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Old 03-07-2014, 10:30 AM   #1
Mama Odie
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Our Fantastic Voyage - Fantasy Western Caribbean 1/17-1/24 2014

Hello, everyone! It took a while to get our trip report ready to share, but hey, at least I actually did it this time. Maybe next year, I'll get around to making that scrapbook I've always wanted to do...

First, a little background... January is a big celebration month in our family, because our anniversary and both our daughters' birthdays all happen within a 3 week period. In 2013 we were celebrating our 20th anniversary and our 6 year old and 9 year old daughters' birthday, so we decided to go big and go DISNEY!

We spent 4 days at the parks and followed it with a 3-day Bahamas cruise on the Dream. It was all kinds of awesome!

But we all left the Dream feeling like we hadn't had enough time to experience all that DCL had to offer. So when we started making out family vacation plans for 2014 we decided we wanted to cruise with Disney in January again, but this time for 7 glorious, fun-filled days. We contacted our TA Beth Feijer at Dreams Unlimited and just like that, we were booked on the Fantasy for the Western Caribbean itinerary. Woo-hoo!!

Then, just to sweeten the deal, my mom decided in late October to join us on the trip. Mom spent most of the 90s and early 00's cruising with my dad, but she hadn't been on a cruise since his passing and had never cruised DCL. We had a lot of fun introducing her to all the fun things on the ship plus all the fun DIS activities like FEs and meet-ups as well.

So here's the whole gang. Hope you enjoy reading more about our adventures!

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Old 03-07-2014, 11:45 AM   #2
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Day 1 - Getting to Orlando

Waking up on the way to the airport...


We didn't want to take too many chances with the winter weather, so we flew Southwest down to Orlando on Friday afternoon and rented a car from Dollar. LESSON LEARNED: a standard size Mitsubishi Gallant is not big enough for 3 adults, 2 kids and their luggage. Seriously, it was like wedging into a clown car! We did an on-site upgrade to full-size and even that was a pretty tight squeeze. Since we were only in the car for a short time, we sucked it up and made it work. Good thing we're a close-knit family.

But when we were ready to leave the garage, the attendant looked at the car records and informed us that the car we chose had something wrong with it and we couldn't use it. (So WHY was it on the friggin' lot with the rentable cars??! Boo, Dollar!) So we had to spend another 20 minutes switching out cars AGAIN.

PRODUCT PLUG: instead of renting a booster seat for DD7, we brought her Bubblebum, which worked like a charm. It's an inflatable booster that packs well and meets all the right safety standards. Love that thing!

We stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista, which I chose because it was reasonably close to DTD and it had cool family suites where the kids had their own little alcove with bunk beds, dressers and their own TV. And they served a nice free breakfast in the morning. We didn't spend much time at the hotel, but it was nice, clean and well-run. I would definitely recommend it if you want to stay off-property.

Sadly, we didn't have time for a visit to the parks, but I wanted to begin our trip with a little Disney magic, so we had dinner at DTD. It had been 9 years since we had been to a Rainforest Cafe and it was a fun experience for all of us. We managed to get out of there without doing a whole lot of shopping, but I did stop into World of Disney to buy a jacket for DH, who had accidentally left his hoodie behind during the rental car switcharoo. This is a good place to shop for "Pooh-sized" clothing.



LESSON LEARNED: the electronic toll pass device that the rental car company tried to up-sell us for $8/day actually did pay for itself during our journey from the airport to Downtown Orlando to Port Canaveral! The tolls would've been around $12 if we'd paid in cash. If you drive from the airport directly to PC, then you won't see that kind of savings.
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Old 03-07-2014, 11:52 AM   #3
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Day 2 - Embarkation Day

Our check-in at the port terminal went fairly smoothly. DH dropped us curbside and then returned the rental car to the office. He was able to re-join us inside in about 30-40 minutes. Our group number had already been called by the time we'd finished checking in, so after we got our photos with Mickey, we were ready to board.


Got the whole family Disneyfied for embarkation day. I was just loving DD10's jacket hood with the built-in Mickey ears. So cute!

Once we got onboard, DH took the girls to Oceaneers to get registered while Mom and I hung out in the lobby. Mom looks good on a throne!



Then, we had a very busy afternoon. We had lunch at Cabanas, then tried to get into our stateroom, only to find that our KTTW cards didn't work. So we had to go back down to Guest Services to get that straightened out. We had barely enough time to drop our carry-on bags in the room before we had to dash off to our DIS meet-up to meet some very cool people. After the meet-up, we went right to the muster drill and then up to the pool deck for the farewell party. Good times! After that, we could finally return to our stateroom and get a little downtime before dinner!

We were in stateroom 6156, which is on the port side and very convenient to the aft elevators. Since Mom booked so late, we weren't able to get her a deck 6 cabin, but our TA put her close to the deck 7 aft stairwell, so it was easy to go upstairs to pay her a visit. We made plenty of magnets for everyone. We bought a fish extender on Etsy last year, but we wanted Mom to have a pocket too, so this time I made an inexpensive one out of pencil pouches. It worked pretty well.



Our room layout was the mirror image of the far aft room we had in 2013, except it didn't have the oversize veranda. We did miss that, but we also didn't miss getting vibrated out of bed every morning when we pulled into port.


Mom had an inside stateroom and she enjoyed the view from her magic porthole. I was rather disappointed that I never got to see any of the cute onscreen animations when I visited her.


Our first dinner was at the Royal Table and we were pleased to find that we had table mates, a nice family of 3 from Raleigh who had a daughter the same age as DD7.


Funez and Giovanni were our servers and were very friendly and accommodating. Even when they saw us at Cabanas in the morning, they always greeted us by name and took the time to chat with us. Since we has the late dinner seating, we took advantage of the Dine & Play option so the girls could get a little more time at Oceaneer's before bed.
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Old 03-07-2014, 11:59 AM   #4
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Day 3 - Our first at-sea day!

This was why we wanted to try a 7-day cruise, We could finally have time to hang out on the ship. We ordered a room service breakfast for the girls and took them to Oceaneer's. Then we met up with Mom and went to brunch at Palo. That was a lovely experience. Totally lived up to all the hype.



Our server was Marco from Chile and he was very nice. We enjoyed talking to him about life as a DCL cast member. The food was superb, probably the best during the cruise. I wish I could remember exactly what we ate, but it's been over a month and I'm starting to get cruise amnesia! Trust me, it was all delicious. When Marco learned that we were celebrating our anniversary, he brought out a beautiful plate piped in chocolate and garnished in chocolate covered strawberries. He also gave us a box of chocolate strawberries to enjoy in our stateroom. Such a lovely way to start off the day!



Later that day, DD7 got a beauty day at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Last year, she had a princess makeover at Magic Kingdom, so this time we decided to change things up a bit. She got the mermaid package, which included makeup, tons of pixie dust on her hair, fingernails polished and a gorgeous bikini and mermaid tail. As you can see, she was completely delighted with herself for the rest of the day.



That evening, we saw the Aladdin show, which was delightful. I groaned at most of the Genie's silly pop-culture references, but DD10 was braying with laughter so that was well worth it to me. And here we are, all dolled up for formal night. I even coaxed my tomboy DD10 into an elegant dress, score one for me! Ever have one of those moments when you look at your kid and think "Dang, they're getting tall!. DD10 is wearing a wedge sandal but still.. she's nearly caught up to us! And DD7 sure knows how to flirt with the camera.

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Old 03-07-2014, 12:08 PM   #5
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Day 4 - Grand Cayman

Here's a funny story I want to share. DD7 was having some difficulty adjusting to the late dinner seating. At home, she's usually winding down her day at 8pm, not sitting down to dinner. She usually held it together during the meal but getting up the next morning was tough on her, even when we tried to let her sleep in. She was Little Miss Crankypants, who didn't want to get with the program and didn't have anything nice to say to anyone. We were having breakfast up in Cabanas and cranky DD7 was refusing to eat. I fixed her a plate and was getting her a drink when inspiration struck. I grabbed a mug, put about half an inch of decaf coffee in it and brought it to the table. I pushed the mug over to DD7 with some cream and sugar. "Here, kid, you need this!", I said. Her scowl turned into a startled look. She drank the coffee and her mood changed instantly! For the rest of the week, she started the day with a cup 'o joe (basically chocolate milk with a splash of decaf) and her morning grumpiness would melt away. Hey, sometimes you've gotta bend the rules on vacation!

Gimme that dolphin love!


We did the Dolphin Discovery and Turtle Farm excursion at Grand Cayman. The girls and I did the shallow water encounter while DH and Mom "observed". I'm putting "observed" in quotes because our dolphin pool was so far away from the observation area that they could hardly see us.

You didn't want to see my thighs up close anyway.


They still enjoyed watching the other groups and DH was even able to hunt for a geocache. They also had free WIFI, which we used to upload our photos. We ate lunch at the Dolphin Discovery snack bar. The hot dogs & burgers were ok, but they were pretty expensive. I wish I had thought to bring our own prepackaged snacks from the ship. By this time, we were running short on time, so we we spent maybe 20 minutes at the turtle farm, just long enough to pose for photos with the baby turtles and buy a few souvenirs.

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Old 03-07-2014, 12:17 PM   #6
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Day 5 - Costa Maya

I got up early that morning to do a little laundry.
PRODUCT PLUG: I think I'd learned about Purell 3-in-1 sheets here on the DIS forums last year. It's a flat sheet that has detergent built in, and after the detergent rises out during the wash cycle, it turns into a dryer sheet for the dryer cycle. So easy to pack and they work well in the wash.


Since everyone in our room was still asleep, I went out to the verandah and was rewarded with this gorgeous sunrise. This is what makes cruising so worthwhile!


We pulled into Costa Maya that afternoon. This was the first time doing a port visit on our own. After carefully researching our options on the DIS forms and Trip Advisor, we decided on the Tropicante beach restaurant in Mahahual. I'd already reserved our chairs with Steve, the owner and followed his advice to take the taxi vans outside of the port mall. While the the Tropicante food & staff was ok and girls did have a fun time enjoying the surf & sand, I have to say that overall we were not too impressed with Costa Maya. The vendors at the port mall and on the beach in front of the Tropicante were relentless. It was really tough to relax and enjoy the beach when we had to say "¡No, gracias!" every 2-3 minutes.



A couple of stray dogs came and sat right in front of our chairs, watching every bite we ate. And my husband was approached by a drug dealer while he was walking around Mahahual on his own, looking for a geocache. I hate to knock the place. Clearly, this is an area with a struggling economy that is hoping to improve itself with tourism income. But the truth is, it still has a ways to go. We've heard that DCL is dropping Costa Maya from their future itineraries and we think that's a good call.
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Old 03-07-2014, 12:26 PM   #7
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Day 6 - Cozumel



We did the Fury Catamaran Snorkeling and Beach trip at Cozumel and it was a lot of fun. DD7 decided pretty quickly that she wasn't ready to snorkel quite yet. She was done about 2 minutes after she hit the water. DH took her back onboard and I stayed out with DD10 for about 15-20 minutes. DD10 was very reluctant to try snorkeling but she fell in love with it almost as soon as she put her face in the water. I brought my own prescription mask and next time, I'm going to invest in the anti-fog spray, as I still had some trouble seeing the fishes. But the snorkeling was fun and over much too soon.



The private beach was very nice. It had a little snack bar, a gift shop, inflatable water climbing structures ponies to ride and kayaks. Mostly, we didn't need that and we happy just to bask in the sun, build sand castles and wade in the water a bit. I think we got about 45-60 minutes of beach time. I really wish the entire excursion was at least an hour longer, the pace seemed a bit too rushed.




WORD OF WARNING: getting on and off the catamaran at the beach involves wading into thigh-deep water through loose sand. So don't bring anything you don't want to get wet or bring along some ziploc bags to keep your stuff dry. The crew does help you make your way off the boat but even with assistance, my mom stumbled and fell to her knees in the water, getting wetter than she'd planned to.

The ride back to the ship was fun. They put on dance music and DH and the kids enjoyed doing the Cupid Shuffle while the prow bounced up & down in the waves. The waves didn't bother us, but if you're prone to seasickness, you'll definitely want some meds for this trip. Bring a little cash with you, at the end of the excursion. You can buy snorkeling photos from a professional photographer (I think we got 3 for $20), you can buy food, drinks and souvenirs at the beach and you'll also need tip money. At the end of the trip, the guides broadly hinted that President Andrew Jackson was "a great friend to Cozumel".

That evening we saw Frozen 3D at the Walt Disney Theatre. LOVE that movie! The girls and I had seen it back in November, but DH and Mom enjoyed watching it for the first time. Now we're all hooked on the soundtrack.

Are we happy? Yes, we are!
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Old 03-07-2014, 12:32 PM   #8
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Day 6 - Cozumel PIRATE NIGHT







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Old 03-07-2014, 12:51 PM   #9
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Day 7 - Another At-sea Day!

After so much nonstop activity, we took things a little slower. The girls went to Oceaneer's after breakfast. One of the reasons we decided to cruise again this year was to give DD10 another chance to be in Oceaneers before she ages out of it. DH didn't realize that photos are only allowed during open house, so he snapped a couple of photos of the girls in their activities before a CM asked him to stop. They love that place. We love it too much it means we get some much-needed adult time.

Making cookies


Future graphics designer



Mom and I enjoyed the morning watching "Saving Mr. Banks", which did not disappoint. I especially liked the end credits where we got to hear the actual session recordings. Afterwards, DH and I spent the afternoon in the Rainforest room at the spa. That was a fun adventure. The automated shower sprays randomly cycled between ahhhhh and EEEEEP! Kind of like showering in an old house when somebody flushes the toilet. We nicknamed the two wet saunas and the dry sauna "Sweaty", "Good-Gawd-I'm-melting!" and "Stranded-in-the-Sahara". It was fun trying them all out and cycling between the saunas and showers. Afterwards, we soaked in the two person hot tubs on the semi-outdoor deck. But my favorite part was the heated tile loungers. I had a very relaxing nap there, probably the most unwinding I did all week.


Santa brought the girls a starter set of trading pins and lanyards at Christmas (thank you eBay!). They had never traded before and DD10 especially enjoyed the officer pin trading event. I need to figure out where to get one of those small pin trading albums to keep them all organized. While they were swapping pins, DH & I hopped in line for a photo of us in our semi-formal outfits. When we got around the corner, we were surprised to find Cinderella there waiting to pose with us!

Yo Cinds, whazzup, girl?
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Old 03-07-2014, 01:02 PM   #10
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Day 8 - Castaway Cay

One of my personal favorite moments happened early on Friday morning. I decided to do one last load of laundry and I was walking back to our room. Deck 5 was quiet and completely deserted, or so I thought. I looked down the hall, and there was Donald Duck with his handlers, on his way to disembark at Castaway Cay. He paused for a moment to wave at me before he disappeared around the corner. Leave it to Disney to make laundry day a little more magical.

Wouldn't you rather be here today? Me too.


Castaway Cay was our best beach day. Olaf the snowman was dancing the hula at the post office, enjoying his bit of summer. We were enjoying it too.

Warm hugs? You got it, big guy.




The weather was sunny and in the upper-70s and just lovely. We watched the crab races and danced with Mickey & Minnie. Then we grabbed some chairs near the water so we could watch the girls play in their floaties. We grabbed some lunch, played a little more and then went back to the boat.

Ever since Mom agreed to cruise with us, I've been trying to talk her into riding the Aquaduck. She's not too keen on heights or swimming so it was a bit of a hard sell. But I appealed to her sense of adventure and the girls turned on the charm and we managed to get her on it once. She enjoyed it more than she'll ever admit to, and now she can check that activity off her bucket list. :-)
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Old 03-07-2014, 01:11 PM   #11
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Unhappy Day 9 - Heading Home

Man, leaving the ship is hard. Even 7 days flies by too fast.

I think the best part about the late dining seating was not having to get up so early for breakfast. Dollar car rental once again proved that they are not the company for us. They did not have enough vans to meet the ship and we ended up waiting in the shuttle area for 45 minutes. Then, it took another 30-40 minutes of waiting in line at the Port Canaveral office before we got our car. We just barely made it to the gate in time for our flight home!

It had snowed in our area while we were gone. The good news was, school was closed for 2.5 days so the kids didn't miss much by being out of town. The bad news was well, snow. Bleah. We'd much rather be at Castaway Cay!

One thing that eased the sting a little bit was our decision to get the on-board booking discount. So we're now scheduled to return to the same stateroom on the Fantasy in January 2015, this time to try the Eastern Caribbean itinerary. The port visit to San Juan sold me, and DH was eager to get 3 at-sea days instead of 2. So tune in this time next year and you can hear all about DCL adventure!
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Old 03-07-2014, 01:25 PM   #12
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P.S. - Fish Extender

I almost forgot to show off our FE gift! Check this out.





This Disney magic lantern was a joint project. I came up with the concept & materials and DH used our Silhouette Cameo to cut everything and put it together. You put a LED rainbow tea light inside, turn off the lights, and you get your own private Wishes fireworks show that changes the castle different colors and projects fireworks and Mickey heads on the walls.





It's also a handy stateroom nightlight. And, it folds flat for easy packing. I'm trying to nudge DH into working with me to create a tutorial in case anyone else wants to try making these.
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:11 AM   #13
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Great trip report, you have a lovely family! I love the dress you are wearing on formal night! We are booked in November on the fantasy, have been on the magic twice and the fantasy once before, actually last march break and we loved it! Im waiting for the next release of dates for end of 2015 and will hopefully be booking something again. We are bringing along my stepson and family and 2 co workers all of whom have never cruised before, I know they will be hooked the moment they step onboard! Also bringing my grandson he has cruised on the magic back in Jan. 2011 with us. We take turns at bringing 1 or 2 grandkids at a time on our trips, they look forward to travelling and sailing on these beautiful ships!I just wish this next cruise wasnt so far off, but looking at your pics brings back alot of warm sunny memories of our past cruises to this cold winter day up here! Happy planning on your next cruise!
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Old 03-12-2014, 08:12 AM   #14
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Oh forgot to mention LOVE the fe gift would love to know how you made these!
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Old 03-13-2014, 09:32 AM   #15
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Thanks for sharing....great report!

We did the WC in 2010 loved it...no Costa Maya....just Cozumel and GC....

Dreaming of our summer cruise!
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