DINKS Cruise Disney – The Beginning
DINKS Cruise Disney – Pre Planning (Mickey and Minnie Called, Pirate Night Prep)
DINKS Cruise Disney – Time to Go
DINKS Cruise Disney – Onboard (Multiple Posts Throughout: Initial Thoughts, Around Disney Fantasy, Answering Reader Questions)
DINKS Cruise Disney – Parting Thoughts
Cruise Review – Parts One, Two, and Three
MrsMJ and I spent a week aboard the Disney Fantasy earlier this spring, sailing on the March 15, 2014, Western Caribbean itinerary. No, we don’t have any kids, although we did travel with friends of ours and their kids, and grandma too. It was spring break in Florida, and there were a lot of kids. It’s Disney Cruise Line, so no surprise there. But to answer the burning question of the day – Yes, DINKS can and do cruise Disney. Yes, DINKS can cruise Disney and have fun. In an administrative note, I have historically tried to keep general cruise reviews down to one post. The more I worked on this review, the lengthier it became. There’s just a lot to say about any cruise, especially this one, so I’m breaking it up into three parts. Part 1 will focus on booking the cruise, getting to and onboard the ship, and the stateroom. Part 2 will be ports of call and dining. Part 3 will focus on general out and about on the ship, and disembarkation. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to the review.
Research and Booking
When the idea of joining our friends on a Disney cruise first popped up, I reached out to our trusted travel advisor, Travel & Leisure A-List super star travel agent Michelle, at McCabe World Travel in McLean, Virginia. Her advice has always been sound. She assured me we would not be the first adults without kids to set sail on a Disney cruise, and in fact, she had a number of clients who routinely booked Disney. That was all I needed to hear, so I asked her to book the cruise.
I did a bit more research on cruising Disney than I usually do before a cruise. One of the more valuable resources I found online was The Disney Cruise Line Blog. This can be a very useful resource in preparing for your Disney cruise, with one of the most useful things being an archive of the Personal Navigators (onboard newsletter) from a variety of Disney itineraries. Reviewing these, one is able to get an idea of the activities on board, and identify things that might be of interest.
Getting There and the Pre-Cruise Hotel
Our embarkation point, Port Canaveral, Florida, is certainly drivable from our Atlanta locale. However, at 7 hours and 45 minutes or so, the drive is just lengthy enough to be undesirable. Both Delta and Southwest offer nonstop flights to Orlando, and they are almost always reasonably priced. We booked a Delta nonstop leaving late Friday evening for our Saturday cruise in keeping with my personal policy to try and arrive in port the night before your cruise if at all possible. The 8:55PM departure actually worked quite well for us. I was able to work all day, but still arrive at the airport early enough to enjoy dinner at Ecco in Atlanta’s concourse F, the international terminal. Ecco’s airport location is a fantastic airport restaurant, and I highly recommend it if you have the time. After a preflight cocktail in the SkyClub, and introducing MrsMJ to the SkyDeck in Atlanta’s F Concourse SkyClub, we made our way to our gate and boarded our flight.
There are a number of hotels in close vicinity to the Orlando International Airport, however, none are closer than the Hyatt since it is located in the terminal. Given our late arrival, I liked the idea of maximizing sleep time by not wasting any time shuttling to one of the off airport locations. I had a handful of Hyatt points, topped off my account with some Ultimate Rewards points, and booked an award room. This was a good decision as it was wonderful walking off the airplane, claiming our bags, and then just walking to our hotel for a good night’s sleep. It was just as useful the next morning having a Starbucks a short walk away where we could also pick up a few bottles of water for our cruise.
I booked a car with Carey for our transportation to the port. They were waiting for us when we went downstairs, and we were on our way to the port. Most cruise line websites say 1 hour to Port Canaveral from MCO, and I always plan for that. However, I’ve never experienced a drive longer than 45 minutes and this was no exception. After our driver navigated his way into the port, we were dropped off at the Disney terminal.
After dropping our bags with the porter we made our way to the entrance. There is a boarding document and quick passport check outside the main terminal. You will need your ship’s boarding pass and passport (or other approved ID). This wasn’t difficult, but the people in front of us were not prepared, or waiting for their friends, and making things difficult for the rest of us in line. Once we made it to the actual document checker, the process was quick, and we were on our way. Upon entering the terminal building, you go through a security check and then up the escalator to the check in hall.
I’m accustomed to having lines divided up by deck, with a priority line for elites and suites. With Disney you go to one of two lines – first time cruiser and cruised with Disney before. There is reportedly a separate check in for suite guests, but I was unable to spot it. As first timers, we were sent to the larger queue. It looked a bit ominous, but the line moved fairly quickly. Once we reached the head of the line there was an attendant directing traffic and sending you to the appropriate check in desk as the magic recorded voice called out the desk number as available. They take your picture for security purposes right at check in, check your documents, and give you a small card with your boarding group number. Ours happened to be group 10, but they were already on group 13 when we arrived so we made our way to the boarding area, walked down a long corridor, had our ship card scanned, and made our way to the gangway. We caught a glimpse of a lot of luggage waiting to be loaded as we boarded.
Ship’s crew were waiting to greet us as we crossed the gangway, and asking each family’s name. With that, the MJonTravel family was introduced via the PA system and other crew applauded. The MJonTravel team had arrived aboard Disney Fantasy. 🙂 Hokey? A little. A great idea for families with kids? I think so. It’s Disney…..forget the real world for a week and embrace it.
Lunch choices were Enchanted Garden and Cabanas, the casual buffet restaurant. While Enchanted Garden is one of the main dining restaurants, they had a buffet style setup for embarkation lunch. That’s where our friends were, so we met them there. While food was served via buffet, we were assigned a table, the staff knew where our friends were seated and sent us there. I’d opt for this over the buffet, but the one lunch we enjoyed at Cabanas during the week was very good. Our embarkation lunch was quite good for a buffet, and this would be a harbinger of more good things to come during the week as far as food quality goes.
Stateroom 7074 was a Category 05C, Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah. It was located very near the midship elevator bank and stairs, but not so close that noise was a bother. It turned out to be an ideal location for access to the ship throughout the week. Disney is known for having staterooms slightly larger than average. I have to say that I did like the room, the ample closet space (his and hers), and the split setup of the bathroom was somewhat useful too. There bathroom is split into a room with toilet and sink, and another with tub/shower and sink. I can see that being very useful for families with children. For the two of us, it was kind of a novelty, but that’s about it. I snapped several photos of the room for your review.
The room was plenty big enough for two people, and had some little touches I haven’t seen on other cruise lines. I’ve already mentioned the split bathroom setup, but there was more. The bed seemed to be set just a bit higher off the floor so it would be easier to store things underneath, and the coffee table in front of the sofa served as storage as well. There were also these handy phones which could be used to stay in touch on board as well as on Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.
I liked the stateroom a lot. Coming later this week, part 2 of the review featuring ports of call and dining.
-MJ, April 21, 2014