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Old 01-12-2014, 10:14 PM   #1
BDPete
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Getting ready for May14 EC on Fantasy, reflecting on May13 WC Cruise

As my DW and I prepare for our upcoming Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Fantasy in May, I have been thinking back on our last cruise; the Western Caribbean also aboard the Fantasy in May 2013. As we prepared for that cruise, I learned a lot from reading posts on the DIS boards and planned on writing a trip report when we returned. I took notes at the end of every day covering what we had done, what we liked/disliked, what we ate, lessons learned, and what we would do/not do again. Unfortunately, when I finally sat down to write the report, I found all my notes had somehow been deleted. As I get more excited about our upcoming cruise, I felt it would be useful to write a much delayed (and much abbreviated) trip report about last year's cruise, May11-18, 2013.

BACKGROUND
DW and I had been on two previous Disney cruises, both 3 night Bahamas cruises aboard the Wonder. The previous cruises had included several family members including young nephews and nieces. Each time, we did a land/sea package and each time, we wished the cruise had been longer. We decided to book a 7 night WC cruise on the Fantasy and invited my parents to join us. I was celebrating my 40th birthday and my mom was celebrating her 70th. In fact, it was my mom who suggested the Fantasy as she could not wait to try the Aquaduck!. This was our first Disney cruise without any children and, like many of the posts I have seen, I had some concerns about whether there would be enough activities for adults. No worries, we had such a good time we booked our upcoming cruise on board to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Hopefully, my forthcoming posts will detail why we enjoyed it so much and give some perspective on adults cruising on Disney without kids.

ARRIVAL/EMBARKATION
DW and I live outside of Fresno, Ca, so we flew out of the Fresno airport (fun fact: the airport code is FAT ) We booked an afternoon flight so we could drop our dog off at the kennel on the way to the airport. An afternoon flight from the west coast meant we did not arrive at MCO until late evening. Luckily, I took advice from posts on here and booked a room at the MCO Hyatt. Great advice! We grabbed a late bite at the hotel restaurant, and enjoyed a comfortable night in a fantastic room. We followed the instructions provided at check in and had our bags ready for pick up the following morning. (Even after previous cruises with Disney, I still love the minimal amount of luggage handling we have to do ourselves.)
We hit the hotel restaurant for breakfast and echo many of the previous reviews I have seen about the breakfast buffet - it's good, not great and a little pricey. We will probably skip it this time. After taking our time, we made our way down to the Disney buses for transport to Port Canaveral. We have gotten the transfers for every cruise and will continue to do so in the future. I like not having to worry if we will arrive on time and the videos played do get you even more psyched for the upcoming cruise.

We arrived at the port in plenty of time and were herded (in the nicest way possible) through security and into the waiting area. We were there early, as is normal for us, and hung out for a bit in the waiting area where we snagged a copy of that day's personal navigator. Coolest thing we saw while waiting: a large family arrived with their 8/9 year old daughter. The daughter had on a sleep mask and headphones. Her family were all wearing t-shirts that said something like, "Shhhh, it's a surprise." We chatted with her dad for a bit and he explained the cruise was her birthday present and she had no idea where they were or what they were doing. They arranged with the CMs in the port to do the reveal in front of the ship model while standing next to Mickey. The look on her face when they took off the blindfold was priceless. We saw the family numerous times throughout the cruise which was nice.

We managed to be in the first section of people boarded. Once we were on board, we had a really cool time exploring the ship - being on so early made it feel like the ship was ours! We took in the atrium and some of the initial decks before making our way to guest services so DW could book a pedicure in the spa before departure. This has become her "thing", getting a pedicure as soon as possible when we board and will continue this on our next cruise. I hit Cabanas for lunch, wandered the ship for a while, and then made my way back to the atrium to watch my parents' board. I'll talk more about the food later, but I was impressed by Cabanas. A lot of this probably had to do with boarding so early, but the experience at Cabanas far surpassed Topsiders aboard the Wonder. It was much less hectic and crowded and the food was great. More to come.....

Last edited by BDPete; 01-12-2014 at 10:24 PM. Reason: Typos
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Old 01-14-2014, 06:54 PM   #2
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Can't wait to hear the rest!

I'm glad you decided to write about your WC cruise on the Fantasy. Hubby and I are celebrating our 20th anniversary in August by going on our first DCL trip on the Fantasy to WC (with kids). I am loving reading all the trip reports!
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Old 01-18-2014, 04:25 PM   #3
Angelliss
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At the edge of my seat!

Can't wait to hear more!! We're doing our 1st 7day 3rd Disney Cruise this May to the Western C. I haven't found this itinerary's trip reports so excited to hear more!
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Old 01-19-2014, 02:32 PM   #4
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Part 2 - Dining

DINING
This section is where I really wish my notes had not somehow been deleted. I had kept track of everything we ate for dinner and wish I still had those reviews. Instead, I will just summarize as best I can our dining experiences.

We had somewhat of strange dining rotation: AERAEER. Not sure why we had Enchanted Garden back-to-back. Overall, I found the food to be very good. I know it gets mixed reviews on the boards but I think DCL does a great job of offering so many different options.

We always choose the main seating. Eating after 8pm is just too late for us, and we like the idea of having dinner and then going to the show, or getting drinks, and having the rest of the night to relax and enjoy.

We ate at Animator's Palate only once, on the first night, as we made dinner reservations at Palo's on the Tuesday night with my parents. I was a little disappointed we did not get to see the Animator's Magic show or get the chance to taste the infamous popcorn soup. The first night at AP was the Crush show, where Crush appears on the tv screens and interacts with the guests. Cool idea. We were not seated very close to the screen, I assume because we were an all-adult party? For those parties with kids, I am not sure this was the best dining room for the first night. It's very loud, hectic, you are meeting your wait staff for the first time and just getting the hang of the rotational dining - pretty much sensory overload. Enchanted Garden and Royal Court both looked great, I think Royal Court was my favorite and I loved the little touches like the bread basket being Cinderella's coach. Again, I can't recall anything specific about the food - it was good but I don' remember my favorites. I know there was not anything we absolutely hated or ever sent back.

Our wait staff was fantastic, I believe we had Marcos as our server and Alex as our assistant. They both did a great job. Marcos reminded DW of Antonio Banderas, and he was always welcoming, attentive, and was great at describing the night's menu and recommending options. DW was particularly impressed with Marcos' ability to engage with my Dad, who can be a tough sell sometimes. Alex was quiet, but very attentive to detail and warmed up to us over the week. The first night, DW asked for cherries in her diet coke. He remembered to add them each night after. In fact, each night the number of cherries increased to the point where she almost had a glass full of just cherries the last night - we thought that was hilarious! In our previous cruises, I don't recall engaging as much with the servers as we did this time. It was probably because we had only done the 3 night cruises before. Additionally, my sister and her family were with us before, so the servers' attention was on the kids and on the various food allergies. One note from previous cruises: my sister has a gluten allergy. I was always impressed by the attention DCL pays to these issues. The servers make note, review options in the menu and the chef often came out to discuss ingredients and make sure everything is satisfactory.

Tangent thought: I am always surprised when I read negative reviews about the wait staff. I have always found them to go out of their way to ensure we are satisfied with the food and service. If you are having issues, report it to customer service immediately. And if you don't like a dish, get something else and let the staff know. On this cruise, my dad asked for a fresh cup of coffee since the one he had tasted burned to him. This received immediate attention, apologies, and a visit from the head server to make sure the issue was corrected. Also, if you are having difficulty choosing between menu options, order both. They are happy to provide a smaller portion of a second entree if you want to give it a try. The two couples at the table next to us ordered double desserts the whole cruise. Basically, they went out of their way to give us a great experience. In fact when we mentioned we would miss the animator's magic show at AP due to Palo's, Marcos advised it could be arranged for us to attend the late seating after Palo's to see the show.

As mentioned, all four of us had dinner at Palo's. Bottom line, just as amazing as previously experienced on the Wonder. We were celebrating birthdays and my parents' anniversary, so it was a great meal to mark the occasion. I only recall I got the osso bucco and a small portion of a pasta. The soufflé lives up to the hype. During the second full at sea day, my parents had the Remy champagne brunch and DW and I had the Palo brunch. The reviews of Remy's have been very good, but DW is not a very adventurous diner. After looking at Remy's menu, I figured our money would be better spent at Palo's. No regrets at all, Palo brunch lived up to my expectations and we were very full and satisfied when we left. We had the chicken parm and shared a pizza - everything was excellent. They were originally going to sit us by a window, but DW was feeling the movement of the ship, so we opted for a table set into the restaurant a bit. My parents gave a very positive review of Remys.

During the week, we tried the various options for breakfast and lunch. We really enjoyed Cabanas, especially for lunch. For breakfast, our favorite ended up being Enchanted Garden. For breakfast, Cabanas is a straight buffet, Royal Court is a sit-down, table service, order from the menu breakfast, and Enchanted Garden is a but of a hybrid - buffet with some table service. We liked the options at EG, and DW loves the seating there.
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Old 01-20-2014, 02:20 PM   #5
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Part 3 - Stateroom

One item I left off the dining section - we opted to purchase a wine package for 5 nights. We chose the premium package and were pleased with the selections. The package was not cheap, but when we calculated that each of us would have ordered at least one drink with dinner each night, it was worth it.

STATEROOM
Okay, our first cruise was 11 years ago for my dad's 60th birthday. He decided he wanted to take the whole family on a Disney cruise. He was such a generous guy, he put DW and me in a stateroom with a verandah. Unfortunately, for my wallet, this set the standard for us and we have only been in rooms with verandas since. This cruise, we chose stateroom 5156 (category 4E). I think DW researched the rooms and found the cat 4e rooms had extended verandas. Looking at the deck plan, I had concerns because the room was on the same deck as the kid clubs and above the adult clubs. It turned out to be a great room and we had no noise or motion issues. The room was right by the aft elevators. The only time we really encountered groups of people was during the day due to two of the detective agency stops (including pepe's room) being close to our room. Really not an issue though and the location turned out great, especially coming back from Skyline each night.

My parents' room was the same basic category, but slightly larger due to us having the extended veranda. This is something we will definitely get in the future. We don't spend all day in the room by any means, but we do like to go back in the afternoon to rest and the veranda was my usual napping spot. It has room for two chaise lounges, two normal chairs, and a table. I would get comfy in one of the chaises, and soak in the ocean breezes. A couple of nights, we got late room service and sat out on the veranda. Just a great experience.

Our stateroom host was Weekly. I am sure he never heard the joke, "Weekly will be here daily" before. He was great, very friendly and asked us every time he saw us how our day was and if we needed anything.

Weekly was very helpful during the only bit of drama we faced during the trip. On the Tuesday morning, around 6am, a smoke alarm across the hall from us went off. It turned out main smoke alarms across the ship went off due to an issue with one of the large utility dryers. Later on, I saw the crew set up into fire teams, but the issue was quickly resolved. Unfortunately, the alarm in the access area across from us was never turned off. For two hours, we were treated to the blaring alarm. This really frazzled DW, who called customer service, they sent crews to turn it off, etc. I am not sure why it took two hours to turn it off. That day was our stop in Costa Maya and we were scheduled to join my parents for an excursion to the Mayan ruins. I knew with the early morning interruption, DW would not want to go, so I checked with customer service if we could cancel. They told me it was too late, an answer I was expecting and accepted - but it doesn't hurt to ask. However, Weekly and the customer service person intervened. We received a visit from Weekly's supervisor and we ended up getting a refund for DW, while I went ahead with the excursion. They continued to follow up with us the next few days to ensure everything was going well. It's that type of customer service and attention that has us come back to to DCL. Overall, this was not a big issue and they could easily have blown us off and I would not have been very upset. The fact that they went to extremes to ensure we were having a good time meant a lot.
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Old 01-20-2014, 05:05 PM   #6
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Part 4 - Excursions

EXCURSIONS
On our previous cruises to the Bahamas, we took several different excursions, parasailing at Castaway Cay, glass bottomed boat at Nassau, and the tour of Atlantis at Bahamas. This time, we considered passing on the excursions, but ended up choosing the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins at Costa Maya and the Mexican Cuisine Workshop and Tasting at Cozumel. We enjoyed each but will probably take a pass on excursions in the future.

The first port stop was Grand Cayman. We decided to take that day to explore the ship. We enjoyed the adults only pool, did the detective agency game, and just really enjoyed the ship without any crowds.

The next day was Costa Maya. For the Mayan Ruins, as previously mentioned, DW was not feeling up to it, so I went with my parents. It was interesting and I am glad I went, but I told DW she made a good choice sitting it out considering she was already tired and cranky. The bus ride to the ruins was about 45 minutes and then it was several hours of walking around the ruins and, as expected, it was fairly hot. We had a good guide and I found it interesting, but am definitely glad I drank a lot of water. We chose to do the adults only excursion which I think was a great option.

The following day was Cozumel. DW and I reserved the first session of the Mexican cooking class which was held at the Playa Mia Grand Beach and Water Park. We really enjoyed this experience but am not sure we would do it again. Part of what made it so great was the chef and assistant who ran the class plus the fact there were only two other people in our class. They were a brother and sister who could not convince the rest of their families to join them. They were very nice and we had a lot of fun in the class. We cooked an appetizer, entree and dessert - though I don't recall the exact menu items. The package included an open bar so I enjoyed drinking and cooking. Once we were finished, our meals were brought to us in an upstairs dining room. We then had a couple of hours to explore the beach and water park. We're not really big beach people, but we enjoyed hanging out for a bit and even tried the water bike but it was way too windy.

While I really enjoyed the excursions, I don't think we will do any in future cruises. This next cruise, we will try exploring the ports on our own and see how that goes. The excursions are fun, but sometimes hard to justify the cost.
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:51 PM   #7
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Part 5 - Entertainment and Disembarkation

ENTERTAINMENT
This was the area I was most concerned about regarding going on DCL without kids - would there be enough for adults to do? As expected, my concerns were unwarranted, as we found plenty to do and we often had trouble trying to schedule it all in. We attended two of the cooking demonstrations (streudel and lobster ravioli) which we found entertaining and fun. We tried out the Aquaduck a few times - found it to be the least crowded on port days and in the morning. Iron Man 3 premiered during the cruise, so I saw it twice and we saw a couple other movies. We also completed all of the "cases" in they detective agency game. I thought that was a lot of fun and a good way to explore the ship.

One of our traditions on the cruises is getting a couples massage. We did it again this time but will not do it again in the future. No complaints about the massage itself, the spa is very relaxing. It is just so expensive and we feel we can put that money to use elsewhere.

One of the coolest things we did was the "behind the magic" tour. Our CM for the tour was Anthony and he did a wonderful job pointing out all the themes and hidden secrets on the Fantasy. I am fascinated by the details that went into the ship design, from the ship colors, to the compasses on the carpet, to the pictures chosen to hang between floors. And of course, all the little details at Palos and Remys. My parents took the same tour later in the week and it was clear Anthony shared a lot more info than their CM did. Anthony was a great rep for DCL and we gave him rave reviews in our survey.

We spent a good part of our days in the adult only deck areas and there was never an issue of children being there. We normally ended our evenings at Skyline. We really liked the atmosphere there and the bartenders were excellent. We purchased a passport which was not a bad deal, I think you end up with a free drink. We also ended up with a nice collection of the glowing ice cubes.

We attended most of the shows each night and they just weren't for us. The story lines and talent just weren't up to our expectations. The show on the first night was particularly disappointing as it felt like a big advertisement to go on a Disney Cruise. Full disclosure: I can get a little over sensitive on the topic of spending on the cruise. I feel we pay a lot to go with DCL, so I get irritated when I feel I am constantly being sold to or nickel and dimed. I have no problem with paying for alcohol but refuse to pay $35 for a case of water. Bingo was another example. We went to check it out but felt the cost to play was absurd. But I get that Disney is a business, so I don't let it bother me too much.

DW loves singing at karaoke and really enjoyed singing on our previous cruises. She was disappointed to find they only had one adult karaoke night during the week and that was only for one hour. We checked out the family karaoke, but the sound quality was not nearly as good as what they had at the tube nor were the song selections. Understandable given that the family night is more geared for kids singing Disney tunes. But DW is a bit of a diva and wants the attention of the adult stage

But those minor issues aside, we found more than enough to do and are looking forward to doing some of the things on our next cruise we were unable to fit in like mixology classes.

DISEMBARKATION
If you have never cruised before, you might find the disembarkation process a little hectic and you may feel rushed. I felt like that the first time. Keep in mind the crew has a limited time to clean up and turn over the entire ship in preparation for the new guests that are boarding the same day. We had a very smooth departure, partly because we were not rushing for a flight. We said goodbye to my folks and then took our time getting off the ship. Our flight did not depart until after 6pm, so we had plenty of time to kill in Orlando. We took advantage of the onboard flight checkin so we really had no issues. After some debate, we ended up getting a day room at the MCO Hyatt. It ended up being well worth the $90 to have a nice room to hang out in prior to our flight.

I will write one last post with final thoughts and things we will do/not do on our next cruise.
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Old 01-20-2014, 10:45 PM   #8
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Part 6 -

Overall, we had a great time and this was one of the best, relaxing vacations I have ever had. We are very much looking forward to our next cruise in May. In reviewing the last cruise, there are certainly some things we would do and not do next time.

WILL DO
- Get an oversized veranda: we took full advantage of the veranda and I loved the extra space. We booked a 4e room again. I tried to get the same room but it was not available, so we chose a room a little further forward, on the same side (port).
- Get the wine package: Since it's just the two of us, not sure if we will get 5 nights this time or less. We felt it was worth it and were familiar with many of the wines on the list.
- Eat at Palos for brunch and dinner: self explanatory.
- Stay at the MCO Hyatt
- Mixology: did not get the chance last time
- Stick with Enchanted Garden for breakfast
- Order room service more
-Participate in a DIS Board and FE group

WON'T DO
- Port excursions: will skip excursions this time and explore the ports on our own.
- Couples massage: will pass this time and put the money to better use.
- Stress about anything

I am sure I am leaving off a bunch of things, so I will add as I recall additional items.
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