Activities desk to pick up my daughters Magic Band. I highly recommend pre-registering your kids when you do your online check in as this will save some time and perhaps some frustration at the terminal as there is only one small desk to fill out the necessary paperwork. If you don’t pre-register don’t worry it’s not the end of the world. I didn’t think anything of this until I was in line but you will need to have your children with you when you get their Magic Bands. Not only do they fit your child with the right size band but depending on their age their band may also have a lock placed on it. I suppose some crafty eight year olds must have taken their bands off in the past… In addition; once at the actual Youth Activities desk they’ll want to see your child and swipe your Key to the World card. At this time they’ll confirm with you who can pick up your child and who cannot (if anyone) as well as confirm your secret password. You’ll be asked this password each and every time you want to pick up your child. I thought all of us (wife, daughter and I) would have to know the password but only my wife and I were ever asked when picking up our daughter. Shortly after picking up the Magic Band our boarding group was called. We were boarding group number 10. Even though we knew they were going to announce us as we boarded the ship we were still excited for this moment. Once on board my priorities were to get tickets to the Disney Junior Breakfast, Anna and Elsa meet and greet and the Princess Gathering. We all hopped into line and waiting about 15 minutes until we were at the front of the line and picked up our tickets. You pick up the tickets at the Port Adventures desk on deck 4. It’s not mandatory that you rush and get this done as soon as you board however I like it get tasks like this out of the way quickly. On our next Disney cruise I am going to request that our Anna and Elsa meet and greet is on a different day from the Princess Gathering. Doing all three in one day (first sea day) is very exhausting especially if it’s your first full day on the ship. After getting those tickets I headed off to wait in line to change on dining from second to main while my wife and daughter headed up to Cabanas for lunch. I waited in line for maybe 10 minutes before they opened the back doors to Royal Court and waited about five minutes once inside. Our request to change seatings was accommodated immediately. We were very happy although we probably could have managed the second seating with our daughter. We simply would have pushed her a bit more to have a nap if our seating remained unchanged.

 

 

Dining

We ate at all three main dining rooms (Enchanted Garden, Royal Court and Animators Palate) for dinner and even had breakfast at the Royal Court one morning. In addition; we took advantage of Room Service every morning as well as having lunch and snacks at Cabanas and Flo’s Cafe on the pool deck. A lot of people seem to be very concerned about their dining rotation and I’m not quite sure why, perhaps they know something that I don’t. We were more than happy with our rotation which as outlined above was (ERAERAE). Enchanted Garden was our favourite. We had some fantastic meals throughout the cruise. My favourite was the chateaubriand filet (Royal Court) my wife’s was the sea bass (Enchanted Garden) and my daughter enjoyed the Mickey Bars (available everywhere on the ship). Actually; she quite enjoyed all the meals. Each night the kids menu featured some food items that are more fun such as burgers, mac n cheese, nuggets but the menu will also feature some more wholesome options like roast chicken and tenderloin. You can get veggies as a side with any meal so if you want a mix of fun and wholesome you can request that and it will be accommodated. Cabanas offered a great variety of food throughout the entire cruise from shrimp, crab legs, pizza, meatloaf, salads, nuggets and pastas. We never had trouble finding something fun and healthy to eat nor did we have a hard time finding a table, other than embarkation day. That said; most days we’d go into Cabanas, get some food and bring it back out to the pool deck and enjoy it at one of the tables they have set up outside. The snacks available on the pool deck were your standard snack foods such as burgers, hotdogs, pizza but they also had a nice sandwich/wrap stand and the chicken Caesar wraps were quite good. These stands are part of Flo’s Café right near the midship elevators so it was tempting every time we went back to our room to grab a slice of pizza or a plate of fries. We tried our best to refrain but we were on vacation so we may have indulged from time to time. Our breakfast at Royal Court was one of our highlights and I wish we’d done it a few more times. It should be noted that ala carte breakfasts are available in Royal Court each and every day to anyone. I had a freshly made omelette, my wife had eggs benny and daughter enjoyed yet another plate of Mickey Waffles. The food quality in every venue was fantastic. We never had a bad meal nor did we ever leave a meal feeling unsatisfied. Disney does a fantastic job cooking top quality meal, three times a day for everyone on board.

 

 

Stateroom

We stayed in stateroom 8091 which is an inside cabin that connects with stateroom 8591. Originally we were supposed to travel with my in-laws and as such intended to open the connecting door but at the last moment they had a change of plans and did not sail. This was the first time we had an inside room so we were very interested to see how not having a verandah would or wouldn’t impact our enjoyment of the cruise. The room was plenty big enough for two adults and our little one. The couch converts into a single bed and we requested the side rails so she wouldn’t fall out at night. I also advised our stateroom host that he could simply keep the bed set up throughout the cruise as oppose to converting it from couch to bed at turndown service every night. This way we could take our daughter for a nap on sea days at any time and not have to worry about converting the bed ourselves. I’m not sure if it was only our inside stateroom or all inside staterooms but we did not have a split bath like we did last year. As a young family this wasn’t a problem but if you have teenagers who like to take their time primping for dinner you may want to consider that split bath as an essential. For us, at this stage in our lives it simply wasn’t and was more than enough for our little family. Storage space was quite good. We love that our bags store easily under the bed so you don’t have them taking up valuable floor space. The closet was plenty big enough and even had more hangers than what we needed. I even brought a dress shirt for each night, three pairs of dress pants and a suit. Not to mention all the dresses my wife and daughter brought. The drawer space was limited so if I were to recommend anything as it relates to staterooms it would be to visit the dollar store and get one of those pocket hanging organizers which you can hang in the closet. We brought one on our first cruise and for some reason haven’t on the last three. We regretted it this time as the extra ‘drawers’ would have been nice.

 

 

Entertainment

There is no shortage of entertainment options on the Disney Fantasy from movies on Funnel Vision to Broadway shows to live comedy/magicians. We took in all the major shows which included; Sailing Away, Aladdin, Pirates in the Caribbean, Wishes and Disney’s Believe. Last year we had our little one in her stroller for the Assembly Drill and we were told we could leave the drill early. We took advantage of this opportunity and headed straight up to the pool deck to get a good spot for Sailing Away. Our daughter was a little too old to truck around in the stroller this time around so we were a little slower getting up to the pool deck but we still had a fantastic spot. Disney covers the pools so the entire pool deck is like the floor of school gymnasium. Everyone who arrived before us was sitting on the floor waiting for the show to begin and we were about four rows back. Once the show begin everyone stood up so I put my daughter on my shoulders so she could see the show a little better. Many others did this with their little ones. This is one of our favourite shows since it takes place a few short hours after boarding, it’s the first time you see all the characters and the countdown totally gets everyone amped for the cruise. Once the countdown hits zero the Captain sounds the horn which if you don’t know already is to the tune of ‘when you wish upon a star’. The Fantasy has many other horns including; ‘a dream is a wish your heart makes’, ‘be our guest’ and a few other you’ll hear throughout the cruise. As a side note; on all sea days after the Captains noon time announcement they play all the horns. Very cool. The three Broadway style shows are all Disney originals and all are extremely well put together. The Genie brings the house down in Aladdin which is essentially the stage version of the movie. Wishes and Believe have different storylines and both are excellent. What we really liked about both was seeing many Disney characters woven throughout each production. Some of the characters you’ll have seen around the ship and others you won’t such as; Mary Poppins, Rafiki, Baloo and many others. I do want to take a moment to address the storylines of each show because if you have little ones and feel like you won’t be able to make it to all three you may have to pick and choose. The little kids will enjoy all the shows equally because of the character involvement. Wishes is a story of three friends on the eve of their high school graduation and they go on an incredible journey to help them become adults but still remain kids at heart. Believe is about a father’s relationship with his young daughter. She is young, energetic and believes that anything is possible while her father is practical and perhaps a little cynical. He is paid a visit but the Genie from Aladdin who takes him on a Disney filled journey and he too becomes a believer that anything is possible. Pirates in the Caribbean is an absolute must see for everyone. We missed it last year due to a cranky little one but we weren’t going to miss it this year. I can’t say if this is new or has always been this way but they did an early and a late Pirates in the Caribbean show on our cruise. We went to the early show which took place after the main dining, presumably to accommodate little ones. The show was fantastic and included dancers, all the Classic Characters and of course Captain Hook and Smee. Captain Mickey battles Captain Hook for control of the ship. Of course Captain Mickey wins and Hook and Smee walk the plank. After my wife and daughter went to bed I went back up to the pool deck to watch the fireworks. The fireworks are only done during the second show which begins around 10pm. The fireworks are set off around 10:45pm. I was on my own so I asked a bartender in O’Gills the best spot to watch from and he suggested Currents. Currents is on deck 13 ahead of the front funnel. This proved to be a fantastic location because it wasn’t busy and since the fireworks are shot off the front funnel Currents was indeed a perfect venue to enjoy show. The fireworks themselves were fantastic. Lots of colour and some really loud explosions. I was very impressed. The live bands they have playing around the ship are absolutely fantastic. Our personal favourite was the FireLites who played in the atrium before main and second seatings on alternating days starting on the first night (1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th). They are such good entertainers with a great sound, a sound that makes you feel like you’re living the good life as you walk into one of the main dining rooms. I would like to give a shout out to the female singer who did a fantastic job each night interacting with the group of kids that would dance while they performed. This group included our daughter and the singer always made a point to give her a hug, dance with her or simply send a smile and a wave her way. The other band that played the atrium on the other nights was Fine Whines. They were fantastic as well but for some reason we must have always been running late for dinner on those nights because I feel we didn’t have time to enjoy them as much as we would have liked. Ed Kelly was a pianist who played in La Piazza quite often. Check your navigator to find out exactly what times he performs. He was fantastic. Our daughter loved the kids club which allowed my wife and I the opportunity to enjoy some of the adult spaces in the Europa district. We caught Ed one night and enjoyed making song requests and hearing his renditions of classic hits from Elton John to Billy Joel. He even did some Adele on the night we saw him perform. La Piazza is a great setting to kick back after a great day and relax listening to the sounds of the piano. The last show I want to talk about is ‘See Ya Real Soon’. We missed this last year and I am so happy we didn’t this year. A member of the entertainment team positions themselves on the atrium stairs and one by one introduces all characters from Mickey to Goofy and even a couple of the Princesses. After they’ve all been introduced a dance party takes place which was extremely fun. Who doesn’t want to dance to Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off with Daisy Duck or dance to Vengaboys Venga Bus is Coming with Chip and Dale? We had a blast and then another round of confetti drops from the ceiling. Lots of confetti and the kids go wild for it going so far as picking it up and wanting to bring it home. I find Disney Fantasy confetti all over my house now as my daughter seemed to think this was the best souvenir to bring home from her cruise. After the dance party all the characters position themselves around the entire atrium area for one last round of photos and autographs so if you missed a character this will be your final chance to see them before the end of your cruise. Overall, the entertainment offered was fantastic. We enjoyed all the shows and all the entertainers we saw on our particular cruise.

 

 

Characters

This section could be five pages on its own but I will keep it short. On both our Disney cruises we were seemingly on a quest to see as many characters as we could as soon as possible. The reality is that if you’re not picky about which Mickey you get a picture with then you will have plenty of opportunities to see all the characters. Yes, there are many different Mickey’s. There is Captain Mickey, Formal Mickey, Pirate Mickey and of course Beach Mickey. My best advice as it relates to characters is to approach the meet and greets as if it’s a marathon and not a sprint. On a 7-night cruise there will be plenty of opportunities to see them all and get your autograph books signed. We’ve brought autograph books with us both years but you can buy them on board and the price difference is negligible. As mentioned earlier there are three ticketed meet and greets, those being; Disney Junior Breakfast (generally the first sea day), the Elsa and Anna meet and greet and the Princess Gathering. Once again, our daughter loved all three events. At the Disney Junior Breakfast we had a wonderful breakfast seated at a table with another couple and their two sons. In between ordering our meals, receiving meals and eating our meals we met Jake, Doc McStuffins, Sophia and Daisy Duck. The Elsa and Anna meet and greet took place in Animators Palate and Disney does a really good job making you feel like you’re at Elsa’s Ice Palace at the top of the North Mountain. Elsa and Anna spoke with our daughter for what seemed like five minutes before we finally got their attention for a picture. It is so amazing to be a parent and watch your child interact with her heroes. The Princess Gathering picked up where we left of with Elsa and Anna. On our particular cruise we had Tiana, Belle, Ariel and Cinderella. Each of them spent considerable time speaking with our daughter, asking her questions and giving her lots of hugs. It brings a tear to your eye watching. This experience takes place in the atrium on deck three which is a great spot to take some really special pictures. The other characters that made appearances on our cruise included all the classic characters; Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale. Others were; Captain Hook and Smee, Stitch, Tinkerbell, Woody, Jessie and Captain Jack Sparrow. Captain Jack Sparrow only made an appearance on Pirate Night and when we went to meet him outside the Walt Disney Theatre the lineup was bigger than most but shouldn’t have been longer than a 10 minute wait. That said; we eventually had to give up because after 20 minutes we were nowhere near the front of the line. My wife later told me that the reason for the long wait was because of how interactive the character was with each and every kid. At one point he ran into the nearby store (White Caps) while playing with a child. I would have loved to have seen my daughter play with Captain Jack but she was about to turn into a pumpkin so we had to get back to the stateroom. Overall the character experience is exceptional. These are iconic characters adored by children and beloved by parents and even grandparents who grew up watching Disney movies and cartoons. Captain Jack being the exception we never waited longer than 10 minutes to meet a character and in some cases had little to no wait at all. One last point is that a Disney photographer is present at all character meet and greets but the characters handler will generally take photos for you with your own camera. There were a couple good ones of my daughter that the Disney photographer took but ultimately we decided to go with the ones on our camera.

 

 

Other Venues on the Ship

 

 

Pools

As you would expect the pool deck is busy on sea days. If you’re the type of person that needs a prime spot on the pool deck throughout the entirety of a sea day then I would recommend you get up there early. However; if having a prime spot isn’t a must to you then a seat can be found at all times of the day. We spent most of our time on the pool deck in Nemo’s Reef which is the splash zone that non toilet trained children can use. At 3.5 years our daughter is fully trained and has been for nearly two years but this was her favourite spot. She loved the stingray slide and all the water spouts. If you have a really little one that wants to do the stingray slide I would go in there to watch. If it’s busy the kids don’t self-regulate very well and don’t allow the person in front of them to clear before they go down the slide. I didn’t see any injuries but there was a couple collisions. This is also a fully shaded area so if you want to minimize your little ones sun exposure. The Mickey and Donald pools are the two main pools and both were generally very busy. The Donald Pool is nearest to Funnel Vision and is roughly four and half feet deep. The Mickey Pool is approximately two feet deep and is appropriately shaped like Mickey Mouse. The lifeguards do a fantastic job patrolling all the water spaces and in particular the two main pools and Nemo’s Reef. I spent a bit of time watching them throughout our cruise because I was amazed at how alert and vigilant they were at all times. Of course you’d expect this type of attention given their very important job but I wanted to give them some kudos for doing it so well. To monitor and accountable for these very active spaces with upwards of 30 to 35 people all day every day they do an unbelievable job. I debated long and hard as to whether I was going to bring the subject of swim diapers up in this review and ultimately I have decided to share my experience. For every 10 parents who have kids in the pool there will be one to two that either don’t know the rules or don’t care for the rules. I saw children in swim diapers in all the pools each and every day despite the fact that they should only be in Nemo’s Reef. We witnessed two incidents during our cruise where pools needed to be evacuated due to a non-potty trained child having an accident in or near the water. This was frustrating because it closes that particular pool space for upwards of an hour and makes the other pools that much busier. Of course we were frustrated by these situations but we were quite impressed by the measures taken by Disney in these unfortunate situations. Three whistle blows means to evacuate the pool. Once evacuated the lifeguards rope off the area while the cleaning staff drains the pool. The pool gets fully drained and then gets pressure washed, after which the pool is then refilled and is reopened. We were very impressed with the procedures taken to clean the pools. My only disappointment is that the rules regarding swim diapers never appeared to be enforced. In fact the only rule we experienced being enforced around the pool was that food and drinks must be kept four feet away. It was frustrating to us that more emphasis would be put on keeping food and drink away from the pool versus pee or poop. I apologize for the rant but as mentioned I thought it was worth sharing. There is another family pool called Funnel Puddle which can be found midship on deck 13 which is directly in front of the forward funnel. This is a quieter space that we quite enjoyed and our daughter loved the pool which was a foot deep. She loved to slide around on her tummy pretending to be a little shark with the friends she made on our sea days. If you’re looking for quiet this may be your go to spot on the pool deck. The adult pools are quite nice as well. Quiet Cove was a little livelier than Satellite Falls. Quiet Cove has a ‘swim up bar’ and mist machines which were very nice on a couple hot sea days. Satellite Falls is a beautiful area of the ship and on the day we visited it was extremely quiet. Most people were on loungers reading or napping which left the pool wide open to us. We shared a drink and enjoyed cooling off and we would have loved to have spent more time there but alas it was a family vacation so we picked our daughter up from the Oceaneers Club.

 

 

Water Slides

I could have included this in the pools section but thought it was worth separating. The AquaDuck was really neat and my daughter was excited to go on it with mom and dad but unfortunately she came up short. By that I mean she was about 41 inches and you need to be a minimum of 42 inches. On one of our sea days I decided to go up on my own so that my wife could take a picture of me, however, on the day I tried it was a little windy and they were only allowing people to go in pairs. My wife and I feel a little guilty about this but one day our daughter was asking to go to the Oceaneers Club so we took her and decided that we would go on the AquaDuck. Before you head up the stairs to the top of the slide the current wait time is posted which we found was fairly accurate. It said 20 minutes and we waited pretty much 20 minutes. I enjoyed this a little more than the AquaDunk on Magic because at the slower speed you can appreciate the view going out over the side of the ship and traveling around the pool deck. Our daughter was big enough to do the Mickey Slide but she refused to try it until our last and final day of the cruise. I went up the stairs and helped her the first few times as you have to wait for the red light to turn green before you can go down. This allows the person ahead of you to clear the landing area. After her first slide she was hooked and she went from needing and wanting my help to zipping up the stairs and down the slide all on her own. We were quite proud given she’s only 3.5 years old and somewhat tentative sometimes.

 

 

Biddidi Bobbidi Boutique

Wow! This was a fun experience. I’m not sure who had more fun though my wife and I or our daughter. If you’re interested in doing this book it as early as you can especially if you’re particular about the day and time. This will come as no surprise but the late afternoon times on formal night and semi night fill up first followed by the other remaining sea days. If you’re not particular about the day or time you can book online before your cruise or once you get on the ship. Since we booked this cruise two weeks out the most desired days and times were taken but there were still plenty of appointment times to be had. I booked something before the cruise but changed it once we boarded. I’m not sure if there was a cancellation or if they added more appointment times but we got a more desirable time (3:45pm on semi-formal night which was a sea day). We chose the Crown Package which includes hair, make-up, nails and a face jewel. There are a few other packages available the bigger ones include a costume and they have one for every Princess and a couple of the classic characters. The ‘fairy godmother in training’ that treated our daughter was fantastic. Her name was Chelsea and to my wife and I she seemed to go above and beyond to treat our daughter like a princess. She spoke to her throughout the entire appointment, asked her all sort of questions and really engaged with her extremely well. Once in your salon chair the ‘fairy godmother in training’ will pull out a book of hairstyles for your princess to choose from and it came as no surprise to us that our little one chose the Elsa hair style. This hair style included a hair extension which was neat for our little girl as her hair is still quite short. It might have been an Elsa hairstyle but she felt like Rapunzel her hair was so long afterwards. The hair portion takes about 25-30 minutes and in our case 20 minutes was spent teasing the hair that would become the bun on top. Wow! After the hair was done we moved on to make-up and nails. The make-up is nothing more than a little blush, some lipstick and eye shadow, just enough to take your little princesses look over the top. Once complete her ‘fairy godmother in training’ put all of the remaining make-up and nail polish into a little Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique satchel which is yours to keep, then it was time for the big reveal. We counted down from five and after the ‘fairy godmother in training’ says Biddidi Bobbidi Bo she spun our daughter around in the salon chair and she saw herself for the first time. She thought it was really great and as for mom and dad, if it weren’t for the drinks we brought with us to enjoy while we watched we’d have been in tears the whole time. The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique more than worth the money spent. Our daughter loved it, we loved it and would do it again in a heartbeat.

 

 

Adult Spaces

I mentioned the pools above and since we didn’t spend a ton of time there I don’t really have much to add in this section. We did spend a bit more time in the the Europa district which houses the adults only bars and clubs: La Piazza, The Tube, O’Gills, Ooh La La and Skyline. Each is unique in its own way and you’re bound to find one that becomes your go to nighttime hangout. For me that was O’Gills and like last year on Magic I usually got down there each evening for a beer or two. There was always a new friend to be made, combine that will a relaxing atmosphere and ESPN and I was hooked. If you’re looking for a chill place to relax after a long day enjoying the sun while catching up on some scores from back home this is definitely a place you want to visit. The other lounge we spent some considerable time in was Skyline. I mostly went here with my wife as we bought a 7 for 5 drink package which was available for purchase. They have two featured drinks from each of the locals that are showcased in the lounge. Of all the drinks offered in this lounge our favourite was the "Londonium" which contains Hendrick's No. 3 London Dry Gin, Grand Marnier, Tattinger Champagne and mango puree plus a medley of freshly-muddled juicy lemon, orange and lime citrus slices. If you’re looking to switch things up from beer and wine this is a nice one to try. If we were to do it all over we wouldn’t have bought the 7 for 5 package because we sort of felt like we needed to try and drink from each local and some were considerably better than others. An interesting tidbit I was able to extract from the bartender was that most of the drinks on the menu were created by bartenders currently working on the Fantasy and other Disney ships. The Tube is the most action packed adult venue on the ship with trivia, games and contests going on throughout the day and into the early evening. A neat spot but we never ended up spending much time there, just popped in once to check things out. Ooh La La is a venue I wish we’d spent more time in on our cruise. We had a glass of wine there one night but unfortunately never made it back. A good excuse to sail on the Fantasy one more time.

 

Oceaneers Club and Oceaneers Lab

Last year our daughter was only 2.5 and was not permitted in either the Club or the Lab. Prior to the cruise last year I had heard that if your little one is close to 3 and fully toilet trained that they may allow them in but that wasn’t the case. That said; it was a non-issue as there is more than plenty for a family to enjoy on the ship together. This year she was very excited to go to the clubs because we’d got a little taste last year during the open houses. Since this was a family vacation we didn’t want our daughter to be in the clubs too much but we did end up taking her once and sometimes twice a day. She was never there for more than an hour but she had an absolute blast each and every time. The cast members that work in Oceaneers are absolutely fantastic with the kids and learn their names very quickly. There were a couple time where we passed a cast member in the hall and they would say hello to our daughter. The spaces are extremely well laid out and there is something for every child. Our daughter seemed to love Pixie Hollow and every time we picked her up she seemed to be playing in that space. That brings me to the process on how to drop off and pick up your child. This is something we were very interested in learning about and I didn’t really find many threads that explained the process. As mentioned earlier once your child is registered they will get a Magic Band. That Magic Band has a chip in it that when scanned will display your child’s picture, your picture and that of anyone else who you’ve indicated can remove your child from the club area. I’m sure it has more information as well, such as your stateroom but all we saw were our pictures. When you drop off your child they scan their Magic Band and the cast member opens the gate and the child goes in to play. My wife and I took turns picking our daughter and the process was very locked down. The cast member scans your Key to the World card and all your information pops up on their computer screen and because the Magic Bands include GPS they will advise you on where your child is currently playing. For us it was always Pixie Hollow but the odd time she was in Monsters Academy or Andy’s Room. After finding our daughter we walked back to the entrance where she scanned her band and my wife or I were asked for our secret password. Once the password was verified the cast member opens the gate and we were free to leave. My wife and I were very impressed with the process and felt more than comfortable leaving our child in the care of the fantastic cast members who clearly care so much for each and every child who comes to play in either the Club or the Lab. If you’re a parent who can be a little over protective from time to time (that would be us) I would advise you to visit an Open House to familiarize yourself with the spaces and then try dropping your child off for a half hour. Once you experience the process for yourself a couple times you will feel more than comfortable leaving your child to have some fun on their own. It also means you can have a little bit of much deserved adult time.

 

 

Ports

We were scheduled to visit Tortola, St. Thomas and Castaway Cay but we ended up missing the latter due to some mechanical issues which have been well documented on these boards. Of course we were disappointed missing our day at Castaway Cay but Disney did compensate us quite well when perhaps they weren’t obligated to do so. Outlined below is a recap of our two days in port at Tortola and St. Thomas.

 

Tortola

This was a new port for us so we were very excited to see what it had to offer. We’re very much beach people and have always found a beach to visit on our own rather than through the cruise line. Unfortunately I didn’t have as much time to research the ports as I normally would like given we didn’t finalize our plans to sail on Fantasy until a couple weeks out. That said; there is a great deal of information in the Tortola forum posted by many users but I would like to give a shout out to bluewater specifically. He/she has offered a wealth of information on Tortola which proved very valuable. Thanks bluewater. After carefully reviewing all the information on these boards we decided that Cane Garden Bay offered us everything we look for in a beach. It had beach bars and restaurants (6), chair and umbrella rentals, beautiful clear and calm water and a soft sandy beach. I had originally decided that we’d spend the day at Paradise Beach Club for no other reason other than the fact that a fellow Canadian works the bar. Unfortunately when we arrived at the beach around 9:45am Paradise was not open yet so we moved next door to Rhymers Beach Bar and it did the trick. The beach chairs and umbrellas were already set up as we arrived and after we paid $15 to rent two chairs and the umbrella for the day we started to settle in for the day. Cane Garden Bay came exactly as advertised. There were six beach bars located along this beautiful stretch of beach all offering similar amenities and refreshments. I don’t think you could go wrong with any of the bars although we only experienced Rhymer’s first hand. The view is spectacular from the beach as you look out toward the sea. A hundred metres off shore there were a dozen sail boats anchored in the bay, vacationers who simply stopped there for the night. In the distance on the right side you’ll see the island of Jost Van Dyke and way off in the distance (visible on a clear day) is St. Thomas. It was pretty neat to be on the beach in Tortola and see the island we’d be visiting the next day. The slope to enter the water was very gradual and perfect for our little daughter and the temperature was perfect. She spent 95% of our time at the beach in the water. As for the food and drinks they were island standard in terms of pricing and quality. My wife and I enjoyed a couple buckets of cold beer. It was five beers for $15 (Carib, Presidente Red Stripe, Budweiser and Bud Light) if you wanted Corona’s it was five for $20. Since we had room service and also brought a few packaged snacks with us we split a single order of chicken fingers and fries for lunch. I can’t remember what we paid but it was reasonable. The quality was equal to what we’d expect for this type of fried food at home but the service was definitely on island time. It was a good thing we were on island time as well. It took about 45 minutes from the time I ordered to the time it came out but when you’re on the beach and have nothing but time on your hands it didn’t bother us at all. However; if you do have little ones you may want to take the service time into consideration. Overall we were very happy with our decision to visit Cane Garden Bay. It is the most visited touristy beach in Tortola which would usually put me off but with only two ships in port that day and ours being the first to arrive we weren’t concerned about it becoming too busy. The beach filled up a couple hours after we arrived but it wasn’t busy past the point that you felt like you didn’t have your own space. We would definitely go back to Cane Garden Bay if we visit Tortola again and may try Myett’s Beach Restaurant which comes highly recommended by bluewater.

 

St. Thomas

This was an adventure of a day. Again; didn’t have a ton of time to do my research but before we left I did believe I had found our perfect beach. It had a nice restaurant, offered chair and umbrella rentals and was advertised to have clear calm water and a beautiful sandy beach. There were six ships in port that day so I wanted to do everything we could do avoid Magen’s Bay so we ended up at Secret Harbor. Kudos again go to bluewater who has also provided a fantastic review of all the beaches in St. Thomas and based upon those descriptions and the others I found we decided on Secret Harbor for its quaintness, calm clear water, access to chair/umbrella rentals and a restaurant. We arrived around 9:30am and we were the only ones on the beach in this tiny little bay. The servers at the restaurant directed us to where we could rent chairs and an umbrella and advised that we arrived at a good time. They were expecting big crowds that day with six ships in port. We got ourselves situated and of course the first thing my daughter wanted to do was go into the water. The water was indeed clear and calm and the water entry was gradual, perfect for little ones, our only issue was the sand was quite granular and it was quite rocky. Not rocky in the sense that you’d cut your feet or hurt yourself it just wasn’t smooth and soft as we were hoping. After we debated staying or going we decided that it was worth spending the extra money to go to Magen’s, which at this point was a $24 (30 minute) cab ride away. It was a small price to pay to ensure we had a fantastic beach day and I just got the sense that my wife wasn’t going to be happy spending the day at Secret Harbor. We arrived at Magen’s a little after 10am and it wasn’t too busy yet but many of the shady spots were taken. For those that don’t know, Magen’s Bay is a site that it’s managed by the Magen’s Bay Authority, similar to the way a Provincial/State Park may operate in North America. We paid a small entry fee and were shown where we could pick up a ride when we were ready to head back to the ship. Magen’s Bay is a massive beach area and it is extremely picturesque. There is a gift shop, snack bar and another bar for drinks. If you’d like to rent a chair for the day you pay in the gift shop and take your receipt to the boys outside who will get your chair. I suppose for a tip they will even set it up for you anywhere on the beach but I choose to set our chairs up myself. No umbrellas are available for rent so if you want shade you can get it naturally from the trees that line the beach. Those spots are generally taken first so if you need shade while spending a day at Magen’s I’d advise you to bring your own or get there early to stake your claim to one of those shady spots. The water is clear and calm and the entry is nice and sandy. However, on the day we were there, there was a significant drop as you got about four feet out. It dropped from maybe a foot to two and half to three feet at that drop. This did not in one way effect our day as we brought a swim shirt (that had floatation foam inside it) as well as a floaty for our daughter. Similar to Tortola she spent 90% of our day in the water and had an absolute blast. Our daughter is comfortable in the water but has never swam without my wife or I holding on to her until our day in St. Thomas. We convinced her to give it a try by having her swim on her own between my wife and I who were maybe two feet apart. At the end of the day she was full on swimming by herself (note: she was wearing her swim shirt to keep her afloat). It was such a proud moment for her mom and I to see her work up the courage to swim on her own and then embrace it like she did. At lunch we decided to have a couple slices of pizza and while they were nothing to write home about they did the trick to fill our hungry bellies. The bar served the standard island beers from Corona to Red Stripe to Budweiser. Not sure why but they don’t offer beer by the bucket here and if you ask the wrong bartender they’ll get very upset with you because it is posted on their menu. There was one cranky bartender who was very short with my wife when she picked up some beers and when I went back to pick up a couple more when he gave me my change he yelled ‘don’t forget to tip your bartenders, we’re all working hard for you’. I’m all for tipping and generally keep a few dollar bills on hand for this purpose but when you’re rude and openly asking for a tip you probably won’t get one from me. This didn’t ruin our day but was something that would put us off from visiting Magen’s again in the future. Overall we were pleased with our day despite how busy Magen’s got and believe me it was extremely busy by the time we left. I would have guessed around 3,000 or more were on the beach. The open air ‘jeeps’ take 25 people at a time back to the port and the system in place at Magen’s was very well organized. The driver put our stroller in the trunk and off we went and it was a very enjoyable drive back to port. A little harrowing at times given there are no doors or windows but it’s part of the experience when you’re on the islands. Once we arrived back at port we walked around the shopping area and stopped in the grocery store to pick up a six pack to take back on the ship. We had no issues whatsoever taking the beer onto the ship. In closing; our day at Magen’s was quite enjoyable and it did offer us everything we wanted from a beach day, it’s just a little busy for our liking. It would have been fine if there weren’t so many ships in port that day and if there were only two or three we’d go back in a heartbeat. In future though we’ll look for another beach, perhaps Sapphire or Emerald.

 

 

Conclusion

The ship was fantastic, the ports were fantastic, Disney is fantastic and we cannot wait for our next Disney cruise. Would we do the Fantasy again? Yes, but we are interested in experiencing the other ships we haven’t sailed yet, especially the Wonder.

 

 

I know this review was quite large and if you’ve read through to this point you must have enjoyed it. I hope you did. If you have any questions about the ship, the ports or travelling with a little one please do not hesitate to ask. I love writing these reviews and helping others the way I have received help from others on these boards when we first started cruising a couple years ago. Paying it forward one review at a time.

Happy Sailing.

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Great review,,thanks. like you, I normally like to go out on my own at ports. But this will be my first cruise with my 4 year old and I'm feeling like I need to go on ship excursions just due to the bus transport they provide so we don't need to worry about car seats.

How was it traveling with your little one? Did you take cabs? You mentioned you can be over protective, we're the same and I've been wondering if I could avoid high priced official excursions.

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Thanks for the early feedback everyone. Will reply to any questions shortly. My concern is how the review is posted. I did separate the paragraphs and include section headers. Are you all reading it as one giant paragraph like ex techie experienced? If so I will fix ASAP.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums mobile app

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Thanks for this excellent review! I have two sons and I'm always a little envious that I don't have a daughter when I see all the little girls running around the ship after a visit to BBB.

 

BBB is certainly a little more tailored to the girls but we saw quite a few boys go through as well. If its something you'd like to do perhaps you look at Pirate Night and have your sons done up like Captain Jack. I bet they'd love it.

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Great review,,thanks. like you, I normally like to go out on my own at ports. But this will be my first cruise with my 4 year old and I'm feeling like I need to go on ship excursions just due to the bus transport they provide so we don't need to worry about car seats.

How was it traveling with your little one? Did you take cabs? You mentioned you can be over protective, we're the same and I've been wondering if I could avoid high priced official excursions.

 

Over on the family forum you'll see that people are quite divided as it relates to car seats. I'm not going to tell you what to do because that's a personal choice, however, I will tell you what we've done. Our first two cruises we used the infant seat. The second two cruises (2015 and 2016) we did not bring or use a car seat. The exception being while we were in Florida, this is where we rented a car and car seat from Budget. Once on the islands we just jumped in cabs. Our daughter is tall for her age so we do use the seat belts in these local cabs. Logically, I'm not sure why we've made that decision I suppose it has to do with the distances we're traveling, the roads we're traveling on and the speeds. Typically we'll ask the drive to go a little slower and they've always obliged. Happy cruising. Thanks for reading.

Edited by Tagong
typo
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Great review! So helpful, especially since we are traveling on the same ship/itinerary in April! Quick question. How would you compare Cane Garden Bay with Megan's Bay. I think we will only do one beach day in either Tortola or St. Thomas. Leaning towards Cane Garden Bay in Tortola, but have heard so much about Megan's Bay that I don't want to miss out on a beautiful beach! Also, how scary was the ride to Cane Garden Bay? Thanks!

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Great review! So helpful, especially since we are traveling on the same ship/itinerary in April! Quick question. How would you compare Cane Garden Bay with Megan's Bay. I think we will only do one beach day in either Tortola or St. Thomas. Leaning towards Cane Garden Bay in Tortola, but have heard so much about Megan's Bay that I don't want to miss out on a beautiful beach! Also, how scary was the ride to Cane Garden Bay? Thanks!

 

In a sense it's apples to oranges primarily due to the number of ships in port on the particular days we visited both Tortola and St. Thomas. Two ships including Fantasy for Tortola and six ships including Fantasy in St. Thomas.

 

Cane Garden Bay would be your typical beach area that features a number of different beach bars/restaurants. Magen's is run by a type of government organization and your options are limited. If you want to eat, there is one snack bar, if you want to buy gifts, there is one gift shop and if you want an adult beverage, there is one bar. In terms of what they offer I would say there are equal but where Cane Garden Bay separates itself is the options available and the overall vibe. In our case we arrived at CGB and the beach bar we planned to spend the day at wasn't option so we venture over to one that was at the time we arrived. We had that choice and had a fantastic day. If you don't like something offered at Magen's you can choose to ignore it or move on to another beach. The physical beaches themselves are comparable in terms of water temperature and clarity. However, to us Cane Garden Bay emerges victories in this category because of the view. JVD and St. Thomas can be seen in the distance.

 

The drive is not scary at all. We were in a nice air conditioned van with another family and we all quite enjoyed the drive. You do go up the mountain from port and down the other side toward the beach. The views are spectacular and our driver stopped so we could take a photo of the ship back at port and of the beach. NOTE: I am trying to upload a photo but having difficulty. Stay tuned it's beautiful.

 

Overall we'd choose Cane Garden Bay over Magen's anyday of the week. That's our personal choice though that works best for us.

 

I hope you enjoy your beach day whichever you choose to visit.

Edited by Tagong
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How did you arrange your trip to CGB? If so, how much to and from?

 

We do excursions on our own. We simply got off the ship and found a cab that would take us to Cane Garden Bay. I believe we paid $8 each for my wife and I. Our daughter was free.

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norwane - glad you enjoyed the review.

 

I didn't see any Star Wars other than the movie playing in Buena Vista and on occasion in the Walt Disney Theatre. They also had merchandise for sale in the shops but this was not a cruise that featured Star Wars Day at Sea so we didn't see any characters.

 

The 7 for 5 package was a special promotional offer in Skyline. It was simple pay for five drinks and receive seven. Not a bad deal if you intend on spending some time there each night.

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Adding some pictures.

 

Meeting Mickey in the Terminal after checking in.

 

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Animators looking like Arendale

 

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Cane Garden Bay

 

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Rhymers is where we spent the day.

 

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View of the port area in Tortola.

 

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Havensight port in St. Thomas.

 

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I'll post some more later today if everyone is enjoying. I have a few of the other dining rooms as well as a couple menus. Let me know what you'd be most interested in seeing and I will try and dig those photos up. I have non of the room. Sorry.

 

Happy Sailing.

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For the foodies and those interested in the dining rooms and some menus. See below.

 

Royal Court menu from Formal Night. Try and filet. My personal favourite from the cruise.

 

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Royal Court. I wonder who gets to sit at this fancy table in the middle of the room?

 

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Dessert menu from Prince and Princess night. I believe we were in Enchanted Garden.

 

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Menu from Disney Junior Breakfast. First sea day on our cruise. Took place in Animator's Palate.

 

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Fantastic review! I found your post to be very easy to read as well as descriptive and fun.

 

 

We were on this sailing as well...really enjoyed the ports and are going back in September to check out some excursions.

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