Editor’s Note: This review is from our friend Nicole Fazzio from her recent cruise on the Disney Fantasy. Thanks Nicole for taking the time to share this with us!
The Fantasy was just so beautiful, and I loved the additions to the adult area at the front of the ship- Satellite Falls was a great place to hang out, although it can get windy at times. I do think DCL went a little overboard with shaded areas on this ship though. There seems to be more covered areas than open so there are limited lounge chairs for sun which compounds the problem of people saving chairs. I was by myself so I didn’t have too much of a problem but for those needing 2 or more chairs together in the sun it appeared challenging. La Piazza was spectacular, felt so much larger than on the Dream. It was almost too large though—I always felt like I was missing something and couldn’t do it all and this was a 7 night cruise! The bars were so beautiful and themed but I am definitely looking forward to my cruise on the Magic this summer when I will feel less overwhelmed with it all.
A guest suffered a heart attack on Sunday evening and we had to divert to Cozumel to get him medical treatment. Fortunately he made it through surgery and he was OK. We could not stay at Cozumel on that Monday morning (which was our scheduled Grand Cayman day) because there was not a berth available, so we had to have an extra sea day and then do Grand Cayman on Tuesday, Cozumel Wednesday, Sea on Thursday and CC on Friday. I was sad to skip Costa Maya because I had a nice beach day planned there at Maya Chan which was supposed to be really good, but I was happy that we at least got a full day in Grand Cayman which I loved. I don’t know why the Fantasy normally only has half days there, I would have felt so rushed. I could easily spend a week there. It was expensive, but like the saying goes- you get what you pay for, and reminded me of Aruba. More expensive for food, drinks, shopping but the beaches were super clean, safe and easy to travel by taxi or bus, and no annoying vendors haggling on the beach or having to worry about leaving stuff on your chair while you swam. I got off at 8:30 AM and stayed until one of the last tenders at 3:50 since I loved it so much.
I was disappointed our Cozumel day was overcast/drizzly weather since I had the beach break booked. However I was very pleased that DCL gave us the option to cancel for a full refund, which I and many others did. It just wasn’t worth it for me to spend $80 to sit in the drizzling rain all day on and off. I stayed on the ship (other than a brief stop at Starbucks to use the free wifi to call home/check email and Facebook), but I have to say I was disappointed that DCL did not offer more “rainy day” activities. I would have thought that they would add more things when a day is that overcast or rainy or cold- I tried to go to Port Adventures and join another excursion that wasn’t beach focused, but only dolphin swimming or snuba were left, which didn’t interest me. I would have liked for them to secure more spots on some of the other non-weather impacted options for those that had beach/sun plans but had to change. Or, have more things on board like the animation classes, character meets/greats, cooking demos, etc. I am going to email DCL with these suggestions. I did enjoy a nice sit down lunch in Royal Court and spend a good amount of time relaxing and reading in a chair on deck 4 which was nice.
I was relieved that our Castaway day was nice weather–it was so windy on the sea day prior I was afraid we might not be able to dock. Ever since that happened to us on the Panama Canal cruise in 2011 I always fear it happening again. But, we made it and it was warmer air and water temperature than I was expecting. I was very pleasantly surprised for January since my last trip was in late May and it was so hot and warmer water, but this January stop at Castaway Cay wasn’t bad at all. I enjoyed my catamaran snorkeling trip which was something I ended up adding due to missing beach/snorkel time in Cozumel and Costa Maya, and glad that I did. It was so fun, got great underwater pictures and great shots of the ship from the catamaran. The crew was very friendly and we even got free rum punch on the way back! I thought it was a great value and really fun.
My room steward was great which was refreshing since the one I had last year on the Dream was terrible, not coming until late in the day, leaving dirty glasses/not replacing them, etc. This is the second cruise where I have left a hand written note on the first day with my requests for extra shampoos/conditioners and Navigators, plus ice daily. Both times it has worked out perfectly, my stewards did exactly what I asked. On the classic ships I found that the stewards usually found us the first day and asked about any special needs but so far on my three cruises on the new ships, maybe because they are busier, we never even see our stewards the first day. So, I find that leaving the note really saves time, gets the point across, and then I don’t have to worry about asking for anything.
My dining room team was OK. The server was experienced and good but the assistant I assume was new. I have a Diet Coke with dinner every single night and I always had to seek her out to ask for it. Not only was it not waiting for me or brought without asking, but she wouldn’t even ask us for our drink orders. That got annoying because when you get used to superior service from experienced assistant servers knowing your drink preferences, she just reminded me of a slacking waitress at a restaurant at home. She seemed to only focus her attention on the couple at the table who got the wine package, which that in itself was an interesting sight. They were a wonderful couple who I really enjoyed being seated with, along with their adult son and two other single travelers, I had a great table. But unfortunately they were very disappointed with the wine package experience and I could tell I would have been too if I were them. They were surprised there was not a sommelier in the dining room to guide them in selections. The servers were not knowledgeable about the wines, and then on top of that, they were inflexible with the package selections. The couple told me one day they had a glass of wine at a bar and loved it. They wrote the name down and found it was actually on the cheaper wine package list, not the premium one they bought. They figured it would be no problem to ask for the bottle at dinner anyway, after all it was a cheaper bottle. Well, apparently this was a huge deal. The servers were confused, the head server had to come over and even he wasn’t helpful—the couple were embarrassed at all the fuss and I could see why. They said they would never do the package again.
I found the service at Guest Services to be really hit or miss. I think the only thing worse than regularly bad customer service is inconsistent customer service. Some cast members were knowledgeable, others weren’t, and I got totally different answers asking the same questions. This is a real disservice to some guests who do not know any better. For example, I asked at least three or four times if I could leave my passport to get stamped. I was told a few times they no longer do that at all. That was disappointing, but if that was the case, OK. One day I noticed one of the higher level cast members in the white uniform there, so I asked her if I could at least leave it for a Castaway Cay stamp, and she said no problem. I told her I was told many times that they don’t do that anymore even for Castaway Cay, and she said that they do and was sorry I was given the wrong information. Its really frustrating to be given the wrong information. Another example, the Gold Castaway Club gift. I knew from previous experience that I get the backpack and then this leather travel thing and luggage tag gift set. I did not receive this throughout the cruise and by the fifth night I was getting concerned. Again, if I wasn’t experienced, I would not have even known I was missing out on something, which is a shame to newbies. I called Guest Services once and visited in person once to ask about it, and both times the cast members had no idea what I was talking about. They said they never even heard of a Gold Castaway Club gift! This was very frustrating. My tablemates had received theirs, so I was confident that it was still offered and not a perk that had been taken away. I even told the cast member this, and they were asking for their last name and room number! I was like, hello, I do not know their last names and room number, I just have dinner with them! Finally on the very last night I went down once more and demanded an answer and the gift because I was packing and had had enough. They assured me they would get it to me and finally within 5 minutes it was delivered to my room by my steward. I have no idea why all the confusion though!
This was the first cruise where I tried some of the tastings and tours offered. Immediately upon boarding I booked Mixology and Cognac Tasting, as well as a galley tour which I was super excited that they offered. I really learned a lot in the galley tour offered by the chef; I definitely got the best tour because the two tours behind us were being conducted by regular cast members. It was so cool to see all the behind the scenes processes described and the chef was eager to answer our many questions. Cognac Tasting was also very informative and relaxing. Mixology was an absolute blast! I had it with Damian in the Skyline Lounge and a group of about 15. It only cost $15 and I was so glad I did this one instead of the one our group organized because that one was $20 each and more crowded! I met wonderful people in our group and we got to go behind the bar and make the drinks! It was so much fun and unbelievable value. I look forward to doing this one on many cruises to come.
I did both brunch and dinner at both Palo and Remy on this trip. All were amazing as expected, and it was my first time doing the Remy brunch. Everything was delicious, my favorite was the hazelnut mousse type dessert, superb! I also loved that the Remy dinner menu was different than my last time there in May, but equally divine. The maitre d’ was so friendly and since I was dining alone he came to chat with me sometimes, and during the cheese course he actually brought over a bowl of whole black truffles and suggested I try some with my cheese! He must have read my mind because truffles are my true weakness, I die for anything truffle. He shaved some pieces onto the cheese and like he said, it was amazing. I really felt spoiled and I only wish there was a Remy on land that I could visit more often!
On the last morning of the cruise, even though I had late dining I opted to go to the early seating. I wanted to leave my luggage in my room because it was too busy the night before for me to do it, plus I was in Enchanted Garden which was about a two minute walk from my room, and it would be super easy to head back and grab my luggage. I told my server the night before about my plans and he said it shouldn’t be a problem and just ask for the head server in the morning. I did that but it was somewhat of a confusion. Hard to describe, but it totally reminded me of my tablemates’ confusion over the wine issue. Best way to describe it I guess was they seemed to make a big production over nothing. I was only one person, not a whole family, and being that it was early seating, the place was more than 50% empty. I have no idea why it took asking a few times and wasting several minutes for me to just be seated. At least it worked out after I was seated, I ended up being seated with a couple who is actually on my Mediterranean cruise this summer, so we talked about that. I finished by 7:20 and had plenty of time to go back to my room, double check everything and be out by 8:00. After debarking I drove to Walt Disney World for the day since my flight wasn’t until 5:00 PM, I parked at the Boardwalk and then spent the day poolside at Swan and Dolphin since it was a beautiful day. The last adventure came with heading back to the airport. For some reason following the airport signs I ended up on the 417 route instead of the 528 I am familiar with. It was fine but I ended up in an extremely rural area with no stores or gas stations! I got to the airport but I guess it was like the “back entrance” or something because it felt like the middle of nowhere. I had no idea where to get gas and I debated driving off to look for some because I knew it would be costly to return it not full, but then I said I just couldn’t take a chance of missing my flight over the gas so I just returned it. It was over $9 a gallon but thankfully I only used not even a quarter tank so it only cost me about $10 more than if I had fueled up myself. I would not have been happy if I’d had to fill it more than that at that price though, so I made a note to self, never take 417 to MCO again!
Overall I love the new features on the Dream and Fantasy but I have to say I am definitely looking forward to being back on the Magic in July for the 12 night Mediterranean cruise. It will have been about 2.5 years since I’ve been on one of the classic ships by that time, so it will feel almost new to me being back on a smaller ship with different features. On the Magic and Wonder I also feel more relaxed and not stressed that I’m always “missing something” like on the Dream/Fantasy. There are just so many bars and entertainment venues on the new ships that I always feel like I’m missing something. I also enjoy the pool area much better on the older ships since its way more open and sunnier. But all in all, I truly love all four ships and will choose my cruises by itinerary now for sure. I’m ready for the rest of 2014 to be announced so I can see what’s next for me!
I’d be interested to know what you received as a Gold gift. We have not been happy with the Platinum gifts on the Fantasy. I wish DCL would change out the major gift from time to time … we have so many identical backpacks. We have several leatherette journals – which we do not use … not do we use the Castaway Club note cards. We chose not to eat the snack crackers. We had YET to receive the Platnum “experience” (back stage tour, etc), but we did receive our choice of sparking wine, fruit or a 3rd option … though we received ours on day 6 of the MV (there were HOARDS of Platinum on that cruise, and it was slightly hectic for that department).
Has anyone else been part of “Platinum Experience” (tours) within the past 12 months?
The current Castaway Club gift has been the same for a couple years now. The Platinum Experience has been discontinued for at least a year.