Disney Cruise Experience and Review
Are you thinking about going on a Disney Cruise? Have you booked your Disney Cruise and looking for information to make the most out of your vacation? Are you searching for ideas for on where to take your next vacation? If you fall into any of these categories, the information in this blog post is for you!
My family and I went on a 7-day Disney Cruise on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship out of Port Canaveral from February 25, 2017 to March 4, 2017.
Santa Claus was kind enough to give our kids Disney Cruise tickets. This was definitely a magical gift because Stacey and I each received a ticket from him as well. I bet it took Santa a while to pay for this cruise!
We had such a fun-filled trip, I am sharing our experience on this vacation in order to help those who are planning to go in the near future. Also, for those who are uncertain whether or not this cruise is right for them and worth the investment.
The information in this article is not a detailed review of our experience on this cruise. I will not duplicate the information on the Disney website.
Ultimately, my goal is to provide you with the information that would have been beneficial for me before we set sail.
Planning your Disney Cruise
Since Santa Claus purchased our Disney Fantasy Cruise tickets for our vacation in 2017, I had to do a bit of research on the financial portion of the trip to share with you. 😉 If we would have paid for the trip, the trip would have been $5,500 total (booked 1 year in advance, 20% down & the balance due 90 days before our sail date). We received $100.00 of onboard credit because we booked through a travel agent. The onboard credit is not available if booked through Disney directly. We used our Disney Visa card to pay for the trip and received 6 months no interest financing and an onboard credit of $50.00. I would definitely recommend obtaining a Disney Visa credit card if you don’t already have one. It not only provides discounts & perks when booking the trip, but it also provides 10% off of $50 or more on merchandise purchased while on the ship. To recap & consolidate the information above:
- Total Cost: $5,500.00 for 2 adults & 2 children for a Family Ocean View Stateroom (Cabin 5016).
- Booked trip through travel agency and received a $100.00 onboard credit.
- Booked trip 1 year in advance.
- Used Disney Credit card to finance trip interest free for 6 months with 20% down. Received a $50.00 onboard credit for using the Disney Visa.
- I highly recommend applying for the Disney Visa credit card.
My wife (Stacey) is an expert at planning vacations & she proved that once again for our Disney Cruise. The majority, if not all, of our vacation planning happened months in advance of our sail date. I highly recommend you read this section and spend the necessary time planning your Disney Cruise. I know, it is very overwhelming, which is why I am so glad Stacey spent the time doing it.. Hopefully, the information in this section will help streamline your planning activities.
The planning all starts with interacting with your fellow passengers at the following Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/452737938235942/ . This page has a wealth of information & it also contains groups to join for specific cruise dates. I encourage you to click on the link above and join this FB page.
Fish Extender Program & Stateroom Magnets
Stacey joined a FE (Fish Extender) program for our cruise along with many other families. The FE program is basically a gift exchange group with other passengers on your cruise.
I’m sure you are asking the same question I asked – What the hell is a Fish Extender? The program is referred to as the FE program because there is a bin the gifts are placed in & hung outside the door on the fish to each stateroom (view picture below). The gifts can be small, large, homemade or purchased, etc.. According to my wife, people enjoy gifts which are specific to where you live. For example, we live in Louisiana so our gifts were only things found in Louisiana. The gifts can be given out all at once or they can be given out over the course of the cruise. The actual Fish Extender can be homemade or purchased online and they can be as simple as a bag (ok, maybe not that simple) or as complex as you like. Most of them are made to fold/collapse for easy transportation on/off the ship.
Honestly, I thought Stacey lost her mind when she told me she is participating in the program. I didn’t think the program was a bad thing, I just thought it was an unnecessary action item to add to our growing Disney cruise ‘to do’ list. I certainly stand corrected because our kids absolutely LOVED the FE program. They loved arriving at our stateroom and checking the FE for goodies. It was definitely one of the highlights of the entire cruise and I encourage you to get to know your fellow passengers by joining the program.
To give the stateroom a decorative look and to make it easier for children to find their cabin easily, stateroom magnets are very popular. They can be purchased from many websites (view gear section below) or you can make the magnets. Stacey made our magnets and each member of our family had to paint their own magnet. She did a fantastic job making the magnets and it was also a great idea to involve the family. Either way you choose to go, it is nice to see the decorative door to your Disney Cruise cabin.
In an effort to conserve energy, Disney requires a key card to be inserted into an interior slot near the stateroom door in order for the stateroom’s electricity to function. A stateroom card, credit card, or any standard sized card can be used; however, Stacey purchased a Disney Cruise stateroom light card. This was really cool because we did not need to use other important cards, which would have probably been misplaced. Additionally, the Disney Cruise light card is a great souvenir and can be used on future Disney Cruise vacations.
Disney Port Excursions & Events
Disney allows passengers to book port excursions and events on the cruise ship within 75 days of your sail date. For returning passengers (members of the castaway club), you can book sooner (exact length of time before depends on your Castaway Club status – silver, gold, platinum). We booked our port excursions 75 days in advance and I encourage you to do the same. Activities such as port excursions, bibbidi bobbidi boutique, character breakfast, spa service, restaurant (Palo & Remy) reservations fill up fast. You can also take care of things such as photo packages & pre-pay gratuities during this time as well.
Disney Fantasy Amenities, Activities & Tips
There were many amenities on the Disney Fantasy we enjoyed and used frequently and I will review each of them before I go into day-by-day detail of our cruise experience.
Stacey and I used this app on our phones extensively throughout our Disney cruise. The app works by connecting to the WiFi network on the ship – I recommend putting your phone in ‘airplane’ mode, then turning on WiFi and connecting to the wireless network on the ship. This will prevent your phone from accidentally roaming. The app does not work until your cruise begins.
The app allows you to view the day’s activity schedule on the ship and streamlines the planning of your day. You can also set reminders for specific events. I really liked the texting feature in the app, which allows you to text other passengers on the ship.
For those of you who want Internet connectivity, you can purchase Internet plans through the app. The Internet plans (Connect@sea) allow you to pay $0.25 per mb of usage or you can purchase a package that can be shared by those in your party. The Internet usage can be tracked via a browser window on your device. I don’t remember the details of each package, but I do remember the price was reasonable compared to other cruise lines. I believe I remember 100mb was ~$20.00.
Video on Demand
I enjoy the idea of ‘unplugging’ from the real world when I go on a cruise, which includes the triple play – phone, Internet, and TV. We didn’t allow our kids to bring their iPads on our Disney cruise, but we do allow them to watch cartoons on TV. The VoD selection on the Disney Fantasy was outstanding as one would expect. Many of the classic and new Disney movies were easily accessible via the on-demand menu. Our kids loved watching Disney movies and cartoons in the morning and in the evening before bedtime. The selection of Disney movies/cartoons helped enhance the Disney atmosphere.
The dining accommodations on our Disney Cruise were outstanding. I will only review the dining that we visited often on the ship. There are 3 dining rooms (Animator’s Palate, Royal Court, Enchanted Garden) which are included in the assigned dining rotation for everyone and 2 adult (reservation only) dining rooms (Palo and Remy). Additonally, there are other casual dining locations not included in the dining room rotational assignments that we visited often such as Cabanas, Flo’s Café, Eye Scream treats & the water/soda station.
The Disney Fantasy uses rotational dining between three dining rooms – Animator’s Palate, Enchanted Garden, and Royal Court. Even though you will rotate between these 3 restaurants, the same servers stay with you throughout your cruise. It was really nice to have the same servers because you get to know them and they get to know you. For example, our servers knew my daughter likes Shirley Temples, so they had one waiting for her at our table before we arrived for dinner each night. The servers also cut food for the kids into bite size portions to give the parents a break. The servers make a concentrated effort to learn your behaviors and use that to better serve you each night. By the end of our cruise, our servers knew our portion sizes, drinks, etc. and they used this information to recommend dishes to us.
Dining room assignments are not provided until you get your ‘Key to the World’ card (room key). The first letter of the restaurant name is listed at the bottom of the card in sequential order. For example, ARAERE = Animator’s Palate for night 1, Royal Court night 2, Animator’s Palate night 3, Enchanted Garden night 4, and so on. There will be a restaurant on the list that you will dine at 3 nights and you will dine at the other 2 restaurants 2 times each. Each one of these restaurants have a very unique atmosphere with fantastic art and décor specific to the theme.
The Animator’s Palate was our favorite restaurant and it is based on being in an animator’s studio. We enjoyed the interactive Finding Nemo experience and the overall atmosphere just made us happy. More information on this restaurant can be found here.
The Enchanted Garden was a unique place to dine b/c it made us feel as though we were in a garden in the French countryside. The architectural detail in this room is unbelievable. More information on this restaurant can be found here.
The Royal Court dining room’s theme is based on a combination of Cinderella, Snow White & Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately, I don’t have good pictures from this restaurant except for the menu for a specific night. You can read more about this restaurant here.
Of the three restaurants, we liked this one the least. I found it to be very loud at dinner time and hard to converse with each other. Otherwise, it was a great restaurant.
My wife and I chose to make reservations at Palo one night and had a fantastic experience. The food was great and the service was fantastic. Palo is an Italian restaurant & our server was from Italy. More details on this restaurant can be found here.
Of the Casual restaurants, we used Cabanas for lunch which has a large variety of food. The food was very good and it is served buffet style. I liked the style of Cabanas as it made us feel we were at a restaurant in Key West. The décor is very similar to a Tommy Bahamas restaurant. Cabanas has a few water/juice/soda stations for drinks and they also have a outside seating area in the back of the ship. We didn’t sit here, but it looked very nice. More information on this restaurant can be found here.
We visited Flo’s café quite often for pizza, hamburgers and sandwiches. Honestly, I recommend just going to Cabanas if they are open instead of Flo’s café b/c it is just as easy and the variety of food is better. Flo’s café is definitely a good place to have lunch or a quick snack. The lines move very fast, so the wait time is minimal. You will have to use the water/soda station on the 2 sides of the pool if you are going to dine here. More information on Flo’s café can be found here.
Eye Scream Station
They Eye Scream station was a favorite for everyone on the ship including us. They have 2 ice cream machines that serve vanilla, chocolate, banana, and strawberry ice cream with ice cream cones. You can also fill up a paper cup with ice cream if you don’t like cones. The cups are near the water/soda stations a few paces away. They normally have vanilla and chocolate at one ice cream machine and banana and strawberry at the other. The 2 flavors can be combined into a swirl if they are on the same machine. I noticed a few times during the cruise the ice cream machines had a ‘not ready’ status message, which meant they were being used so much the ice cream didn’t have a chance to properly cool. You can still dispense ice cream, but it was a little watery. On a few occasions, unsupervised kids would dispense ice cream, lick their ice cream, and immediately get more. I would probably do the same thing if I were an unsupervised kid in front of a massive ice cream machine, so it didn’t bother me. It did bother others who were overly concerned about contracting an illness.
Our kids were so excited about the free Mickey Bars as this is their favorite treat at Walt Disney World theme parks. We sort of expected Mickey Bars to be readily available while on the ship, but this was not the case. Mickey Bars can only be obtained after dinner or by room service. Yes, they are definitely free but not as easily obtained as we originally thought.
The soda, water & coffee were free aboard the ship at the 2 soda fountain stations to the left & right of the pool and at the soda stations in Cabanas. However, you have to get them yourself in order for them to be free. If you order water, soda or coffee from a bar or from a server, there would be a charge. This didn’t bother us at all because we don’t mind getting our own drinks, but I can see this would irritate some folks who don’t want to serve themselves.
There is one formal night, one Pirate night and one theme night for dining. Our theme for this cruise was Star Wars.
Overall, I was very pleased with the dining facilities on our Disney Cruise; however, there is one way I think Disney can improve the dining experience and that is to allow Disney characters to roam from table to table during dinner.
Our kids spent their time in the Oceaneer Club (& Lab) & the Edge, which they both enjoyed very much