Pams Path to Travel
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Travel to Orlando-
We flew out of SFO on United, it’s been a few months since we last traveled & I was surprised to see the construction on the south terminal at SFO, it’s completely gutted which made for a bit more traffic around the departure area. Not a problem, we had plenty of time. All was smooth through SFO & on our flight to Orlando. Upon arrival, our driver had texted that he would be waiting for us in baggage claim. Once our bags arrived, Sam helped us to his vehicle & we were on our way to the Port Canaveral area.
For our night Prior, we were traveling with friends and they had Marriott points for a free stay, so they spent the night at the Residence Inn at the Port and had no complaints, it was consistent & exactly what you would expect from a Marriott Residence Inn brand. We had opted to stay at the Radisson at the Port. Most of my clients who cruise out of Port Canaveral are families, so I always recommend this hotel because it’s a full service hotel with a great pool area (happy kids = happy parents). The property did not disappoint. We were in one of the recently renovated hotel rooms and it was very comfortable, fitted with a small fridge, coffee maker, kitchen sink and counter area. The bathroom was beautiful, shower only, but gorgeous. The bed was very comfortable and we had a wonderful night's sleep. We were meeting some local friends for dinner, so we did dine at the restaurant & we had great service and a very good meal. Most of my trips seem to start out with a yummy cheeseburger (I never do fast food so if I’m going to have a burger, it’s going to be the real deal at a restaurant), it was delicious.
Transfer to Port-
We opted to call an Uber ride to the airport and due to luggage ordered the XL version. He arrived promptly & drove us safely to the Port which was only about a 10 minute drive away from the hotel. We could have also purchased a shuttle ride from the hotel, but they were timed and we would have had to wait for a later departure for the same cost & we didn’t have to battle a bus load of people with loading and unloading luggage.
Luggage drop off at Port Canaveral was extremely organized, but it's Disney, so I would expect nothing less. Super friendly porters & we were swiftly directed to the check-in line. All in all, a smooth process to get through security and we were then ready to go through the check-in line. As previous Disney cruisers, we had a priority line but it was really no shorter than the regular line - both were moving swiftly. Disney does give you check-in times when you complete your online registration and our time window was 1-130pm, we chose to chance it and get to the port earlier..if we had to wait, we’d rather wait there vs. The hotel and we were boarded by noon.
The Cruise- WOW
Disney is expensive and the old adage, “you get what you pay for” is really applicable in this case. Without a doubt, the best food and service that we’ve ever experienced in my 40 cruises across multiple lines. (Granted, I’ve yet to experience a luxury cruise line, but I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that Disney likely had the service caliber and food quality of the luxury lines)
We had a balcony stateroom which was very spacious. Disney does bathrooms wonderfully- you have two separate rooms, one that is the bathtub/shower with a sink and the other is the toilet with sink, which makes getting ready and not being in each other’s way super convenient...except for sharing the toothpaste, we were good. Two closets with ample storage space, several drawers. Often times, my husband & I will have to compromise on drawer space & try to figure out how to fit all of our stuff, but not with this cabin.
Disney impresses from the moment you step foot on the ship. You are announced upon arrival and you walk onto the ship with a line of officers clapping for you as you enter the atrium lobby area & then you are approached by a crew member who advises you that your lunch is waiting for you in the Dining room (not the buffet, but the dining room)...so we went down one deck and were seated at a nice table and had a lovely sit down lunch. After lunch, our cabins were ready, so we dropped off our bags and started to explore the ship.
The Fantasy is a gorgeous ship with 3 Main Dining rooms & Disney has a rotational dining concept, so you AND you servers rotate restaurants each night. We originally were confirmed with late dining, which is not our preference, so we met with the Dining staff to see if we could change, they said they would try and notify us shortly. Fortunately, they were able to accommodate our request and we started our dining experience in the Royal Court which is a Cinderella type theme & we met our servers Joseph (waiter) from India and Feri (assistant waiter) from Indonesia. They could not have been any more delightful, they were humorous & engaged with us each and every night. The other two restaurants are Animator’s’ Palate which is my favorite, it’s a dining show each night, a wonderful experience & I don’t want to give too much away about the experience because it’s wonderful surprise each night..Definitely our favorite of the rotational restaurants. The last rotational dining room is Enchanted Garden which was also lovely, we thought the tables were a bit cozy but didn’t seem to be a problem for the servers.
Disney also has two specialty dining experiences on the Fantasy- Remy which we did not experience (comes with a $95 cover fee and were not into the 7-9 course meal experiences) & Palo, which has been a favorite & we decided to dine here one night and had the most delightful server with the most difficult name to recall, he really took special care of us & two days later he ran into our friends while in Port and greeted them like they were family..that’s what Disney does.
For breakfast and lunch you have options that do include the dining rooms- they typically have one of them open for sit down service and then there is Cabanas on the pool deck which is your typical buffet restaurant & on the other side of the pool deck you have Flo’s Cafe which is a variety of smaller dining “windows” with burgers, wraps, fries, pizza, etc..and all of them are named with CARS inspired names. Of course, ice cream is available throughout the day. There is the Cove Cafe by the adult pool with pastries, specialty coffee (for a fee) and a full bar in an air conditioned area.
Bars and Lounges are located throughout the ship and there are several areas for adults only, which is what makes this an amazing cruise experience for those of us who travel without kids, YES , people do cruise with Disney without kids, some people even take their honeymoon on a Disney cruise! The Bon Voyage bar is located in the center atrium lobby and a great place to meet before or after dinner, it is also great place to people watch, especially all of the little Princesses & Princes as they come to meet their favorite characters. We had several nice conversations with bartender Mario at this bar. There is bar service by the pools and there is a pretty extensive adult pool area- 3 decks actually at the aft of the ship. The actual adult pool is on the small side- not a swimming pool, but a dipping or in most cases a sitting pool, a bar is attached with a few swim up bar stools, one deck above is another full bar with plenty of bar stools and then one deck above that is an area that has plenty of lounge chairs and also a dipping fountain area. The adult areas are relatively quiet- other than conversations, no music or movies being played.
The Mickey and Donald pool area located midship also has the large movie screen with a variety of family friendly movies being played throughout the day and into the evening. There is a kids water slide in this area as well and of course several deck chairs, but also lots of kids! We prefer to lounge on the deck above if we’re going to be by the central area, you can still view the movie screen or enjoy the music being played and you don’t have all the kids running around. This ship also has the Aqua Duck which is a water slide that had a clear tube that goes above this deck alongside the ship, it’s a fun water slide, done in an air tube for 1 or 2 riders, the lines can get long for this experience, I did it once and waited about 20 minutes. The line did not appear to be as long as it was--but that is Disney for you, the Masters at hidden lines!
On these upper decks, there is also a sports area with basketball , tennis & mini-golf available for enjoyment by all.
Of course, for other entertainment, there are full service kids facilities and separate activities according to ages of the kids & Disney keeps the kids so engaged that in some cases, parents have a hard time getting their kids out of kids club.
There are continuous meet & greet times with a variety of characters throughout the day and night in the atrium area along with another little lobby area near the shops. All of these are listed in the daily compass so that you can plan your schedule. There are also some meet & greet options with very popular characters (like the Princesses) that you need to pre-register for ahead of your cruise. Once on board there are usually a few stand by appointments, but they fill up quickly. When you meet the characters, there is the professional photographer but also an assistant able to take pictures with your own camera as well. And of course, Disney has a variety of photo packages that you can purchase. If you want everything, pictures and digital copies it’s close to $500. We ended up doing a 20 digital print package for $250. This was definitely on the high side of cost compared to most cruise lines.
Sometimes you just run into characters around and about the ship!! I met up with Goofy getting his workout on!
There are several stores where you can purchase a large variety of Disney merchandise. It’s hard to resist all of the cute stuff that they offer and inventory does change a bit during the cruise, so it’s best to shop a few times to make sure you get what you want.
Disney has a show theatre where they have both stage productions and also run some movies during the cruise and they also have a movie theatre...showing Disney movies of course! Most movies run several times and if you’re lucky to be on board when a new Disney film is being released, it will be shown on board as well. And what is a movie without popcorn and snacks? There are full snack bars outside both venues where you can purchase popcorn, candy, soda, water, cocktails and take them into the theatres!
The Adult area of the ship is a variety of bars and lounges and are off limits to anyone under the age of 18 after 9pm. It’s a beautiful area of the ship located aft on deck 4. We made some great friends in this area. The first stop is La Piazza bar, you have to walk through here to get to any of the other places and we came to love our servers Julio from Honduras and Nadean from Jamaica. They really took care of us and they were super friendly. I really felt like we got to know them well and that we added to their cruise experience as much as they did to ours. In the evenings, there would be some musical entertainment here but not really any place to dance. The Fantasy was going into dry dock after our sailing and there was talk of changing this venue around a bit to carve some space for dancing and take out the carpet - I think that’s a great plan.
There is a pub located off the piazza where you can watch sports on big screen TV’s & they often ran trivia games in this venue. Next was OoLALA which was the champagne bar, though you could get anything you wanted here aside from champagne. A short walk down the hallway, you then reach the Skyline Bar, cute little tucked away bar with some beautiful skyline art work and then you have The Tube with London inspired decor. This was the main lounge for all adult shows and entertainment and also became the DJ night club each night. Needless to say, 930pm until bedtime, this is where you could find us! Julio hooked us up with his friend Luis who worked in the Tube and Luis made sure we had our table each night & we were even snuck in through the back door by Julio one night before the venue officially opened so that we could get good seats for the show. We had excellent service here as well & we really felt as though Luis became our friend. The DJ was very good at playing our requests and we were able to dance every night. We were also nicknamed the “Solid Gold dancers” by Teesa who was the adults cruise director! Each evening there were game shows like the Quest, the Couples game & a few new ones that I had not seen before, along with interactive trivia games and top notch comedy & variety shows. We really enjoyed everything that we saw in this venue. Again, Disney hires the best in entertainment.
Ports of Call-
This was a 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise - we visited Tortola BVI , St Thomas and Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.
In Tortola, we booked an island tour/beach escape with lunch and it was a very enjoyable day with beautiful weather, great vistas , fun tour guide & lunch was pretty tasty. The Beach was beautiful, water Crystal clear. It was a good day.
St Thomas we had pre booked an excursion to St John- a catamaran champagne sail with snorkeling, but it was raining very heavy at the time we were supposed to leave and we decided not to go, getting soaked outside of the water had no appeal. We ended up going back to bed (it was an early morning) and then spent the afternoon by the pool.
Castaway Cay is Disney’s private island oasis and it’s amazing! They have 3 different beach areas- 1 dedicated to adults only, several bars around the island, 3 different BBQ areas where you can get lunch. Lunch is of course included, any drinks you would purchase and charge to your ship account. Also, a few souvenir stores and you could charge those purchases to your ship account as well. They offer tram shuttles around the island, but everything is very walkable too. They offer bike rentals if you wanted to cruise around the island and they have well marked bike paths to use. Really a beautiful island with the most gorgeous water. Disney knocked this one out of the park! It's a great island. There are also a lot of activities/excursions offered, you can rent jet skis, go parasailing , Snorkel, etc. After a few hours and some lunch we came back to the ship and relaxed by the pool for a bit before it was time to get ready for dinner.
The last day of the cruise, always the saddest as you say goodbye to all of your friends, but must say that even disembarkation process with Disney was super easy. You did not have a specific time to depart, they just announced when the ship was cleared and invited you to disembark at your leisure, luggage was all organized according to color/character tags, porters eagerly waiting to help with bags and we were smoothly processed through customs and immigration. Our ride picked us up and that was the end of the Disney Cruise Vacation...Though not the end of the trip..we then headed off to Universal Studios Resort for the next part of the trip...you can read up on that review here...
To See pictures from the Disney Fantasy, click here for my album on Flickr