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Woodmnky 01-16-2013 08:23 AM

Fantasy with a Toddler
Disney Fantasy December 1 Ė 8, 2012
We booked this cruise about 70 days out when the Guarantee rates were released. This cruise was just before DSís 2nd birthday, so he was considered an infant. The rates at the time for 2 adults and 1 infant were around $2100 for the Inside Guarantee and $2500 for the Veranda Guarantee. For the $400 difference we chose the VGT knowing that even if our balcony was obstructed we would at least have a larger room than the smallest inside rooms. Our room was assigned 13 days before sailing and we were assigned stateroom 9140. This was about 5 rooms forward from the aft elevators. This is a location that we would have chosen had we picked a cabin since most of the attractions for us were aft to midship. We did not want a forward room since the forward elevators exit into the adultís only areas on deck 11.

Our traveling party consisted of DH & I. We are both in our early 30ís and have cruised 8 times prior with Princess Cruises. We enjoyed our time cruising Princess when it was just the two of us because we focused mainly on shore excursions during the day, we enjoyed the anytime dining & food, plus we appreciated the comedy shows. We cruised on Princess over DSís 1st birthday and just felt that there was little for us to do while traveling with a young child. DH & I have considered Disney in the past, but the cost was always too high. When the GT rates came out, we chose to cancel our WDW vacation and cruise instead.
Family portrait with Mickey

After we returned from our vacation I started to write a long detailed day by day review, however, with a toddler that proved nearly impossible. So, I am hoping to get in the highlights as well as share insight into cruising with a high needs toddler. My son is extremely shy & stranger phobic. The checkout clerk at the grocery store saying ďHiĒ to my son can result in terrified sobbing. He is not even fully comfortable with his Grandmother whom he sees several times a week. Combine this with several symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder and it means that we have to be very thoughtful with our planning for a vacation. We do everything that we can to minimize stresses, while still allowing him to grow and learn from the world around him.
DS & I

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 08:26 AM

Stateroom: We had the veranda room and loved it. We really didnt use the veranda all that much, but I enjoyed being able to look out the window. I would have been just as happy with one of the rooms that have the large porthole. A note about the veranda itself  I had heard that the doors were difficult to open. I didnt find this to be the case, but it wasnt until half way through the cruise that I noticed the lock that was up high. Without this lock engaged the door was very difficult, but not impossible for my son to open. With the lock engaged there is no way a child could open the door.
Upper door lock

DS is 38 inches tall and this is him opening the balcony door from the outside.

The storage in the stateroom was great. I was a bit worried because we had 4 large suitcases, our carry ons and a stroller. The bed was high enough that our stroller slid beneath the bed as did the suitcases when we nestled them into the two largest suitcases. There is a trunk in the room that acts as storage/coffee table. We used this for DSs toys. I knew that if I tried to put anything else in here it would just end up being taken out by him as he explored. This worked really well. The lid closes gently so we were able to avoid the smashed fingers that I was worried about.
The refrigerator in the room worked very well to keep things cold. In the first morning on the water we had put in the night before was frozen slightly so we had to turn the temp down. The fridge was pretty small, but it worked great. We loved the On Demand TV. There was a selection of many Disney/Pixar movies as well as some other non-Disney movies. We were able to see Madagascar 3 on demand and it had just come out on video. I did think it was a bit odd that Brave is out on DVD, but it was not on Demand. There is also a good selection of Disney channel & Disney Junior shows. We ended up watching all 7 episodes of Jake & the Neverland Pirates at least 5 times each.
Our bathroom did not have the round shower with the overhead rain spout, but we still had a handheld shower wand and the bathtub. I loved having a bathtub. It was very nice to be able to let DS wind down each night in the bath. On Princess only suites have bathtubs. Unless an adult was super tiny there is no way that they would be able to take a bath, but the tub did work well for a small child. I brought a couple very small bath toys with us that I had picked up at the dollar store. Having the bath separate from the shower was pretty nice and I can see how it would have been even nicer for a larger family.

(Please excuse the messy stateroom. I forgot to take pictures before it turned into this)

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 08:31 AM

When we arrived in our stateroom the attendant had already placed a Diaper Genie & Pack Ďn Play in the room for us. We did not request these beforehand, so DCL must have flagged us for these based upon DSís age. We moved the Diaper Genie into the bathroom with the shower and kept it in front of the sink. I left a note letting the stateroom attendant know that we would not need the Pack Ďn Play nor would we need another bed made up for DS as we cosleep. The Pack Ďn Play disappeared when we were at dinner.
Our stateroom attendant was Weeks from Costa Rica. He was great. I have never seen another stateroom attendant get tasks accomplished at the rate of speed that he had. He was the first attendant that we have ever had who was able to always have our room made up before we returned from breakfast or dinner. We tend to spend a fair amount of time in the room, so we are often there when the attendant arrives.

Some of our stateroom pets.

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 08:32 AM

There is more to come, but Mommy duty calls. If anyone has any questions, I am happy to answer anything that I can.

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 09:10 AM

We were assigned AERAERA. We requested a table for just our family before sailing and this request was granted. We immediately informed our servers of DS being very shy and asked that they pretty much ignore him. I know that this is not the normal request, but our servers did excellent with this request and even passed this request on to the head server. The first night in the dining room, the table was already set with toddler sized silverware, a high chair, and a cup with lid. The highchairs on Fantasy are a lot smaller than normal restaurant highchairs. This probably isnít a problem for most, but DS is very big for his age and had a hard time getting in and out of the chair. We used the highchairs in the dining room, but opted for a chair with arms when in the buffet. I was a bit concerned about the regular cup that had been fitted with a plastic lid, but DS knocked it over twice and the lid never came off.

Child sized silverware in comparison to adult knife.

We were given crayons each night for DS to use on the kids menu. It had activities to suit older kids and the younger ones could color.

The first night our servers made sure to check and see if there were any allergies they needed to be wary of and also asked if we would like to make a standing drink order. I really liked being able to have iced tea & water waiting for us when we walked in the dining room from that night on. There was always a kids menu on the table, but we alternated ordering from this and the adult menu for DS. Also, the kids menu was the only place that had a normal garden salad listed. I ordered this several times.

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 09:17 AM

I was excited to be assigned to Animatorís Palate 3 times during the cruise, but I guess I neglected to consider a few things. Animatorís Palate is VERY loud. DS was really uncomfortable from the time we entered. Then Crush came out and started talking to him and this made things a lot worse. I know that this is not the norm for kids, but it may be something for parents of special needs kids to consider. We also went to AP on Pirate night. That night was a lot better because they just played the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack and showed pictures on the wall. Unfortunately that night in AP ended pretty quickly as DS choked on a piece of corn bread and threw up. The staff handled this wonderfully and sent our food to the room. The Head Server even called later to check on us.

Animator's Palate on Pirate Night

Overall I found the food, both in the buffet and in the dining rooms, to be superior to what we had previously experienced with Princess. I know that food can be so subjective as someone else that was on our cruise commented that they felt the food wasnít very good, but we really enjoyed most everything that we ate. DH & I both love steak and ordered the beef entrťe most nights. It was almost always a perfect medium rare and seasoned well. The desserts were kind of hit or miss. None were bad, but not all were great. We actually left before dessert on several nights. Two of those nights I went up to Cabanas and had no problem getting some desserts to go. I just asked at the podium and was directed to the counter where they were being handed out. It was a quick and easy way to get some sweets without having to keep a fussy toddler in the dining room longer than need be.

While on the subject of food I will include the one part that really did not live up to our expectations Ė hamburgers & pizza. We ordered hamburgers at Floís V8 Cafť, once in the dining room for DS, and then on Castaway Cay. Each time they were horrible. I hate to say that, but when a 2 yo who will eat any fast food burger turns his nose up at a hamburger and eats all of his veggies instead it is a pretty bad hamburger. From what I understand the pizza served onboard is typical Disney pizza and it really wasnít very good. Inspite of these disappointments we always had plenty of options to each.

The chips & cookies at Tow Mater's Grill were awesome.

Self serve ice cream

Drink selections. Coffee & tea were also offered. Juice was available in the mornings and somedays it was still out when we went to lunch. Juice choices were apple, orange, cranberry, (& maybe something else that I don't recall).

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 09:24 AM

We ordered room service for a snack almost daily. The All Aboard Platter (cheese plate) was a big hit. DS loved the crackers and grapes and DH & I both really enjoyed the cheeses. The wings were pretty good as well although the sauce was more of a BBQ sauce than a buffalo sauce. We ordered dinner from room service on the last night. The steak sandwiches were really good, but the chicken soup was pretty nasty. I canít forget the Mickey bars. I actually put these in the fridge and they stayed frozen until we were ready for them.

Soy milk from room service. When we called they asked if we wanted Vanilla, Chocolate or plain. The first day I ordered plain and it was sent in a small glass. After that I ordered Vanilla and it was the awesome single serve boxes. I ordered several at a time for DS and stacked them in the fridge (although they do not require refridgeration).

Chicken fajita from room service. It was pretty good, but not spicy enough in my opinion.

Cheese platter & wings.

The day that we were in San Juan DS & I stayed on the ship while DH walked to the forts. Instead of trying to juggle the buffet by myself DS & I ate in the dining room. This was the best lunch of the trip (and one of my favorite meals of the trip). We ate in Royal Court so that I wouldnít have to get anything and could stay with DS. The service was excellent and the food was outstanding. I highly recommend trying lunch at least once in Royal Court. Although I intended to try Royal Court for breakfast one morning, this did not happen. We ate all of our breakfasts in Cabanas. I probably should be more than slightly ashamed about the amount of chocolate croissants that I ate, but Iím not. They are delicious. In fact I a drooling slightly now as I think about them.

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 09:28 AM

We didnít make it to any of the shows. I was able to sneak away and see Brave, but that was it. There is so much to do on this ship it is impossible to try and do it all. We didnít even do any shore excursions and still found that there wasnít enough time.
Characters Ė The characters were listed in the Navigator, but we did find some surprises. We didnít wait in line to see many of them because DS preferred just to watch from afar rather than stand in line to meet them. I did appreciate that there was a Cast Member in charge of cutting off the line if it got too long. There were several times where we were close to the end of a line, but it was nice knowing that we would get to meet the character we were in line for. DS was sick (he developed and ear infection) so we didnít make it to the Princess Gathering on either day it was offered, however, I did have a Cast Member tell us that if we were planning on going that we needed to arrive at least 15-20 minutes early. Hopefully this tidbit helps some Princess loving child not be disappointed.

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 09:30 AM

Nemoís Reef Ė We went to Nemoís Reef daily (sometimes several times a day). DS loved this area (in fact we had to avoid walking by it if we werenít going there or there was going to be a protest). The water is heated, but if the wind is blowing (or you have a child who tends to get cold easily) it can be chilly. There is some cleaning/sanitizing solution that is released continuously to clean the floor. If you have a child who has sensitive skin you may want to inquire as to what this is before using the area. DS never seemed bothered by it, but I noticed it so I wanted to mention it to other parents. There is a small slide in Nemoís Reef (Mr. Ray) and it is really fast. We let DS go down it twice, but he didnít know how to hold himself when landing and hit his head both times. We decided to avoid this rather than risk injury. There is a padded mat at the end, but I would still be cautious with young toddlers.

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 09:32 AM

Open House Hours Ė We found out that the open house hours in the clubs change on each voyage and sometimes they change during the voyage. On our trip the Oceaneerís Club had open house hours each day. There were some open house hours offered at the Lab as well, but that area really didnít appeal to DS so we only went once. The Club is awesome. During the open house hours they usually had a group activity going on in the middle of the club and then kids were allowed to play freely in the rest. Most days the activity involved at least one character making an appearance. We saw Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto several times. I would say that the Club open house hours and Nemoís Reef were hands down DSís favorite things to do.

We went to the Open House at the Nursery the first morning of the cruise. DS had fun, but most of the toys were similar to those that he had at home and he was having to compete with younger kids who knew even less about sharing than he did, so it wasnít a great fit for him. I donít want to sound like it was a bad experience, it just didnít WOW us the way that the play areas in the Club did. We scheduled some time in the Nursery before sailing just in case we thought that it might work, but DS is just not ready to be left with strangers. I cancelled all of our hours that first morning. The staff was very nice and told us that if we wanted to reschedule just to call. The staff even let us know that if we chose a slow time they could likely devote a staff member one on one to DS so that he could do quiet activities or whatever he was comfortable with, but I just didnít think this would be a good idea.

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 09:48 AM

Aqua Duck Ė DH went on the Aqua Duck on one afternoon while DS & I played at Nemoís Reef. His opinion was that it was fun, but not fun enough to justify waiting 40 minutes a second time. I tried to go one sea day, but they were only allowing double riders and I didnít want to be paired up with a stranger. I even asked being that I am Pooh sized if this was really necessary and they said that it was. No worries. I went the morning that we were in Castaway Cay. I walked straight to the top (that is a workout BTW) and got right on a tube with no wait. I donít like water slides. DH knows this and told me that it went really slow. I hadnít even caught my breath from walking up all the steps and then got on the ride, which is not slow. It isnít really fast either, but I was a bit surprised. I agreed with DH Ė fun, but not really worth a huge wait. Iím sure when DS is old enough to go on it I will feel a bit differently.

Castaway Cay

This island is amazing. It is beautiful, clean, and full of activities for people of all ages. It was decorated for Christmas while we were there which was pretty neat. Normally I am not a fan of warm weather vacations combined with what in my opinion should be a cold weather holiday, but Disney did an awesome job combining the two in a way which really worked. The water was pretty cool, but it was nice to jump in for a bit to cool off. I didn't get far enough out to look for fish or use my snorkel gear, but I heard others saw some nice sea life. DS was very cranky while we were on CC and only wanted to stay on the beach for about 30 minutes. Turns out he had an ear infection.

We did eat lunch on CC and it was pretty good (except for the hamburgers). The buffet had hamburgers, hot dogs, Mahi Mahi with a pico de gallo salsa on top, ribs, some salads, breads, and cookies. I went through the buffet and got food for all three of us while DH & DS found a place to sit. This was no problem, I just crammed food onto plates. I went back to get drinks and found that on CC they do not offer lids for the cups. By the time I got back to our table I was covered in juice and Coke. Next time I will bring our travel cups with us to the island. DH & I both agree that the ultimate DCL cruise would have CC as the 1st and last days.

Tree on CC

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 09:57 AM

Pirate Night
I feel like a note about Pirate night is appropriate and maybe this info will help some people.
As I mentioned my son has some symptoms of SPD and tends to have some anxiety issues when in large crowds. We wanted to at least attempt to go to the fireworks show on Pirate night. DS has never seen fireworks, so we didn't know how this would go. We brought his ear protection which he wears at home when we are vacuuming or using the blender. He wore these most of the night while we were on deck, however, when the fireworks started he lost it. We chose to stand on the steps leading to the Aqua Lab on the opposite side of the ship from where the fireworks were being launched, but it was still very loud. I managed to hide with DS in a small bar/alcove and this muffled the sound enough that we were able to calm him down. Once DS calmed down, DH went back on the deck and watched the fireworks by looking directly through the Aqua Lab and he said that the view was great.

DS having fun before the fireworks.

Woodmnky 01-16-2013 10:01 AM

In spite of DS being cranky the last couple of days due to incoming molars and an ear infection, we still had a wonderful time. The staff onboard never failed to please. I spent the whole trip onboard the ship and didn't get to half of the activities that I wanted to. I am trying to talk DH into another cruise on the Fantasy this fall/winter if we are able to snag another GTY rate. DH would love to go to WDW, but for me a cruise is so much more relaxing.

lorenni 01-19-2013 09:21 PM

Thank you very much for writing your TR. My son will be 20 months when we cruise this spring and this is the best description of Nemo's Reef and other toddler specific info that I have found!

A couple of quick question - were you able to use the cups with lids during the day or did you bring your own sippy cups?

And did you do any excursions with your son?

Meliss32 01-19-2013 09:55 PM

Just wanted to thank you for the information, It was really helpful we are going in March with a 23 mo....

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