We just completed a 7-day cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy, departing April 13th, 2019, and returning April 20th. In short, we saved up for two years for what we believed would be an wonderful and memorable experience, but instead were disappointed by almost every significant aspect of the trip.
The disappointment began almost immediately. After working with the front desk to sign up for a few activities, we sat down for lunch. The dining room was nearly empty at the time, and yet we were placed immediately next to a bussing station where the noise, which included the waitstaff and bussers neglecting their basic responsibilities, was nearly unbearable. And regarding those basic responsibilities, despite the fact that the dining room was nearly empty, our waiter disappeared for 10 to 20 minutes at a time and our lunch (with our two young children) took about two hours.
Our dinner that same night was no better. We were placed in a back corner, again immediately next to a bussing station. And somehow, the service was even worse (Table 115 at the Enchanted Garden, if this helps identify our initial waiters). Our waiters made no effort to interact with us or, more importantly, our children. The busing station was again loud with servers talking and, of course, dishes clanking. And meanwhile, while we were informed that Kids Club personnel would come by our table to grab our children, we never saw them. 30 minutes after they were supposed to come by, we inquired but were told that the Club had already come by. Of course, they had come nowhere near our table. And yet, when we complained to the head waiter, Dan, his response was literally that it was “out of our control.” This response was beyond rude and simply unacceptable. When I finally complained to the front greeting station, someone finally helped us when I recommended calling the kids club. Two young ladies came down to get our children, though once again, I was not impressed by these 2 young ladies— they didn't get down and talk to the kids, they talked amongst themselves and just told the kids to keep up. After dinner we were so upset we went to the front desk and asked for a change in table.
Keep in mind that this was all on the first day.
The next day we were moved to a new table, which thankfully was better placed and staffed. Cornwall and Nery were lovely—at least they were more interactive and even gave us a few riddles to solve (as a side-note, our stateroom attendant was also quite good. We do not recall her name, but our room number was 7678. A minor bright spot for our trip). Turning back to the dining experience though, there still wasn't any Disney magic to be found. Other wait staff was doing magic tricks for their tables, or folding the kids menus into special shapes or bringing the kids extra napkins folded like flowers or hats. Ours really did nothing extra for us, and while Dan came by to check on us from night to night, it was clear he was doing so not out of a genuine wish to make our experience memorable, but rather to cover himself for the first-night debacle.
The 7 nights of entertainment was also extremely disappointing. It had two decent shows with Disney characters etc., and the ventriloquist, Taylor Mason, was great! However, there was also a guitar player whose act seemed to be nothing more than taking requests for older songs from the audience and a talented but extremely boring guitar player. There were also sticks and boards players who were entertaining, but far from headliner quality. The "broadway" night was a man who sang to the crowd for an hour. My daughter fell asleep, my husband and son left after half an hour. That was NOT magical, it was boring, we can listen to CD's at home. We thought there would be at least some dancing in the background or something. The juggler/comedian who performed was quite good, but he was not a headliner, you had him in one of the small rooms, where he couldn't even do certain juggling acts due to the low ceiling. So while there were a few good shows, some of the nights were a complete waste of time. I was told that the entertainment on a Disney Cruise was incredible. That is simply not the case.
As for the late-night adult entertainment - Chris was incredible. He made any and all activities fun. But he disappeared after night three of the cruise. The other nights they had mini shows that were mostly boring. The Broadway guy sang—again. The guitar guy sang—again (and did the same show of, “no I don't do that type of music,” and then would play some music that we wanted to play. Really no creativity whatsoever. The juggler/magician once again did a nice show. And the violinist in the champagne lounge was lovely.
We did some trivia games (they were okay at best), we did the character drawings (the teachers seemed to be reading off a paper and not very trained). We did the carrot and potato race twice, which was a decent activity. We did the magic show (the kids loved it, but then the magician performed 2 more times, the exact same show). Just like the juggler, one act on repeat. Same with sticks and boards side show, same as stage show.
I already talked about the wait staff, the food for the kids was fine, but the food for the adults was nothing special and actually blown away by the food on Norwegian cruise lines.
Another disappointment was of course Castaway Cay – the ship tried to dock 3 times and couldn't. We of course understand safety and we appreciate the effort to dock at the island. But this is a significant part of a Disney Caribbean Cruise. How is it that you don't have an alternative plan to get people on the island if currents are strong and wind are high?
But more importantly, if you don’t have a plan, where are the plans to make the extra day at sea even somewhat memorable? The plans appeared to be nothing more than a couple of trivia games, another potato race, and a sticks and boards workshop that were thrown together at the last minute. How does that possibly compare a day on a private island with white sands, snorkeling, bike riding, and water slides? Our kids were literally in tears, and yet I couldn’t even begin to lie to them and say that the activities during the day at sea somehow made up for it.
Interestingly, the Castaway Cay activities were never removed from the on-board Disney Cruise app (that the staff recommended continuously), despite attempting to refresh the app so that those activities would disappear. Therefore, while we were sitting on the ship that day, whenever we would look at the app we would still have to see the fun activities we were missing. It was a brutal blow to my kids to have to see these activities, but then be informed that those were the ones from the island, and therefore not available.
Turning to the Kids Club--you are Disney and the cruise is supposed to be an amazing experience for the children. How is it possible that this was run so poorly?
Our kids are seven and nine years old. You had a few sporty activities for the 9-year-old age group in the club rooms. But it was basically LORD OF THE FLIES in there. The counselors did not run the games well, and the games were not fun because they would turn into chaos within just a few minutes. Why would you not organize activities where the counselors lead them on different activities on the boat, such as basketball, or dodge ball? Or at least keep the games organized so the kids can have fun and not be fighting over the rules? Absolutely unacceptable.
People had to sign up for the soap race car event early. My son missed this since (like the dinner crew) it wasn't really announced (you had to look for it). My daughter did some cooking, volcano building, and slime making, and she traced a few Disney pictures. These were all fine, but these are the most memorable activities over a 7-day cruise? Meanwhile, our son played video games almost the entire time he was in there. To be clear, my son was on a Disney Cruise, and yet when he was in the Disney Kids Club he was left on his own to play video games.
I even saw one of the counselors meanly grab a kid by the arm and push him back because the child was trying to ask a question while I was talking to the counselor. Luckily another counselor came over and took the kids away but if that was my kid, I would have been furious.
Given the lack of interaction in the kids club, neither one of my children really met anyone that they now consider a friend. Not surprising when there are about a dozen iPads and 10 other video game screens.
Where are the camp counselors getting the kids together and playing name games and other interactive silly games that get kids laughing and making memories? They were usually standing together talking, or just leaning against a wall. Or standing out in front of the hallway directing people in. Not learning kids’ names, not teaching them songs, or how to draw, or playing board games with them, or running other games (there are books and books of games to play as Ice Breakers that kids that age love). After a week the counselors did not even KNOW who my kids where. I would go looking for them and they would have no advice for me, they could only look on the map at their little dot. The kids were literally just blinking GPS spots in their minds.
In short, we choose a Disney Cruise, and paid a significant premium, for the Kids Club, the Disney shows, and overall Disney Magic. The other parts of a cruise you can get on any ship. Our decision seems to have turned out horribly. Again, how could our kids spend seven days with Disney counselors and come out not knowing one name, or one story, or one funny joke that was taught to them? This is completely unacceptable. Not having any game plan for a day at sea if Castaway Cay does not work out is similarly unacceptable. And the entertainment/shows were also disappointing.
We did our best to try everything and find the Disney magic, but everything was far below what was expected. We took time off of work, flew out from California, and our kids missed school. We sacrificed a lot for this supposedly amazing experience. We could have had a better experience on a 4-day cruise out of Long Beach and still had 5 more days (and thousands of extra dollars) to do something else spectacular.