Once we left the room, we headed to the lobby where our family (who was spread across 4 different Wilderness Lodge Studio Villas) met before heading off in our private transfers to Port Canaveral. Ahead of time, we arranged to make a stop to purchase some alcohol before boarding the Fantasy.
Tip One: Disney Cruise Line is the only cruise line that allows passengers to board the ship with alcohol and keep in their staterooms. This can be a HUGE tip to cut down on your bar bill at the end of the cruise. Keep in mind, the policy is you need to carry it on the ship (do not check in once you get to port) and things like beer kegs are not permitted – even though you can wheel that on.
The ride to the ship was uneventful going in and out of some rain showers. We briefly discussed upgrading at the port possibilities as my business partner had already gotten to the port and was able to upgrade to a concierge level room for an upgrade charge. Most of us, however, were exhausted form our long day before in the Magic kingdom. But once the Fantasy came into view- we all perked up!
Tip Two: Always book a stateroom that you are happy with, but check when you arrive at the port if there are any upgrades available. If so, your pricing is far less than what you would have paid prior to arriving. This is a great way to check out the concierge, a suite, or upgrade from an inside room to oceanview, or oceanview to a balcony stateroom. But again, always be happy with what you reserve in advance because upgrades aren’t always available. Keep in mind, they also might be available but not in your family’s budget- discuss your budget ahead of time so you know what you are comfortable paying and what you are not.
Once we pulled into the unloading area, things were a breeze. You will need to have your passport handy to get into the terminal and all of you family members with you and accounted for. Then you enter the terminal, go through security, and on your way into check in.
Again, our family was separated in to 4 staterooms and 3 different categories. Our family’s 2 staterooms could check in together as we were connecting (my family of 5 plus my Mom who was staying in a stateroom with my 2 daughters. My son would share a room with Mike and me.) The kids retook their security pictures (They had changed so much since last summer they needed to take new pictures!) and we were on our way. Mike’s sister’s family was interested in an upgraded room, if available, and they went to the appropriate desk after they were checked in at the far end of the desks. Their family was able to upgrade from a deluxe family verandah room to a 1 bedroom suite for $1,200. If they made this upgrade the day before, it would have been several thousands of dollars more than that amount!
Once our boarding group was called we headed through the Mickey Ears and took a group embarkation picture. Then we headed down the gangway and our name was called! “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the Tinnirello family!” The kids always love it! The lobby is an amazing first sight- soaring ceilings, tons of detail, and a lot of buzz on the first day! So many smiling faces making their way around the ship!
Next, we headed to lunch at Enchanted Garden. Lunch was fabulous! An amazing buffet in such a beautiful setting, low crowds, and great customer service. A great way to start our cruise! Once lunch was over, we were able to go to our staterooms. We were so excited. At this point Mom was in a wheelchair that she brought from home and was looking forward to some independence from the scooter she rented for the week. We were told it would be waiting in her stateroom upon arrival.
Tip Three: Topsiders’ or Cabanas’ buffet lunch is not your only option for lunch on Embarkation Day. Ask Cast Members where else you can eat- further away from the pool deck is usually a bit less crowded.
We arrived at our staterooms on deck nine, connecting deluxe family oceanview staterooms, and most of our bags were already waiting for us. After some confusion, Mike went down to Enchanted Garden to retrieve Mom’s scooter and we were off to the safety drill. This was disappointing because the kids were hoping to jump in the pools before then, as they were already in their suits, but they managed. 😉
From there we decided to get a spot for the Sail Away Party. This was crucial for Mom with her scooter because with the crowds, space was going to be limited.
Tip Four: If you get there early enough, there is a roped off spot reserved for wheelchairs and scooters at the Sail Away Party.
This is our 5th Disney cruise and we always love the sail away party! We have never missed it and I cannot ever imagine missing it. Lots of singing, dancing, Disney characters, etc. Here you will hear your ship’s first horn blast as you sail away from port and the looks on everyone’s faces when they hear a familiar tune is just wonderful!
After the sail away, we went back to our staterooms and got ready for dinner. Just a quick freshen up and we were ready to head back to the Enchanted Garden for dinner.
Dinner at Enchanted Garden is a plated, order off the menu meal (unlike the buffet we had for lunch). My first order of business was the seating. Not only we were traveling with 12 of my family members but a little over 30 Castle Dreams Travel guests were at this dinner seating and we were all going to be sitting near each other. I needed to arrange that everyone was at the table that they wanted to be at. Naturally, this wasn’t something that was already assigned. We had the space; we just needed to adjust the table assignments. Once everyone arrived, this is easy to do, you just need to be sure everyone is there and accounted for before you start changing seats. Otherwise someone might not have a seat- nd that is a much larger problem to deal with.
Tip Five: When sailing with a large group that requires more than 1 table- you can switch your seats at the first dinner seating, just be sure the staff are aware and you change it formally. This way in each restaurant you are seated appropriately. The best time to do this is when everyone is at the first dinner seating to be sure everyone has a seat in the area of your group so you do not leave anyone out. Just be patient and wait for everyone to arrive so you can approach the dining room staff with whom you want to switch from which table to which.
Once everyone had a table assignment they were happy with, our servers started drink orders and served them accordingly.
Tip Six: There is a wine package available at dinner as well as specialty cocktails offered each night that coincides with your dinner menu.
For our dinner, Mike and I decided on the 7 night wine package. My mom prefers the specialty drinks offered at dinner, so she chose one of the 3 on the menu. I proceeded to order the North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli (which was in a broth, something I wasn’t used to) to start, a Slow-roasted Prime Rib with a baked potato for dinner, and a chocolate torte for dessert. I really enjoyed it!
Tonight, we were also celebrating Tricia and Arnie’s 17th wedding anniversary…
After dinner, it was time for us to check out the kids’ spaces. Mikey was so excited to go to the Oceaneer’s Lab! Check out our previous picture review here:
Once I dropped Mikey off, I took the girls up to The Edge (tween club). Here you have to be 11 years old, and Katie isn’t quite 11 yet, but will be in less than a month. She is also taller than most 13 year olds- so I was hoping they would see she fit better here than in the Lab with her younger brother. We met with a very nice counselor who told us that the sailing was nearly full and were taking exceptions, like Kate, on a case by case situation. At this point, Tricia’s daughter had joined us as well and I am there with 3 girls, 2 of which can register and have an Edge sticker added to their key cards. Kate stood between both older girls, clearly taller than them. The counselor asked her age, when her birthday was and if these were her sisters. Kate answered that no, one was her sister, the other was her cousin (close enough ;)) then he gave Kate a sticker and I had to sign a waiver for her. In The Edge, tweens can roam in and out of the club as they wish- very different than the Lab and Club for the younger kids where adults are required to sign and out using a password. This gives the tweens more freedom and more responsibility, and I (as her parent) needed to recognize these rules and I supported giving these to Kate.
Tip Seven: Each stateroom is given 2 wave phones in order to communicate with your family, friends, and kids’ clubs while on board. These are a great tool when you have tween and teens to be able to stay in contact when you are not together. These phones have both voice and texting capabilities.
We were lucky enough to have 4 wave phones across our 2 staterooms. Mike and I each had 1 and each of our daughters had 1. We also asked them to NEVER be alone, always have at least 1 phone with them and a key card, and to travel in groups of at least 2. Between my 2 daughters, Tricia’s daughter, and my niece- there were 4 of them and ideally they would always be together. They were to communicate to an adult where they were going, once they got there, and if they were leaving that place. Throughout the cruise, we did check those spots (randomly) to be sure they were where they said they were.
Now that I had all of the kids settled- I was heading to the adults only area to meet with my friends and some family in Skyline. Tricia and Arnie were already there with their friends Sandy and Joe- who are all great company. Sandy ordered a PEARfection cocktail which was really pretty. It was made up of Absolut Pears, King’s ginger, lavender citrus tea. It really smelled delish and Sandy enjoyed it. I had an Ooh La La – (Bacardi White Run, elderflower liqueur, freshly squeezed lime juice, mint leaves, and soda water) which I didn’t love, but somehow managed to finish. Skyline is a beautiful lounge whose scenery changes to different “skylines” across the globe. If you are an eagle eye you can even catch a Mickey Mouse waving to your from one of the windows! Mom and my mother in law met us at Skyline a bit later, and on cue, as we were finishing up our drinks- those of us with kids in the club or lab were getting buzzed by the counselors that they were ready to be picked up and it was time for bed for everyone.