For the better part of 14 months many of my friends, blogger mates, and others have watched and waited for me to have this cruise with batted breath. I have talked about the cruise until I was blue in the fingertips, I have spoken of every trail and tribulation, and I have addressed every pitfall, and in reality offered way more information than my friends would ever really want to know or be subjected to. I have addressed my health issues and even joked that the only way I wouldn’t go on the cruise was if I were in an urn. And when it was all said and done I still continued to share and offer additional information about the cruise until my friends and fellow bloggers were sick in their stomachs regarding this cruise. The cruise has come and gone, you will no longer be bombarded with unnecessary or undesired information about the cruise. LOL LOL ! ! This will most likely be the last time I write about the cruise, but what a wonderful cruise it was.
I just shared the experience of a lifetime. My wife and I got to watch our granddaughter, daughter and son-in-law, have the times of their lives on a 7 night 8 day Disney cruise. This was not some spur of the moment trip (as you’ll well know), no no no; it had been in planning for close to 16 months. Schedules had been checked and rechecked. Passports applied for. Money had to be saved and set-a-side. Plans were made and changed countless times, and I would go thru it all again to see the joy in their faces.
Well folks the cruise is over, I survived and now I am going to write about the pure joy I experienced. In normal Bill Hamilton fashion it will be quite wordy.
The Family gathered at the hotel in Cocoa Beach, FL on the Friday night prior to the cruise. The hotel had offered a package deal were you get a room for the night, free parking for a week, and a free shuttle back and forth to the cruise terminal. The kids and drove over earlier in the day to enjoy the beach, and beach town atmosphere. I had made arrangements for them to have access to their hotel room before Steph and I got there. So when we arrived they were clean and ready to go to dinner. Steph and I settled quickly and gathered the kids for dinner, and trust me they were all like kids filled with anticipation for the coming days. By the way, if you are travelling thru Cocoa Beach FL, and looking for a very good and relatively inexpensive meal for the family, the LOBSTER SHANTTY is the place to go. Steph and I have been going there for over 30 years and the food is always great, and not a budget buster. BTW this is where Cari tasted gator for the 1st time (she thought it was chicken)
During dinner we, as a family, spoke at length (for the umpteenth time) about the cruise. We had all noticed on our drive by the Cape Carnival Cruise terminal (earlier in the day) that there were no ships in port. We made final arrangements to meet in the lobby at 1030am for our 1100am shuttle to the Ship. The kids took off to go to Ron Jon’s and Steph and I returned to the hotel for a drink, read, relax and bed.
Oh, GOD!!! The shuttle was 15 minutes late getting to the hotel, the energy was amping up, would we miss our boarding time frame? Would we have to go to the back of the line, you could cut the tension with a knife. Finally the bus arrives, and to our dismay it’s already two-thirds full, and it’s a big bus, and there are 20 of us waiting and waiting. We are ushered onto the bus prior to seeing our baggage go into the hole. The kids stare out the window as our baggage is loaded, counting each bag, and with a great sigh of relief, knew our bags were safely onboard.
The trip from the hotel to the port was only 12 minutes and as we made the turn on SR 528 (the Beachline); we saw 3 ships now in port. The Disney Fantasy was by far the biggest, prettiest, and bestest ship in port. Our first close-up look at “The Fantasy” was seeing it from the tail, were DUMBO proudly maintains a position on the fantail of the ship. Then the driver announced that the 1st stop was the Disney Fantasy, we were all filled with JOY. Our bags were quickly unloaded, and gathered by a Disney bag handler, and we were told the next time we would see them would be in our stateroom in about 3 hours. We were told to proceed to check-in and prepare to board the ship. From the time we left the hotel, proceeded to the cruise terminal, and completed part 1 of checking in took only 40 minutes. During the next 15 minutes the entire family had checked in, we got our shipboard ID’s/credit card, and entered the grand lobby, where the “Hamilton’s” and “Poindexter’s” were officially welcome by the officers of the ship. It was very cool.
Because we were not allowed to enter our staterooms for an hour we proceeded to the Cabanas for lunch where we feasted on platters of the best shrimp I have had in a long time (other than when I prepare them). The fruit was ripe and quite fresh, the Cabanas were the buffet line restaurant onboard the Fantasy, and was by far the best buffet I had eaten on, either onboard a ship, or on land. It was open for all meals and you came as you were. It was the least formal of anyplace except the pool deck pizzeria. As we sat at the table, a plan of action was developed by Stu to see as many of the characters as possible, and to enjoy as much of the ship board activities as possible.
I have great organizational skills and practices, and it took years to develop. But Stu clearly showed that in the years to come he will surpass me in this department. Disney provided us a copy of the “Personal Navigator” upon arrival, and this document was updated daily and became Stu’s road map. He always knew when and where the photo ops were going to be, and where the characters were to get autographs. He knew what movie was playing when and where (I saw Iron Man 3 and Monsters University – both great!); he always knew the time to gather to see specific things, and where the parties were and when they started. Without Stu and his roadmap to success, I don’t think the cruise would have been quite as successful.
Disney cruises have what they call rotational dining. Each night you eat at one of three main dining rooms for the evening meal. You had the same table number no matter which dining room you ate in and you had the same servers, they followed you around all week. It was great; our rotation was Royal Court, Animator’s Palate and Enchanted Garden. Of the 3 my favorite was the Animator’s Palate, it was fun and cool. We ended being scheduled to eat there 3 evenings, on our final meal in the Animator’s Palate, each person at the table had to create a figure using a template provided, these figures where then added to a cartoon that played throughout the desert. And because you signed the creation your signature displayed over your cartoon character. This was a hoot!!!! There was a ton of laughing and giggling as we saw each other’s characters. The best thing about it was you couldn’t tell if the character was created by and adult or child. Royal Court was by far the most formal of the 3 dining rooms. And Enchanted Garden was just as the name implied. In all three the children were the focal point. In all my years I have never seen so much attention paid to individuals so young by someone so much older. The waiters and servers had the patience of saints. They listened very carefully to what each child wanted, and managed to have it prepared even if it wasn’t on the menu. If the child didn’t care for what they choose, there were no issues at all, the waiter offered a different selection and immediately had it brought to the child. God the deserts were so rich, the 1st night I was disappointed by the size of my desert, but after eating it, I was stuffed, the desert was so rich, so tasty, and looking back I realized it was right sized. The adults got the same level of service from the wait staff, and we were allowed to be as picky as some of the kids, but each night I found something that was extremely good. Some of the deserts looked and in their description seems so exotic I ordered my desert from the kids menu. But the end of the week I wasn’t the only adult to be dipping into the children’s desert menu.
This is as far as I want to take this portion of the Cruise Report. I will be sending out a continuation shortly. I will talk more about chasing Disney characters, meeting Mickey and Minnie, the stateroom steward, the shipboard going on, and other aspects that come to mind as I put it all down. I probably won’t say a lot about pool watching while I had the ship to myself, or while the ship was underway. I will say it again the Disney Cruise was unbelievable wonderful. I am so glad I did it, but it’s not a cruise I would need to do a second time.
Thank you for allowing me to bend your ear, please take care, and as always if you have questions or comments please feel free to bring them to my attention. I will answer each one. Take care, Bill.