|05-11-2014, 07:22 AM||#1|
Earning My Ears
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Buffalo, NY
Just off the Fantasy (5/3-5/10)
We disembarked yesterday from an incredible week on the Fantasy. Here's the highlights. I'd be happy to answer any questions (if I can).
General - It was me, my wife, and our two daughters (8 & 5). We booked through Dreams Unlimited and had Tammy O. as our Travel Agent. She was great! Very prompt when returning responses from emails and very knowledgeable. Would highly recommend...
This was our second cruise (both on DCL), our first one was in 2010 on the Wonder (4 Night Bahamas).
We booked this cruise over a year ago (April of 2013) and had been counting down the days for (what seemed like) forever...
Stateroom - We were in a veranda room - Cat 5C on Deck 7 Midship. The room was located right at the midship elevator/stairway, which surprisingly didn't bother us at all. It was a great location, very little ship motion, and the noise wasn't a problem. (We also use a sound machine at night, so I'm sure that helped...).
Ida was our Stateroom Host and he did a great job the entire week and was very accommodating when we needed to let our 5 year old take a quick nap in the middle of the afternoon...
We received the Castaway Club tote bag in our room as well as the Welcome Gift from DU that included two plastic coffee mugs, two water bottles, glow sticks, magnetic clips (which we used to keep the veranda curtains closed tightly at night to keep the room dark - but could also be used to hold towels onto your lounger by the pool or beach), gummies, a deck of cards, and probably something else that I'm forgetting...
Dining - We had the AERAERA Main Dining rotation. Gloria (Server - Peru) and Mirella ("Mimi", Assistant Server - Croatia) were our servers and did an incredible job! They took their time to make sure we had everything we needed, were great with the girls - Gloria gave them Origami lessons and Mimi taught them how to draw Goofy, and sincerely asked us how our day was every evening. They shared their recommendations on food, the highlights of the ship, and even gave us tips on our Ports of Call too. We were really pleased with them.
Witt (Korea - I think...?) was our Head Server and he did a good job checking in with us mid-cruise to see how the serving team was doing and even pitched in to help clear tables or bring out food from the kitchen.
At no point were we given the "Excellent Rating Score) hard sell so no issues there...
Overall, the food quality was Below Average at best. My wife and I aren't food snobs by any means, and I understand the fact that it takes an army to prepare 8000 plates of food a day, but we both agreed that the quality was less than expected. Food temperature was hit or miss, cuts of beef were overly fatty, fish and seafood was also hit or miss with regard to texture, taste, and quality.Then again, I'm not sure who books a Disney Cruise for the food... If it weren't for Gloria and Mimi, we probably would have skipped the MDRs and just headed to Cabanas.
We missed the Pirate Menu due to not getting back on the ship until later in St. Maarten, so I can't comment on that particular night.
We also ate at Cabanas for lunch and probably hit up the counter service (Flo's) more times than needed throughout the day...
So even though we weren't overly impressed with the food quality, there was always enough.
We didn't dine at Palo or Remy (we had decided pre-cruise to spend our designated "adult night" exploring the Europa section of the ship - which we didn't have a good chance to do on our first cruise), so I can't comment on their food quality.
Excursions - In St. Maarten, we decided to go to Le Galion beach on our own. Having spent a lot of time on the Disboards before we left, we knew we wanted to go to a family friendly beach that would be less crowded than Orient. We chose Le Galion and were really pleased with the decision. It took us about five minutes to hop into a taxi (van) from the Port. We rode with another family who were going to Orient and the ride took about 20-25 minutes. When we were dropped off the driver (Gregory) asked us what time we wanted him to pick us up and we told him 2:00. It was $7 a piece for the taxi ride ($28 total).
We got to the beach around 10:15 and there was still plenty of room to grab an umbrella and two lounge chairs right in front of the water. There were probably 50 people there when we arrive (maybe 125 when we left), and it was perfect. The water was clear, warm and beautiful. There was just a slight surf (nothing to be worried about - there were some very small toddlers playing in the water) and the views were fantastic.
Our girls practiced snorkeling and the wife and I relaxed on the beach. There is a restaurant that served burgers and sandwiches and had cold beers, wine, and tropical drinks.
All of the prices are in Euros (French side of the Island) and the exchange rate was 1 Euro = 1.30 US. So, the beers were $3 US...
The chairs and umbrellas were 5 Euros each ($6.50 US) which worked for us. Freddy took care of us and made sure we had anything we needed throughout the day.
At 2:00 PM, Charles came to pick us up (Gregory couldn't make it) and he asked us if we wanted to return to the ship or be dropped off in Philipsburg. We decided to go to Philipsburg and walked around for a bit before returning to the ship.
After a quick nap for our youngest (and some mid-ship detective agency for our 8 year old, we got dressed for Mickey's Pirate Party and then crashed before the fireworks...
The next day, we got up early to meet up with the Champagne Catamaran Snorkel and Sail to St. John excursion. We decided that we wanted to see the beaches as St. John and decided to go with this DCL excursion to take some of the anxiety over catching taxi's and ferries to make it to and from the ship on time. In hindsight, after exploring St. Maarten the previous day, it probably wouldn't have been an issue. Still, it was nice knowing that everything was taken care of...
When we originally booked the excursion, we were hesitant about the fact that 1) it was a "champagne" catamaran - was it appropriate for our kids, 2) the description clearly states that you need to swim from the catamaran to the beach (around 150-200 yards) - would our 8 and 5 year old be able to do it, and 3) the videos on YouTube made it look like a spring break party...
All of our fears were quickly erased as the crew (Teresa, Ryan, and Tyler) did a fantastic job and fully explained everything before we took off. Our girls did an awesome job (our five year old climbed down the ladder and jumped right into the water!) with the swim to the beach. They provided a snorkel vest, and the snorkels and masks were very clean. They also gave us two "noodles" for the girls to hold on to.
My five year old didn't wear her mask or snorkel and I pulled her along as I snorkeled from the boat to the beach. My 8 year old was a champ and loved being able to see all the way down to the bottom with her mask and snorkel.
We saw a bunch of tropical fish, some stingrays, and a couple of sea turtles. We spent only a few minutes on the beach and checked out the family of donkeys that had made Honeymoon Beach their home. (St. Johns is 2/3 national park...).
We then snorkeled back to the catamaran and me and my 5 year old got back on board while my wife and 8 year old continued snorkeling for about 20 more minutes. In all, you get about an hour and a half to snorkel and check out the beach.
We got back on board and spent some time jumping off the catamaran directly into the water which was really cool. Jumping off with my 8 year old is a memory I'll have forever...
The return trip back included some snacks (fruit - watermelon and oranges, bread, cheese, and Hersey's Kisses) and drinks (rum punch, beer - Miller Lite or Presidente, and Champagne - Cooks). For non-drinkers they had soda and juice.
The crew did an awesome job keeping everyone entertained and happy and it was (in our estimation) well worth the price. If you're expecting high end Champagne and a leisurely sail from St. Thomas to St. John, this may not be the excursion for you...
We got back to Havensight a little after 1:00 and did some shopping before heading back onto the ship.
Castaway Cay - We basically took it easy on Castaway. We left the ship with everyone else at 9:45 and found an umbrella with lounger chairs on the family beach and relaxed. I took the girls on Pelican Plunge a couple of times, and we watched the Crab Races, but that was about it. It was everything it should have been - relaxing, picturesque, and sunny...
Sea Days - We spent most of our sea days by the pools. While crowded, we managed to find a spot each day. We rode the AquaDuck (wait times ranged between 10 minutes and 30 minutes) depending on the time of day.
Activities - We took a bunch of character pictures. The Princess Gathering on sea days was great because you had the opportunity to get pictures and autographs with five princesses all at once (no Anna, Elsa, or Rapunzel on our cruise).
We saw four of the shows - Aladdin, Believe, Wishes, and An Unforgettable Journey. They were all good, not great, but good.
We did Midship Detective Agency which was very popular on the ship. At certain points in the day, there were lines at each artwork picture...
My wife and I did the Tequila and Margarita Tasting, which we both though was worth the $15 price. Julian (from Ooh La La) was our instructor and did an awesome job. So much so that we went back to see him on our "adult night" out and spent $55 on four drinks at the bar...
Areas that stood out to us for improvements were few and far between. I'd love to see them move the fireworks to earlier than 10:45 PM. It's just too late after going all day long. It was our second cruise and we've missed the fireworks both times.
The stage used for deck parties could be raised up a bit, so people standing on the deck can see the characters/performers. Deck 12 provides a good view, but then you're separated from everything that's going on below...
We saw the usual bit of rude people on the ship - cutting in line at the buffet or beverage station or placing towels on pool loungers then disappearing for the next couple of hours. There were Crew Members removing towels from chairs that had no personal belongings on them, but people would just put a t-shirt or extra pair of flip flops under the chair to make it look like they were occupied.
The pools were over-crowded, but we expected that going into the cruise, so no disappointment there...
In all, it was a great trip and one that provided memories that will last a life time. All four of us were sad to have to disembark yesterday and the wife and I are already thinking of our next cruise (most likely in 2016), so I'll be sure to be lurking the boards over the next 24 months...
Sorry for the long post... Let me know if you have any questions!
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