When we started planning our family vacation, we spent a lot of time analyzing our options. Traveling with two teens and two elementary schoolers poses some issues. How do you entertain everyone? Not an easy feat.
The boys wanted warm weather and tropical seas. The girls wanted Disney. They always want Disney. I guess that’s par for the course for eight and nine year old girls.
What happens when you mix sun, sand and Disney? A Disney Cruise, of course. The perfect way to make everyone happy.
But as you know, a Disney Cruise is a premium cruise that calls for big bucks. So, in an effort to make it more affordable, we chose to cruise off season which is a little risky. Can you say hurricane season?
Usually cruising during hurricane season does not cause any serious disruptions. This time it did. We were due to fly in on a late night flight last Friday, but once we saw the hurricane’s path, we flew down earlier in the afternoon to Tampa.
The flight was bumpy, but after two glasses of wine (for me, not the kids), we arrived safely and made it to Port Canaveral as scheduled. The ship was delayed due to Sandy, and little did we know how rough those last cruisers had it.
High seas and high wind conditions put a serious damper on their vacation. Not to mention all of the damage to the ship. Lots of broken glass and other furnishings had to be replaced before we could board.
But board we did, and away we went…
It didn’t take long for the boys to slip into vacation mode. They are teenage boys after all and the two things they like to do are loaf around and…..
Eat. From slurping down coconut milk, to munching on peel and eat shrimp, the boys quickly got used to an existence they knew nothing about prior to boarding the ship.
Of course the girls were most excited about meeting the Disney characters. This is where the Disney cruise expense is justified….
From the moment you board the ship and right up to your departure, you are interacting with the characters.
There’s no waiting in long lines with sweaty tired children waiting to meet their favorite characters. Nope, the characters are constantly milling around the decks and you just never know who you are going to bump into.
Every where we went there was a character to hug. Straight up til midnight the characters were part of the action.
You could find them getting their groove on at the nightly dance parties, hanging out at the ever so popular kid’s clubs, or just strolling around the decks.
You just don’t get that opportunity to spend so much one on one time with the characters in the parks. This is a unique selling point of a Disney cruise.
Halloween fell during our trip. Instead of trick-or-treating, we took the girls to get glammed up at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Afterwards we took advantage of the professional photographers that were located all over the lobby. It was an excellent opportunity to catch the girls in all of their Bibbidi Bobbidi glory.
As awesome as the ship is, the ports were an adventure as well.
The boys were more jazzed about the ports than the girls because they were very excited to snorkel for the first time. None of the kids have been out of the country before, so they were filled with wonder over the sea life and all of the sights in Mexico.
Watching them experience something they’ve only dreamed about brought me to tears more than a few times on this cruise.
The one port adventure we scheduled for the girls was a dolphin experience in Cozumel. Both girls were wildly excited with the idea of seeing a dolphin up close….
Shannon embraced the experience and was nothing but smiles.
Leela? Let’s just say that she was convinced the dolphin was going to eat her. That’s why there are no pictures of her playing with the dolphin. She was terrified.
So, how about the food on the Fantasy? We were pretty pleased. My only goal was to not gain a bunch of weight, so I was delighted with all of the fish and fresh produce.
All four kids always found something that they liked and the restaurants themselves were fantastical and made you feel like you were dining in a Disney movie.
Did I mention the all you can eat smoked salmon? I think I ate the equivalent value of my cruise in smoked salmon.
And if you didn’t eat enough during your scheduled dining times, there were plenty of options to grab a quick snack. The self serve ice cream station was a ginormous hit with my little ones and big kids alike.
There were plenty of opportunities to make new friends and we did just that. Lots of silliness and giggles all around.
But there were quiet moments too. Time to reflect and appreciate what was given. Also time to reflect on what was not taken away.
Each one of us greatly appreciated that we had this chance to spend time together. We didn’t have to explain to the kids how special and rare this opportunity was. They just knew.
Pixie dust has a way of making things shine that much brighter. Don’t you think?
A Disney Cruise is a once in a lifetime experience. It isn’t inexpensive, but if you travel off season, you will save some serious cash.
Keep in mind that traveling during off season does have some risk to it if you go during the hurricane months. I would highly suggest buying trip insurance.
You will also need an attitude of flexibility because your ports of call can be changed due to sea conditions. That was the only negative of our trip. Our Grand Cayman port was cancelled which was a huge disappointment for my sons who very much wanted to swim with the sting rays.
If Disney happens to read this, I would urge them to add another port for situations such as this. Spending an additional day at sea is not an acceptable option when you are investing that type of money in your once of a lifetime family vacation. Ahem.
Other than that, I can’t say enough good about my time on the ship. The shows were spectacular, the ship beautifully crafted, tons of stuff to do for the entire family.
A wish upon a star dream come true.