When my family and I got back from the pre-inaugural cruise of Disney's newest ship, the Fantasy, everyone wanted to know what we thought. I told them all the same thing: Going on a Disney cruise ruined my life. That's because I never imagined I could have such an incredible time on a family vacation. Literally the day we got home, my husband and I were both pricing out future Disney cruises to try to figure out when we could afford to go back. (It may be a while. Cheap they're not.)
In many ways, going on a Disney cruise is more fun than hitting the parks. No, you don't get the rides. However, you get everything else Disney is famous for—face time with the characters, high-end live entertainment, excellent shopping—without the crazy lines, endless walking and bad food. Plus the ship features a wide variety of attractions and activities to entertain everyone in your family. Yes, my family and I spent plenty of quality time together lounging in the pools, indulging in the buffets and just hanging out, but there were nights when I was at a movie, my daughter was at the kids' club and my husband was at the gym and we were all happy.
The first thing that struck me about the ship was its opulence. Although the amenities were state of the art, its aesthetics were old-school opulence, like the art nouveau peacock chandelier which still shows up in my dreams. Even the public bathrooms were awe inspiring—just look at my six-year-old's reaction in the slide show.
From the moment you step on the ship, you're pampered. I thought I would be annoyed by the staff's perpetual perky attitude, but I got used to it pretty quickly. (It took me a few days to readjust to New York City stress and snark.) Whatever we needed, they were there to accommodate us and every issue we had (all minor) was immediately addressed.
On our first day, we got to sample the buffet and meet our server team (yes, you get a team assigned to you throughout your journey!). During our three-day trip we tried four of the boat's six restaurants and were impressed by every one, although Animator's Palate was our favorite. Everyone was asked to draw a figure (don't even try resisting, it's pretty much a requirement) and at the end of the meal we watched as our creations came to life as animated cartoons on screens throughout the restaurant. It was seriously cool.
The staterooms are handsome and cozy, but it's not like you spend much time in them. We spent our first day exploring the ship—at 14 stories there's a lot to see! We found that a great way to do this was to play the Muppets Adventure Game, a kind of interactive mystery that sent us racing around the ship looking for digital pictures that would magically come alive when we waved our computerized game card in front of them. We got to see almost every deck this way and it really kept our daughter amused.
I was impressed with how the cruise didn't just cater to kids. There are many adults-only sections of the ship, including nightclubs and lounges, and even a pool. My husband and I got to check out these spots when we left our daughter in Disney's Oceaneer Club. Yes, the ship has supervised spaces for kids of all ages, from babies to teens. It's not like you're dumping them in front of a TV; these kids' clubs are staffed with high-energy young adults who really engage their charges. My daughter got to participate in lots of activities, including a visit from Crush from Finding Nemo, dance parties and other interactive fun. It was tough for me to drag her out of there.
The highlight for my daughter was definitely the meet and greets with all of her favorite characters. She got to chat with all the major princesses (no Mulan, Jasmine or Pocahontas) plus Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, and even Peter Pan. She also got an Ariel makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. It cost extra, but now we have her outfit for the Mermaid Parade in June.
As a theater lover, my favorite activities were the live shows—we saw a different one every night! All three spectacles were filled with great singing and dancing (the acting, not so much), cool special effects and lots of schmaltz, pure Disney. I also enjoyed shopping at the various boutiques and the big outdoor Pirates of the Caribbean show, which ended with fireworks. Meanwhile my husband loved the gym, the meals and catching midnight movies (he's the one person in the world who actually liked John Carter... I guess seeing it on a Disney cruise is key to enjoying it).
The one thing that didn't thrill me? Our day at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in the Bahamas. Don't get me wrong, it's gorgeous and relaxing and that's so not my style. I like to constantly be doing things. But most families seemed to be loving their time on the isle—and there's even a kids' club there too!
Disney is now sailing cruises from a number of U.S. cities, including Galveston; Texas; Los Angeles; Miami; Port Canaveral, Florida; Seattle and New York with destinations like Canada and New England; the Caribbean; Europe; Hawaii and the Mexican Riviera. Even though the Fantasy only departs from Florida, the other ships boast similar amenities and attractions. Prices include shipboard accommodations, dining, entertainment, character experiences and select on-board activities. Visit disneycruise.disney.go.com to book your Disney cruise vacation.