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Old 06-21-2014, 03:45 PM   #1
muse7mom
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Fantasy Western: Everything I Learned

The 7 Day Western (June 7-14) on the Fantasy was our first ever cruise. We are: me (DW-45), DH-44 and a DD who turned 9 while on board.

I just wanted to share some of my observations in regard to our trip and the things I had learned from DIS.


PAT/Embarkation: Our PAT was 11:15, we got boarding group 9. Parking and luggage was very easy. The terminal was crowded but going through the line was a piece of cake. I started in line while DH parked and then he joined me at the window for his photo. So easy. We then went to the DVC kiosk for lanyards and they took our cabin number (a Welcome Home magnet was on our door when we got to our cabin). We got in line for the kids club bracelet and never made it to photos with Mickey or Minnie or the ship model because boarding groups started. We got DD's bracelet and got called to board. It went very quickly, IMO.

Food: I had gone in with the expectation that the food would be better than fast food but not as good as the food in the WDW parks. The three of us love to go out to eat but we are not super Foodie people as we live in Dayton, Ohio, not Chiacago or LA, etc. We love Boma and Sanaa but have not tried Jiko. Hear this: we loved the food on board!! The variety was great, the temperature and consistency was always spot on, never had a problem with any dish in any of the main dining rooms. DD mostly ordered off the kid's menu but sometimes ordered an app or dessert from the adult menu. She is not a mac and cheese or chicken nugget person at all and there was always something for her: surf and turf, salmon, always something interesting on the kid menu. We did not do Palo or Remy.

Pizza: I had heard many things about the pizza in Flo's. All three of us thought it was good. Not as good as our local pizza joint (it would be very hard to beat any local pizza, IMO), but it was much better than school cafeteria pizza!

Tendering: We had to tender at Grand Cayman. We booked a Disney excursion so we lined up early and got off early. The tender took 2 minutes, 47 seconds. Yes, I timed it. When we were ready to leave, the tender was there and ready to go. It really wasn't a hassle or a bummer at all.

Elevator: We used the elevators occasionally. There was a little bit of people trying to get on before letting others off but nothing unusual. No "stroller battering rams" or anything like that. Time of day had a little to do with it but since we mostly took the stairs, it wasn't a big deal to us.

Room Noise: We had a cabin with balcony next to the stairs/elevator. We loved the location for stair use but there was a fair amount of noise from kids running up and down the stairs. No elevator noise. Our cabin was a connecting cabin and although we did not use the connecting door, I can't help but think it helped let in a lot of noise. Our poor neighbor was violently ill several times every day. It got to be where every time we came back to our cabin, we'd hear him vomiting. What are you going to do? We just turned on the white noise machine and tried to ignore it.

Dolphin Excursion: We did the Dolphin Swim and Ride in Cozumel and loved it. The facility was clean and the trainers were all eager and gentle and encouraging with the animals and with us. Controversy aside, we all enjoyed ourselves. My DD selected this as her birthday present and the look on her face for the entire event was worth every penny to us. Sheer joy.

Excursions: We booked all of our excursions through Disney. For us, being brand new to cruising as well as to these ports, it was peace of mind. For the $30 we might have saved booking on our own, we knew exactly where to go, when to come back and knew we'd be okay if the port had been cancelled.
The one thing I really was surprised about were people who booked excursions that weren't really appropriate for them. I know it's their money, but several people on our dolphin excursion couldn't swim. Our trainer spent a lot of time trying to convince them, include them, entice them, etc. into the water and so my DD was almost skipped on several of the tricks. When we climbed the Green Grotto Caves in Jamaica, several older people spent the entire time complaining about the heat, the steepness, the length of the tour, etc. We tried to distance ourselves from the negative Nancies but we wanted to hear the guide and he stayed with them to assist. Again, it's their cruise but I'd do more research on what the excursions are like before selecting something I know we can't do. (No waterfall climbing for me!)

Formal Night: DH wore khaki pants, a polo/golf shirt and sandals, DD wore a cute sundress and I wore a "church" dress. There were women in gowns: cocktail, ball gowns, goddess dresses and we saw one bride. I saw no tuxedos by men or boys of any age. Some men wore coats and ties, others were in "Panama" shirts. We never felt awkward or underdressed.

Pirate Night: DH wore his bandana, DD had a costume and bandana and I just wore my regular clothes. There were plenty of people of all ages dressed to the hilt and plenty of people just wearing whatever. No pressure.

Room Storage Space: We had drawers to spare. Plenty of closet, drawer and cabinet space. We did hang swimsuits on the balcony chairs with clips to dry but there are two string lines in the showers to use.

Characters: We didn't stand in line for the Princess meet though we did stand in line for a couple of the other characters. Everything seemed to move smoothly as far as we could see. Our favorite character interactions were when we randomly ran into Tiana, Rapunzel and Peter Pan just in the hallway or on the stairs. Gorgeous candid photos and just touching moments.

Drink Station: We sometimes used our own mugs and sometimes used their cups. Their cups are tiny--think kid menu size. There were no signs or "cup" police asking you to use their cups to fill your mugs.

Kid's Club:
DD is an only child but very, very social. She is used to being around my high school students so she loves to mix with kids her own age. The security was great IMO. I never worried about her safety while she was there. She was old enough to self check but we always had them text us that she was ready to leave. She did say some of the activities in the Club and Lab were too young for her but there were plenty of other things for her to choose from. She did not eat there. She'd much rather have had the food in the MDRs. I was worried that she'd check in and never want to see us again but it was a good balance of her getting to be with kids and us still enjoying family time.

Cleanliness: The ship was spotless everywhere we went. Kids clubs, adult spaces, public restrooms, pool areas. Someone was always cleaning everywhere we went. They do have greeters with hand cleaning wipes at all of the food locations (the quick service locations have them on the counters). Quite frankly, I wasn't worried about hygiene at all, didn't even think about it until I saw the number of nose picking kids on board. I'm not sure if I was worried about them leaving surprises behind or worried about what they might be inserting germ-wise.

Castaway Cay: We had purchased some Sea Safe from amazon before we left so the three of us slicked up with it. It's a sunscreen too so we thought, why not? After about 3 hours I started hearing people complain of being itchy so I'm pretty sure it was the sea lice at work. I'm very sensitive to flea and mosquito bites so I did not want to take any chances with sea lice. I didn't get in the water--it was a bit cool for me so I just sat. Speaking of, we were no where near the first people off the ship: we went to Enchanted Garden for a nice breakfast first. I was still able to get us chairs under an umbrella and two palm trees! I sat and read all day: heaven!
The BBQ was good, but not great. My husband is an expert griller so I'm spoiled there but it was good enough that I wouldn't bother to go back to the ship just for that.

Room Service: We only ordered room service for bedtime milk and cookies twice so my $65 worth of one dollar bills was unnecessary. We just preferred to be out and about for food.

Serving Team/Room Steward: Our dining room team and room steward were just lovely. We really enjoyed seeing them, especially RG, our room steward. He really made us feel comfortable.

Shared Table at Dinner: Since there are three of us, we fully expected (and looked forward to) having another family share a dinner table with us. It was grandparents who had taken twin 19-year old granddaughters and an 8-year old granddaughter on the cruise with them. My DD was so excited to have someone her age at dinner. The little girl had gluten and dairy allergies and is a very picky eater outside of that and/or because of that so she had a hard time watching my DD be able to eat whatever she wanted. We also found out that she has special needs, so we took that into account too when there were a few quiet melt downs at dinner. My DD really wanted to go to the kid's club with her but the grandmother didn't want to let the girl out of her sight. I just quietly explained to DD that she'd have to stop inviting her and to just leave quietly at 9:15 if she chose to do so. We looked forward to seeing them every night and we got along with all of them. The older girls were interesting and the grandparents did love to talk. I love to listen so it was a good combo!

Entertainment: The Broadway type shows were good enough to keep all three of us interested and I should confess that I am a high school theatre director and have made many trips to NYC to see countless shows. We did not partake of the magician/ventriloquist/etc type shows. Of the shows: Wishes was the favorite for all three of us.
Malefecent was absolutely a highlight for us. We met with three of the little girls we had started a pen pal group with prior to the cruise and all watched it together. It kept all four of them entertained and as they are all 8-9 years old, none of them thought it was scary or sad or dark.
We did some of the family entertainment in the Tube (Quest, family dance party, DVC meet) and the D Lounge (karaoke, game shows) and some family crafts in La Piazza. There were way more options than we could have possibly have joined in on.
DH and I did a wine tasting but apparently we aren't fancy enough for those types of wine. Glad we went, learned some interesting things but I'm okay with leaving it there.

Disembarkation: This was much more hectic than we had expected. If I had just known, I could have prepared DH for it. We left our bags out the night before, no problem. Had a very nice breakfast at 8am (we were late dining). Then, the dining room lights flashed signaling that they wanted us out of the restaurant. Bad news: there was no where for us to go! The entire hallway outside of Animator's was filled and there was just nothing we could do. DH was not happy about having to stand in such a long line, there were no rest rooms for all of the parents with small children, people kept leaving the line to see why it wasn't moving and then wanting to come back, which is fine but they'd whack all the people in line with their huge backpacks and totebags in order to do so. Yikes. Getting our luggage from the terminal was also loud, hot, crowded and not friendly. Getting through the actual Customs line was fine. Next time we will think about just walking off with our bags. We'd have to get up earlier but we hope it wouldn't be this chaotic. Not a good impression for our last moment on the cruise.

Okay. Well. Whew. That's a lot of information. If there is anything else you want to know, just ask and I'd be glad to share what I can. Overall we had an absolutely amazing cruise and are absolutely going to do it again! We booked a 5 day for July 2015 and I know I am counting the days!
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Old 06-21-2014, 04:10 PM   #2
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Cool

Thanks for detailed review. We are cruising for the first time on the Fantasy over New Years, so I really appreciate your opinion. Is there anything you wished you had brought with you, that you didn't? Any first timer tips for me?


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Old 06-21-2014, 04:20 PM   #3
hipmommy
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Great information. Thanks for taking the time to share!
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Old 06-21-2014, 04:25 PM   #4
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Save for a few things (nose picking and sea lice), it appears you had a great time! That was nice of you to type all of that information up for everyone

We are sailing on the Fantasy in November. I can't wait!!!!
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Old 06-21-2014, 04:26 PM   #5
muse7mom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nrexxma44 View Post
Thanks for detailed review. We are cruising for the first time on the Fantasy over New Years, so I really appreciate your opinion. Is there anything you wished you had brought with you, that you didn't? Any first timer tips for me?


Nancy
Yes, I did forget one thing! A beach bag! All I had was my good purse and our suitcases! I had to send DH to Target the night before the cruise. Boy didn't he just have fun picking out pretty purple beach bags! He got one that is fine but not foldable or collapsable. I'd do that better next time.

My best first time tip is to not to try to do everything. We wanted to do so much more but honestly we didn't kill ourselves trying to. We each picked out some things we wanted to do, we made DD commit to always seeing the Broadway type show and dinner with us, planned our excursions and just told ourselves we'll have another cruise to do the towel folding class or the movies or whatever.
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Old 06-21-2014, 04:37 PM   #6
DahliaRW
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I wonder if it's just disembarking later that is the issue. There were no crowd issues after first seating, and no line to get off on our cruise. We were in RC, so right by the atrium. Maybe that helped?
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Old 06-21-2014, 04:45 PM   #7
muse7mom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DahliaRW View Post
I wonder if it's just disembarking later that is the issue. There were no crowd issues after first seating, and no line to get off on our cruise. We were in RC, so right by the atrium. Maybe that helped?
I would guess that would make a difference. I'm not so mad about waiting in lines for things like that (we were in air conditioning, out of the sun) but DH gets really impatient. If I could have just warned him ahead of time, he would have had time to process it. Me, I like people watching!
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:00 PM   #8
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Thanks, this was helpful!
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:11 PM   #9
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If you don't mind my asking, how much did the wine tasting cost? We are looking at possibly doing that, or one of the other tastings, on our next cruise, but all I can find is "nominal fee".
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:35 PM   #10
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All the tastings are $15 and they are the best value on the ship. You will have fun and get a really nice buzz. I give a $5 tip as well and it's much appreciated and if you slide it over early in the session you may get some extra drinks pushed your way.
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:42 PM   #11
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thanks for that fantastic write up, muse. we set sail late july for our first cruise ever. fam of 4. dd 10, ds 8
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:50 PM   #12
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We were on the same cruise and left the ship after the first breakfast seating and there was no wait to disembark. We were off ship, through customs and on DCL bus in about 15 minutes. BTW, the weather was absolutely perfect and the activities team was top notch. Also, Clayton is a great CD.
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:50 PM   #13
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If you don't mind my asking, how much did the wine tasting cost? We are looking at possibly doing that, or one of the other tastings, on our next cruise, but all I can find is "nominal fee".
The wine tasting was $15 for each of us. We got 6 tastes: 3 white, 3 red. We are talking $50-80 dollars a bottle type wines!
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Old 06-21-2014, 05:56 PM   #14
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We were on the same cruise and left the ship after the first breakfast seating and there was no wait to disembark. We were off ship, through customs and on DCL bus in about 15 minutes. BTW, the weather was absolutely perfect and the activities team was top notch. Also, Clayton is a great CD.
The weather was great, wasn't it? It sprinkled at Grand Cayman for a little bit but we were back on board by then and it sure didn't last long. Other than that, picture perfect.

Clayton was adorable. My DD got to do the dance for him and she was on cloud 9 for that!
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Old 06-21-2014, 06:10 PM   #15
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Very nice review. We got off the day you got on. I must say I agree with most of what you said except for getting off of the ship on the last day - we thought we were in some sort of a dream or something because it was so smooth - no lines, no crowds, etc. We got up early and ate in Cabanas and then headed off the ship about 8:00 - no crowds at all - maybe it was because everyone who finished breakfast went to leave at one time. There were a lot of people in Cabanas so I figured not a lot of people were in the main dining rooms that day. Our last cruise was on the Magic and it was similar to what you describe getting off, so we certainly thought it was going to be worse on a bigger ship, but we were off the ship - had our luggage - and were through customs in under 15 minutes.
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