Aboard the Fantasy: Sail the Western Caribbean with CLEW

Today, we’re welcoming Charlie to MotM, and he’s sharing tales from his recent 7-night cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy along with his wife Brooke and their four kids. You can read more about the family’s adventures on their travel blog, CLEW Travel. Enjoy!

Disney Cruises are our absolute favorite. It had been almost two years since our most recent cruise and our entire family was itching to go again. For my wife, Brooke, a Disney Cruise is her happy place, and she thoroughly enjoys all the preparation (except actually packing); the build up, the planning and the actual cruise. For our kids (Emily: 10, Caitlyn: 8, Lila: 5 and Weston: 4), a Disney Cruise harbors fantastic family memories, non-stop action and an opportunity to visit new places. For me, a Disney Cruise offers a true and complete abstraction from the daily routine, especially on cruises lasting 5 nights or longer. I believe that Disney has purposefully set out to provide this escapism and delivers on point.

This was to be our 9th family cruise on Disney (10th for Brooke and Emily as they sailed once without me). The kids had been asking about a possible Disney Cruise for a while, and Brooke and I had searched endlessly for a great deal for Florida residents. While we were away for Thanksgiving, one came across for late January for a 7 night Western Caribbean on the Disney Fantasy, and we quickly jumped on it. Being so close to Christmas, we decided to save the news and surprise the kids on Christmas morning. We set up a scavenger hunt starting with a treasure map and using small treasure boxes with clues to the next treasure box throughout the house. The last clue led to a large box, filled with balloons and a “ticket” to the Disney Cruise. (You can watch the big reveal on YouTube!)  Lots of screaming excitement later, we filled the kids in on the details.

On embarkation day, we drove over to Port Canaveral in the morning to arrive by our scheduled check in time and flew through security, check in and boarding. We made it on the ship just before noon and headed straight to Guest Services to check on any ticketed events that may still be available. We were able to snag our place for a Frozen Meet and Greet, along with a Princess Gathering. Next, it was lunch at the Enchanted Garden. Brooke had crafted our daughters’ shirts and got many compliments throughout the day.

We took the time available between lunch and our cabin being ready to explore the kids’ areas. It is a great time to make sure they are fully checked in and to acclimate the children to where they would be spending lots of time during the cruise. It didn’t take long to build up an appetite again, so we made our way to the 11th deck to grab some ice cream and yummy snacks.

Enough time had passed and our cabins were now ready to explore. When we arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to find all our luggage already awaiting us, so we were able to spend the next 30 minutes exploring the room, enjoying our Castaway Club swag and unpacking. After attending the safety procedure drill we headed directly back up to the 11th deck to take in the Sail Away Party. Only Emily and Caitlyn decided to stay near the stage as both Lila and Weston have an aversion to loud noises (this may be a long cruise…).

Our nightly rotation started at Animator’s Palate, where we got to meet our wait staff for the cruise, and the entertainment was Michael Harrison, a comedic ventroliquist that the kids loved. It was a jam packed day, and I spent some time when dozing off realizing just how much you can eat when all opportunity costs are removed!

Some people thrive on new environments, meeting new people and quickly adapt to their surroundings. Others revel in comfort at familiarity and take time to adjust. Most of our family falls into the second category, including myself, meaning that it takes a few days to fall into ease when somewhere new, and the Disney Fantasy is no exception. Emily, Lila, Weston and I all take some time to get our bearings and adjust, and we started to do so fairly early on this trip by the second day.

Our day started early, even though the previous night had ended late. We were up and at Cabana’s for breakfast by 7:30 a.m. This early start allowed us to spend some time in the pool and hot tubs without the crowds. After a while, all the kids were happily at the Oceaneer’s Lab while Brooke and I attended the Gold and Platinum Castaway Club Members Gathering. It was a time to enjoy some food, drinks and mingle with the ship’s staff. We were able to hang out for only a short time, as our Disney Cruise Navigator App buzzed our phones to let us know the kids were ready to be picked up. We snagged four of the Mickey Mouse-shaped Rice Krispie treats for the kids before picking them up.

We went straight to lunch at Cabana‘s again and then to a craft session in La Piazza–but not without having to deal with our 4 year old’s temper tantrum, which lasted for some time even after we got back to the cabin. I decided on giving the kids some more exercise so we set off on our first of many adventures solving the Midship Detective Agency games. (Check out video of the game in action here.)

After solving the game, Emily and Caitlyn went back to the Oceaneer’s Lab to participate in a cookie-making class while we took the younger kids to the now more crowded pool and hot tubs. Tonight was formal night, so it was quite appropriate that Emily visited the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where she was transformed into a Princess.

Our goal for the night was to simply get one good family picture while dressed to the nines. We sort of succeeded at that and had a great meal at Enchanted Garden, where our server showed off their origami skills. (Check out the video here.)

Afterward, we were entranced by the Broadway-style performance of Aladdin. After the show, we had hoped that all the kids would want to head back to the Oceaneer’s Club for Pluto’s PJ party, but Weston was just too tired. The three girls attended, and later decided we had to participate in the very last activity of the night (Family Karaoke) on the Navigator. We finally found our way back to the cabin just before midnight; a long day indeed.

The multiple late nights caught up with us and we slept in the next day, waking up after we had already docked in Cozumel, Mexico. We were anxiously anticipating our day at the Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park, so we quickly grabbed some breakfast, our belongings, some towels and a taxi to our destination.

We had time to take in the Sea Lion show (see them in this YouTube video) before making sure Brooke and Caitlyn were in place for their Sea Lion Experience–they got to get in the water, instruct the sea lion and touch and interact with him. After the experience, we spent a good deal of time at both the beach and the pools at Chankanaab. Brooke was able to bring along food for the kids’ lunch, while she and I enjoyed some local fare. After exploring the grounds a bit more, it was time to make our way back to the ship for Pirate Night.

Before dinner, we got to experience the AquaDuck with Emily and Caitlyn, and then all of us met up for dinner at the Royal Court. The full day in the sun, sand and water made for an early night as none of us managed to stay awake for the fireworks that night (though Brooke and I did take turns sneaking up to the buffet).

We awoke with great anticipation for our next day, which included a special character breakfast and a day at the Turtle Farm on Grand Cayman. After eating our waffles and donuts with Disney Junior characters, we were informed by the captain that unfortunately we would not be able to make port that day. The sea was too rough to use the tender boats required to bring us ashore.

We spent only a little time disappointed and set out to make it a great day regardless. We picked up the updated Daily Navigator to check for some fun activities and each picked out our favorites. Emily’s choice was Family Karaoke, which was first on the docket. Second, after dropping the Lila and Weston off at the Oceaneer’s Club, we fulfilled Caitlyn’s choice and visited Edge (the teen hangout) during its open house. The kids (and us) were amazed by the area, including a private pool and hot tub just for the teens.

After lunch, we attended Lila and Weston’s choice of the day: The Mickey 200. This was a cool racing event for kids where we made a race car out of a potato, carrots and 4 wheels. While we didn’t end up taking home the top prize, we had a great time carving out our car. Dinner time was quickly approaching, and it was the meal we were looking forward to the most on the cruise: Animator’s Palate.

We arrived 10 minutes early, drew out our best characters and enjoyed the show later in dinner. (Check out their dazzling YouTube video–but beware spoilers if you’ve never been to Animator’s Palate before!)  After dinner, we tried our luck at Bingo to no avail and then watched the second Broadway-style show of the cruise called Wishes. Five of us left still awake (Lila had crashed during the show) and decided to attend the Saludos Amigos Fiesta with Donald Duck… We just took Lila along with us.

After the show, it was another round of Family Karaoke, and by the time we wrapped up with singing and made it back to the cabin, Lila woke back up and ordered some room service. We finally all made it to bed after midnight!

The 5th day of the cruise was a scheduled stop at Falmouth, Jamaica. We hadn’t made any specific arrangements for an excursion as our advanced planning centered around providing some charity to those on the island. Ahead of the cruise, I had contacted a local children’s center called SOS Children’s Village asking if we could bring along some items to donate. They were more than happy to accept them, so we finally found a taxi driver who knew how to find the compound in Barret Town. While winding our way up a mountain on a dirt road, the taxi driver relayed to us a scary story of how just weeks prior the local police had killed six gang members who had terrorized this neighborhood. Our anxiety raised significantly for our safety, but we made it to the children’s home and handed off two full suitcases of clothes, toys and books for the kids who all came from unfortunate situations.

After making our way back down the mountain, we took the advice of our taxi driver and visited the Tropical Beach Club near the Montego Airport. We arrived around 10 AM and were the only ones enjoying the club for about an hour. It was fantastic. We hung around after the crowds started to file in and left shortly after lunchtime to make our way back to the ship. By arriving earlier than the rest of the passengers normally would, we took advantage of the smaller crowds at the pools, hot tubs and slides.

After dinner at the Enchanted Garden, we took in the family hypnotist show by Dale K. The kids thought it was hilarious and agreed to go to the Oceaneer’s Club together so that Brooke and I could take in the adult version of the show later in the night. We got buzzed to pick them up with about 10 minutes left in the show, so we were the first to pick up the kids and made a beeline back to the cabin to cure our combined exhaustion.

The next day was a completely new experience to us as Disney Cruise veterans as we got to experience the Star Wars Day at Sea. After breakfast, the older girls visited Edge (the ship’s tween club) during open house with Brooke, while Lila, Weston and I spent time playing the Midship Detective Agency. The Star Wars Day at Sea included a few special ticketed Star Wars themed events; and our first one was in the morning; The Trails of the Temple. The kids got to don robes and each received their own lightsaber. They were then put through training of how to use the lightsaber to fight the Dark Side. Then, Darth Vader appeared and each kid got to battle him individually. It was such a cool experience (and you can watch the video on YouTube).

After this, we sent the kids to the Oceaneer’s Club together so we could experience the Rainforest Room. We had purchased day passes ahead of our cruise and were excited to use them. The Rainforest Room was well worth every single penny. It included access to 3 different types of saunas and multiple shower experiences, along with heated lounge chairs and quiet hot tubs. We could have spent much longer here than we did, but the kids could only make it so long in the club.

We were able to take in some really cool character experiences in the afternoon with the kids before getting ready for dinner that night. Everything was Star Wars themed, including the menus and wait staff. It was by far the best menu of the cruise, and we all ordered multiple meals and desserts (yes, you can do that). Since our kids did not want to watch the main entertainment of the night (a showing of Rogue One), Brooke and I took turns taking the kids around the ship while the other one went back to enjoy more time at the Rainforest Room. We all gathered back at the cabin and prepared for our next and most favorite day of the Disney Cruise: Castaway Cay.

On our previous Disney Cruise, we were disappointed to learn that we couldn’t make port at Castaway Cay, so we were nervous (to say the least) after missing port at Grand Cayman already on this itinerary. We had placed a room service order for breakfast to save time in the morning (and to act as a secondary wake up call) and after eating, I separated from the group to join others for the Castaway Cay 5K. While waiting with the other runners, I was starting to get nervous that they had yet to make the announcement of all clear to disembark the ship. Would we make port?

Finally, word came, and I exited with the group to make my way to the race. After finishing the run, I found the rest of the family on the beach and we enjoyed our time in this paradise. We then took the kids to Scuttle’s Cove (the kids area on Castaway Cay) and made our way to Serenity Bay (the adults-only beach). It was our first ever first to Serenity Bay and we wondered why we hadn’t prioritized it previously. It was an amazing oasis of beach, water and sand. We spent as much time as we could before picking the kids back up for lunch at Cookie’s BBQ.

After lunch, it was back down to the beach for more fun in the sand and water. Weston couldn’t keep up and eventually fell asleep on one of the lounge chairs, while the girls continued playing in the sand and on the hammocks.

Eventually, our time was up and we made our way back to the ship. We got on a little earlier than the main group to be able to experience the AquaDuck and water play areas again without large crowds and before dinner. Dinner was back at the Royal Court, and we ended our night back at Family Karaoke and then with late night snacks. With everything closing down and no activities left to attend, we headed back to our cabin for our last sleep of the trip.

Sad that their trip had to end? Let Charlie and the CLEW family know in the comments below!!