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Old 07-11-2013, 12:26 PM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Columbia, MD
Posts: 852

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! 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! 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.
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.
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. 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!

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.
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
Cruises To Date:Jan. 25 - 28, 2007: 3 Night Bahamian on the Wonder May 3 - 10, 2008: 7 Night Western Caribbean on the Magic June 15 - 22, 2013: 7 Night Eastern Caribbean on the Fantasy June 13 - 20, 2015: 7 Night Western Caribbean on the Fantasy
Trips to WDW: 1972 - off site, 1974 - off site, July 1999 - Caribbean Beach, April 2010 - Pop Century, June 2012 - Pop Century, Dec. 2012 - Animal Kingdom Lodge, June 2014 - Pop Century
May 3-10 Western Trippie: June 15 - 22 Eastern Trippie

Last edited by bobbi565; 07-11-2013 at 04:39 PM. Reason: grammar correction
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