Review: Disney Fantasy, Cruise Ship


Beautiful Ship, But May Be Lacking for Adults



The Facts:


CRUISE SHIP: Disney Fantasy.

OCCUPANCY: 2,500 (double occupancy), 4,000 maximum.

PORT & ITINERARY: Port Canaveral roundtrip.  Tortola, St. Thomas, Castaway Cay (Bahamas)

WEBSITE: Disney Fantasy


This entire review is written from an Adults Only perspective, we do not have children.

We recently completed our first Disney Cruise aboard the Fantasy and we were excited to see what the “Disney Experience” was all about. We’re seasoned cruisers with this being our 7th cruise aboard 5 different cruise lines; Princess, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and now Disney. This was an adults only cruise for our 20th Wedding Anniversary, we thought that was fitting since our honeymoon was spent at Disney World. There’s a lot to love about Disney and some things fall short for adults. So here’s our honest assessment of the Disney Fantasy and the overall Disney cruise experience.









BOOKING THE CRUISE

My wife’s research into Disney Cruise Lines showed that they work their cabin pricing on supply and demand. As the supply dwindles, the cost of the same cabin will increase. So the strategy to get the best cabin rate is to book your cabin the same day Disney opens up booking. Disney Cruise Line pricing is generally premium with a similar cabin often costing significantly less on another line, especially during peak seasons. We always book a Verandah cabin as we love having a balcony. For this cruise we booked just off season, sailing on Sept. 10th and Cabin 7194 was priced at $3,100 for two people. So by booking off season, we were able to get a cabin rate that’s right in line with a similar cabin level on other ships we’ve cruised. So plan ahead and keep an eye out on the Disney Cruise Critic Forums for Disney booking dates. Repeat cruisers can book their cabins in advance of first timers, so you’ll see them start posting that they were able to book their cabins, so you’ll know that the general booking date will soon

One travel tip, purchase Disney Cruise Line luggage tags for your luggage.  These are actually sized for all Cruise Line tags so they don’t get ripped or damaged in transit from the port curbside to your door.  There are versions that are cruise line specific as well.

PRE-BOOKING DINNERS AND EVENTS

Disney places a premium on return passengers so as a first time Disney guest, we were basically “at the end of the line” for trying to book anything in advance. While every cruise line has incentives for return guests, this was by far the most restrictive of any cruise line we’ve experienced. With every other ship, whether our first or return trip, we’ve been able to book all of the dinners and experiences without an issue. It might come late in the cruise, but we’ve been able to book and try dinners and elements. With Disney we were unable to book brunch at Palo in advance as that list was full, but we were able to book it once onboard thankfully. Due to the steep price of Remy, we were able to book that for our anniversary dinner.

The same can be said of the cabanas on Castaway Cay, the Disney private island. You can pretty much guarantee you will NOT get a cabana as a first time Disney guest, especially in the adult area, Serenity Bay, where there are only 4 cabanas.

So be aware that as a first time Disney guest, you may not be able to pre-book experiences that you would like to see or do and quite possibly won’t get to do them at all. Especially if you’re sailing on a full ship. You can only hope that there are still some openings when you first board, but again, as a first time guest, you’ll be among the last to board the ship. With our sailing, I heard we were just north of 3,000 guests so definitely not a full ship.  








EMBARKATION AND PORT PARKING – PORT CANAVERAL

Here Disney has it down to a science and this was the smoothest and easiest embarkation of any cruise line we’ve sailed. You will be assigned a specific check-in time to arrive at the Disney terminal along with a boarding group number. Do not arrive too much earlier than your assigned check-in time because Disney will not let you board until your group number is called. This actually creates a really smooth and frustration free boarding process because you’re not sitting around in a huge “cattle pen” waiting with a few thousand of your new friends waiting to board.

We had an 11:45am check in time so we arrived at the port around 11:15 and drove directly in to the first Disney Check In. Here they check the IDs of everyone who is going to be boarding the ship before you’re allowed to proceed to the drop off area. At the drop off area, a porter was waiting to help with the bags and then I drove directly to the parking garage right alongside the pier. Time for all of this was less than 10 minutes. Super easy.

IF YOU ARE PARKING YOUR CAR AT THE PORT, be sure to know your cabin number and have your photo ID with you after you park your car. You will need to show your ID again and they will ask for your cabin number when you walk from the parking garage back to the cruise terminal. 

An additional parking tip: If you are driving in from out of town, there are multiple Cape Canaveral / Cocoa Beach hotels that offer parking discounts for the port. We stayed two nights at the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach using one of their Cruise and Park Specials prior to the cruise and got 40% off the cruise port parking. 

Once inside it was less than 10 minutes until we were checked in and had our Keys to the World cabin key. So that took us to about 11:35am and we were boarding group 12. There is great signage around the terminal telling you which boarding group is currently going in and they were at 9 when we finished. About 10 minutes later, group 12 was called it was time to board. About 30 minutes from the time we arrived we were boarding the ship and we never really felt like cattle going through endless lines like every other cruise line. 

One other great perk from Disney, they had a separate line if you wanted to avoid the obligatory terrible photo before you board the ship. Loved that.

Now the cabins are not ready to enter until 1:30pm so we prepared for that by only bringing on board a few small bags of necessities including swimwear in case we wanted to hang out by the pool. We did end up going near the stairwell for Deck 7 (our deck) around 1:15 which was a HUGE mistake. Just a mass of bodies loitering waiting for the ropes to drop so they could get to their rooms and then we were basically stuck. DO NOT go near your room until 1:45pm if you can help it. You’re just going to be in a warm mass of bodies. Go sit in Cabanas or out by the pool or really just anywhere except the stairwells. After 1:45 the areas should be clear of all the early loiterers and you’re good to go to your cabin. 

If you are traveling without children, note that Embarkation is about the only time you’re allowed as an adult to just wander and explore the Oceaneer’s Club which features an oversized Andy’s Room from Toy Story, a Monster’s Inc room and various other rooms that really do bring out the kid in you.  I encourage you to go explore and take some pictures of this area before the ship sets sail, it really is an awesome space to take some memorable pictures. 

CABIN

As I mentioned previously, we were in cabin 7194 which is in the center of the stern of the ship. Cabin itself was a good size with lots of storage in both of the dual closets plus plenty of room under the bed for all our luggage. Easily the most standard storage space of any ship we have sailed so far. There was a choke point between the end of the bed and the wall where only one person can get by, that was a bit of pain at times, but not awful. It’s not uncommon to have this in verandah / balcony cabins as the beds are almost always sideways in the room.


We really liked the split bathroom design with the toilet and shower split into two rooms, however we both hated the positioning of the light switches between the doors.  When going into the shower, the switch was behind the door so we were constantly stepping out of the doorway, closing the door, turning on the light and then back into the shower room.  BUT we did like the split bathroom concept which gave us two sinks and plenty of room for toiletries.  These were also the first bathrooms we’ve had finished in tile.  Most ship rooms are usually that plastic paneling prefab look.  Definitely made the bathrooms look a bit nicer.  Towels were a bit thin and not as absorbent as other ships, but functional.  My wife loved the dual drying lines over the tub, usually you just get one, but it’s nice to have the two especially after pool and beach visits.

If you have mobility issues, be aware that the step into the tub for the shower is quite high.  The tub sides basically came up to our knees and we’re in the 5’ 6” height area so if you have mobility issues, you might want to consider a handicap cabin.

Inside the cabin you’ll find a good sized fridge and the TV features most all Disney and Pixar films on demand.  This is especially great when you’re getting ready in the mornings or before dinner to have a fun film playing in the background.

We usually try to book an aft cabin because we enjoy the vibrations from the engines which helps us sleep, we love the sound of the prop wash which is a waterfall like sound and we especially love that the aft balconies are usually a bit larger than the other cabins in the same category.   This was easily the largest balcony we’ve ever had on any ship, even when we’ve booked a junior suite on other ships.   Plenty of room for two full lounge chairs plus two regular chairs and a small table.   That being said, the design of the aft meant that HALF most of the balcony was uncovered.  We prefer ships that have a different angle on the back so most of the balcony is covered, but that’s not the Fantasy was designed.  In addition to being more exposed, the balcony was exceptionally dirty from exhaust soot from the main engines.  So there was a trade-off with the aft balcony.  Larger space than many other cruise lines, but less cover and dirt from the exhaust.

Our room Hostess (also known as a room steward or cabin attendant on other ships) was Gaeliza and she was simply AWESOME.  We felt her service was the best we’ve received on any ship, with Celebrity service being a close second.  She was incredibly friendly, personable, took care of all our needs and really had a great time with the towel animals, even giving me a momentary scare one evening with the monkey on the toilet.  That was absolutely hilarious and we were very sad to say goodbye to Gaeliza at the end of our cruise.

A great tip for extra storage in the room is to get a wall hanging, canvas shoe rack like this one and hang that on the bathroom door.  Disney does NOT allow over the door hangers to be used in the cabin so you’ll need to get some magnetic door hooks like these if you want to use a canvas shoe rack.  We’ve used that for most every cruise we’ve been on.  Also, there’s generally just one or two outlets available in a cabin and most cruise lines have now outlawed power strips, power squids and extension cords that have a cord on them.  So get yourself a power cube like this one that also features some USB outlets to charge up your various devices.  Another handy dandy storage tip are these  12” x 12” folding cubes that can be placed in cabinets, under the bed or elsewhere in your cabin.













INTERNET and DISNEY CRUISE APP

Disney has set the internet standard that I wish everyone in the cruise industry would follow.  They charge by the data usage, NOT the time spent online.  I paid less than $100 for 60MB of usage because I only planned to check emails.  So instead of charging me for the time I was online, Disney only charged me for how much data I downloaded.  Since it was all emails, 60MB was more than enough for the entire cruise.  On every other cruise line I’ve had to add extra internet service because the service is so slow I always run out of minutes by the 5th day of a 7 day cruise.

For speed, I had no issues downloading emails or updating Facebook and a friend who had unlimited internet service said she was able to stream Netflix shows with minimal issues so the speed is plenty fast on-board.

Now the Disney Cruise App, well that was outstanding.   First off, the app is FREE TO USE ONBOARD without the need to pay for an internet service.  Simply log into the WiFi system as directed by the app and you can use that app for the entire cruise at no additional cost.  The biggest thing the Disney app includes is in-app messaging to anyone else on-board so you can stay in contact with people in your party or anyone else you meet.  So you can text anyone on-board, for free, which is OUTSTANDING when you’re on a 1,000+ foot ship with 15 decks. That’s an awesome way to easily stay in touch with everyone. The app also includes the entire daily schedule, the restaurant menus, the ability to select ‘favorite’ activities and receive notifications that they’re about to start.   So you’ll never miss an activity or event on-board because you forgot to write it down.  Your smartphone will give you an alert and off you go.  






DINING (including Vegetarian options and Coffee)

We typically don’t use assigned dining times on our cruises opting for “anytime” dining, but with Disney you have to follow a dining rotation. Disney is also the first ship we’ve sailed on without a buffet option for dinner. There’s reasons to both like and not like the Disney dining. 

I start with coffee because I LOVE COFFEE and that’s always one the things I test right away on a ship, the free coffee. The free coffee that is available at most of the drink stations has a chicory flavor to it that I really didn’t enjoy. The coffee on Celebrity and even Royal was better. BUT there are plenty of places to get a good coffee, for a fee including Cabanas bar, Cove Café, Meridian bar, Vista bar and any place where you see an espresso machine. Fees are not bad averaging between $4 – $8 for cappuccinos and lattes. I also recommend a shot of Godiva dark chocolate for your evening coffee or cappuccino. 

Breakfast we usually had in Cabanas each morning. This buffet is much smaller than other cruise ships we’ve sailed of the same size, but the quality of the food is quite good. We never had a problem finding a seat in Cabanas either and sat inside each day. There is a “made to order” omelette station where they deliver the omelette to your table. I tried this twice, the first time it worked, the second time the wrong omelette showed up at our table after 15 minutes and the server disappeared before I could tell her. I gave up on that option after that second time and simply went with whatever was available. You can order speciality coffees, cappuccinos and espressos at the bar in the back of Cabanas. Zhang made some great cappuccinos for me over the course of the week.

For dinner services, we were lucky to have been assigned Marlan and Eddy as our servers for the week at Table 65 along with Head Server Howard. They made us feel like family from the first evening in Enchanted Garden. Enchanted Garden was by far our favorite dining room with the decor and ambiance just a lovely space to eat dinner. The Royal Court was the most uninspired dining room and felt like a “standard cruise ship dining room” that you would find on older cruise ships. Animator’s Palette felt very much like a large diner, a very whimsical and fun diner. The choices for each meal, including vegetarian options were numerous except for one meal which I’ll mention shortly. 

With our dining rotation we ended up eating at most of the dining rooms twice with a speciality dinner taking up the 7th evening. We found the food consistently very good, some of the best food we’ve eaten in our years of cruising and would put it on par with Celebrity. There were a few misses in the dining rooms of course but overall, the dining experience was great both for us meat eaters and vegetarians. 

I’ll mention the two dining experiences at Animator’s Palette because they are different and honestly we would have skipped the second meal had we realized what it was like. For the first meal, it’s a standard dinner and you’re joined by Crush the turtle from Nemo. He goes around the entire room via video monitors over the course of the meal interacting with the guests which is quite fun. Now the second time through the meal, it’s an animation themed dinner with a limited menu where the first thing you’re asked to do is draw characters on supplied paper. Those characters will be animated later in the meal during a show on the video monitors. The problem is that you’re given that limited menu so they can rush you through the meal and get to the “animation show.” I’ll say that the animation show is clever how it’s put together but it’s only about 5 minutes and there’s no need to rush us all through dinner so they can get to the show. I don’t understand why they can’t simply pause the meal between appetizers and main course or main course and dessert to run the “show.” Additionally, there no vegetarian options for appetizer, soup or salad on the menu at the the second Animator’s Palette dinner. We just felt like the entire meal was rushed and the menu limited for no reason. The second Animator’s Palette dinner would be a good evening to schedule a speciality meal at Palo or Remy.

Again, I’ll mention that there is NO buffet for dinner. Cabanas is open for dinner, but it is a sit down, served meal. Sometimes after a long day or for whatever reason, a buffet is nice in the evenings because it’s flexible, but you won’t get that here. 

Luigi’s Pizza / Tow-Mater’s Grill / Filmore’s Favorites / Eye-Scream are all part of the Flo’s Cafe, quick service area. Except for Eye Scream which stays open pretty much all day, the others all have various open and close times so check the Navigator each day for their hours of operation. Luigi’s Pizza had great toppings, but the crust had the flavor of cardboard. Tow-Mater’s Grill had decent fish sandwiches, veggie sandwiches and french fries. Filmore’s Favorites actually had some really good wrap sandwiches that took care of hunger without weighing you down. Eye-Scream has soft-serve ice cream and usually has a mix of three different flavor combinations. Depending on when the machine was last loaded, you might get a frozen treat or you might get something that’s more like a smoothie consistency, but the flavors were decent for soft serve. One smart little girl brought over a drink cup and had her ice cream in that, so it didn’t matter what consistency came out. 

(dining review continues after the gallery)




















PALO

Palo is the Italian themed speciality restaurant which at the time of our cruise was $35 per person for brunch which is when we were able to book a time.   There is both a menu and a buffet service available, or you can simply mix the two which is what we did.   Service was impeccable and what I really appreciated is that they made absolutely no attempt to rush us out or assume we were done with the meal just because our plates were empty.  Multiple times, the server would check to ensure that we did not want to go back to the buffet, order something else from the menu, etc…. just making sure we enjoyed the meal and were properly stuffed.  The quality of both the served food and buffet were good.  Not exceptional, but good.  The presentations were outstanding and the cheese selection was amazing.  But overall, the food to me felt like it was on par with some of the best food that came from the main dining service.    Very glad we did this meal because we enjoyed the great service, and maybe the dinner service is a bit different, but I would not do the brunch again.

REMY

Remy is in a class by itself when it comes to fine dining on the seas, at least what we have experience so far.  It’s certainly one of the most expensive speciality dining experiences at $85 per person at the time we sailed but for our 20th wedding anniversary, it was a wonderful place on the sea to celebrate.   There were four of us and we were seated in the Wine Room completely surrounded by amazing bottles from all over the globe including the John Lasseter private collection.  Our primary server, Lidwine, appeared to be exclusively ours for the evening as she never left the room for more than a minute and she was simply outstanding.  Knowledgeable and with a lovely French accent that enhanced the atmosphere of the dinner.  There are two fixed prepared meals to choose from (one French, one American) or you can build your own meal ala carte.  For my wife, there was a specially prepared vegetarian menu.   Two of us went with the French menu, one went with the American menu and my wife of course went with the Vegetarian menu.  The sommelier chose an excellent white that we all shared during the meal.  The meal and service was simply divine, it was either 5 or 6 courses including the cheese course and we do not have the menus with us or I’d describe each course for you.  I DO remember that the first course was soup that was fried inside a batter so it was literally a ball of soup that you ate in one bite.  Incredible.  Do NOT pass up the cheese course, we had Lidwine put together a sample plate of all of the cheeses and they were amazing.   I’ve read some reviews where people say the meal did not live up to the price.  I’m assuming most of these complaints are due to the portion sizes which are decidedly small for each course but that’s because you’re eating a lot of courses.  By the time meal was completed, all of us were more than satisfied with the meal and the wine.  I feel we received service and a meal that was on par with the price, especially for a special occasion.

The Meridian Bar located between Palo and Remy is a very very nice space to sit with a cocktail, both inside and out, and you can smoke cigars outside this bar.  There are some very expensive and high end liquors up here and you can get an amazing cappuccino as well.





























POOLS and AQUADUCK

All of the pools are ridiculously small for the size of the ship. The main family pools were quite narrow and had lots of wasted space with a large center staging area for lounge chairs that should be used for a larger pool space. There is practically no way to watch the movies on the funnel vision from shade, if you’re under shade, the screen is mostly or entirely blocked. We avoided the main pools for the entire trip. Also note that there is basically zero air flow if you’re under cover alongside the main pools. Disney is missing the ability to open windows along the pool decks allowing air flow that we have found on other ships. It makes quite a difference.

Adult pool area has woefully few lounge chairs, it’s a very small space overall. We were able to get loungers by getting out to the space early each morning, which was fine by me since the Cove Café next to the adult pool has the best coffee on the ship. The adult pool is good for getting wet but you won’t be able to swim any laps. Satellite Falls up a couple of decks looks great on paper, but it’s not all that great in reality. Because it’s near the bow of the ship, the falls weren’t even operating for most of the cruise due to high winds. For the first two days sitting in the Satellite Falls was akin to sitting in a wind tunnel. 

Having recently sailed on both Celebrity and Royal Caribbean we were surprised at how small all of the pools were considering this is a family friendly cruise line and the number of passengers the Fantasy can carry. I’m hopeful the new ships will address this area with a re-designed main pool area.

The AquaDuck ride is quite fun and refreshing. It’s deceptively faster for the first half of the ride and then slows down to more of a relaxing tube ride for the second half. We did the ride a bunch of times and our advice is to go after 6pm and especially at night when the tube lighting really comes to life. There are no lines at night and riding it just after sunset was awesome. 

DAYTIME ACTIVITIES

For adults, there’s live music and alcohol tasting. Those are the two big “scheduled activities” for adults. There are more “fun for all ages” types of events but those consisted of crafts and sometimes sports activities. As a cruise line catered towards families, most all events during the day are targeted towards the kids. I think the idea here is that mom and dad can get away to the pool, the spa, the bar, whatever while the kids are entertained. And believe me they were definitely entertained based on all the screaming the laughing we heard each time we passed the Oceaneer Club. 

I attended a Mixology class at the Skyline Lounge was wonderful, although the 5 drinks in 40 minutes definitely had me feeling it by the end of the class. All of us attended a Champagne tasting in Ooh La La which was ok. But that’s pretty much the extent of the types of things that are adult only activities during the day. If you’re looking for something scheduled to do during the day, there’s really not much of anything, especially if you don’t drink alcohol. 

There IS a fun interactive game called Mickey’s Detective Agency where you have go around the ship getting clues via interactive artwork on the walls. The hardest one and the most fun one for us was the Muppet caper. You can play the Detective agency game anytime up till midnight most days and each case has multiple villains. So you could actually do the Muppet caper more than once and not get the same villain at the end. Pepe’s door was one of our favorite parts of the sleuthing because it’s an actual, mini cabin door. 

Now there’s nothing that says you have to do anything during the day, and we passed our time most days reading and sometimes catching a movie. But I wanted to include this note here for those of you who are used to filling at least part of your days with activities. 

PORTS OF CALL AND EXCURSIONS

Being seasoned cruisers, we did not book anything through Disney for any of the ports of call. We actually rarely book through the cruise line unless it’s the only option for a particular excursion we’d like to do. 

Tortola in the British Virgin Islands was our first port of call and my wife booked an all day sail and snorkel aboard the catamaran “Day Dream.” To get to the boat was a short walk from the ship to another pier. I honestly don’t snorkel but I have to say this was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable excursions we have ever done. Only about a dozen of us on the boat with never ending drinks (rum punch, water and soft drinks) and an excellent lunch. There was just over 3 hours of actual snorkel time at three different stops during which I simply floated and swam in the water while my wife had a ball snorkeling. If you love getting out in the water and love to snorkel, this is definitely an excursion to look at. Be sure to lather yourself in sunscreen, if you think you have enough on, put on more! I have a much longer, full review of the Day Dream at the end of this article for those who want to read more about the tour. 

St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands was our second port of call and it should be noted that Disney Fantasy docked at a secondary cruise port in St. Thomas. So if you are booking an excursion on your own, you need to make sure you they know you are on the Disney Fantasy and where exactly you are supposed to meet your excursion. Original plan was to take a taxi to the beach however both my wife and I got pretty badly sunburned while out on the Day Dream despite lathering ourselves up pretty good. So we just spent the day on the ship. 





















Castaway Cay, the Disney Private Island in the Bahamas was our final port of call. This is truly a “private island” with Disney being the sole inhabitant of the small island. Some cruise lines have more of a “private area” on a larger island. The bulk of the developed beach area is the family beach area with all sorts of activities, food and some shops available as well. The adults only beach, Serenity Bay, is at the far end of the developed area. You can walk to it, but it is a bit of a hike and in the heat and humidity we had that morning, it was better to take the two trams to get out there. Castaway Cay overall was just “ok” for us.

As I mentioned we took two trams to get out to Serenity Bay and that wasn’t too bad. The beach itself was beautiful and it was obvious that Disney has carved and shaped the beach to make the beach chairs sit perfectly and create aisles. The water was very shallow for a long ways and there is even a sand bar about 100 yards off shore were many people were standing and hanging out. 

It was the layout of the beach and the services / food that really didn’t work for us. All of that was at the far left end of the beach where the tram dropped us off. So after a long walk out to finally secure a beach chair and location under an umbrella (there’s is very VERY little shade available at Serenity Beach, you must get an umbrella) we were far enough away from the services that we never went back over there. There was only the occasional server passing by to order drinks and we ended up never ordering anything. 

Food was served back at that main drop off area on the far left of the beach and as I mentioned in the Dining section of this review, my wife is a vegetarian. The food was served as part of a cook out and she simply cannot stand the smell of grilled meat. Because all of the food areas were covered, that grilled meat smell was overpowering for her so we opted to leave the beach early and head back towards the ship for lunch. 

We took the first tram back to the family beach area and decided to walk around the shops and food vendors there. I tried to get a frozen drink at the Summertime Freeze shop but after 10 minutes of the two waiters ignoring me and helping others who came up after us, we just left. There really weren’t any other vegetarian options that were appealing to my wife so we continued back to the ship.

Serenity Bay would have been a better design if the services were located in the MIDDLE of of the beach making them more easily accessible and centrally located. As this is Disney’s own private island there really isn’t any reason why it wasn’t designed this way. For a private island / private location we much prefer the Royal Caribbean Labadee location which is much easier to walk around and offers plenty of shade via palm trees and such. Grand Turk is also another excellent beach location with plenty of palm tree shade available. Castaway Cay was a beautiful island, but just an ok experience for us. 

SHOWS, MOVIES, NIGHTTIME ENTERTAINMENT AND CLUBS

A tip for first time Disney Cruisers, when you see 1820 Club on the Personal Navigator, those are events for 18-20 year olds as they are not quite old enough to partake of the adult events.

The main shows in the Walt Disney Theater are where a lot of that “Disney Magic” shines as the shows we saw were definitely enjoyable. If you are a fan of Disney music then you’ll love these shows. The staging of all the shows featured great use of smoke and pyro effects along with good use of video and media special effects. It did not appear that there was a live band, I believe all of the music was pre-recorded.

Aladdin is a shortened version of the Broadway musical that featured a fabulous Genie who was given a ton of latitude to ad-lib and riff on current events and pop culture. It was easily the best show of the week. Wishes was a tale of three friends about to graduate high school and while the storyline and dialogue were not the best, the music is always fun to sing along to and the show turned out to be better than we expected. Believe was all about remembering to keep that kid inside all of us alive and was helped greatly by having Genie reappear as a co-star in the show. Again if you love Disney music, you’ll enjoy all three of these shows.

The Buena Vista Theater is an AWESOME movie theater at sea featuring full 7.1 Dolby Surround that seriously shook the house during the movies. Movies generally started at 10:30am and the last movie started at 10:30pm. This features current Disney / Pixar / Marvel films along with recent and classic films. The 3D was pretty although the Dolby glasses were definitely worse for wear. I saw two 3D films and in both cases I essentially had one strip across the glasses where the 3D worked, the rest of the glasses were a bit foggy. 

The DOWNSIDE to the theater is that the seats rock back too far. I have no idea why they lean so far back when you sit down, but I saw four films there and after the first film, I watched all the rest of them from the seats down on the floor level. When sitting down there, the way the seats lean back work, but for me sitting anywhere else, I was leaning too far back. Also they NEVER close the doors to the theater. So all during the movie, especially during the day, you’ll see shadows of people walking by the theater on either side of the screen. I really don’t know why they don’t close the doors. But overall, the theater is awesome. 

Movies are also shown on the Funnel Vision above the Main Pools, however during our cruise, the screen was simply terrible. Either the contrast was super crushed or the screen is simply not very bright because anything that was somewhat to mostly dark, was simply a black blob on the screen. It was a real shame during “Brave” because that film was basically unwatchable on the Funnel Vision. It was just a black screen for most of the film so we gave up. We’ve watched outdoor movies on Princess in the past and their screens are honestly better. 

D Lounge is a pretty large theater area that features “family friendly” evening entertainment which appeared to alternate between a dance party and family karaoke. We never went to any of these events and rarely saw more than a few dozen people inside the D Lounge when we would pass by in the evenings. It was kind of a wasted space in the evenings.

The Lobby Atrium on Deck 3 usually featured a duo or trio and they were all quite good actually. We didn’t really sit to listen to them much because most to the atrium is being used by the ship’s photographers to take portraits, but they are quite good. If you sat at the bar located on Deck 3 that’s a good place to sit and still hear the music. 

Europa is the bar / nightclub district in the back of the ship for adults that looked incredible when we did the research on the cruise but didn’t come close to delivering for us. Basically Disney squeezed 4 bars and a 5th bar / nightclub into a space that could have held two really nice clubs in the same space. The Tube is themed on the London Underground and is where all the evening adult only shows are held. It’s pretty small and if you don’t get to a show really early to claim one of the seats down in front, you’re probably not going to be able to see the show. We were early for the Love and Marriage game the first evening but when we returned for a show another evening, we got a seat on the side and then were promptly blocked by others who pulled chairs out into the aisles. The sight lines from the areas all around the bar are lousy for seeing the stage and the video screens are so poor they can’t be seen from the back. La Piazza is the carousel themed bar that is really just a pass-through to get to the other bars. It’s kind of weird because we literally never stopped in there, it’s just a conduit to get to the other bars in Europa. Ooh La La is a French themed bar where the one interesting thing is that you can drink ANY of their champagnes by the glass, usually you must buy the entire bottle if you want to drink champagne. So if you’ve always wanted to try some super expensive champagne, this is the place to try it. O’Gills is the Irish Pub / sports bar that we never visited, but they do seem to feature trivia contests along with being the place to watch sports and they also host beer tasting. Skyline Lounge is gorgeous and we had some really good drinks here along with enjoying the changing scenery every 13 minutes as the skyline changes to various areas around the globe. Being a digital visual artist I was amused when I figured out that much of what is going on in those scenes is digitally generated. They might even be still images with 3D overlays. In particular in the London scene you’ll see the same guy walking the same path over and over, in fact, he even follows himself.

The Tube was the biggest disappointment because that was really the only place to see an “adult only” show each evening. I would love to see Disney re-model Europa using the layout of Remy, Palo and Meridian as a guide. Enlarge and re-design The Tube as a straight nightclub with a larger bar and larger dance floor. This could also host live musical acts and adult only karaoke as well. Put the Skyline Lounge in the middle just as Meridian is between Palo and Remy. Create a true adults only theater on the other side, maybe with the La Piazza theme that’s set up with good sight lines from front to back. The champagnes and the concept of being able to order a single glass from any bottle could move up to the Meridian, that would go along with the high end cocktails and liquor they already have. As for the O’Gills Irish Pub / Sports Bar, perhaps that could be relocated elsewhere in the ship. Disney could also utilize the D Lounge as an adults-only space after 10:30pm giving access to a large theater for evening entertainment. 

So as adults, looking for “adult only” entertainment in the evening generally mean going to a movie, or relaxing at a bar. This is one area where Disney is definitely lacking, would have been nice to see more shows and evening events aimed at adults. 



























SPECIAL EVENTS, PARTIES AND FIREWORKS.

All of the other cruise lines we have sailed hold their major parties and large events up on the pool decks because there’s a lot of room up there and you get air flow because the ship is moving. However Disney used the Lobby Atrium for most of their large events which created major logjams and very VERY hot experiences. I’m not sure why Disney underutilized their pool area especially since they have the stages and plenty of room to hold these parties. 

Our September sailing was a Halloween at Sea event cruise and guests were encouraged to bring costumes. On “Halloween Night” it was actually fun seeing so many great costumes all around the ship, including at the dining service. The work some of the guests put into making many of the costumes was amazing. The main Halloween event with the characters was held in the Atrium Lobby and as it was VERY hot out there. So many bodies in that small of a space created a lot of heat. In addition to the quick show with the characters, there were also multiple trick or treat stations set up around the lobby. This event should have been outside where not only was there more room for everyone, but again, we would have some airflow. My cabin neighbor also asked why they didn’t spread the trick or treat stations around the ship kind of like a scavenger hunt along the lines of those mystery games featured throughout the ship. That would have been a great idea as well. There was also an Adults Only Halloween Event later that evening in The Tube but we didn’t attend because of our earlier experiences at The Tube. 

After experiencing the heat from the Halloween at Sea, we didn’t attend any other events in the Lobby Atrium unless we were on one of the upper decks so we could get away easily if it got too hot. Most evenings it was just the photographers posing people and kids dancing to the live music. 

On Pirate Night you can again attend dinner in your pirate garb if you’ve brought some and there was an interesting blend of “fun pirate” and “sexy pirate” throughout the ship. Some people really go all out and get into the whole pirate thing. I brought a pirate hat upon which I perched a parrot. This time, the shows ARE held outside on the pool deck and these are much more enjoyable. There are two pirate shows, the first one is the more kiddie centric with Mickey Mouse and the gang and if you’ve ever seen one of those shows in front of the Castle in Disney World or Disneyland, then you pretty much know what the show is like. There are NO fireworks for the early show so if you are only interested in those, you can skip the early show. The second show is more “Pirates of the Caribbean” / Jack Sparrow themed and while they make it appear as if it’s going to a more “spooky, serious” show, it comes off more like a Benny Hill / Keystone Cops show. We honestly didn’t see the show itself as we stationed ourselves on the upper deck above the pool so we would have a direct view of the fireworks. And for some reason the speakers on the upper level were not on so we couldn’t hear the sound from the show so I honestly could not tell you what the storyline was. All I can tell you is that the fireworks were part of some sort of a celebration for Jack. On our cruise the fireworks were shot out over the starboard side of the ship and they were quite impressive, considering we were on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. It was just under a 5 minute fireworks show.

Disney would do good to make better utilization of the pool space at night for big events and simply stop the Funnel Vision movies at 8pm.










DISEMBARKATION, LEAVING THE PORT

Leaving the ship is always a bit of a cluster with most everyone just ready to get off the ship. I have to say this was the least “cluster” of any ship we’ve left. Disney does try to manage the flow of people by encouraging all guests to attend breakfast in the final restaurant of your rotation and they even have two breakfast seatings. We had the 8:00am seating and it was great to be able to see Marlan, Eddy and Howard one last time before leaving the ship. 

After breakfast we headed up to the Lobby Atrium and while it was crowded and a mass of people getting off the ship, it wasn’t all that bad and we were off the ship in probably less than 10 minutes. 

In the luggage area we grabbed a porter and he not only handled the luggage for all four us, guiding us through customs, but he even took the bags all the way to our car in the parking garage. No need to bring the car around to pick up the luggage and my guests. He then gave me excellent instructions to pick up the highway for our trip back up to Orlando. So a very easy disembarkation and drive out of the port. 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON “THE DISNEY WAY”

So overall we had a good time on the ship, we just felt as two adults traveling alone with no kids there was just a sense of lacking and not so much in the way of flexibility. Our cabin neighbor hit it on the head during the final night. He was traveling with his two young kids and he decried the lack of flexibility to do what you want, when you want to do it, especially the lack of an evening buffet. I can definitely see where he was coming from because if you want to ensure you’re going to do something on board, you really want to make sure you pre-book it because there really aren’t many other options aboard the ship. Whereas with other ships we’ve sailed, there are so many things to do that oftentimes nothing completely sells out or if it does, there are so many other things to choose from it doesn’t matter. We’ve become used to the “freestyle” way that so many other cruise lines now follow that there was a sense of rigidity to “the Disney Way.” It’s not necessarily a bad thing, just something that was clearly evident over the course of the week.

She’s a beautiful ship, food was good and the service was top notch. We would put the cruise line on par with Celebrity. But for our money and our choice of sailing, there are other cruise lines out there that better serve what we’re looking for. I hope this review has been helpful and as I tell my friends, “If you had a bad time on a cruise, you worked really hard at it.” 



A version of this review first appeared in Cruise Critic.



TORTOLA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS – DAY DREAM SNORKEL AND SAIL EXCURSION Kuralu Charters has two catamarans now and we sailed on the Day Dream.

We found the Day Dream day cruise through reviews on Trip Advisor and we’re thankful we did. Our sail started at 9am and ended at 4pm giving us plenty of time to return to the ship. Now I’ll start right off by saying I don’t snorkel, but my wife loves it. I completely enjoyed just floating in the Caribbean and riding in this beautiful catamaran.

Our day of sailing included three snorkeling stops and a full lunch, which included vegetarian options. Thai is one of the reasons why my wife chose this vessel and tour. The other reason she chose the Day Dream was because of their abundant shade from the Caribbean sun. Yes there is plenty of room to lay out and enjoy the sun but if you prefer to sit in the shade, there is plenty of it here for you.

Our captain, Dee and first mate, Katie were awesome for the entire trip. Always making sure we were plenty hydrated with a variety of soft drinks, beer, water and rum punch. Our first stop took just over an hour to get to and during that time we got a bit of a history lesson on the islands, the pirates who plundered these waters and some great background on “Treasure Island” and the dead man’s chest. Very informative and fun.

First stop was at Norman’s Island which is the real life “Treasure Island” on which the book was based. A couple of turtles greeted us as the boat was being secured in a bay area. We were given around an hour to enjoy this spot and my wife and her friend immediately really enjoyed the snorkeling in this area. I put on a pair flippers, grabbed a noodle and proceeded to swim around the area while submerging my GoPro camera. The water was just amazing. As we came back on board the boat, they had some honeydew melon waiting for us to get the salt water taste out of our mouths. Great touch.

Our next stop was in the same general area, but in a secluded bay between two islands. We again spent a little over an hour here and while the snorkeling wasn’t as good here, the water was crystal clear and enjoyable. Again, I just floated and swam on the surface with the GoPro underwater where I got some great video of a young barracuda. This is also where we had a nice lunch of a frittata, Italian cold cuts, a selection of cheeses, salad, breads and again, all the drinks we could handle. It was quite refreshing.

From here we headed to a rock formation known as “The Indians.” It’s part of a national park that includes underground caves that connect to the nearby island. This was by far the best snorkeling according to my wife. She said the fish were coming right up to her, swimming around her and she was having so much fun, she had to be summoned to the boat at the end of our 50 minutes. Now if you don’t plan to snorkel but just float and / or swim on the surface at this stop like I did, I highly recommend using fins because the current is stronger here than any of the other stops. You won’t get taken right out to sea, but you might have a harder time getting back to the boat without fins.

Then it was time to head back to shore where they delivered us to the dock promptly at 4pm. The Day Dream is a beautiful sailing vessel that gave us a nice smooth ride going to and from the snorkeling locations. I enjoyed sitting out on the trampolines out front and getting the breeze from the ocean. There are two stools on either side of the bow which are fantastic spots to sit and take photographs.

I would highly recommend the Day Dream for a great day exploring some of the islands around Tortola..










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About Me

I'm a lifelong storyteller and wanna-be chef. You've seen my work on Food Network and PBS to name a few.  My favorite stories revolve around travel and food.

 

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