Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Trip Report: Disney Fantasy Western Caribbean [Day 1] Embarkation

May 10, 2014 - Embarkation

We all woke up around 10AM and started getting ready. Rachel and I had gotten a lot of sleep (which maybe made up for my lack of sleep the night before?) since we slept well in the car. All I can say is THANK GOODNESS we did not do anything ridiculous and try to cram five adults into one stateroom, because that would have been absolutely miserable. It is quite a challenge for five adults to share one bathroom (sure, maybe the split bath on the Disney ship would have helped, but it still would have been uncomfortably tight quarters).

We weren't ready to go until after noon. Now, I had scheduled Max, Rachel, and myself for a Port Arrival Time of 12:15 PM. However, by the time I told my dad to schedule his, the soonest available was 1:00 PM. So we figured that 1:00 PM for all of us wouldn't be a problem.

But before we could board the cruise ship, we needed to make a run to the liquor store. I had read in Disney's FAQs that you can take on alcohol in a carry-on size bag if you are 21 and older, which is unheard of on all other mass-market cruise lines (most now allow you to bring one bottle of wine or champagne per adult). I have no idea how many times my dad or Max asked, "So are you sure we can bring on alcohol?" YES! Yes, I'm sure!!! *Update: DCL has since revised its alcohol policy.

Rachel asked Siri (on the iPhone) for the nearest liquor store.... and she took us to an Aldi Market. Which didn't sell alcohol. So we moved on... and luckily found a liquor store right past the port. We bought some vodka and rum for mixers and headed on to the port.

Disney Cruise Terminal



Disney Cruise Terminal

At the first security checkpoint, we showed all of our passports (and Rachel is still traveling with a driver's license and birth certificate because her passport expired, and she hasn't renewed it, yet). And then we drove forward fifteen feet and had to show the next security checkpoint all of our passports. There was another checkpoint in front of us, and we might have freaked out a little if we were required to show them, again. But, I must mention that even the security people were especially friendly and "Disney-like," even wearing Disney uniforms. Normally the security guys outside of the port are grumps.

Disney Cruise Terminal

Disney's Cruise Terminal is no basic, one-size-fits-all building. The terminal is full of custom Disney theming.

We drove on to the luggage drop-off, and there was no wait. We were told that we could go ahead and start checking in while Dad parked the car. Security was a breeze, and they did not confiscate our alcohol.

They split us up and sent us to two different check-in desks to make our check-in go faster. The CM asked me if I had filled out everything online, and I told her that I thought I had (shouldn't she know if I had?). "Well, I can look it up here." The only difficulty we had was putting Max on a different card. He has a student credit card ("UPromise" Mastercard) of some sort under his mom's name... his mother's name is actually on the card, rather than his own. Anyway, the CM had set up Max's separate account and then saw the card and said she couldn't use it because his mother wasn't on the cruise. She called over her supervisor to see if there was anything that could be done. This was the same card that he had used on our Carnival Breeze cruise with no problems. I asked if his mother could fax them a signed document authorizing the use of the card, and they looked at one another and suggested that we go to Guest Services on the ship. They then tried to set him up on a cash account, but he didn't want to be on a cash account because he had only allotted enough cash for port expenses. They then were unable to hook us back up to charge to my parents' stateroom. I suggested that we put everyone on my credit card. So that was a bit of a waste of five minutes, but we still finished checking in before the family beside us with four children who were rolling around on the carpet.

So finally, we were set to move on. There was no wait, and we could board immediately. But we I had to take a few photos of the terminal first...

The Disney Magic!

Disney Cruise Terminal

Max - "How do you know it's the Magic?"
Me - "Because it says the name on the side of the ship."

Had to archi-nerd out over this section model...

Disney Cruise Terminal

Disney Cruise Terminal

Disney Fantasy, here we come!

Disney Cruise Terminal

Embarkation Photo

They announce your name when you board the ship which Rachel and Max thought was creepy and weird. Max looked at the bar and said, "They're waiting for these guys to shut up already." I, however, thought it was cute. They asked us our name, and Rachel said, "Shingleton." "Shinleton?" (strong accent) "Yes." "Please welcome aboard the Shilton Family!" Ehh... close enough. Really, the gorgeous atrium provides more of a grand welcome than the guys on the microphones do.

We split up immediately and went off to find our staterooms.

Stateroom 7172 - Family Ocean View Stateroom

Family Porthole Stateroom

Family Porthole Stateroom

They thanked us for returning... fourteen years later.

Family Porthole Stateroom

I'll go ahead and say it - we LOVED our room! Not only are the furnishings beautiful with a nicely done nautical theme (and Mickey touches), but the extended size of the family stateroom was really nice for us. We had plenty of storage - an entire cabinet by Max went unused (though he did tend to pile his clothing up on the counter under the cabinet...), as did our steamtrunk. The room was very bright, thanks to our porthole window seat. Speaking of the porthole.... Max and Rachel LOVED IT! They said over and over how they really loved the window. It's huge - almost floor to ceiling - so you can see outside while sitting on the bed. You can also sit in the window (well, Rachel and I could curl up in the window comfortably).

I am so glad that I decided to go with the ocean view room rather than verandah. I've had balcony rooms in the past (our first Disney Cruise was in a balcony stateroom), but I really didn't miss it at all with this room. It is without a doubt the best ocean view stateroom I have ever stayed in.

Family Porthole Stateroom

Getting Max and Rachel to stay out of the photos proved to be a bit of a challenge...

Family Porthole Stateroom

Disney Cruise ships have a split-bath concept in all rooms except Cat 11 inside staterooms.

Family Porthole Stateroom

The bath in the family staterooms on the Dream and Fantasy-class ships have a round tub which is smaller than a standard bathtub. However, these tubs are much larger than the typical cruise ship shower. Not to mention.... it is a RAINFALL SHOWER!!!

I should also note that there are two retractable wash lines in the shower.

Rainfall Shower

It was by far the nicest shower I have ever had on a cruise ship (and that's including a Grand Suite and Junior Suite on Royal Caribbean). Rachel actually had a shower in the spa after her massage later in the week and said that our shower was better.

The other bath had a toilet and sink. We really only used this bathroom for the toilet and did not rely on it for the vanity at all, as we used the large mirror at the vanity in the cabin for applying make-up and fixing hair.

Family Porthole Stateroom

The pillow flips over to say "A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you're fast asleep..." on the backside, and the cabin steward turns the pillow over when they make down the bed.

Family Porthole Stateroom

Family Porthole Stateroom

After we finished exploring our room, we decided to go and check out Mom and Dad's. We went upstairs.... and realized that we didn't remember their room number. "It's like 8160... 8686... 8681..." Rachel tried calling but had poor service. Max is looking at the deck plan and finding our options... and then I remembered - they had an inside room! It had to be room 8681. So I went and knocked on the door... no one answered. Finally, we gave up and went up to Cabana's to eat lunch. And we found them there! Sure enough, their room number was 8681.

Family Porthole Stateroom

We were really hungry and happy to see food. We all got really excited about the crab legs because we'd never seen that in a cruise ship buffet before, but it turned out that none of us were really fans. The crab meat was too rubbery for my taste - I prefer a softer, flakier crab.

Max was especially excited for the complimentary self-serve soft drinks. "Now this I can get used to!" It was really nice to not have to worry about buying a soda package and getting sodas from the bartenders who have better things to do than give you a pre-paid soda.

Our view from Cabana's -

Cape Canaveral

It turned out that the reason Mom and Dad weren't in there room is because Mom made sure that they didn't touch anything so that it would be perfect for photographs! How kind!!

We took them to check out our room first....

Family Porthole Stateroom

Perfect for headstands. (P.S. You probably don't want to show this photo to your kids.)

Family Porthole Stateroom

Stateroom 8681 - Inside (Magical Porthole) Stateroom

We then went to see my parents' room, a Magical Porthole Stateroom (8681).

Magical Porthole Stateroom

The room is very spacious. It is definitely the largest inside stateroom I have ever seen. The sofa can be turned into a bed, and a bunk pulls out of the ceiling for a fourth child/small person.

Magical Porthole Stateroom

Magical Porthole Stateroom

It's called a "Magical Porthole" because a camera delivers real-time views of their side of the ship. Randomly throughout the day, different Disney characters will appear at random.  sometimes Tinkerbell would fly by and sprinkle pixie dust, or Winnie the Pooh in a hot air balloon.  Also, the starfish from Finding Nemo would stick to the glass.   However, we all agreed that there should be some button that you can push to make a Disney character appear. Also, at night, the screen appears as static, not completely black.  The Magical Porthole does have a switch so that you may turn the screen on and off (it takes a few seconds to turn on).  In the first photo where the porthole is black, the screen is turned off.

Their stateroom had the standard bathtub -

Magical Porthole Stateroom

Magical Porthole Stateroom

Magical Porthole Stateroom

My parents got the Castaway Club gift, too. One per stateroom.

The Magical Porthole Stateroom is the most spacious inside stateroom that I have ever seen. My parents have actually only stayed in an inside stateroom once - on the Carnival Imagination in 2007 - and this was quite an upgrade from that. My parents enjoyed the room, and I think that I would be comfortable booking that stateroom the future.

Magical Porthole Stateroom

Magical Porthole Stateroom

Muster Drill

While we were in Mom and Dad's room, the Muster alarms sounded. We were directed down "Crew Only" stairs to the fourth floor. I've never taken crew-only stairs before. We then split up because Max, Rachel, and I were Muster station "M," and Mom and Dad had "O."

Disney lines guests up outside on the promenade deck by muster station and family. I haven't done that since Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas in 2012. Everyone was supposed to line up tallest to shortest, but there was a man on the left of us who was shorter than his wife... and standing behind her. Because he couldn't see, he squeezed Max out of our line... so Max just scooted back and chilled by the wall.

The Carnival Sunshine pulled away at the end of our drill. I was really disappointed that she left so soon, because I thought there would be a horn battle or something of that sort. Sunshine didn't even blow her horn. Maybe she knows better...

Carnival Sunshine

We retreated to O'Gills for a moment, as we were being stampeded by people leaving the muster drill.

O'Gills

I wanted to finish decorating my door before the Sail Away Party because we were supposed to have our Fish Extenders hung by 4PM (that's when Muster was).

Door Magnets

"Sailing Away" Party

After I put up all of our magnets (with Max's help for the letters and hat!), we headed to the Sail Away Party.

Sail Away Party

Sail Away Party

Sail Away Party

Sail Away Party

Sail Away drinks were surprisingly difficult to obtain. My dad purchased two ahead of me and wouldn't get out of the way as he was signing the check, so another lady passed me on the other side of the bartender. When she was finished, he didn't have any alcoholic drinks left, so he went to get me one. Well, I waited and waited... we decided to move over to the little bar beside the ice cream where Max bought a beer mug and had his first glass of Michelob Amber Bock (which he became obsessed with). The blender was broken at the bar, but the bartender I had ordered from had finally returned with a drink. I learned later that he was probably going back and forth from the Wave bar which was up a deck and quite a walk through the crowd of people.

Sail Away Party

There is child-proofing everywhere on DCL (I forgot to mention that all of the drawers in the stateroom are slam-proof... you can push it closed, and it will stop and then slowly close the final inch so that no little fingers are jammed). Well, the glass barrier was above my head (I'm only five feet tall), so I had to shoot through glass and got all kinds of reflection. After the first day, I held the camera over the glass and no-scoped it. Looking back, I could have turned my LCD screen on live-view. That probably would have been smart.

Cape Canaveral

After seeing Max's beer mug, Dad had to go get his own.

Sail Away Party

Sail Away Party

They really enjoyed their mugs throughout the cruise. The initial cost is $14.95 for the mug + the cost of draft beer. After that, you get 22 oz refills for the price of 16 oz.

Aquaduck

Cape Canaveral

After sailing away, we went back to our stateroom to unpack. Well... we went back to the stateroom so that Rachel and Max could do whatever they did while I unpacked them both.

Max - "Are you going to unpack me, again?"
Rachel - "Ooh, can you unpack me? Mom does!"
Me - "Sure, fine. I'll unpack both of you."

In all honesty, I was glad that they let me unpack them because I knew if I had left it to them, Max might have lived partially out of his suitcase, and Rachel would have just put her stuff everywhere. I did myself first, then Max, and I was unpacking Rachel when I realized that we needed to leave for the show. She was really annoyed that I had unpacked Max before her because now her clothes weren't unpacked and his was. "I'll do it later!"

We changed quickly - I just slipped on some heels with the dress I was wearing - and met Mom and Dad in the theater. They were seated on the left side of the theater in the forward section, and this became our spot for the week. It's a good view, and you don't have to get there too early. Also, we lucked out because since we had the late dinner seating, we had the early shows which weren't that crowded.

The Welcome Aboard Show - "A Fantasy Come True"

A Fantasy Come True features a family of four - a mom who needs a break from work, a teenage son that doesn't want to be there (he was my favorite), a daughter who is really excited about everything (played by a petite Asian cast member who might be more energetic than an actual child), and a nerdy dad (an actor who is probably the same age as the actor playing his teenage son) who just wants to do everything with his family... and is soon abandoned by all of them. The show functions as a sort of preview/advertisement for the ship. The mother goes to the spa, the daughter rides the Aqua Duck, the teenage son ends up having the time of his life in Vibe, and the parents party it up in the Tube. The narrative is incredibly corny. The musical numbers, however, are fabulous. They do pale in comparison to the numbers in the three main shows later in the week, but I couldn't help but be impressed by the incredibly talented cast. It is by far the most talented entertainment cast that I have ever seen for main theater shows on a cruise ship.

Between the narrative of the Disney Cruise family, the Cruise Director (whose name I cannot remember, though he spoke to us every night) came out to speak to us about what was going on that evening, as well as the rest of the week. We also met Shawn Farqhar, the guest magician/illusionist. His act was very cute. First he found a father which he took on stage and had try to keep up with him as he flipped a bottle - it was quite funny. At the end, he gave him a balloon animal. Then he brought his daughter on stage and taught her a magic trick. He asked her if she wanted a balloon animal just like her dad's, and she said yes. He told her that she needed to take it from him.... but probably needed something to trade... something he'd like very much. How about her dad's watch? Very cute and funny, and I hate that I missed his show later in the cruise!

Dinner - Enchanted Garden

Disney Cruise Line has "rotational dining." You alternate between three restaurants each night throughout your cruise, but you have a set dining time, and your wait staff travels with you. One thing that I left out about my pre-cruise planning was that I learned that you can call in advance to request a certain dining rotation. I learned that dining rotation "ERAERRA" (E=Enchanted Garden, R=Royal Court, A=Animators' Palate) puts you in Royal Court, the most formal dining room, for formal and semi-formal nights, so I called to request that rotation, as well as request that my stateroom be linked with my parents'. There is no guarantee that you will receive the rotation you request, and you do not find out your dining rotation until you board the ship. However, our rotation was exactly what I had requested.

So our first dinner was in Enchanted Garden. We were seated at table 56 for six (set for five) right behind the last cute circular booth on the right when you enter the dining room. We were disappointed that we didn't get one of the round booths, but learned later that those are only set for four people.

Our waiter was Tanaphong ("Tana") from Taiwan, and our assistant server was Jelena from Serbia. Tana was really outgoing and funny, and Jelena was more quiet, but I think she got a kick out of our conversations because she'd be quietly circling the table, giving us silverware or whatever when you'd see her smile and hold back a chuckle.

Enchanted Garden Menu

Enchanted Garden Menu

Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower

For an appetizer, I ordered the Ahi Tuna and Avocado Tower. I really liked it, but that's probably because I like ahi tuna and avocado...

Cream of Green Asparagus

For a soup, I had the Cream of Green Asparagus. It was pretty good, but not the most amazing thing I've ever had.

Pork Medallions

I got it right with the entree. Everyone else ordered the Sea Bass or Sea Scallops, but after tasting each other's dishes, we all decided that the Pork Medallions were the best. They were extremely good - well seasoned and flavorful.

Apple Crunch Sundae

For dessert, I got the sundae. I believe there was always a sundae on the dessert menu, which I really appreciated. Normally, I feel that cruise line desserts are too sophisticated or rich for my taste, so it was nice to have the option of getting something as simple but delicious as a sundae!

The dining room changes from daylight to twilight as the meal progresses.

Enchanted Garden

Enchanted Garden

Enchanted Garden

Enchanted Garden

Enchanted Garden also opens as a breakfast and lunch buffet. Because we had Palo, the adults-only Italian restaurant scheduled for our fourth night, this was the only evening that we ate dinner in Enchanted Garden.

Adult Entertainment - "Match Your Mate"

Match Your Mate

After dinner, we went to see "Match Your Mate" in the Tube. The nice thing about Disney is that they have this great adults-only area (Europa) after 9:00 PM. Therefore, there were no children at any of the adult shows. That being said, the Disney adult entertainment was still quite tame in comparison to that of other cruise lines I have sailed.

Match Your Mate was interesting because they had trouble getting newlyweds! This was obviously not a popular choice for a honeymoon cruise. The newlyweds that they ended up finding were married in October.... and were near the age of my parents. Then they had trouble finding a longest-married couple. I believe it was just 34 years that the couple had been married - usually there are couples who have been married 40-50+ years. For the middle category, there were no real rules... just get on the dance floor and prove yourselves. Rachel was trying to get Max and I to do it (they didn't say that you had to be married - just a couple), but we declined because we didn't want to answer awkward questions. Only two couples went to the dance floor, so we had a fair chance. Of the two couples, one was way too drunk and incoherent to be able to play the game. The man had beer dribbling down his chin. Luckily, the audience chose the sober couple... who had been married 24 years. They were also about the same age as the other two couples. Never before have I seen a marriage game show with the newlyweds, middle-of-the-road, and longest married couple all so close in age.

The prize that they gave to the winning couple (longest married) was awesome - a spa pass, photo, and other goodies were among the prize. MAX AND I SHOULD HAVE PLAYED! (Eh, I don't know about those questions, though..) Usually cruise lines just give away a bottle of champagne to everyone, but this was an amazing prize of real value.

We sat in The Tube a little bit after the show, and Guest DJ Day-na was really good, and the sound system in The Tube was very nice. However, we were pretty exhausted and decided we weren't up for partying. Rachel went to bed, and Max and I decided to check out the hot tub a the Quiet Cove pool before retiring.

Family Porthole Stateroom

The cabin steward made down both beds. Max slept in the little one by the window, and the sofa bed went unused, but Rachel and Max liked to have it made down every night. One night our cabin steward must have learned that no one slept in that bed, so he didn't make it down.... so Max decided to make it down himself.

Speaking of our cabin steward, he was a ninja. We didn't meet him until maybe the third or fourth day of the cruise. While it's unusual not to meet a cabin steward like that, I can't say that we were upset after being bothered to no end by our cabin steward on the Carnival Breeze.

It's a good fit...

Family Porthole Stateroom

Don't feel too bad for him. He stole pillows from our bed to sleep with.... slept with three pillows a night!

What's your cabin of choice - interior, ocean view, balcony, or suite?  Once you went balcony, could you ever go back?  And are we cruel for making Max sleep on the little bed?  Comment below!

Next: Day 2 - At Sea