Western Caribbean Fantasy Apr 28 - May 5
Used the forums to gather a little information prior to cruise, so I figured I should pay it forward with some info of my own here's a quick rundown and i'll add more if questions, etc, and when I get time.
Western Caribbean - Disney Fantasy. April 28 - May 5th.
Me 34, Wife 34, Daughter 12, Son 1.
also my 2 parents 60.
Been to Disneyland 2 times, Disney World 3 times.
Booked my first ever Cruise through a Disney certified agency for onboard credits, back in May 2011 I think?
Other than that, not a lot the agent had to do, but maybe answer some basic first time cruise questions, etc.
We did book our OWN travel insurance through TravelGuard, just the emergency package.
We also used Adult Passports and kids Passport Cards, vs birth certificates.
Rooms: 6th floor, Cats 5D and 6B. not adjoining.
Not sure how full this cruise was. saw a post saying not sold out, but other than that, unsure. Cruise Director Brent said 1200 kids were onboard.
Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Castaway Cay.
Needless to say, rebooked already :thumbsup2
p.s. probably no photos on this as the keeper o' the photos will be reviewing, sorting and editing for a while.
I'll just start at the beginning of the trip and go from there.
Point #1. I am "frugal", if I can save a buck, i'll consider it.
We booked separate airline tickets ourselves, and arrived a day early, Friday. our round trip return home trip was not till 3:30 p.m at the end of the cruise, so PLENTY of time to get back to the airport afterwards.
So we booked Cocoa Beach Shuttle to bring us from the airport to our hotel. I have read they are hit or miss, and our experience overall is the same. but they were cheapest. We had NO problems getting from the Airport to the Hotel with them, and they brought the carseat as promised. I would NOT use them for shuttle service to the Port from the hotel though, more to come on that.
We booked a Cocoa Beach Hotel, La Quinta Inn, on Atlantic ave, through Priceline for Friday night. It was fine for our needs, 2 rooms, free breakfast, dinner option onsite (Siam Orchid & also a Sports bar) and nearby.
We had dinner at Siam Orchid and really enjoyed it. Sushi and Asian-style options at good prices. They were polite and attentive.
We had time to explore Cocoa Beach after dinner and walked across the street and through another hotel property to get there. It was fun and a nice evening for the beach, my son's first ever visit to a beach or ocean.
The hotel had a pool which was clean and decent temperature. Our rooms were on the backside of the complex, first floor, in the # 130's. I would recommend this location as it is away from the pool noise, though it WAS quiet when we went by there, and everyone was nice.
The hotel staff was kind, it was not at capacity but busy I think, but that did not cause any issues. Room was clean and got nice and dark for sleeping. No problems.
Hotel location is a bit south of most of the rest of Cocoa Beach, so I probably wouldn't walk to the pier from there, but overall, if you are just looking for a room and maybe explore the sand, this was great. good price, good value.
Breakfast was a free continental style. No meats.
waffle maker,cereal, bagels, toast, oatmeal, tea, coffee, milk, juices, yogurt, apples, oranges, bananas.
plenty of food, nothing ran out, but I've never had good luck with ANY hotel waffle maker, and this looked no different, so I avoided that.
In fact, off topic, once in San Antonio the hotel waffle maker caused a small fire that made us evacuate at 5:30 a.m. in our Pjs.
Being that breakfast was included, i'd continue to say La Quinta Atlantic Ave was perfect for us.
Time to Cruise!
So Saturday morning, we had Port check in from 11:30 - 12.
Our 'Cocoa Beach Shuttle' was to pick up at 11 and take us to the port. since I booked them round trip from the Airport, i just rolled this into it too, from hotel to port.
They were just supposed to show up, but I called anyways at 11 to say we were ready. they said were just running a little behind and would be there in 10-15 minutes. ok.
I called again at 11:45 asking what's up, they said the shuttle was out making stops and really should be there anytime.
at just about 1pm I called and said not to bother coming, as we were hitching a ride with another service that was there. please cancel and refund.
There was a lady in a white van with no current fares sitting there, I 'think' it was something like RJ tours, but i'm NOT sure, so sorry for any false advertising. I asked her if she could take us and she did for her standard port fare.
Also I had seen Travelynx come by 2 times in the 2 hours we were sitting there, I think they were the carrier that the hotel uses if you just book your port transport through La Quinta, which I would do if I had to do over again.
so finally, we made it to the Port, wayyyy after our check-in time. it was busy, but all lanes were open and we popped on through, they had general boarding open, so our boarding # was irrelevant at this time. there was a long line for photos with Minnie, so we just went aboard. We had our cruise photos take, a family group shot and were announced onboard! YES!
It really was not a big deal to be late, but sitting and waiting for your shuttle for 2 hrs sucks. Not sure what the circumstance was, maybe just bad luck that day. But I would use the hotel recommended service next time, to ensure we had them on our side to help.
So we are onboard. we went to Cabanas for lunch. good variety of food. Ate and my daughter went to the AquaDuck. by then our room was open so we went up and dropped off our carry-on stuff. I had requested a Diaper Genie and a pack-and-play and they were in the room already. I also ended up renting a bottle sanitizer from Guest Services and that was handy for our sippy cups. a $50 refundable deposit on that. Charged to the room and refunded the same way on the last day. We just hung out, had some character photo ops, and sailed away!
We were the first dinner seating. 5:45 p.m.
our rotation was
then A,E,E,R for the rest. Animators 'interactive show' is on the SECOND visit there FYI.
Royal Court was then our breakfast location for the disembark day at 6:45 a.m.
the last place you dine is where your disembark breakfast is.
The show that night was the intro show - A Fantasy Come True
at 8:30 p.m. about a family coming onboard and all going off to do their own things. a way to see what the ship has to offer. it was cute if you've not seen it before.
Shows ran 45-50 minutes or so, I believe.
More to come:
our 12 yr old went to the EDGE
Infant used Small World Nursery
movies & 'Avengers' premEar, YES!
Grand Cayman - Botswain's Park
Costa Maya - Chaccoben Ruins
Cozumel - Dolphinaris.
ok thanks! I'll call it 3k then.
Sunday - Day at Sea, Formal Dining. Aladdin was the evening show.
Went to Cabanas for breakfast, did a bunch of Character photos, watched Jack Jack's Diaper Dash, a crawling baby race using volunteer babies.
Went to Nemo's reef, the splash area for babies, quite fun for the 1yr old. checked out the AquaDuck and the AquaLab - water pipe works play area. Daughter went to Edge for a bit.
Wife went for a Seaweed wrap treatment at Senses Spa. Emma was her attendant, very nice and good at her work.
Watched a presentation from the head pastry Chef on Apple Strudel, complete with sample.
Made paper airplanes in a class and then went and FLEW THEM IN THE ATRIUM. ha ha so funny, I mean really, doing this without getting yelled at, ahh Disney.
Bingo later in the afternoon, then time to dress for dinner.
It was formal night and we were a mix of degrees. I wore a tie, no jacket and felt quite comfortable with my decision. Saw some more casual and some very formal, and really, it's about being happy. Its fun to dress up when everyone else is, but if you don't want to, it didn't seem to be a big deal.
I'll have to make a separate food list, because I don't remember it all at the moment. menus were reusable, not given to you and we didn't think to take photos of it.
Our attendants for the week were Ned, with Daniel assisting, and Ivo supervising. Great guys and we really were happy. Ned really took to our son and said he really loved serving him. I'm not so sure if the cleaning crew would agree, but we tried :guilty:
This night for formal for us was in the Enchanted Garden. We totally forgot to observe the surroundings and see how it changed, we were so wrapped up in dinner. The grandparents were always on time, and our son was always running about 10 minutes late each night, but most of the party was there on time and we 6 sat at an 8 person table with 2 empty chairs the entire cruise, I assume there was nobody else assigned there.
The show was Aladdin and i've seen the Disneyland version once before, but I don't remember the details. It was very good and in my opinion re-watchable. I'd advise seeing all the broadway-style shows at least once.
Our son did not join us for this, he was in Small World Nursery from 8-10:30. They were EXCELLENT and it was a fantastic experience for us. He is a pretty good natured kid, and no anxieties generally and this was no different. We used them several times throughout the cruise.
He fell asleep there and my wife and I picked him up and took him asleep to the Buena Vista theater to watch some of War Horse. We watched half of it and then went to bed.
Our daughter was at the Edge or exploring the ship from sometime after Aladdin until her bedtime.
Ok, Monday Grand Caymans
Ashore Tenders start 10:45
All Aboard 4:30
We went downstairs and had breakfast at Enchanted Garden's buffet. nice mix of table service for drinks and self-service for buffets.
Our Excursion - Botswain's Adventure Park, met at 11:15 in the Tube and went ashore.
I know you can book this on your own, and just take a taxi or bus, but having never been there before we stuck with the Disney version. I still never saw where the public bus stop was, so i'm guess i'm glad we did. I didn't want to mess around with kids, maybe if I was just with adults, we could have struck out on our own.
We enjoyed the Turtle park and the guided tour. It was fun to hold the sea turtles. They were very cool and we saw some neat stuff, and got some good information.
Turtles are apparently popular as food, so having this operation really helps to eliminate poaching and illegitimate sourcing of them.
As part of our excursion, on the property we got access to a waterpark and a snorkeling bay, a nature trail and a small aviary facility. we didn't get to the nature trail but everything else was fun. They stocked the bay with fish and some turtles so that was cool to see. i'm not a good snorkeler, and this was a very easy, safe way for beginners and kids to have fun. Lunch was included in our tour, a small buffet of beans and rice, pasta salad, chicken legs, mahimahi and hamburgers.
Our full group took part in this excursion and i'd say we enjoyed it. kids would like it, adults might wish to go see more of the island next time.
weather was pretty hot, humid mid 80s and some good sun mixed with clouds and a sprinkle of rain, which kept the heat down for a bit, which was nice for our infant.
got back to the ship, tendering was no problem, dinner was Royal Court.
I had Boar Tenderloin, very good! We all took a bite of the Escargots, too, just for fun.
We skipped the 'Magic Dave' show, in favor of some onboard shopping, exploring and character greetings. Then my wife and I took our infant up to the deck to watch Bugs Life on the funnelvision.
Later we checked out the bars again. Over the first couple days we briefly explored the various bars in Europa. Skyline, Ooh La La, the Tube, O'gills and La Piazza. I would say I actually liked the look of Ooh La La quite a bit. it's not as 'girly' as I thought, to go in for a specialty cocktail was quite nice.
I was a little surprised how empty much of Europa was much of the time, but based on the number of things to do, it makes sense. Makes you feel a little like an exclusive club member :)
We never made it up to the Outlook, or Meridian, the bar for Palo & Remy- which we did not do either, as it was our first cruise.
Tuesday Costa Maya
All Aboard 5:30
Prince & Princess Menu
Theater: Disney Wishes
We had breakfast at Cabanas, spent the morning onboard doing some of the Detective Agency magical artwork activities, mini golfing and seeing more characters of course.
We went to the Vista Art Gallery and purchased a fun print of Captain Mickey.
We then sent it for Mickey to sign at guest services.
We grabbed lunch onboard just before disembarking to do our tour.
We booked our own tour this day. We went to see the Chaccoben Mayan Ruins, but we booked directly with "The Native Choice" via their website.
This was fantastic, if you like this kind of thing. Joel & Hacho were great. Joel the guide was very knowledgeable and fun. The weather was pretty hot, so he did a good job of keeping us comfortable, and he really knew how to skirt around the crowds and keep us entertained. You are trapped out there, but there is plenty of space to run around and see the ruins for the kids. I found it informative, interesting and entertaining. HIGHLY recommend. My favorite non-Disney moment. They were sensitive to our time constraints and did a great job. We went with our group of 6 plus about 5 other people, who were Disney cruisers too.
We got back in time for dinner, which we were worried about timing because it was Animators Palate for the interactive show. But the tour was perfect and we were back in our room by 5:15 and to Animators practically on time! yay!
Animators was really fun and that's all I can say.
After dinner it was more characters and then Disney Wishes, a story about 3 friends getting ready to graduate High School and 'grow up'. again cute if you've not seen it before. I really liked it and would see it again depending on what else is going on. Later my wife and I caught the end of War Horse, which we started a couple days earlier. We were able to pick up basically where we left off, and brought in a couple Cranberry no-Jitos. the non-alcoholic drink of the day, along with some ice cream.
We are doing the Western Itinerary next year, so I really appreciate you sharing with us. I have been making a spread sheet with all of the excursions, so your input really helps us. I really want to do the ruins.
Wednesday Pirate Night
Ashore 8 a.m.
All aboard 5:30
We got up and went to Royal Court for sit down breakfast, as our excursion meeting group was not until 10:15 I think.
Breakfast was ok, a bit slow on the service and the food had cooled a bit. Disney does not do omelettes and toast very well and I found coffee service to be slow in the table service restaurants. Cabanas was a more consistent breakfast experience in my opinion, but seriously, if cold toast ruins your vacation, I don't know what to tell you. I imagine cooked to order food for 3k+ people is a bit tricky.
So we booked Disney's Dolphinaris Cozumel Experience. Again I think you can do this on your own for a bit less. But not knowing Cozumel transportation and such, and our first time, and with an infant, we did Disney's. I was fine with that. The website does now infact say if you are on a cruise line, you CAN'T book your own, so there you go.
So we met our group, walked through Cozumel's 'mall' and got a taxi bus to the facility about 4-5 minutes away, if that.
My wife and daughter both wanted to do the 'experience'. My parents, my son and I stayed behind as 'observers' and unofficial photographers.
Putting aside any Dolphin-based civil rights discussion, (by the way my wife has a Masters in Environmental Education) they both found this to be AMAZING.
Check in and orientation took quite a while, but the facility was nice, the staff and equipment was good, the dolphins seemed, to my untrained eye, happy and treated well. We didn't really learn much about Dolphins, there wasn't as much discussion or facility tour as I thought, observers got excluded from the discussion as it happened in the pool, so we just sat around and watched. there is a bar and a shaded area, along with a little sandy beach you could play in. But when the activity starts you have to watch pretty much from above on a very sunny deck area from pretty far away. So your pictures really probably won't be too good, and you'll get sunburn on your neck. So don't expect your observers to rate this as a must-do, but overall it was fine and my 1yr old slept much of the time. But for the people in the pool, they loved it. Seriously. they got a kiss, a dance, to pet the dolphin, and to get a belly ride. They were in groups of about 8 people and were in the water for at least 40 minutes, probably longer but I didn't time it.
After this, we took the taxi back to the 'mall', but instead of stopping we asked our driver to take us somewhere for a cheap lunch. he suggested 'La Mission', on the other side of the main street about 5-6 blocks from the port mall. down the main strip of shopping. It was an outdoor facility. it was good, basic menu, tacos, chicken mole, soups,etc. it was a fine experience, a little ways outside the beaten path, with a mix of locals and a few tourists, not really busy. It was what i wanted, i'm not a fan of Carlos 'n Charlies, or Señor Frogs. been there done that in my college days, not with my family.
We were pretty hot though, which tired us out. by then it was about 3 p.m. and we split up. my wife and I took our baby back to the ship, and the rest of the family shopped.
I don't really like the shopping in ports and tourist places, a lot of it is kitsch and tacky junk and campy Tshirts, but i suppose there are some good deals to be had on jewelry or stuff you know you really want.
So 1/2 of us shopped and 1/2 of us went back, showered and relaxed. My son got a bit overheated I think and was very tired and cranky, so I missed dinner at the Enchanted Garden for Pirate night and stayed in the room with him and he slept and I watched UP. perks of the room is the On Demand service, stocked with Disney and Pixar movies for free. I grabbed a delicious grilled ham and cheese and a turkey wrap at the quick service window on the Starboard side, Flo's cafe area.
The rest of the family brought me back my obligatory Pirate bandanna and we headed out to pirate night. We watched Mickey fend off Captain Hook and his crew. the kids enjoyed this. then we split up for a bit again, to do more EDGE and ship exploration, with the baby going to the nursery again.
Some of us stopped by the D lounge and played a group game of Pirate Trivia.
We met back up for the Buccaneer Blast party, with Jack Sparrow saving the day from Blackbeard and starting off the FIREWORKS. sweet.
Stopped by Shutters to review some photos then a few of us went up to the buffet after that and got a bedtime snack, if you call turkey legs, tacos, and desserts 'snacks'.
Saw all levels of pirate gear, some got really into it, and some didn't have anything, and again it seemed just about what you wanted to do, nobody cared if you were or weren't 'piratey'.
They said they would wait 1 hour from ship docking for the 'group' to arrive before they set out, but really us plus the other people were there all about the same time, so we set out much earlier, but even if we'd had to wait longer, there is still probably a good amount of time to see the site.
We did see the Disney tour there, but didn't notice how their experience was. we got bottled water with our tour, which was nice, not sure what they got, if anything.
forgot to mention, in Cozumel, the Dolphinaris. the Photo sales.
I found it to be low pressure, but not cheap.
you could get a single print for $30 each. photo paper print, not a CD.
or 3 images on a CD for $69. or 8 images, or so
up to a DVD recording of the group (all the swimmers in your group) and all the group photos for like $300 or something?
we did get the 3 images, they didn't budge at all on the prices, but did give us an extra image for free, so 4 for $69. It didn't seem negotiable, but more like what they were offering everyone that day. your experience may vary, but i do know, taking your own photos, you won't get a perfect shot. so they've got you there.
There was also a restaurant on site, with typical fare, including chicken fingers, etc. but like I said, we went elsewhere to do more 'exploring'.
I didn't see much else interesting in Cozumel, and not being a shopper, next time we'll maybe do a beach excursion or else just go to lunch or maybe stay onboard. Or see the dolphins again if we are traveling with anyone else that wants to.
Day at Sea
Captain's Gala menu
Theater: Disney's Believe and a special surprise! movie premEar 'Avengers'
Again started in Cabanas, my son was still wiped out, so i took him to the Buena Vista to see Cars 2 while he slept and i watched. my daughter took in EDGE activities, my wife went to the Rainforest Room. we met up for lunch at Flo's. then there was a Princess Gathering. Ariel, Tiana, Aurora, Belle, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White all 6 in line for photo ops. Crazy times for some little girls. Do this once and your princess requirements are fulfilled.
I forgot to mention that on a previous night, my son got ambushed by Snow White and Aurora and ended up full of lipstick. Funny moments. Characters did wander a little bit throughout the cruise so you got some personal experiences, it was pretty fun. We randomly rode the elevator with Goofy once.
There was a character dance party and a captain signing, so we did those. We met Captain Marco, who we'd seen and briefly spoken with earlier. He signed a toy for our son and we got a photo taken with him. We went up on deck and did the AquaDuck and pool stuff.
We also stopped by the Sales Desk and inquired about rebooking onboard. This seems like a really good deal to get 10% off, so we jumped at it, as by now we knew that a future cruise was in the cards. More character visits with Buzz and Woody I think. It all blends together :) . Then dinner for semi-formal night. Captain's Gala. My father and wife rated the lobster tails as top notch. My daughter, mom and I had chicken fettuccini I think, and my son had a kids steak.
I'll say overall, the kids menu was good. there was every night chicken fingers, mac n cheese, and pizza every night, but if you paid attention you could get more robust choices like meatloaf, steak, hamburger, mashed potatoes and, his favorite by far, the next night (friday) a breaded veggie cutlet. I think it was a thick puree of veggies or something, think of like a lightly breaded mashed potato patty. with green beans and corn.
Next was 'Believe'. a reappearance of Aladdin's Genie, helping a father to believe in magic. This was also enjoyable. Genie was really good in this and Aladdin. Definitely something to see once at least.
Our son was in the nursery for this again, so we picked him up after the show about 9:30 and did some more characters, poked around shutters at our photos again, and put him and my family to bed as they were worn out. I went to see Chimpanzee at 10:45, stayed for about an hour and then went to go to the Avengers premEar. which was really an awesome perk. super fun. but midnight to 2:15 a.m. wiped ME out.
all aboard 5 p.m.
Sea Ya' Real Soon menu. We were at Royal Court for dinner.
This place is amazing. Castaway was so great.
We were probably off the ship just before 11 I think , as pretty much we all slept in. me especially.
but even then, we went out found a couple chairs and an umbrella in the first main beach. we swam in the ocean. we didn't snorkel, but the snorkel area looked very fun, would do it next time.
2-for-1's Bahama Mamas for lunch. ha ha. then went up to Cookies for real lunch. it was good and the lines moved fast. mahi mahi was very very good. we saw some lizards running around and a crab came walking through the lunch area, he was definitely in the wrong spot :) .
It was fun to see our dinner servers on the island, working various jobs there. We chatted a couple minutes and went off to swim and shop. We rode the waterslides and took my son to the splash area, Spring-A-Leak. Then we split up and my wife and I went to the Serenity Bay, the adults only area. She had another massage setup with Emma. We enjoyed 2-for-1 Conch Coolers on the tram to the bay.
She got her massage and I wandered the adult area. We relaxed and then went back to the main area, hitting the shops for some last minute souvenir browsing.
We all met up back on board and got cleaned up for dinner and started packing up. We ate in Royal Court for our final dinner, we presented Ned with a photo of him and our son that we took and had developed at Shutters. I hope he enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed him this week.
Then we went back to our room and finished packing up, except for what we'd need Saturday morning. we put our luggage out and then went to see the last show, An Unforgettable Journey. It too was nice, a good recap of the week and a last chance to wave goodbye to all the characters at once.
After this, my daughter went to catch a last showing of Avengers, we went to Shutters and placed an order for photos, went to do final on-board shopping, and then I went to catch the end of Chimpanzee that I had started earlier in the week. Then it was off to bed.
i'd really say, the best shopping of the week was on-board for me, i'm not that impressed with the Port shopping, and not in the market for gems. I'm more looking for Disney stuff. They had tons of clothing, mouse ears, hats, Fantasy specific gear, jewelry, watches, etc. over the week our group bought some shirts, mouse ears, a charm for a bracelet, a mug, and some toys for us and others.
As for Shutters, you can get individual physical prints for $20 each, or 10 for $150 or 20 for $250. you can also get CD that contains all your photos. the CD is protected so you can see them all but not do anything with them. you can again pay for 10 or 20 or all to 'unlock' for the same prices above or all for $350.
if you want 10 or 20 in a CD, you don't have to pick them out, you just order the CD with that many unlocks, then when you get home, you get to see them ALL and pick which ones you want to 'keep'. Less decision making on the ship, which is cool.
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