As long-time Orange County residents and Disneyland annual pass holders, it is safe to say that we are quite the Disney family. So, it may come to a surprise to many of you that we finally just completed our first Disney Cruise.
[Update Dec 2018: We just took our second Disney Cruise on the Disney Wonder, which you can read about HERE]
It was something we’ve always talked about, but never took the leap to book. We kept waiting for the kids to be the “perfect” age and, honest, we kind of feared the cost of Disney Cruise. Finally, we just did it and now I wonder why we waited so long.
Cruising on the Disney Fantasy with kids was truly a fantasy come to life. I’m going to tell all about my Disney Cruise and dish on all my best Disney Cruise tips, making this one of the most in-depth Disney Cruise reviews out there.
P.S. You might want to have your calendar out, because you will want to book a Disney Cruise next!
HotMama Tip: There are lots of ways to book a Disney Cruise. You can book it directly through Disney Cruise Line, but you can also find some great deals at 3rd party sites like Cruise Direct, which you can check out and compare Right HERE. HotMamaTravel participates in the affiliate program with CruiseDirect (since DCL doesn’t have one), so if you book through them with one of the links in this article, it will help support the cost of running this blog and allow us to keep bringing you fresh content. The price is the same for you, so it is what they call a “win-win”!
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. FIND OUT MORE IN MY DISCLAIMER.
About the Fantasy
The Disney Fantasy is the sister ship of Disney Dream. As the fourth ship in Disney Cruise Line, it the newest Disney Cruise ship. Although launched in 2012, the ship reflects the glamour of Art Nouveau that was popular on 1930’s cruise liners. Standing at 217 ft high and stretching 1,120 ft long, the grand exterior is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Let me tell you, there is nothing like the moment you first pull up to that gorgeous enormous ship.
Another aspect unique to Disney cruise ships is their horn system. Instead of the traditional sound you hear from other ships, Disney’s horns play music. Making it more special, Disney Fantasy has recently updated their horn system to include the theme songs to Star Wars and Frozen! When two Disney cruise ships pass at sea, you will hear a horn-off that is super exciting.
Currently based at Port Canaveral, Disney Fantasy only sails to the Eastern and Western Caribbean, but also making a special stop at Disney’s own private island, Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. We took the Disney Western Caribbean cruise. You can read more about the Disney Cruise ports in our other posts on Mexico, Jamaica and Tiki Beach.
Check out our YouTube video giving you the full Disney Fantasy experience.
Money Saving Tips
For the most part cruises are a very affordable way to travel and there are some ridiculous Cruise deals out there. That being said, there are no cheap Disney Cruises. Disney Cruise Line is the most expensive cruise I have ever taken. However, it is one of the best cruises for kids and the best cruise I’ve ever been on.
Although it is worth every penny, a budget is a budget. When traveling with a large family there is only so much you can manage to spend on a vacation. Good news, there are tricks to help make Disney cruising as affordable as possible and I will share some of them with you now.
How To Find Disney Cruise Discounts
It is important to note that peak season doesn’t mean best weather, although weather does play role. Peak season is more about when they have the most bookings, so supply and demand raises prices. For instance, summer in the Caribbean is not the best weather, but that is when kids in America are out of school and families have the time, hence Disney Cruise prices are higher.
I honestly don’t think I have ever booked a cruise during peak season and I have always had decent weather. Funny story, we booked our Disney Fantasy Cruise 2017 for October in the Western Caribbean, which is towards the end of hurricane season. I did a weather history check and saw that there hadn’t been a hurricane in that area for over a decade. No hurricane in 13 years until, of course, I booked our cruise and hurricane Matthew hit the week of sale date.
Did we panic? Yes. Did we cancel? No.
Everything was paid for, I didn’t get travel insurance. We were going; hurricane or not. Luckily, Disney Cruise Line is amazing at sea navigation and we didn’t even feel the effects of Matthew. We followed behind the storm, resulting in the best weather and smoothest seas I’ve ever experienced during a cruise. Plus, our family at home was able to keep an eye on us throughout cruise thanks to the Disney Cruise Tracker.
Although we didn’t get to visit Castaway Cay, as Matthew was hitting there the day we were supposed to be at port, we got an extra day in Cozumel and an extra day at sea. I say, that is a win!
Avoid New Sailing Date Releases
Prices peak when Disney releases new sailing dates. I know it is exciting, but have patience and wait it out. Eventually, those prices will drop. Then they will go back up again one year out from the sailing date, which brings me to last minute Disney Cruise deals.
Last Minute Disney Cruise
Obviously if you have to purchase flights, you can’t wait too long to book. Just avoid the 12 month mark, because prices go up again. I booked our cruise about 10 months out from our sailing date and scored a really good deal. Although I booked through Disney directly, a great resource for finding a discount Disney Cruise is on Cruise Direct. Check Deals Now
Staying aboard Disney Fantasy with kids
On the ship there are four types of Disney Fantasy staterooms with various options of sizes and views such as the Concierge, Verandah, Ocean-view, and Inside. No matter which style of cabin you choose, the max occupancy per cabin is five. So, Grams and Papa had to get their own cabin, next door.
All Disney Cruise rooms come with a queen bed, which is one the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on; the Sealy Posturepedic Premium Plush Euro-top Mattress. There is also a sofa that turns into bunk beds. The top bunk has stars on the ceiling, which the kids loved.
The rooms also have a mini-refrigerator, vanity, nice sized closets and two bathrooms. One bathroom contains just a sink and toilet, while the other contains the shower and another sink. Perfect for getting ready with a family, because one person can handle their business while another takes a bath.
We had the Ocean View on deck 9, which we loved. It was located right off the elevator, next to the Enchanted Garden dining room and a public restroom, which was super convenient. We also had a porthole, the highlight of our room.
First of all, the portholes are huge and they have big window seats inside, so you can comfortably gaze out at the sea. This is where the kids spent all their time in the room. It was big enough for both to enjoy at the same time. They would take their blankets up there and just sit; a rare thing for my kids. Couple times, they even fell asleep on them.
Disney Cruise Door Magnets
Decorating your door is a big deal on a Disney Cruise. Literally everyone puts out door magnets on the their cabin doors and many Disney Cruise regulars go all out. You can customize you magnets to include your ship and family members names. Not only do they make the hallways extra fun, they are a great way to help your kids find their room. It is actually really cute and you will definitely want to participate in this fun tradition.
Dining aboard Disney Fantasy
While cruising on the Disney Fantasy with kids, you will not go hungry. Delicious food is always available and already included in the cost when you book your cruise. So eat up and enjoy. Sneak a peak at Deals for your next Disney Cruise HERE
Once you book your cruise you will have the option of choosing between two dinner seating times. The first is at 5:30pm and second is at 8:15pm. We chose the second seating, because the first was just too early and would not give us enough time to get back from port and get ready.
Once you have your time, you will be set on a rotation; dining in each of the three main dining rooms on different nights. You will be notified which dining room you are assigned to the evening before. The fun part is that your server follows you each night! Your servers really become like family by the end of the cruise. Our servers Iggy and Satria were awesome and so sweet with the kids. They played games, taught them magic tricks and made origami animals for each child.
This is the most exciting dining room, for sure. It is colorful, interactive and everyone’s favorite. One night Crush from Finding Nemo comes to each table’s animated screen and interacts with the kids. It was really fun and the kids loved it. Also, various fish and sharks will swim past your table on the animated screen throughout the meal. It feels like you are in a submarine under the sea.
Another night, they will have everyone at the table draw a person on their place mat. At the end of the meal they animate everyone’s drawing in a funny musical Disney montage, complete with credits.
This is also the dining room for the Disney Junior Breakfast. This is a character dining experience that, although does not cost an additional fee, it does require per-boarding reservations that you can make online. Make reservations as early as possible, because this is very popular and fills up fast.
This dining room is inspired by the Disney princesses. Everything is very elegant and the menu is French. We dined here on Halloween Party night, which was perfect since FireCracker was Sleeping Beauty and I was Snow White. In fact, huge portraits of Snow White graced the walls near our table!
A formal sit down breakfast is served here daily as well as the Royal Court Royal Tea. This is another character dining experience with the Disney Princesses, but it does cost an additional charge.
Designed to look like the garden of Versailles, the room is complete with fountains and the changing of colors throughout the meal represent an afternoon picnic. It starts with a bright blue of morning skies, then transforms to the pinks and reds of sunset. By the end of the meal, the room is aglow with the twinkling lights of evening stars. The menu is as fresh and seasonal as the garden design. There is also a breakfast buffet offered in this dining room each morning.
The next two dining options are not included in the cost of your cruise and require a reservation. Parents sailing with kids do not need to worry. There are freestyle dining options if you want to dine with them before your meal or you can let them have dinner in the kids’ club.
Is Northern Italian cuisine restaurant, complete with gorgeous Venice décor and live music. Yes, there are ocean views. For an additional fee you can add a wine pairing to your meal. If dinner isn’t a good time for you, try the brunch!
Remy, like Palo, is an additional cost. They offer several dining experiences, an elegant French dinner, a champagne brunch, a dessert experience and a Petites Assiettes de Remy (a small plate wine pairing early dinner). What is really cute is that there is a room within Remy that is a designed to look like the restaurant in the movie Ratatouille.
Freestyle Dining (for whenever you are hungry)
Three quick service eating options located on the Lido Deck near the pool, which include Luigi’s Pizza, Tow Mater’s Grill and Fillmore’s Favorites. We loved this option during lunch, because there were so many delicious selections of sandwiches, salads, burgers, pizza’s and more. I even got fried shrimp! Can’t decide between a hot dog or chicken sandwich? Get them both!
This is a tropical, beachy buffet located on the Lido Deck. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Cabanas offers a great alternative for those looking for a casual dining experience at their leisure. We frequented Cabanas for breakfast, but I enjoy the main dining rotation too much to give it up for a buffet dinner. However, my sister did opt to miss main dining one night in order to have a freestyle dinner.
Unlimited frozen treats? Yes! The soft serve is complimentary and a favorite of our family. For an additional charge you may have a made to order smoothie. Delicious treats are perfect for hot days spent by the pool.
How often is room service free? So, enjoy it. Kids need a little snack before dinner, but you don’t want to run up to the Lido Deck to grab something from Flo’s, then order something from room service. It is also great for late at night or if you are just too tired to leave the room.
Places to drink on Disney Fantasy
Although soft drinks, juice, milk, etc. are included, alcohol is not. However there are ways to make drinking adult-style more affordable, but I will go into more detail about that in my Disney cruising tips post later. For now, I am going to walk you through the amazing bars on the Disney Fantasy. Disney may be the best cruise lines for families, but it is pretty awesome for adults too.
This is where you will most likely have your first drink onboard. It is where we did! The Bon Voyage bar is located in the Main Atrium of the Disney Fantasy. At the time of our cruise the bar was decorated for Halloween as it was Halloween on the High Seas, which you can read about, HERE. Normally, this bar has an Art Deco appearance, but had a beautiful black bat. It is great for meeting up with family and grabbing a cocktail before heading to other parts of the ship. Time it right and you could make happy hour.
On the fourth deck is the magical world of Europa! Five bars, representing five destinations grace this section of the ship. Yes, I was in heaven and spent my evenings bar hopping in European utopia.
Coming off the stairs or elevator, Skyline is the first bar that greets you. This bar reminded me of a New York penthouse with dark lighting, chic grey furnishing accessorized with silver studs. Everything is backlit with the slight glow from the fireplace. What makes this place really fabulous is that the bar has panoramic city skyline views that change periodically throughout the evening. Sip a signature cocktail from the backlit menu, each drink representing the rotating skylines of St. Petersburg, Athens, Florence, Budapest, Paris London and Barcelona. Another fun tidbit, look closely in the windows of the buildings, because you never know when a Disney character might pop into view to say hi.
The next bar you will find is The Tube, a British style pub themed after London’s transportation system that started in 1863. Get it? The tube? It is what the Brits call their underground railway. So, naturally the floor is covered with route maps and hanging handles dangle from the ceiling in case you get tipsy and need to hold on to something. Oh and don’t forget to take a photo in one the many London-style phone booths that are sprinkled around the bar. Anyway, this is the liveliest bar and where you go at night if you want to get your dance on. During the day The Tube also hosts a number of exciting activities for the whole family.
Continue your travels…
Wonder through the Barcelona inspired hallway, where the restrooms are worth checking out. Hidden within the swirling cave like structures are some of the prettiest restrooms I’ve seen with gorgeous sparkling mosaics of Flamenco dancers and Spanish Matadors. Seriously, you will want to take pictures in the potty room!
Upon exiting the Spanish hallway, you find yourself in this cute French looking courtyard. This section is important after midnight, for that is when yummy little appetizers are served. In between bar hopping, be sure to grab a snack.
Ooh La La
Champs anyone? Glam, chic and totally French, Ooh La La is the champagne bar that will leave you feeling très sexy. Decorated with Victorian furniture, the romantic setting was enhanced with dim lighting and pink velvet-tufted walls. Oh and the bar was just breathtaking with glowing glass bubbles that seem to float to the ceiling. Naturally, we girls had to sip some sparkling bubbles while sitting at the sparkling bubble bar.
Sitting it the center, between Ooh La La and O’Gills, is La Piazza. Adults can pull up anywhere to enjoy an Italian libation around the 360 bar. Reminiscent of a vintage carousel this bar is complete with the charming glow of fairground lights. The atmosphere is bright, airy and playful like the many outdoor plazas in Italy. During the day families are welcomed to enjoy a game of trivia and by night adults can enjoy the sounds live music. I took my kids down for a mocktail one afternoon at sea, but they were more interested in the Vespa on display. Yes, you can take photo ops.
This is the Irish pub and our go-to bar of the trip. What can I say? We are pub people. This warm and cozy bar is where Papa and HotDaddy snuck away to play a fantasy football draft, where we would pop in for an afternoon Guinness, and where all of us would inevitably end up for a nightcap and game of trivia. For dads traveling during football season, O’Gill’s has several televisions for your game-day viewing pleasure.
This bar is not located in Europa. This secret bar is hidden between Remy and Palo on deck 12. Okay, it is not technically secret, but it is hard to find if you aren’t looking for it. We only knew about it when one of the ship’s officers took us up there one night, as it is his favorite spot on the ship. I can see why. Although most of the bar is indoors with the style of classic old-world sea travel, it is the patio that we fell for. The open air patio not only has the refreshing ocean breezes, but also spots to enjoy an evening cigar. Didn’t bring your own cigar, no worries Meridian bar has some great ones for purchase.
This is the adults-only poolside bar, located on deck 13. Parents don’t worry! You can still get cocktails at the family pool. Currents bar is for the adults seeking some solitude from the wild atmosphere in the kid-friendly zone.
HotMama Tip: There is no money exchanged during the cruise. For purchasing alcohol you will be using the Disney Card issued at boarding. It acts as your room key and your charge card, so you will need it on you at all times. A cute lanyard will come in handy.
Fun Things to do aboard Disney Fantasy
I’m just going to say it.
As much as you may want to, you cannot do it all. There is so much to do Disney Cruise vacations. Live shows, dance parties, various events and activities will have you in trouble deciding what to do each day. Every night you will receive the next day’s Disney Cruise itinerary with your turndown service. Disney recommends you bring different color highlighters to keep track of each family member’s daily choice of activities. Some activities vary, depending on the theme of the cruise, but here is list of staple events & activities that occur on the Disney Fantasy ship.
This is the water coaster that encircles the whole top deck, even stretching out over the sea. Seating two per inner tube, riders must be 42” tall to ride with an adult and 54” to ride alone. This is a very popular attraction and the line can get very long, but the kids love it! A couple days into the cruise and you find the best times to get on fast.
Although you can find the Aquaduck on another ship, like the Dream, the Aqualab is only found on the Fantasy. Located just behind the Aquaduck, this splash zone is a really fun spot for the kiddos.
For the little kids, there is a more mellow water play area for them. Nemos’ Reef has fun little splash zones and a small slide that my son really enjoyed. I loved that is was covered, providing much needed shade.
There is a bigger pool (Donald’s Pool) on the Lido Deck, but the Mickey Pool is perfect for the little ones. It is small and shallow and located right by the Nemo’s Reef. Right next to the pool is the yellow water slide. Although the slide is much smaller than the Aquaduck, my son would not go down it alone. I had to go up a get him down three times!! So embarrassing!
In addition to all the water fun, Disney movies are constantly being play on the Funnel Vision screen poolside.
This is the adults-only pool area, which we did not make use of at all. Looks relaxing, though. Ha!
If you are feeling active there are tons of sports to partake in like shuffle board, ping pong, basketball, the jog track and the fitness center. There is even Goofy’s sports deck, which has activities like miniature golf, sport simulators and sport courts.
Every night is a new show and they are all a must see! For a seven night sailing there are three musicals, as well as variety shows, magic shows and comedy acts. Two show-times a night allow guests to make a production no matter their dining time. Since we were the second seating dining, we saw the shows before dinner. Here is a list of the three musicals offered in the Walt Disney Theater on the Disney Fantasy.
Aladdin a Musical Spectacular
This was our first live show of the cruise vacation. Aladdin was full of non-stop entertainment, exciting songs and comedy. The Genie is fantastic, the kids laughed so hard throughout the show. In fact, it was actually hard to drink my wine without spitting it out!
This show is about three teens celebrating grad night at Disneyland who go on a search to find their inner child. Many beloved Disney characters make cameos to help guide them along their journey.
This is the final musical on the cruise and, in my opinion, the best one. This is about a scientist father out of touch with the magic of childhood and just about every Disney Character you can think of appears to help him believe in magic again. HotDaddy is a scientist with a daughter too, so this musical actually got a little emotional for us; as it will for most parents. Do not miss Believe!
Baby, Kids, Tweens & Teens Clubs
Okay. So, we figured our kids would like the clubs, what we didn’t expect was for them to be obsessed with them and never want to leave. Before taking the cruise, we thought we could get the kids to stay for an hour each evening to allow us to have a cocktail in Europa. What ended up happening was us begging the kids to come out and trying to find more moments of the day to let them go back.
What worked for us was dropping them off before dinner and then again after dinner. We would get back from port days, get them ready first and drop them off at kids’ club. Then we could get ready in peace; maybe grabbing a cocktail before dinner too. We would then pick them up, go see a show, have dinner and drop them back off around 10:00 or 10:30. This gave us about two hours to hang out at the bars, as the little kids’ clubs close at midnight. The teen clubs are open later and my nephew would be out all night having fun.
The clubs are super secure. Kids wear GPS style bracelets throughout the cruise, which can track them at all times. The bracelets are needed to check in and out of the clubs, as they provide photos of the kids as well as the people allowed to pick them up. It also has the magic password need to check the kids out. Plus, the cruise provides “keep-in-touch” phones, so parents can be contacted when needed. Super Safe!
It’s a Small World Nursery
This club is for the youngest travelers, ages 6 months to 3 years. Parents can relax, knowing that their little ones are being taken care of by expert counselors. There are three rooms in the nursery including, an acclamation room, play room and nap room.
Oceaneer Lab & Oceaneer Club
For ages 3 to 12, this area is super popular and for good reason. My older nephew even hung out in here over the tween club some days. All our kids had their favorite spots that they would return to daily. For instance, my daughter was always in the craft room or Pixie Hallow while my son was always in Andy’s Room or the Explorer Pod.
The fun thing is that there is always an event or party going on and Disney Characters often make an appearance. There is even a dining area where meals are provided. My kids often snuck meals there, even though I always pulled them out to dine with us. It was fun for them to eat with other kids and my son even cried when I pulled him out before the dinner in the kids club.
This club is for the tweens. You know, somewhere between child and teenager; those adult-babies between 11 and 14? Well, this where my older nephew, The Boss, fell. Some days he would play with his cousins in the Oceaner rooms, but at night he would hang out at Edge. Open until 1:00 am, the Edge provides a high-tech space to hang out as well as a full list of daily activities. My nephew was out all night at the Edge, having a blast.
This club is teen-exclusive. Yup, no adults allowed! It is for teens 14 to 17 and provides everything your teen would need to have fun with independence. There are nightly dance parties, high-tech media rooms and even their own sun deck and mocktail bar. I mean, really? Yes, there are counselors present, so no funky shenanigans are happening, but your teen will feel unrestricted and happy. No teen mood swings, yay!
Other fun areas aboard the Disney Fantasy:
Buena Vista Theatre
This is where new-release Disney films would be played as well as variety shows.
This is the family club where dance parties, karaoke, bingo, and various other family-fun activities happen. I spied on The Boss engaged in a Battle of the Sexes game one night. It was so cute to see him having fun with new friends.
Everything you could need is here. Apparel, toiletries, toys, souvenirs, and much more are all a shopping spree away. Remember, you have to bring it all home though. I tend to forget that when I’m in retail heaven. Then I’m stuck hauling a bunch of stuff on the plane.
Sun-up to sun-down, there is always something going on while cruising the Disney Fantasy with kids. Daily character dance parties, trivia, games, activities, movies, etc. It is non-stop, so pace yourself.
This is the first party of your cruise. It takes place on the Lido Deck (pool deck) and starts as the Disney Fantasy is pulling away from port. There are characters, music and dancing. The musical horns blow, too! Oh my gosh, it is just a really exciting event as you set out to sea on your magical adventure.
Every cruise has pirate night, so don’t forget to pack you pirate wear. This is an amusing dress-up night loaded with pirate themed events. There are pirate themed games, dance parties, shows and even a firework show over the dark sea! Jack Sparrow makes an appearance, performing crazy stunts on deck, like dangling from the horn shaft! It is a wild night!
Formal Night & Welcome Cocktail Party
The second night on board is the welcome night where everyone cleans up nicely, wearing their evening best. The Captain hosts a welcome cocktail party, offering complimentary cocktails and mocktails to the passengers. We were putting down the free drinks, but it was my son who dropped his mocktail, shattering it on the floor. Yes, the mocktails come in a glass, so parents beware.
See You Real Soon
This is the farewell party the last night on the ship. It is held in the Main Atrium and includes live music, characters and dancing. It is actually kind of sad, because your trip is over and I don’t like a good time to end.
Depending on your sail dates, there may a theme to your cruise and an accompanying party. For example we sailed during October for Halloween on the High Seas, which you can read more about, HERE. In addition to the events listed above, we also had Halloween party, games, and events.
Character Meet & Greet
Characters are all over the ship, so there are plenty of opportunities for photo ops. There a a couple that require per-reserved tickets, but we didn’t do those ones. Your daily itinerary will inform you of the times and locations of meet and greets.
That’s a Wrap!
Oh boy, this was a long post. I know covered a lot, but I wanted to take you on a virtual cruise with us. Booking a Disney Cruise was one of the best travel decisions we’ve made and I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Now you and your family will be fully prepared when you finally make the choice to go cruising on the Disney Fantasy with kids. Last chance to check upcoming itineraries and deals on Cruise Direct HERE
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