The James Gang Lives the Fantasy
Travel and Embarkation
Read on to learn about our June 15 - 22, 2013 Father's Day Eastern Fantasy cruise. We had a fabulous time cruising on the Disney Fantasy with a very enthusiastic and friendly group of DISers! :banana: I'm happy to share the details and lots of photos with you here. We'll start with our cast of characters:
Me: 47 yo middle school teacher, Disney enthusiast, and card carrying member of overplanners anonymous and the Mamarazzi
DH: 48 yo journalist, resident ubergeek, night owl, and court jester.
DS: 10 yo clown prince of the family. The world's pickiest eater (which makes all vacations interesting) with sensory integration issues and pdd (which also makes any outing a potential adventure).
Parents of special needs kids might find some useful tips within!
We booked last April and got some great OBC deals between Dreams Unlimited ($250), Disney Rewards Visa ($50), and Disney online booking ($25). In addition, as soon as we booked, we started requesting Disney gift cards from all family members for any gift giving occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. This strategy turned out to be highly successful! :thumbsup2 We'd cruised on the Wonder in 2007 and the Magic in 2008, but this would be our first voyage on one of the big ships. We were very excited to experience it!
We decided to drive from Maryland to Port Canaveral. We like to have our car with us and don't have to worry about any airline packing restrictions. DS is an extremely good traveler and is very happy in the backseat with his DVDs and some snacks. We hit the road on Friday, June 14 in the wee hours of the morning and set off for Jacksonville, FL. Being an EXTREME early riser, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed to drive the first leg of the trip while DH slept in the third row seat of our Odyssey, so he would be rested up for the late shift. We stopped at South of the Border for lunch! It's so kitschy, I just love it.
In Jacksonville, we stayed at the Best Western Jacksonville Airport. It's a basic, no frills property with free Wifi, breakfast buffet, small fitness room, and pool. They also have fresh baked cookies! DS enjoyed the chocolate chip. http://i226.photobucket.com/albums/d...psb002754f.jpg
The time to the port from here is just under three hours, so we can get up fairly early in the morning and be to the Disney Cruise terminal when it opens. We used this routine when we drove to Disney World last summer, and it worked out well for us.
We arrived at Port Canaveral at about 9:45. It was so exciting to catch sight of the Fantasy for the first time as we pulled up to port. http://i226.photobucket.com/albums/d...psd95c9d29.jpg
It was also exciting to keep receiving facebook notifications from all my DIS friends keeping me abreast of their progress to port. I had recalled that when we cruised on the Magic in 2008, we had arrived at the port slightly before 10:00 and were made to wait in the driveway until the gates opened at 10:00 sharp. Not this time! The man at the security booth waved us in and told us we could drop off luggage and passengers in from of the terminal if we like before parking. He said the porters might not be out yet, but we could expect them shortly after 10:00. We followed these directions, negotiating the crowds still disembarking that morning and pulled our car to the curb. Immediately, a port employee approached our car and told us that we couldn't drop off bags yet but would have to park and bring our bags to the porters. :confused3 This was all a little confusing, so we continued toward the parking areas and stopped to ask for instructions one more time at the entrance to the parking garage. The gentleman there told us to park our car then take our luggage across the crosswalk to the porters who would be out shortly. We found a spot in the first level of the parking garage, then managed to haul our carryons and all our checked luggage out of the garage, across the crosswalk, and down the sidewalk to the entrance of the terminal. Once there, a CM asked us if we were just arriving or disembarking, and when we answered she responded a porter would be there shortly to take our luggage, after which we could return to the parking garage, take an elevator to the second floor where we would be able to enter the terminal. When the porter came, we returned to the parking garage where we were directed to wait in a line. In the line, we noticed that most of the people waiting (there were about a half a dozen families in front of us) still had their luggage. Not long after, CMs came around to check bags in the line! At any rate, I hadn't been waiting in line for long when I heard my name being called. I turned around and found myself staring at a very familiar face. "It's Joan!" she told me. Sure enough, it was 4newtocruise, one of the first friends I made on our DIS meet thread. We chatted on line for a while, her 11 yo son making very friendly overtures to my lone wolf DS, and after waiting about twenty minutes, the line moved out of the garage, onto the walkway leading to the terminal entrance.
We waited there about another ten minutes, and finally the doors were opened and we were allowed in.
I love being a Castaway Club member and waited in line about three minutes before stepping up to the counter and being handed our key cards, lanyards, and boarding group number 3! http://i226.photobucket.com/albums/d...ps624049d3.jpg
We found some comfy seats, the boys whipped out their electronics, and I headed over to the OC/OL registration counter to get DS a bracelet for the clubs. This is one area where his sensory issues cause a problem. Any venue that requires a bracelet to be worn for entrance creates trauma for this boy. Even the tiny little paper bracelets drive him to distraction. I knew this big honkin' chunk of plastic on its king sized laminated strap would send him into fits of apoplexy. http://i226.photobucket.com/albums/d...ps3ddde73f.jpg
Needless to say, we ended up prying it open and removing it before we even boarded. I figured I could stick it back on him when he entered the club and deal with it then.
It was pretty surreal walking around the terminal and hearing my name being called out then turning to see so many familiar faces belonging to people I've never met before! I have enjoyed getting to know so many cruisemates on the DIS and Facebook over the last year, and we all greeted one another with laughter and hugs as if we were long lost friends. I started to notice people wandering around with Day One Personal Navigators, so I popped over to the counter and asked for one. I was directed to two cast members standing by the Mickey ears portal, where I grabbed a couple and returned to my boys to peruse the schedule.
By about 11:30, they started boarding. I thought they would call one number at a time, but they called something like 1 - 5 to get started, so we got right on board. I have to say, the crowd sort of rushes the door in no semblance of a line, so the less timid will get lost in the crush. Stand your ground and stick close to the people in front of you, because people just squeeze through as close to the front as they can get, no matter where they started in the crowd! We passed though, got our pictures snapped quickly, and boarded!
Next Up: First Impressions, Sail Away, and Night One
Yay, we were on this cruise too! It will be fun to read your trip report and see your pictures:)
Joining in! Can't wait to hear all about your experiences.
I was also on this cruise!!! With 12 people in our group I completely missed get together. Can't wait to be filled in on how it went!!!
We were on this one as well (but missed the meet). It was a great cruise!
Loving this so far!!! Can't wait to read more!
Joining in Bobbi! Wow, feel like a celebrity, 1st trip report debut and mention! :rotfl2: :rotfl2:
Bobbi, it was wonderful to meet you on the cruise! :) Great start to your trip report. Looking forward to reading more.
First Impressions, Sail Away, and Night One
We were announced and stepped into the main atrium of the Disney Fantasy. It was golden and majestic, everything you would want a grand oceanliner to be. At this point, however, it was really a bit of a blur, because our main goal was to get up to the pool, get ourselves settled in, and then I could go take care of a bit of business while the boys got down to the business of relaxing.
We made a beeline for the elevators and took one straight up to deck eleven. This is one of the few times onboard we were able to find two loungers with ease during pool hours. I had dressed DS in his swim trunks to board, knowing that the pool would be his first stop, so he pulled off his shirt, paused for a sunscreen spraydown, and ran off for the pool.
DH settled in on a lounger, and all was right with the world. I ran down to guest services to get our names on a waiting list for a Castaway Cay cabana on the family beach. We’d been unable, of course, to secure one during our advance reservations window, and thought it might be an enjoyable splurge if one happened to come open. When I returned, I caught sight of this goofy character!
I also informed DH that I had passed the bank of soft serve machines just past the restrooms. Soft serve is one of his weaknesses, and the prospect of self-serve, all you can eat had him positively giddy. He helped himself to a little cone, and after he finished it, I suggested he run into Cabanas and make himself a plate of lunch to bring out poolside. He returned shortly with a lovely pile of steamed shrimp and some other delicacies, and settled down happily to munch. I took my turn and came out with a similar mound of shrimp, some steamed mussels, a delightful marinated tomato salad, and some refreshingly vinegary coleslaw. The fountain drink banks are located more conveniently next to the pools on the new ships as opposed to the farther locations on the classics, so it was easy to get refills while still keeping an eye on the boy.
I had encouraged DS to get in line for the Aquaduck, knowing that early boarding time was one of the most prime opportunities to ride without an outrageous wait time. He thought about it, but said he wanted to go on with either DH or me, and I hadn’t packed suits for either one of us in our carryons. DS is a pretty cautious kid who gets nervous about thrill rides of even the mildest nature. I tried to convince him that it wouldn’t be too scary for him, but he chafed at the suggestion, so I let it be. DH and I kicked back and relaxed as DS played in the pool, waiting for the 1:30 rope drop when we could bring our stuff to the room, when suddenly I saw DS running for the steps to the Aquaduck. “He’s going on the Aquaduck,” I shouted to DH, “by himself!” I got up and ran to the pool deck, where I could scan the tubes for him to emerge and waited…and waited…and waited some more.
DH was standing on the other side of the counter that separated the beach chairs alongside the pool from the loungers under cover of deck twelve, and he watched skeptically, finally prophesizing, “He’ll never do it!” As I continued to wait, I encountered TIGGER/POOH4, the originator of our Meet thread and organizer of our FE exchange whom I’d met at the terminal. I shared my dilemna with him, and he assured me that other than the initial dip at the beginning of the ride, the Aquaduck was quite tame. I held out hope that DS would see this and take heart to take the plunge, literally. Eventually, my heart sank as I saw him come down the stairs he’d ascended so many minutes earlier. I ran to him.
“What happened?” I asked.
“Well,” he responded sheepishly, “I was going to do it, but after waiting on line for a while, I got nervous and changed my mind.”
I went into cheerleader mode, “Oh Joel!” I encouraged him. “You will have such a great time! It won’t be scary at all!” I shared TIGGER/POOH4’s risk assessment with him and continued, “This is as short as the line will get, and you will be so proud of yourself if you do this! Go on back and give it a try; I know you’ll love it!” Finally, he turned and scaled the stairs again. With my fingers crossed and my heart in my throat, I waited for what seemed like another eternity for his sandy head to emerge in the tube. Of course, I didn’t realize at the time, that once you enter the funnel, there’s still a winding staircase that takes a while to work your way through before you actually board the ride. When he finally appeared, riding aboard a raft behind a boy I’d never seen before, I was taken so by surprise I almost missed the shot. I did manage to get this one with DS’s head and the other boy’s feet!
When I saw the boys emerging from the ride, I raised my hand to receive a high five and called to DS, “How was it?”
“Awesome!” he slapped my palm as he sprinted past me into the pool as if plunging down a water filled tube hundreds of feet in the air and being thrust over the edge of the ship to be suspended over the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean was really no big deal. Fortunately, his newfound and understanding companion was much more communicative and stopped to share the anecdote with me.
“He was a little nervous at first,” explained the dark haired young man about the same size as my DS, “but I told him it wasn’t that scary, and he finally decided to try it.” Apparently, these two had decided in the pool to ride together, and when DS chickened out the first time, the boy went on solo. When I convinced DS to give it a try, he fortunately hooked up with this guy again and they were able to ride it together. The boy seemed extremely nice, and I thanked him profusely for helping my son. Potential friendship number two that DS would chose not to cultivate…
I finally settled into some relaxing on a sunbed next to DH, who promptly began some intense examination of the backs of his eyelids. TIGGER/POOH4, who had settled onto a nearby sunbed warned me not to wake him, but reminded me that it was almost 1:30, rope drop time! In the meantime, on deck eleven, I had the opportunity to encounter Betsy918, kyirish25, and Tessa0422 and her ENTIRE crew (thankfully, in spite of their last minute health scare).
When 1:30 rolled around, DS was still in the pool and DH was fast asleep, but I was chomping at the bit to see our room. I checked in with DS, and he agreed that he was ready to check out the room, so I dashed off a text to DH to let him know where we were upon waking, and dried DS off as best I could. One major oversight on my part was not packing dry bottoms for DS in my carryon. He had the t-shirt he wore over his swim trunks to board, but now he was stuck in his wet bottoms until his luggage arrived, which I hoped would be before dinner! Oops…
For this cruise, we decided to go for an aft verandah cabin, and it was fantastic! We were in stateroom 6690 which had an oversized verandah with two chairs, a table, and a sunbed. It was definitely worth the extra money to be able to lounge on my huge verandah and read a book. I’d read some complaints about engine vibrations on the boards. You can definitely feel the vibrations in this room, but I did not find it an unpleasant sensation. To the contrary, I actually found it quite soothing at night like one of those vibrating beds from hotels in the 70s where you had to stick a quarter in the little box on the headboard. I slept better on this cruise than I ever have!
After checking out the accomodations, I realized we’d left DS’s life vest behind DH’s sunbed. We decided we’d run back up to make sure it didn’t get left behind and to see if we could relocate DH to our lair. When we reached him, DH was starting to stir and said he would return to the room with us. When we got there, one of our five pieces of checked luggage was at our door…not DS’s, of course. His would end up being the last to arrive. As he enjoys a bit of nudity, I actully was able to hang his swim trunks on the verandah for faster drying in case he was forced to wear them to the safety drill and even dinner! Two more pieces of luggage arrived shortly, as we got acquainted with the TV and wave phones.
The boys were pretty well ensconced in the room as 2:45 rolled around. This was the time scheduled for our DIS/Facebook group Meet and Greet. I had contacted DCL late in April about the possibility of reserving the D Lounge for our group. We’d seen some mention on the DIS boards of other groups doing this, and it turned out to be quite easy. I called the customer service number, and they took my information and said I’d get an email with a private event form from the private events department. I received that within 24 hours, filled it out (it was short and easy), received confirmation of receipt within another 24 hours and comfirmation that we were booked for our requested time within 48 hours of that! At any rate, I decided to attend the event solo. Neither of my boys responds well to overscheduling or overstimulation, so this seemed the best choice. I took my Wave phone and said I’d call to arrange a meeting place for the safety drill.
I trucked down two flights of stairs to deck four. I try to make it a habbit to use the stairs almost exclusively onboard. It tends to be faster than waiting for the elevators and counteracts a little bit of the overindulgence inherent in a cruise vacation. I was a little confused at first how to wind my way through the adults area at the aft end of the ship and get to D Lounge at midship, so I ended up outside on deck and came inside somewhere near the atrium to double back to D Lounge. There was quite a crowd assembled already, and I saw TIGGER/POOH4 and 4newtocruise near the dance floor right away. They introduced my to Alistair, the crew member who had been assigned as the contact person for our event. He offered his service for both our event and any of our onboard concerns. I had printed out these name tags for people to wear and set them and some sharpies on a table at the front of the dance floor:
It was then that I realized I’d neglected to bring the DIS neon green rubber bracelets I’d had made for our group to wear to make it easier to recognize one another during our voyage. It was still a few minutes before 3:00 when we’d decided that we should address the group and have introductions, so I told folks I’d run back to my room to get them and return quickly. When I returned to the room, DS’s luggage had finally arrived, so I grabbed his shirt and shorts for dinner and told DH to have him dressed and meet me at the deck 4 aft staircase at 3:45.
I returned to D Lounge, passed out bracelets to everyone as they sat around and socialized, and then used my teacher voice to get everyone’s attention. We asked if anyone in the FE group had been blessed with a sprinkling of fairy dust from the upgrade fairy (nobody had), then asked folks to go around the room and introduce themselves and say where they were from and anything else they wanted to share about themselves. When we finished that, we shooed the little ones from the stage and congregated for a group photo. We were quite a crowd!
It was nearly 3:30 when and the group began to disband. I returned to our room, where the boys were quite contentedly making themselves at home. DH was raving about the on demand selections on the TV which included every Pixar movie, a nice selections of some of DS’s favorite DXD shows, including the now defunct “I’m in the Band”, and a generous selection of current films including DH fave, “The Hobbit” and DS fave, “The Amazing Spider-man”. My boys enjoy spending a decent amount of downtime relaxing in the room, so this was a happy discovery for them.
Our muster location was The Tube, so we trucked on down there and were directed to a tall bar table. The atmosphere was relaxed and lifejackets were not required, which is a relief to those of us with special needs kids. Standing around outside on deck wearing those bulky life jackets like we did on our last Disney cruise was one of the most trying parts of the vacation for us with DS’s sensory issues.
The safety drill was over quickly, leaving us a few more minutes for unpacking before heading up to deck 12 for a good spot for the Sail Away party. We like to find a spot on the rail above the crowd so we can see everything without being caught in the crush. While we enjoyed the show, a waiter came around with frozen drinks in Disney souvenir cups. I forget what it was called, but it tasted and looked like a swirled mixture of pina colada and strawberry daquiri. DH and I are not big drinkers anymore, but the Sail Away party seemed like an occasion to indulge if there ever was one.
After the Sail Away party, we decided to tour the ship.
The boys playing with the motorcycle in La Piazza
Checking out Andy's Room in the Oceaneer's Club
DS hopped on the "Rex Express" with this little girl...
...and promptly attempted to crush her. I started to scold him about "personal space," but she looked pretty happy about it, so I let him be.
After seeing some of the sights, we stopped back at the room and changed for dinner. Prior to the cruise, I had requested the AERAERA rotation, and that’s the one we received, so it was Animator’s Palate and the Crush show for our first night of dinner. Our servers were Marijan from Croatia and Allwyn from India. They were lovely and accomodated DS’s unusual eating habits without judgement. For this night’s dinner, I chose the Smoked Salmon Tartare, Creamy Butternut Squash Soup, and White Shrimp Pennette Pasta, all delicious, and I believe I got the Sweet Temptations for dessert.
The boys got a little silly before dinner ended.
Not to reinvent the wheel, here’s a link to the Disney Cruiseline Blog, where you can view both the Navigators from our cruise (thanks to TIGGER/POOH4) and the menus.
After dinner, we decided to hit the shops. I wanted to get one of the Chamilia DCL charms and read on the DIS that it wasn’t unusual for them to sell out early in the cruise, so I was determined to make that one of my first stops. I chose the miniature cruise ship.
By this time, we were pretty exhausted, so after a little more exploring the ship, we headed back to the room and called it a night. The door was pretty easy to find!
Night one towel animal: a swan.
Next Up: Day at Sea, Father's Day Fun, and Formal Night
I am really enjoying your post.
My family was also on board. Only 4 of us (daughter and grandchildren and me) made it to the meet and greet in the D Lounge and we were a little late.
I am in the pic though. Thanks so much for arranging that and for the green bracelets. I did see other group members throughout the cruise because of the green bracelets.
Thanks for the great post.
Great start! Congrats to your DS on getting on the Aquaduck! I also have a cautious DS so I can appreciate how happy you were.
Jumping in here - looking forward to our TR after such an awesome start - thanks
I've hopped over from the 2014 Fantasy FB page and am really enjoying your TR
Sounds like your trip got off to a great start
Looking forward to reading along :goodvibes
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