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Monday, May 8, 2023

Disney Fantasy New Year's Cruise - [Day 1] New Year's Eve

Rise and shine, it's Embarkation Day!! (Again!)

I thought that I had allowed myself plenty of time in the morning to get ready and pack... and then I realized that all of Aaron's clean clothes were hanging everywhere since our laundry day and needed to be folded and packed - eek! The careful tetris job of packing everything made it very challenging to repack so it all fit. If I were to do it again, I'd have Aaron pack his own checked bag, rather than us sharing a checked bag. Aaron said that if he were to do it again, he would only pack his suit and brown dress shoes, and not his velvet blazer and black dress shoes, and then he wouldn't even need a checked bag.

Needless to say, everyone was waiting on me.

As we left Central Florida and headed toward the coast, it became very cloudy.

I'm not sure why, but the line of cars for the Disney Terminal at Port Canaveral is always horrendous. It's been like this since our first ever cruise in 2001. I've yet to experience anything similar with any other port/cruise line.


We were in port with the Norwegian Escape. We sailed on the Norwegian Escape over Christmas in 2017.



Stove dropped us and the luggage at the terminal, then went to park the car.


While waiting, I went to get photos of the Disney Cruise Terminal building from the front.




They had signs for each Port Arrival Time. We actually had three different Port Arrival Times. It was super frustrating when it came time to check in since I'm on the west coast. Check in time was at 12 AM EST, so it should have been 9 PM PST.... except when it turned 9PM, I was still unable to check-in. According to our cruise Facebook group, many others were having the same problem. It turned out that a trick was to reset the time on your computer to a different time zone... not sure how or why that was a work-around. By the time I was able to check in, my PAT was 11:45 (Stove had 11:15, and Rachel had 11:30).



The blue Disney shopping bags have our carry-on wine and champagne. Rachel gifted us each a bottle of Veuve Clicquot to ring in the New Year, and Judy spotted these fab reusable shopping bags at Creations in Epcot (only $1 each!).



The Disney Cruise Terminal is always madness. I blame the DisBoards and Disney Cruise Facebook groups that make everyone believe you have to get the earliest Port Arrival Time and show up super early and get on the ship first so you can put on your swimsuit and swim. Gotta get the early dining time, gotta get the reservations. The Disney Cruisers are the most prepared cruisers, and to be honest, I find it a little annoying.

Disney Magic Scale Model

When we were in line to board the ship, Rachel spotted the back of the model ship and was trying to tell Aaron and I to look, and when she said, "Look over there!" the lady in front of us thought she was talking to her. "Oh, no not you... I mean you can look over there, but I was telling my sister to look."

Disney Magic Scale Model

Aaron said this was such a Polly Pocket moment.

Disney Magic Scale Model


The Shinglebells are all together, and ready to PARRRRRTAYYYYY! The thumbs up is a cheesy pose, but this was our ONLY usable boarding photo because Stove decided to test out a new smile that I would describe as tell a two-year-old to, "say cheese."

NYE Boarding Day

Disney Fantasy, here we come!


Disney announces every family when they board the ship. We decided to go with the name Shinglebells (obviously). But Landon was at the front of the pack, and when asked his last name, he said "Smith." Rachel immediately - "Landon, no! We're the Shinglebells!!!"



We were greeted in the atrium by Captain Minnie!


After we boarded, we were ready for lunch, and we did not want to go to Cabanas. Royal Court was only open for Concierge guests, and for a minute I was worried that we were in for the same sort of class-based experience that we had on Celebrity. We just kept walking and learned that Animator's Palate was open for lunch for all other guests - perfect!



Aaron had the gumbo, which he said was great as usual. It tasted exactly how he remembered it on the other two cruises - quality control on point. It's slightly commercial, but still good. He did note that there was no cornbread.


I had the Mixed Salad which was a fine salad. Rachel attempted to order the Caesar Salad as a starter, and they told her that it was a big salad. She asked if she could have it anyway, but I think she was convinced not to.... it was a weird interaction.


The Pennette Pasta is a solid boarding day entree. I love goat cheese and pesto, so this is my kind of pasta.


Aaron got the Mufaleta which had a generous deli meat portion. He said it was great quality with fresh deli meat. Good on its own, and also good with mustard.


Welcome Aboard Sundae is also a solid option.


By now, our rooms were ready!



We booked three Navigator's Verandah Guarantee Staterooms (VGT) because that is the category of stateroom that was available to book at the Cast Member rate. I was super pumped when we were assigned our staterooms a few weeks before sailing - three adjacent Family Verandah Staterooms on Deck 8! Wowwww how lucky!!


The Family Verandah Stateroom is quite large. It's definitely the most spacious cabin that Aaron and I have sailed in together. 


The sofa flips into a twin bed, and there's also a pullman bunk that pops out of the ceiling.


The curtains divide the bed area from the living area, so you could pull them for privacy in the evenings. However, the television is on the living area side of the curtain.... which is not ideal if you're an adult who would like to watch some quiet television while your kids are sleeping. I'm also a little surprised that they haven't added bigger televisions to these staterooms.

Also, if you're wondering about the spot on the couch, it's not a stain - I set my backpack on the couch, and my water bottled dribbled on the couch.


Aaron and I were in 8620. Rachel and Landon were next door in 8618, and instead of a chair by the window, their room had a murphy bed, so their room could sleep up to five people.


Loooooveeee all of this counter space. We had so much storage that we even had empty drawers!


The mini-fridge on DCL does not come stocked, so you don't have to worry about accidentally getting charged for missing beverages.


Sufficient hanging space for dresses - 


Also, the shelf was low enough below the short hanging area that Aaron's shirts could hang nicely. We didn't care for this safe placement - it would have been easier for us to access if it was by the living room casework.


Most DCL staterooms have a split bath - one bathroom with a toilet and sink, and another bathroom with a sink and shower. This makes it easier for families to get ready at the same time. It was just Aaron and me in the stateroom, and I don't think we gained much efficiency with the split bath.


I love the round rainfall shower in the Family Staterooms on the Fantasy/Dream. It also has a tub, so you can bathe your little ones.


H2O has been discontinued, so the ships will be phasing it out. However, it was still available for our January 2023 sailing.


The full length mirror is on the back of the bathroom door.... slight improvement over the back of the closet door. Why can't they just put these out in the main room?




Love the Disney details on the lampshade - 



The lights turn on/off with your keycard, but any card will work. We stuck an old hotel key in the slot. Just make sure to pull it up so that the lights turn off when you leave the room.


DCL gives you hand soap in a pump, instead of a bar, which I appreciate. I followed a Views and Queues tip and brought a bottle of hand soap to use in the room (helpful on Celebrity Summit and at Coronado Springs). The DCL soap pump is only in the bathroom with the toilet, so I put my hand soap in the bathroom with the shower.


Our balcony was a modest size compared to our "Sweet Sixteen" balcony on Celebrity Summit, but thankfully because of the weather this cruise, we were able to spend much more time out here.


I believe we could have had our balcony dividers opened and connected all of them together, but we chose not to do this for privacy reasons.... we think Stove would be too tempted to knock on our balcony doors in the morning.



The sky was starting to clear up.




Our bags still hadn't been delivered, so we decided to head out and explore the ship a little.



There are two midship pools on the Fantasy. One is shaped like Mickey - 


And the more forward pool is Donald's Pool. You can't see from this angle, but there is Donald Duck artwork in the bottom -



Disney Fantasy has a very large adults-only pool area. The Quiet Cove pool has a poolside bar (though it's a much smaller pool than on the Disney Wonder) -


This wading pool is technically not adults-only, though it is near the adults-only area - 


Currents Bar is on Deck 12 of the adult pool area.


We found some seating here and figured this would be a good spot to post up until Muster Drill.





Stove, Judy, Rachel, and Landon all brought their DCL Beer Mugs. Aaron and I did not because I didn't think it made sense to carry around two glass mugs to use only on the second half of our vacation. Also, I had read some stories online that the ships were out of beer mugs and no longer providing tokens. This was not the case for our sailing. Stove had no issue getting his mug refilled, and exchanging for a token when he didn't want to carry it around.



We also got acquainted with the DCL App chat feature. It turns out that you can change your name in the chat and make it someone else's name, or any name that you would like... which meant we were having a fun time causing chaos.


I wandered forward to Satellite Falls, the forward sun deck which is also adults-only. This was actually the only time during our cruise when I saw the fountain running.


We were also in port with the Carnival Magic - 


And Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas -


And in the distance you can see the Carnival Mardi Gras and the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas -








They've really minimized the amount of information on the Key To The World cards in recent years. Pre-Covid, it included your dining times and dining rotation.



Time for the Muster Drill! I think they started clearing out public areas and calling us down half an hour before the drill was scheduled.


Thankfully, we went to the bathroom before the drill. I noticed these cool motion sensors for hands-free door opening.





Alright, time to clear out and head down to Deck 4....


The traditional Muster Drill is a pre-Covid activity that I was not happy to see return. When we sailed on the Disney Wonder Test Cruise, we did a digital Muster drill (in combination with the scheduled ship-wide Muster drill announcement) which I really enjoyed. Most other cruise lines have kept their digital Muster drills - we did an app-based Muster on Celebrity Summit just the week prior.


Disney Cruise Line has returned to their traditional Muster Drill during which all passengers report to their assigned assembly stations outside on Deck 4. (I'll also note that most other cruise lines have assembly stations in common interior areas, such as the theater or a lounge.) We were directed to line up single-file by "family" (not stateroom) from tallest in the back to shortest in the front.... a concept that probably works fine with families with children, but not so well with families of full grown adults.


As the shortest, I got to stand in the front.... it was still very hot and humid. Poor Landon and Aaron were suffocating in the back. Landon was wedged in front of some wall-mounted fixture, so we were protruding even more into the deck. The Assembly Team kept telling us to scoot back, and the guys kept objecting that they couldn't possibly scoot back any more.

Despite taking our sweet time to get there, we were far from the last family to arrive.... which meant that we were stuck standing there for a long time before they finally started the drill.


Disney's Muster Drill is absolutely miserable - by far the most inconvenient muster drill of all cruise lines today. I wonder why Disney decided to go back to the in-person drill.... and I also wonder why they want everyone lined up on deck by the lifeboats instead of waiting inside at muster stations in various venues. My only guess is that due to the large number of children on any Disney Cruise, DCL thinks this practice run will make parents more confident in the event of an emergency? (Though I'm sure no matter how many times they announce that children will be brought to their parents at their muster station, in the event of an actual emergency, it won't stop some parents from going to the kids' clubs to collect their kids.)

Since everyone is gathered in one place for the muster drill, everyone is leaving Deck 4 to head to the pool deck for the sail away party at the same time. We hung back and let the crowds dwindle because the guys were drenched in sweat and feeling claustrophobic.


We noticed that they were still loading luggage onto the ship..... and we were supposed to set sail very soon!


We managed to find a spot to stand on Deck 11 for the Sailing Away Deck Party.


The deck party wasn't what I thought it was going to be.... I remembered the Sail-A-Wave Party (which is apparently only on the Disney Magic and Wonder). The Sailing Away Deck Party is more like a giant commercial for the cruise that you're about to go on. We already paid for this cruise and are on the ship, no reason to continue advertising like this to us.... I thought it was weird.


There is confetti at the end, though!


We headed up to the 12th deck to watch us sail away.






As we sailed by the Carnival Mardi Gras, a family beside us said, "That's the cheap ship!" Aaron asked me if that was true, and I said no, I think that's a super rude thing to say. Also, they should get their facts straight because the Mardi Gras is one of Carnival's newest ships. I've priced out cruises on the Mardi Gras, and I did not find them to be "cheap."


I'm actually super interested in sailing on the Carnival Mardi Gras or Celebration - it looks like a good time! I already have these ships on my Christmas Cruise spreadsheet for next year.



Something I've noticed on Disney Cruise ships on the upper decks are the very tall glass guardrails. They're almost as tall as I am! It's a little annoying for me as a photographer because I prefer not to shoot through glass, but I'm too short to see what I'm shooting over the guard.... so I typically end up holding my camera above the glass and shooting blindly (not my favorite).




Aaron does not have the same problem that I do when it comes to the height of the glass guardrail...



I found that Deck 13 Forward does not have the glass guards. It's very windy up there, though!

Sail Away

Sail Away

We headed back to our room to unpack and get ready for dinner..... but when we got back to our room, we were still missing our large checked bag! I ran into Ryan, our stateroom attendant, in the hallway, and he said that he would try and find it. I also happened to notice that a random suitcase was delivered to Rachel and Landon's room had Disney Magic bag tags on it.... weird. We started unpacking the suitcases that we did have, and a few minutes later, Ryan showed up with our missing bag - it had been delivered to the wrong floor!

Time to put the champagne on ice.


I rushed to unpack everything. There was so much storage space, that it didn't take too long.


Then time for the door decorations! In the past, I've printed door magnets on magnet sheets. However, since the doors have been repainted many times over the years, I've found that they're no longer very magnetic. We've had trouble with magnets falling off our door on the Disney Wonder. This year, I decided to skip the magnet sheets. I made the festive NYE Mickey Mouse Stateroom Door Decor by creating stencils to cut out his shorts and shoes from metallic paper that I purchased from Michael's. To magnetize them, I used super strong Neodymium magnets. Because the magnets are so strong, I was worried that if I just glued the paper directly to the magnet, that the paper would peel off of the magnet, and the magnet would be stuck to the door. Aaron suggested that I attach the paper to the magnets using double-sided removable glue dots, and that worked brilliantly.


Dinner that night was at Royal Court, and we had a special New Year's Eve Menu.


Usually the "royal" dining room is my favorite on Disney ships, but we weren't crazy about our table location in Royal Court.

After we were seated, we met our Assistant Server, Made (pronounced "mah-day"). He had been our Assistant Server earlier that day in Animator's Palate! "Do you remember me?! I remember you! Diet Cokes! I'll bring you all Diet Cokes!"

Landon ordered a Crown & Coke, and Made advised him that it would actually be a better deal if he brought him a Coke (free in the dining room) and a shot of Crown. That DIY method cost around $6, vs. the price of a mixed drink. Nice tip, Made!


I normally don't post the menus, but since this one was special for New Year's, here it is -



I've found that they really don't push the wine packages on DCL. After much deliberation (would we want wine every night?), we decided to go with the 7-Night Classic Package. $210 plus 18% gratuity = $247.80 for 7 nights = $35.40 per bottle, divided by 5 glasses per bottle = $7.08 per glass.

The package is pretty flexible, too. If you don't finish a bottle one night, they'll cork it and bring it back to your table the next. You also have the option to take your bottle from the dining room and finish in your stateroom. You could also opt to have two bottles one night and none the next. There is no maximum number of people per wine package, and it can be shared with anyone at your table.



Our Server was William. He apologized for not knowing our names yet, and said that he would have them down by the second day. He had them down by that evening. (Interesting contract to our Celebrity Summit Cruise the week prior on which the dining team did not make an effort to learn our names.)


For an appetizer, I ordered the Double Baked Gruyere Cheese Souffle. It was pretty good and very rich. However, I was hoping for a stronger blue cheese flavor.


Aaron, Rachel, and Stove all ordered the New Year Seafood Platter. Rachel is still not a fan of smoked salmon, but liked the little burrito thing and thought that the salmon with cream cheese was a lot better than dry rub salmon. She found the shrimp to be bland. She also normally doesn't like cocktail sauce, but there were bits of horseradish in it that made it a lot better.


Aaron had the Baby Gem Lettuce salad.


I had the Lobster Bisque, which I thought was very good. Nice flavors.


The officers joined us in the dining room for a New Year's toast.


For my main dish, I ordered the Lobster Ravioli. The shrimp champagne sauce was an interesting touch.


Rachel ordered the Porcini-cruses Filet Mignon.


Rachel is not Lisa from Temecula. Thankfully, they did not overcook her meat.


For dessert, I got the Spicy Molten Chocolate Cake which was super rich (to be expected), and very good. Also, it really was spicy!


This is Judy's Praline Tart which did not look at all how she expected it to, but was very good.


Aaron went with the Tiramisu Cheesecake. This is Aaron's kind of cake.


At the end of our meal, William apologized for how slow our service was that night. He explained that because it was a special menu, combined with being the first night of the cruise, it was very chaotic for the dining team. We honestly didn't notice the slow service... I did notice that other tables around us were being served courses ahead of us, but I figured it was because they were smaller parties and/or had kids and less courses. We let him know that we were happy with their service.


New Year's Eve did not have suggested evening attire, but we decided to dress in festive sparkly outfits, and many other cruisers decided to do the same. When we were walking into the dining room earlier, I heard someone say, "Wow, everyone's dressed up tonight! I feel underdressed!"


After dinner, we headed back to our staterooms to pop open the Veuve. And we made the mistake of letting Landon and Stove get sucked into the Sugar Bowl on TV!


A big "Wish I Did" for me is that I wish we had headed up to the New Year's Eve Deck Party sooner! It was a lot of fun, and they were giving out champagne in souvenir insulated cups!






Mickey and the gang were on deck in their formal wear!



The New Year's Eve fireworks were (to my surprise) very good! I enjoyed this show more than the Pirate Fireworks. Usually, I find that the cruise ship fireworks pale in comparison to land-based shows, but this was a lot of pyro, and it lasted for awhile!


Most of the crowd on deck cleared out after the fireworks, but we hung out and enjoyed the dance party. Then we headed down stairs to the Tube where the party had continued.... I think we should have left the deck party for the Tube earlier, too.


We then kept the party going in Rachel and Landon's stateroom where we ordered room service. It was super backed up (not a surprise), so our food wasn't delivered until after 3 AM.

What a fun night, and great start to our cruise!

1 comment:

  1. GR8 day 1 review; Looking fwd to the rest of the sailing