Disney Fantasy Western Caribbean – September 2013 – Day 1

Cast of characters:
Eric – me
Tracy – my wife
Helene – my mom
Rob – my dad

Saturday 9/28 – Embarkation (Port Canaveral, FL)

Rather than paying $15/day to park at the port, we chose to pay $8/day to park at a parking lot operated by the Radisson hotel, 5 minutes away. We parked, and waited about 20 minutes for a bus to the port. Once we arrived, we were directed across the street, and told to take the escalator upstairs. The security check was pretty quick, a metal detector and an x-ray for our carry-on luggage. (The “checked” bags were off-loaded from the shuttle bus and given to porters who would get them onboard and they would be waiting outside our stateroom). After Security, we were in the main departure hall of the Disney terminal. Inside the departure hall, one side is lined with a long line of check in stations, and the corresponding queue lines. The other side has a waiting area, and an area where you can sign your kids up for the kids clubs on board. At the back of the room is a large window that looks out to the ship, and an entrance to the walkway to board the boat.

The check-in line is divided into 3 sections … 1st time DCL guests, returning guests, and Concierge guests. I had cruised with DCL before, but nobody else had, but since I had, we could all use the Returning Guests (aka “Castaway Club”) line. Even if we hadn’t been allowed to use that line, it probably would’ve been a short wait, there were only 10-15 families in the 1st time line. However, the Castaway Club line only had 3 families ahead of us. Once we reached the front of the line, a DCL representative told us which check in station to go to. The check in cast member scanned our passports, took a quick picture of each of us, and had us sign a form stating that we were in good health, and were not suffering from a fever, nausea, or diarrhea, as well as sign our cruise contract (basically saying that we agree to their terms, and we agree to pay the charges we charge to our room). She printed our KTTW cards, and told us that we were in “Boarding Group #21”, and that they had just called #19, so we wouldn’t have to wait long.

We had time to use the restroom, and then about 2 minutes later, they called #21. As you walk through the gangway to board the ship, they scan everybody’s KTTW cards (so they have an accurate count of who is on board), hand you a copy of the personal navigator (daily schedule) and offer to take a group picture (we declined). As you walk into the ship’s atrium, there are cast members with microphones introducing each family … “The Disney Fantasy welcomes the Abrams family” … I’d imagine it gets very repetitive for them, announcing people for 3 hours. I got tired of hearing it after about 30 seconds. The atrium of the ship is on the 3rd floor, at mid ship. We had been told that the rooms wouldn’t be ready until about 1:30 pm, and at this point, it was about 12:15, so we decided to go eat lunch.

Having sailed previously on the Disney Dream, and knowing that the Dream and the Fantasy share a layout, I knew that the restaurant Cabanas would have a lunch buffet open on embarkation day. Cabanas is located at the rear, on Deck 11. So, we found an elevator, rode up, and found the restaurant. Finding a place to sit was a little more difficult. After circling the restaurant 1 1/2 times, we finally saw a family leaving, and quickly pounced on their table. I don’t remember exactly what I ate (and I’m not one to take pictures of my food (well, except for the chocolate “moose” at Le Cellier, but that’s not a part of this trip report)). There was a wide variety at the buffet. Carved turkey, lamb chops, some seafood, salad, and of course, for the kiddos, pizza, mac & cheese, and chicken nuggets were available). After eating too much, it was around 1:15, so we decided to take our carry on bags to our rooms, and then meet for a walking tour of the ship at 2.

When Disney says the rooms will be available at 1:30, they mean it … We reached our floor (8), and when we got off the elevator, the hallway with the rooms was roped off. At exactly 1:30, someone came and un-did the rope, and we were allowed to go to our rooms.

As we walked in the room, on the left were 2 bathrooms. The first one held a sink and a toilet, the 2nd had a sink and a small tub/shower. On the right, were 2 full-height closets, 1 of which contained an electronic safe. The bathrooms/closets formed a narrow hallway. Just past that, on the right, was a connecting door to the next stateroom, and on the left was a queen sized bed with 2 wall-mounted nightstands. Each nightstand consisted of a drawer, and a small tabletop surface. One of them had a clock with ipod dock, the other held a telephone. Just after the bed was a curtain which could be used to divide the room. We never used ours, but it was there. On the left, there was a couch (that could be flipped over into a bed), and above that, there was a ceiling-mounted bed which raised up into the ceiling, but could be lowered if needed. (with only 2 people in the room, we didn’t need it, but when I was on the Dream with 3 other people, I was the one that was assigned the pull down bed … it was reasonably comfortable, I just had to be careful when I sat up, otherwise I’d hit my head). The right side of the room had a chest of drawers/desk (6 clothes-sized drawers, 1 “center desk drawer”, plus 2 lower cabinets, and 2 small upper cabinets). One of the lower cabinets contained a fridge. Above that was the TV, mounted on a swivel bracket so it could be angled towards either the couch or the bed (I’ve included a quickly-drawn picture to better illustrate this). Lastly, the far wall of the room was a sliding glass door to the verandah, which contained 2 chairs and a small table. The verandah wall was solid plexiglass, and it came up to about elbow height, so it was a pretty good height to lean on, but high enough that most kids shouldn’t be able to reach over it. The wall separating the 2 verandahs could be opened by the stateroom host, to make for a larger verandah. Since my parents were in the room next door, we decided to do this. (Their room was exactly the same, except a mirror image)

After getting settled for a few moments, we went out to the front of the ship on Deck 3, where a group tour of the ship was just getting started. Our tour guide (who was one of the activities staff on the boat, but also seemed to be a bit “Goofy” in some of his mannerisms, if you know what I mean) took us around, pointing out the highlights of the ship (dining areas, the pool, the Aquaduck water slide, theaters, childrens activities, bars, etc). The tour took about 1 1/4 hours, and then we went back to our room. Our luggage had been delivered by this point, so we spent the next half hour unpacking and getting everything put away, then we had to go to our “assembly area” for the mandatory safety drill. During the drill, they told us how to put on our life vests, and where/how to board the lifeboats if they were needed. After the safety drill, we went up to the pool deck for the sail away “party”. They had some of the activity staff and a dj up on the funnel jumbotron, and Mickey and the gang came out and made appearances. I was mostly watching the shore to see when we started moving. I didn’t really feel any motion, but all of a sudden, we were moving. As we pulled away from the dock and down the channel at Port Canaveral towards the Atlantic, the captain sounded the ship’s whistle. (http://youtu.be/BOiewhlLK2E ) (the video has all 7 whistles, but he only played the first one as we were leaving Canaveral … I got the rest later in the cruise)

After the sail away, the first show in the Walt Disney Theater was in about 45 minutes. We changed for dinner, and went to the show. It was a cute little show about a family (mom, dad, 2 kids) who were just boarding the ship … Mom wanted her spa time, Dad wanted everyone to be together all trip, kid 1 was excited, and kid 2 was a sullen teenager type. Typical cute Disney story, in the end everyone has a great trip, etc and they all live happily ever after. (some of the shows we saw later in the trip were much better, but I’ll save those for later). We still had about an hour before dinner time (2nd seating = 8:15), so we went to the sports bar to try and see some of Tracy’s football game. (Arkansas lost to Texas A&M … not a huge surprise).

Dinner, for our first night, was in the Royal Court restaurant, one of the 3 main restaurants on board. Disney’s setup is called “Rotational Dining”, in you stay at the same table number, with the same people, for all nights of your cruise, and your wait staff travels with you from place to place, so you also have the same waiters each night. This is pretty cool, because you get to see each of the restaurants, and your servers get to know your preferences. After the first night, our main server remembered that I didn’t like bacon, and after the 2nd night, our assistant server (who handled the drinks) would bring me a diet coke without my having to ask for it. Dinner was very good, but I don’t have any memory of what it was. I know I ate too much. (This would become a reoccurring theme throughout the cruise). The waitstaff is very friendly, and very eager to make sure you have enough to eat. I had only eaten about half of my salad that night (didn’t really like the dressing), and they asked if I wanted any of the other appetizer choices, or a new salad with a different dressing. I declined, saying that I would be fine once the entrees came, but I got the sense that they were genuinely disappointed that I didn’t like it and wouldn’t let them replace it.

I don’t think we did anything else after dinner that night. I honestly can’t remember.

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