We’d originally planned on staying home over spring break this year, but as the date got closer we started rethinking that plan, realizing that with our daughter graduating college this year, family getaways like this would probably be few and far between. With that in mind, we started casually checking out a few cruise options in January. After a bit of a search we narrowed it down to a couple of different itineraries, one on the Crown Princess and another on the HAL Nieuw Amsterdam. As we were headed down to see visit her at school in early February, that quickly changed. I was getting a little work done in the car and happened to check Disney’s travel agent rates, and sure enough, they had availability on the Fantasy the week we were looking at, and even better, it was a Star Wars Day at Sea sailing! In the blink of an eye, our minds were made up!
One thing to call out before I get started with this, it won’t be a day to day account like some of our posts are, as a lot of what we experienced was similar to our Disney Dream sailing last year. Think of it as more of a multi-part summary, which will also compare our experiences this year to the positives and negatives I laid out in my final post from that sailing. Frankly, I was surprised at how wrong I was in some of my perceptions last year, but we’ll get to all of that.
First, I’ll admit to breaking one of the big packing rules for any warm-weather vacation: Never forget your bathing suit. Yea, I forgot it. Even though my packing list is somewhat out of date, it still includes at least one bathing suit, but with all of the cruises we’ve been fortunate to do over the past few years I’ve grown a bit complacent when it comes to packing and didn’t even check my list. We were about two hours in when I realized I’d forgotten it, so I ended up stopping at one of those large beach stores to pick one up. You know the type of place, large store full of cheap beach crap that might hold up for three or four uses if you’re lucky. Oh well, the one I got worked fine.
On the day of our sailing, my ego slightly bruised from the bathing suit incident the day before, we got up and prepared to head to the port. We once again stayed at the Radisson right near the port, and while we could have used their included shuttle service, decided to grab a Lyft to the ship, as I’m all for not dealing with the crowds that come with hotel shuttles if I don’t have to. We’ve read stories online of others who claim it’s hard to get a driver that wants to deal with the port, but having now used both Uber and Lyft to get to and from Port Canaveral, we have yet to experience issues. Our driver arrived at the hotel about 5 minutes after we requested one, and after a short ride to the port, we headed inside! It was around 11am at this point, check in was pretty smooth with no real wait in the Castaway Club line, and with boarding number 17, we settled in for a bit of a wait.
Boarding itself moved along pretty steadily, and if I recall, we were on the ship by around 12:15. No major issues, but every time we get on a non Oasis-class ship, I’m reminded of just how efficient Royal is with the boarding of those things. They run a tight ship (pun intended) and keep things from getting crowded or bogged down along the way. Back to the Fantasy, as soon as we boarded we split up and headed two places: Bayley and I to guest services to see about Frozen gathering availability, and Jen went to line up in front of Animator’s Palate to see about Palo brunch reservations. Both worked out flawlessly. Bayley was easily able to get tickets for the Frozen gathering on the first sea day, and Jen able to get us brunch reservations on the same day. With as much amazing food as Palo offers, doing it on the earliest day possible is recommended (they only offer it on sea days). I can’t imagine trying to enjoy that spread after stuffing myself during the 5 days leading up to that second sea day.
Boosted by our early successes, we headed for lunch in Enchanted Garden, the same place we had our first meal on the Dream. This time we somehow managed to score one of those circular booths you see as you walk in!
After devouring some tasty eats, complete with the first Disney sundaes of the week, we headed to the room to drop our bags. For this trip, we went with the cheapest option available, an inside, specifically cabin 9023. It’s been 7 years since I’ve been booked in an inside cabin, and I admit I was a little worried about not having a balcony to relax on. I did miss it a few times, namely in the morning when I’d wake up before the rest of the family, but overall this was a cool little room, complete with Disney’s magic portholes, but more on that later when I get in to the room review. This first visit to our room also gave us an opportunity to show off a little surprise to Bayley. Her birthday fell in the middle of the cruise, so we decided to have the room decorated. In addition to the decorations, the spa had also left a $50 gift card on the door!
We hung out there for a little bit to relax, and during that time before the muster drill, all of our suitcases arrived, which seemed pretty fast! The rest of day 1 was filled with typical stuff, the sail away party, muster drill, an activity or two, and the first show of the week, which was a comedy juggling thing with Jeff Civillico. We really enjoyed all of Jeff’s events the two days he was on, frankly we wish he’d been on longer, and you’ll hear more about his activities in the next post. We also boarded on St Patrick’s Day, which meant a themed trivia event in O’Gill’s. Maybe it was the whisky, but the questons in this trivia session were stupid hard, a theme we encountered during the other one or two trivia events we attended. Pretty sure we gave up halfway through (as did a few other tables) as we’d answered only one of the first 10. Still, a glass of Irish whisky on St Patrick’s Day hit the spot!
As we had last year, we were assigned late seating for dinner on this cruise. Normally we’re not big fans of eating that late, but there seemed to be fewer kids in second seating last year, so we decided to stick with it. Our first dinner aboard the Fantasy was set for Animator’s Palate, our favorite main dining room on board.
For those not familiar with how rotational dining on a Disney ship works, the short version is that you rotate between 3 main dining rooms all week, with your servers following you along the way. You can find a longer write-up on it here. For our first night, we were alone at our table for 6, as our table-mates had dinner at Remy to celebrate a birthday (as we found out later). Dinner was delicious as usual, with most of mine consisting of pasta, followed by another delicious sundae. In fact, aside from having a pasta dish instead of steak as my entree, my meal was identical to what I had last time! I covered Animator’s Palate pretty well in that last post, so I won’t repeat it, but suffice to say, it was another outstanding meal aboard a Disney ship, filled with the fun of watching people chat with Crush along the way!
Following dinner we caught the Match Your Mate show in The Tube, one of the adults-only venues back in the nightclub area at the aft of the ship. Good stuff, but already being a little tired, and with a full week of fun ahead of us, I was happy to get to bed. We did end the day with a little treat, as we called room service for some Mickey bars before bed. I do love that these are included at no additional cost 🙂
Next up: Palo, characters, and all-around fun as our Disney Fantasy series continues!