This November we had the opportunity to take a three-night vacation on Disney Cruise Line’s Fantasy ship. This was our first experience back after the COVID Honeymoon Cruise and it did not disappoint!
First, we have to explain how easy it is to cruise out of Port Canaveral versus Miami. A quick drive across the intercoastal finds you at the terminals which have easy directions. For DCL, you first drop your luggage off and then stay in your car for your pre-cruise COVID test.
Each cruise line has it’s own set of COVID testing requirements (and these requirements are ever changing) but for our November cruise everyone 12 and up had to be vaccinated. If you are not, you have to prove a negative COVID test three days before your cruise date. DCL made uploading this information, along with your passport and security picture, an absolute breeze. But back to the parking garage…
When you arrive at the garage you are checked into a lane where they scan your QR code and hand out swabs for everyone’s noses. Then you are sent into the upper levels to park your car and wait for that precious email saying you are cleared to board.
The most impressive thing about the terminal and cruise ship was how clean everything was. You didn’t see a single smudge or kid’s face print on the glass and everywhere you turned someone was cleaning something.
To space guests out, you have an assigned 15-minute arrival window to board the ship. The arrival period is based on when you filled out your check in information a month before (Brad and I stayed up until midnight for this to try and get the earliest window. With only three nights on this cruise, we were going to experience every minute of it!)
Entering the ship is a production in itself. This is your first taste of Disney’s Christmas Theme. Each family has their name called over a loud speaker and the cast cheers you into the main lobby where you meet your hosts – Micky & Minnie. There’s music, there’s dancing and then five minutes later you are ushered out to go find your muster station.
Muster station check in is all done through the Disney Cruise Line app – a tool you will use for every step of experience. No more paper itineraries waiting for you in your cabin. The activities of the entire cruise are waiting for you on the app along with on-board texting within your group and notifications from the captain and staff.
I was nervous about eating on the boat with my new gluten intolerance diagnosis – especially the buffets. So we chose to select a sit down dining experience for our first lunch. The Disney Fantasy has three dining restaurants: The Royal Table, Animator’s Palate and The Enchanted Garden. Available for breakfast and lunch as well, you rotate through each main dining room during your evening dinners on the cruise. Each room has a different set of characters that wave to your table (thanks, COVID) and interactive elements that happen throughout your meal.
Disney has a selection of gluten free items posted on each of their menus, so I knew I could at least eat something. However, once we met our server Anthony and his team, they made sure I had plenty of options. By bringing me a menu for the next evening, Anthony was able to show me additional options that could be made gluten free and have me pre-order my meal. He even went as far as to meet me in the buffet one day and prepare a gluten free plate for me so we could enjoy that experience as well.
Entertainment in the main theatre consisted of a live version of Frozen the first and last night of the cruise, and a showing of The Immortals (which had just been released that week) on the second night of the cruise. We saw all three. There were other movies and game opportunities but they were not something we wanted to work into our plans.
Christmas-themed fireworks only happened on the third night of our cruise. A floor was placed over the pools and families were spaced out accordingly to view the show.
Bars/night life are pretty much contained to one deck of the boat, but each themed bar provided a new experience in classic over the top Disney style. We experience Skyline which is a room full of LED screens where the view changes to a different city skyline every few minutes.
Ethan fell into a precious age group where he could attend The Oceaneers Club or the tween club The Edge. He opted for the later after he realized they had video games and he could check himself in and out. During the open house we got to check out both clubs with him, and honestly, Mom and Dad wanted to go play in the Oceaneers Club…Star Wars, Avengers, Tinkerbelle, Andy’s Room plus more. This is one area where it pays to be a kid.
One neat family activity was the Mid-Ship Detective Agency. At one of the two kiosks you get assigned a mystery which requires you to find clues throughout the ship. The clues are hidden in decorative artwork that comes to life as you hold your card near it.
Our cruise stopped at Nassau, Bahamas and then DCL’s private island, Castaway Cay. During COVID there are only two ways allowed off the boat in Nassau: 1) On a Disney approved tour 2) On your own, but only if you are vaccinated. This was my fourth time visiting Nassau and it is the worst I have seen the area. Between recent hurricanes and COVID most of the port is under construction and many of the stores are closed. We visited on a Friday and even the Straw Market was closed that day.
Castaway Cay continues the Disney magic from the ship. You can walk or ride a tram from the boat to the main areas of the island. We recommend walking to start the day and see some characters along the way. (Bring your tennis shoes! The island is long and you’ll walk a lot!)
We had no problem finding beach chairs with an umbrella. Towels are provided, but I wish we had brought extra ones, especially after a slight shower passed through. Lunch is available in two locations (with a gluten free meal pre-ordered and waiting for me.)
We purchased the snorkel, float and bike package. The snorkeling was amazing with many different planted objects to see as you swim around. The floats were a choice of a foam mat or inflatable innertube. We never made it to the bicycles, but they looked like basic beach cruisers.
The Fantasy was fully decorated in Christmas regalia. Santa and Mrs. Claus made photo appearances and a group of Christmas carolers could be heard (and sometimes seen) throughout the ship. As with any themed cruise, it’s all about what you make of it.
Will We Cruise Again?
This was a great back to cruising experience for us and I think we’ll be back on a boat again soon. As always, we recommend booking through a travel planner because they will help you through the process so you can just enjoy yourself. Plus it pays right now to expect the unexpected, and having an expert in your back pocket always helps with that. (Thank you Lori Osgood and Cruise Planners!)
Until next time, happy sailing!
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