In April 2017 we had the holiday of a lifetime to Disney Florida and we finished our holiday with a 4 day cruise around the Bahamas. This was our second Disney cruise and whilst on board we took advantage of on board deals and booked our third. We have been in countdown mode ever since we arrived home. Once Christmas was over the time to our cruise seemed to fly far too fast and before we knew it we were waiting at the airport for our flight.
Our flight landed the day before our cruise so we had booked a cheap hotel near to the airport for the night. It was a very basic hotel but had the distinct advantage of free airport transfers, free breakfast and situated next door to a waffle house. The girls were beyond excited and not only could they not sleep they went into the crazy mode that kids do when they get too excited! This wasn't our first Disney cruise but it was the first time on the Disney Fantasy, and whilst we have sailed on the Disney Dream which is the sister ship we still had very little clue as to what to expect.
Each ship in the fleet is different in its feel and to some extent the layout. The pools are slightly different for example. We were keen to get on the ship and explore. Our room would be ready after 2pm and Disney take your cases direct to your room for you. We made sure we had the essentials in a carry on case and the girls walked on wearing their swimming costumes.
Disney give each guest the red carpet greeting as you walk onto the ship. It is truly magical and really sets the tone for the rest of the cruise. After our first class welcome we headed straight to the top deck to get settled in the sun and the pool before the pools closed for the sail away deck party.
The girls loved the glass bottom pool which hung over the ship, given that is was an 11 deck drop to the dock below. They were not phased in the slightest by it and kept running over the glass giggling at the people walking below. We had not experienced a glass bottom pool on a ship before.
The pool closed ready for the mandatory fire drill and evacuation procedure. This is the only item that is compulsory on the Disney cruise, so we headed to our meeting point for the drill and then headed back to the room to unpack and get ready for dinner.
There are two dinner sittings, the first is at 5.45 and the second at 8.15. The first is always a little too early for us so we opt for the later. It worked out quite well with Little Man and his naps, as he could sleep in the afternoon and not be over tired for dinner. He seemed to love the food available, especially the ice cream!
Our cruise had 3 days at sea before our first port of call. The first day we didn't feel the boat move but the second and third day were quite rough seas. You know it is bad when they announce over the intercom to hold the handrails as you walk down stairs and to take extra care around the ship. I was really poorly on the second day, not from the rough sea, but had the worst headache I have ever experienced. My eyes hurt and wouldn't stay open. After lunch little man seemed to be tired so we both went and had a nap and slept the afternoon whilst the girls went to meet the Disney Princess.
One of my favourite things on the Disney cruise ship is the running deck. Getting up early in the morning to watch the sunrise over the ocean is just incredible. I have never seen sunrises or sunsets that are as beautiful. After a run you can sit on the deck chairs and just take in the view. The deck also is one of the most beautiful spaces on the ship even when not running.
Disney obviously understand children and they have several spaces that are dedicated to the various kids clubs. Little Man seemed to be at the older end of the scale for nursery but wasn't old enough for kids club just yet. Instead they had toddler time where he could go and play for a few hours but you had to stay with them. He loved it. He got to play in Andy's room, from Toy Story, and play with all the Toy Story characters.
The girls would go to kids club and we would get a text when they were ready to be picked up. They came back with pictures and things they had made, which included pots of slime. They met several characters in there including learning to fix BB-8 and dancing with the Storm troopers. Next time we sail Little Man will be old enough to go to kids club with his sisters as we had a few tantrums that he wasn't allowed in too.
On an evening before dinner we would settle down to either watch a Broadway style show, every show we saw was just fantastic or one of the latest movies. We wanted to watch Black Panther as it was shown on the day of release at midnight but there was lots of other things happening for the kids at the same time. We also learnt that asking for Candy Floss gets you rather bemused looks and instead you need to ask for cotton candy.
Many of the activities on the ship are free and you simply turn up to them but there are a select few that you need to book in advance. One of these is the character breakfast. I am so glad that I managed to book us a space as we all got to meet some of our favourite characters including the main man [mouse] himself.
We had fallen into a lovely routine whilst at sea and perhaps consumed more food than we should have. On day 4 we woke to land and watched as another cruise ship docked alongside ours. It was good to get off the ship and explore the island.
Our original port of call was Tortuga but the hurricane last year meant we were unable to visit as the island had suffered extensive damage and instead we visited Sint Maarten. It was quite eye opening seeing the amount of hurricane damage and the repair work that is still on going. Yet life continues and there was a hustle around the market place and the many shops that were open. It was lovely to explore and have a walk in the sand, but we missed the ship so after a morning exploring we were back on board with plenty of time to spare.
This just gave us ample time to play in the pool whilst most people were off the ship and to play games on our balcony as we left the port.
As we sailed out of port the ship played its horn which plays the tune 'When you wish upon a star' in true Disney fashion, the ship docked next to ours saw this as some kind of challenge and sounded its horn also, a rather blunt horn sound. What happened next was some kind of horn war, with the Disney ship sounding out some rather tuneful Disney songs and the other non Disney ship just making horn noises. It certainly made us giggle.
As the sunset in the Caribbean the pirates came out to play. Pirate night is so much fun. Everyone, including the Disney crew, dress up as pirates. The whole ship seems to get into the spirit of things, and then the ship gets taken over by some fierce pirates. Luckily Disney have Captain Jack Sparrow who comes to the rescue.
Our second port of call was St Thomas. What a beautiful sight when we woke up that morning.
We visited Coral world, a local aquarium, and experienced a glass bottom boat ride. Both experiences were stunning with all three children enjoying themselves. We had a wonderful relaxed day on the island and spent most of it looking at the views. The girls even joined me in an afternoon run around the ship.
That evening we heard over the system that a strange force had been detected and that guests needed to assemble in the atrium. There was a buzz in the air, the ship went dark. Then the lights flickered red. Over the system we heard the Imperial march. Storm troopers began to descend from the top decks in the lifts, they began to work their way through the crowds. On the balcony there was a buzz of excitement, Darth Vader appeared. He had taken over the ship.
Star Wars day at sea was just amazing. After breakfast, which was Star Wars themed, we headed to bibbidi bobbidi boutique for our transformations.
It was on to Jedi training school then for the girls, where they had to battle Kylo Ren. They met R2D2, C3P0, Darth Vader, Chewbacca and of course Storm Troopers. The day simply flew by. The whole ship was buzzing from the second we woke up until we went to sleep. The evening was finished with a battle between light and dark. Truly spectacular.
With the ship back under control of Mickey Mouse we awoke ready to explore Disney Castaway Cay. This is Disney private island so the only people on the island are those who are on the ship with you. You suddenly realise how many people are actually on board! The day starts with a 5km race around the island. Captain Hook took a liking to my medal and tried to steal it. He then said I stank to which I kindly pointed out I had treasure and he did not, so he forgave me and I was part of the crew.
Castaway Cay feels very relaxed and it is something different to other islands because the only people there are from the ship. As a result you feel very secure. There is so much to do and we hardly scratched the surface in our day. The girls went to kids club on the island, which they did not want to leave. We played in the crystal clear sea and went swimming with sting rays. It was the perfect day in the sunshine.
We stayed on the island until the ship sounded its horn to say it was time to leave. The final evening always feels a little subdued, no one wants to leave the ship. Everyone on the ship walks around with the same look on their face and wishes they could stay longer.
The final farewell party is sad but magical at the same time. Giving all guests the opportunity to say goodbye to their favourite Disney characters. The girls are lucky enough to have met all the characters a few times but they never pass up the opportunity to say 'see you soon'.
The morning to leave and our phones start buzzing with all the notifications, having previously not had signal for a week. None of the kids want to wake up. To be fair none of the adults did either. A frantic last minute packing begins and we are one of the last to arrive for breakfast.
With absolutely no rush to leave the ship, the kids staging a protest and working out where they can hide we choose this moment to tell the girls we will be back next year.
There is only one way to describe a Disney cruise and that is magical. From the second you step on board it is a holiday and experience like nothing else. The countdown has begun until we can be back on board again.