Thursday, 13 June 2013

Our Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy with young children

As you might have gathered from some of my recent posts, we recently returned from a fantastic family holiday in Florida. The centrepiece of our holiday was a week long cruise on the amazing Disney Fantasy cruise ship. We took the 7 Night Western Caribbean Cruise on the Disney Fantasy, which stopped at Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, Costa Maya and Cozumel in Mexico and Castaway Cay in the Bahamas - Disney's own private island.

This was our second experience of family cruising, having also taken a Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas when Harry was 21 months old. On this Disney cruise, Harry was 4 and Mia nearly 2. We were also accompanied by my parents, and we had interconnecting rooms (staterooms 7604/7606).

Disney Fantasy cruise ship in the Caribbean

Well, we had a wonderful time. We are huge Disney fans in this house anyway, so we didn't mind that Mickey and his friends were impossible to escape from the moment that you arrive at the cruise terminal. The check in process was smooth, and we were welcomed onto the ship by our family name.

The Disney Fantasy ship is beautiful, and spotless. Having young children we didn't really have the opportunity to sit around much, but my parents assured us that the adults only area of the pool deck was a lovely place to relax. I found the main pool deck to be rather noisy and crowded during the day, as well as being very hot, and so we didn't spend as much time there as I had imagined. On Deck 4 there is a running track where you can walk all the way around the outside of the ship, and I often joined other parents there after lunch doing the 'naptime pushchair run'. It was also really pleasant to sit down there for a while once Mia was asleep because it was completely shaded.

Our stateroom was a generous size, with a curtain to separate the main double bed from the children's sleeping areas. Harry slept on the top bunk which he loved. The bathroom had a separate toilet and a small bath, which came in really handy after trips to the beach.

There was plenty of food on offer. For dinner you rotate between the three main dining rooms - Enchanted Garden, Animator's Palate and Royal Court), which always offered a reasonable vegetarian option. The Animator's Palate was the best restaurant for young children, as there is a dinner show on television screens around the restaurant which kept them well entertained. It was a bit noisy though if you were hoping to enjoy a quieter, more intimate meal!

There was a separate children's menu, which offered pizza and chips as well as healthier and more adult options. We had the early seating for dinner at 5.45pm, so Ram and I usually enjoyed a second dinner later on of pizza or a veggie burger on the pool deck, as well as unlimited cookies and ice-cream. We had our breakfast and lunch in Cabanas - the self serve buffet where there was always plenty to choose from. This was easier with the small children as it was more relaxed and there was lots there that they would eat.

There were plenty of opportunities for our children to meet the characters. There always seemed to be a character somewhere on the sihp, and you can check exact times and locations in your Personal Navigator (a daily schedule of events which will be placed in your stateroom each evening). The queues did build up, but if you were organised and arrived before the character actually appeared then the queue time was minimal. If you have a little girl or boy that loves the princesses there were several occasions where you could queue up once and meet a whole string of them one after the other. There was plenty of time to take your own photos, and I loved that all the characters really took the time to engage with the children.

Meeting Snow White on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship

There was a huge amount of entertainment on board for little ones. Every night there was a show, and although our wriggly, tired toddler didn't last through them, Harry was enraptured and is still singing some of the songs. Harry spent some time without us in the Oceaneer Club (for ages 3-12), but there were plenty of occasions where the childcare facilities had an open house, and we could bring Mia and all play there together.

There were also activities during the day which we could take part in as a family. We particularly enjoyed making our own magnetic door sign. I hadn't realised what a big thing the decoration of doors was - if you're planning a Disney cruise make sure that you prepare in advance! Harry and I also had fun creating and racing a car which we made from a carrot, a potato, some wheels and four cocktail sticks, we even managed to win the most 'Disney' car thanks to my carrot Mickey Mouse head on the front! Every evening there was some sort of children's disco or dance event. And this is just some of the entertainment which was suited to our young family, there was all sorts going on for older children and adults.

The entertainment highlight on the cruise was the Pirate Night. We all dressed up as pirates (bandanas were provided but lots of people went all out) and enjoyed a pirate themed dinner before a deck show featuring Captain Jack Sparrow, finishing with a brilliant firework display out at sea.

Meeting pirate Mickey Mouse on the Disney Fantasy cruise ship

The only struggle that we had was at mealtimes. Our waiters tried their very best, but unfortunately Mia just couldn't sit still for long enough, and because she was overtired at the end of a long day she had a tendency to scream. We arranged to order our food the night before so that we could be rushed through, but it was still a bit of a challenge and we spent several mealtimes outside walking her up and down the corridors. Fortunately this is something that should improve as she gets older, and if we manage to do this again hopefully it won't be an issue. Harry was absolutely fine, and even though he's pretty fussy the waiters got to know what he would eat and we topped him up with ice-cream.

Everything about the cruise was Disney, there was no escaping it. But we all loved it, and I would absolutely recommend this cruise for families of all ages.

I have also written another couple of posts about this cruise. First I have covered in more detail the ports that we visited and the excursions that we went on. I have also written a general post about the practicalities of taking this cruise with young children.

No disclosure necessary, we paid for this holiday ourselves.

6 comments:

  1. I can second that it was a wonderful holiday. When do we go again????

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  2. That sounds amazing! I would love to do that! We've been to Disneyland Paris and really love the atmosphere and meeting the characters.

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    1. It was amazing. There is something special about Disney, they make everything so magical.

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  3. ooooh, it sounds fantastic. I LOVE Disney. Do you think we would manage in one room with three children?

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    1. The room that we had would have accommodated three children - we had a double bed, bunk beds and a separate pull down bed. I never saw the pull down bed out, it probably wouldn't have left a lot of floor space when it was down and it would have been difficult to get to the balcony, but they are only pulled down at night and stored away during the day.

      There was plenty of storage space in the room, the main bed is quite high so there is room for suitcases, pushchairs etc. underneath and there are also lots of cupboards in the room. There is a separate toilet and bathroom too which is useful when there are lots of people in the room.

      It might be a bit of a squeeze during the day but as there is so much to do and so much space elsewhere on the ship I think that you would be fine with three children sleeping in the room.

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