Monday, September 16, 2013

Disney Cruise : Part III: The Food

The food on the cruise was absolutely fantastic! To help you better understand...all of us gained a few pounds, with one of us gaining 10-12 pounds! You just can’t get around it when you are constantly surrounded by food.

The Cabanas was the central buffet location. It was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All-you-can-eat at all times! Their selection was pretty much anything you could ever think of. The counters of food seemed like they went on forever! There were international cuisine options, and each day there was something new added to the menu. I can’t even begin to start listing off the options. It was seriously a challenge trying to decide each time what to put on your plate. You didn’t want to over-do-it too soon on your first plate, because you always wanted room to go back to get new things on your next plate. I would take tiny little scoops of things on my plate, but still get so full so fast! Man, what a hard life, eh? We went to the Cabanas for a few breakfasts and for lunch. We never ate there for dinner because we enjoyed going to the special dining halls too much (more on that in a minute).

First meal on the Disney Fantasy - lunch at The Cabanas

Lunch at The Cabanas on day two

The Cabanas closed at 8:30 PM each night...but do not fear! If you were possibly hungry after that time, there were still two more eating options: La Piazza and Luigi’s Pizza. From there you could get pizza, sandwiches, cookies, chips, burgers, and fries. There may have been more options, but those were the things I was interested in. Those places were open until midnight. I think I only really got to take advantage of these late night dining options two or three times because I just was still so full from dinner. Each night I would be like, “I’m too full right now, but I’m definitely going to get some tomorrow night.” But then the next night I would be just as full again. So the nights I did get some late night grub, I wasn’t eating because I was hungry, I was eating just because it looked so good and I wanted it so bad! Even if it hurt and I was uncomfortable for the rest of the night! Gotta live it up, right?

And if at any time during the day, you might not be quite filled to capacity...if there was a little bit of space left in your belly...and you wanted a snack, you could always visit the all-day ice cream machines! They had chocolate, vanilla, banana, and strawberry. You could have it in a cone or in a big cup. You could get as much as you wanted, whenever you wanted. And you could practically eat it anywhere on the ship. That is one (of numerous) awesome things about a cruise. You can walk around anywhere, wearing anything you want...pajamas or swimsuits...make-up or no make-up, hair done or undone, and carry messy food with you, eating while you go. And when you are done, you can leave your plate or cup anywhere and someone will clean it up for you! What a life!

The buffet options are, of course, great...but, the evenings were especially fun because you got to be waited on at dinner and feel a little bit more fancy. The Disney Fantasy has three main dining areas: The Enchanted Garden, The Royal Court, and Animator’s Palate. Each dining area had its own special magic and provided different reasons why we loved them. We enjoyed ourselves at dinner so much that the typical amount of time spent at dinner was 1-2 hours! We were usually one of the last tables to leave each night!

Our first night aboard the ship, we were assigned to The Enchanted Garden. We couldn’t wait for this fine dining experience because, again, this is an unusual experience for an Arbon vacation. We were thrilled to be given the early dining schedule. The ship has two dining time rotations, one at 5:30 and one at 8:30, I believe. If you have the earlier dinner, you have a later show...if you have the later dinner, you have an earlier show. You get the idea. So we felt that it worked out just perfectly in our favor. The only hard part was, after eating so much earlier in the day at breakfast, lunch, and ice cream...we weren’t really as hungry as we wanted to be when dinner came around. It’s like you walk around being constantly full! They encourage you to order whatever you want, even just to try it, and to order as much as you want... and I would have liked to order a lot more than I did, but my stomach literally didn’t have any more space!

The Enchanted Garden is a beautiful room that focuses on blooming flowers. The decor in the room follows the theme as pillars vine their way to the ceiling of a changing sky scene. The sky changes from day to sunset to night with twinkling stars. The light fixtures start as closed buds and then open as the dinner progresses. It is beautiful! I especially loved the hallway leading up to the room. You are surrounded by green and lighting of blues and purples. There is an iron-looking gate that you pass through. You really feel like you are entering a secret garden. There is even a secret/hidden hallway leading from one of the stateroom halls. We had a lot of fun in The Enchanted Garden...and how could we not with the excitement of our first dinner on our first family cruise right in front of us.

Our second night at The Enchanted Garden

Our dinner servers were awesome! We had Natasha (from England) and Cristian (from Ukraine). They followed us each night to the different dining areas, so we really got to know them. It was fun because in each of the rooms, they had a different uniform that added to the theme. Natasha was really laid back and liked to chat with us. A very cute, tall, blonde girl. She was basically over our drinks. The nice thing about the Disney cruise is soft drinks are included, so my family took full advantage. We are a family that didn’t have much soda growing up. Jason got me going on a Coke kick, so I basically ordered that every night, with the occasional lemonade or ginger ale. Funny that I would order Coke because I have always hated it and it has never even been a temptation to me to drink, but boy did I crave it on the ship! I’m not sure if Bryan was ordering Coke or Root Beer...something dark...but I tell ya, he was getting 7-8 refills every dinner!!! He sure was living it up! Cristian was a little more soft spoken and a lot more to the point. He wanted to see that everything was done properly. The only time he would talk more was when he was describing a particular dish. He seemed to enjoy that quite a bit. One of the nights, Natasha started telling us about how she likes to stay up late and party. She said she loves to get drunk and wished she was “drunk right now!” It was hilarious. And then she realized that we don’t drink and she thought it was a “pity”. The next night, Jason tripped over the strap on our video camera bag as he was getting up from the table, and she quickly responded, “see, I knew you got drunk!” It was a hoot!

Cristian and Natasha

The Enchanted Garden is also open in the mornings for breakfast. We ate there, I think, twice for breakfast. You just have to be sure to get up early enough to make it before they close. They have a buffet line you can go through (just like the Cabanas), but they wait on you with drinks, pastries, and anything special from an additional menu.

Sunday morning breakfast at The Enchanted Garden

The next night we went to The Royal Court. The Royal Court is the most fancy of the three dining rooms. This also worked in our favor because the second night was formal night. So it was fitting and exciting to be dressed up and going to the most fancy of the restaurants (more on that night in a later post). The Royal Court feels like you are entering the dining room of a castle. I think it is supposed to be Cinderella’s Castle. You feel like you are a prince or princess and are deserving of this sort of treatment. We ate at The Royal Court three of the nights (while eating only twice at each of the other two restaurants). We also ate there once for breakfast. They have an awesome menu with so many different options….so many delicious options that Bryan could not pick just one. He ended up ordering three big breakfast meals! The waiter, who is used to guests ordering a lot of food, even questioned if he was sure he wanted to order all that. Bryan was given a hard time by the family, and Jason even made a bet of $5 that he wouldn’t be able to finish all that. Well with pride and money on the table, Bryan miserably finished all three plates. He said the hardest part was finishing all of the each plate he ordered had a side of bacon that came with it. Needless to say, Bryan did not order any more bacon for the rest of the cruise.

Our first night at The Royal Court

Breakfast at The Royal Court

Bryan working on his three plates...too bad we didn't get a before shot

Animator’s Palate is probably the most fun of the dining areas. You feel like you are entering the Imagineers part of Disneyland or something like that. You enter to find sketches and images of Disney art everywhere as well as countless television screens on the walls. Sometimes the screens are showing movie clips, sometimes sketches, and sometimes even Crush (the turtle from Finding Nemo). The first night we ate at Animator’s Palate, Crush came out and would swim from one screen to another, taking the time to visit with different guests at different tables. That’s right, Crush was actually interacting with the guests...just like he does at Disneyland. Just how he was able to hear the guests over the chatting and noises of the restaurant, I will never know. But it was a fun, personal experience. There is definitely a constant energy and excitement in that restaurant. The final night of the cruise, we got a special treat at Animator’s Palate. When we arrived, before ordering, we were given a sheet of paper with blanks in an outline of a body. We were each given a marker and our task was to create/draw any character, creature, cartoon we wanted. By the end of the dinner, we were surprised with an awesome parade of all of our characters on the big screens. They weren’t just scanned in still shots of our characters either...they were moving, marching, jumping, and dancing characters! It was a whole presentation with fun music and special appearances of Disney characters. It was really awesome! See, this is some of that Disney magic I am talking about. Disney didn’t have to go through all of that work to make the dinner fun, but they did it anyway! They think of everything and they go above and beyond!

Our first night at Animator's Palate

Last night of cruise

Last breakfast before leaving the ship...we were assigned to Animator's Palate...not happy to be leaving

A look at Animator's Palate, Crush, and Character Parade

Oh, and don’t forget about 24-hour free room service! Again, I had all these plans of ordering cookies and chocolate shakes from our bedroom, but I was too dang full (and tired) every night to even want to! Wish I would have stretched my stomach a little more before the cruise. Jokes!

But Camry and Mom ordered room service...cookies!

So, Jason and I have been on a cruise was on a Carnival ship. To be honest, we LOVED the food on Carnival. We thought it was great, and we have even heard from our friends that they think Carnival has the best food when compared to Royal Caribbean or Princess. But we thought the food on Disney was even better! It really was so good! Every dish was laid out so artistically (as would be expected), but also tasted awesome! Almost every dish we found ourselves wanting to take pictures of. So here are just a few of the many delicious dishes we had on the cruise:

Sadly, I can't remember what most of these dishes were!

Man, my mouth is watering again looking at these pictures! Take me back there!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Disney Cruise : Part II - The Enchantment of the Disney Fantasy

Entering the Disney Fantasy ship was like a dream. It was so beautiful! Disney really knows how to do it! They definitely do quality work! My family is a family of little words, so we were basically speechless as my parents gave us the tour...but we were all smiles and filled with awe.

(picture stolen online)

The interior is magnificent! Gorgeous colors and really feel like you are in a five star hotel. All of the cruise workers are so nice and genuinely happy to be there. As you walk into the ship, they announce your name as if you are entering a ball, and then you get to walk through a line of greeters on both sides. Then it is straight to the grand staircase for a perfect photo opp. Such a fun entrance!

We left the grandeur of the lobby area and headed straight for Deck 11...where all the action is. That is where the (basically) non-stop buffet is, called The Cabanas. That is also where the outdoor pools are and the jumbo-screen, splash pads, water slide, and hot tubs . When we arrived, there were already lots of people out in their swimsuits taking a dip and laying out. You could taste the excitement and anticipation as music was thumping through the speakers. You just wanted to dance your way around the deck. After taking a quick look around, we headed straight to the lunch buffet (but more on the awesome food in a later post).

(another stolen picture)

The ship had so much to offer as far as activities. Above the outdoor pool, there was a huge tube slide that circled around the ship. It is called the AquaDuck. It dips and rises for your riding pleasure. At one point, it even turns out beyond the end of the ship, so you feel like you are going to slide right out into the ocean! It was a blast! We probably rode it five or six times throughout the cruise, but always when the line was short. If you went when it was long, you could be waiting for 30-40 minutes. It was quite the popular attraction, as you can imagine.

Me and Jason riding the AquaDuck

A GoPro view of the AquaDuck

Dad riding the AquaDuck waving like a maniac

Our cruise itinerary included four port stops, so that meant only two full “sea days” on our seven day cruise. With only two sea days, it felt like we would never be able to do all of the things we wanted to do. But we took it one day at a time, and filled it with as many fun things as we could. Our first afternoon, after setting sail, we played some shuffleboard. That was fun, except we were playing it totally wrong. By the end of the cruise, we finally learned the rules and played it properly.

The first sea day was Sunday, so we tried to keep our activities somewhat mellow. We got up bright and early and went on the ship’s Art Tour. It was fun getting all sorts of insider information about the ship, its decor, and why things were the way they were. Everything you saw had a purpose, nothing was by chance or just randomly thrown together. There is so much symbolism and meaning behind every design, color, shape, and placement. It is amazing! They truly think of everything. Every detail is done with such quality! For example, at each set of stairs on every single floor, there are several art pieces that are from different Disney movies. Some are original sketches, some are paintings, and some are prints from the movie. But they work as transitional pieces from one floor to the next. As you head upstairs towards Deck 5, which is the floor designated for children, you see artwork depicting if the children are leaving their parents and any grown-up rules to go to Neverland where kids are king! They even made the ceiling lower on that level, so the children felt taller. How genius!! Another awesome thing was they colored the carpet differently depending on if you were at the aft or forward of the ship. They also used different creatures on the stateroom doors based on if you were on the port or the starboard side of the ship. The little clues were great in helping you figure out where you were on the ship. The art tour was definitely a fun way to kick off the cruise. We felt like we knew more about the ship than the average Joe.

Our great tour guide in one of the elite dining areas (you have to pay like $70 a plate to eat here)

Behind me is one of the many stunning mosaics on the ship

Another beautiful mosaic

After the tour, we enjoyed time relaxing, reading, and lounging in the sun. It was dang hot, though! Every time we laid out, I had to dip myself in the water every ten minutes or so. You would walk along the line of bodies laying in their beach chairs and you would just see shiny, sweating bodies. Their faces looking just miserable from the heat. I didn’t get too much reading done because the heat wouldn’t allow me to get comfortable enough to concentrate on the story. Only in the shade could I do some reading. But the crew was great, bringing around free face towels that were drenched in ice cold water. Since my sister was going to be leaving on her mission in about a month and a half, my parents asked each of us to prepare devotionals that we could share each day of the cruise. So part of Sunday was spent doing a family devotional. To be honest, I think we did devotionals three of the days...and that was it. It was hard to want to take a break from the excitement of the ship to go back to the rooms for devotional. But we were having quality family time, so that is just as good, right?

Due to the change of dates, from Christmas to summer, we couldn’t get rooms that were right next to each other. We had three rooms, and all of them were on different levels and different sides of the ship. The roomies were: Jason and I; Mom, Dad, and Camry; and then Tyson, Bryan, and Kimberly. All the rooms had large circular windows that looked out to the ocean, except for my parent’s room...that one had a walk-out balcony. The best part is, somehow Jason and I got put into a handicapped room!! That must have been all they had left...because we certainly didn’t request it. But now that we have stayed in one, we definitely will request one in the future! Cruise ship rooms are tiny! Skinny walkways and tiny bathrooms. That’s what we were expecting when we walked up to our room, but that is not what we found. The door was huge and wide (wide enough for a wheelchair to easily ride through). Once you unlocked it with your keycard, the door would open and close automatically for you. The room was so spacious! No skinny halls or meager floor room. The best part was the big bathroom! Tons of space and a nice size shower with a bench you could raise and lower. So great! That was an awesome surprise! My parents probably would have snagged that room from us if it hadn’t been for the balcony at their room. In hindsight, they probably would have taken our extra space over their balcony. It was also unique because our room was smack-dab in the front of the ship, overlooking the outdoor part of the teen area (which was great for spying). It was fun to get back to our rooms to change for dinner and have the next day's schedule of events laying out for us so to look over. That way we could discuss what we wanted to do at dinner and plan accordingly. And of course, each night our rooms were cleaned to perfection, and our beds were drawn and had fun towel creatures and chocolates on top. The man in charge of cleaning our room was so nice! He always looked like he was having the time of his life, even though he probably never saw the light of day! He knew us by name from the first day and always asked how we were doing, or if we slept okay. He wanted to make sure we were having a great vacation. It was really impressive!


The fun window seat in Tyson, Bryan, and Kim's room

The private balcony

Some of the fun towel creatures:

Loved that they incorporated my sunglasses!

Man, so much to tell about the ship! Ok, so going back to Deck 5...the kid’s level. I’m seriously jealous of the children areas on the ship. How I wish I could have been there as a child! I bet you a lot of those children were on that level from sun-up to sun-down. There are a few different rooms/venues that are children the adults can’t even go in there except for a few, short designated times that are open for their open-house. In those venues, there is everything you can possibly imagine. Toys, dress-ups, computers, TVs, games, live entertainment, dancing...who even knows what! All I know is when I went through the open-house, I wanted more time to explore there. They give the children wrist bands that tracks them and their location, so their parents can always know where they are. Another way to communicate with the kids is through the cruise cell phones. Each stateroom is given two cell phones that work on the entire ship. You can call or text. It is great! At any time, you can communicate with your family and locate each other. That way, the parents can send their children to play and not worry about where they are or how they are going to meet up. So smart! Of course, that is not just great for was great to have those as adults! We could go off in our various directions and meet up later.

Our quick tour of the Oceaners Lab

Another awesome part of Deck 5 was their Pretty Princess Parlor. I can’t quite remember the exact title of it, but you get the idea. Basically, little girls (or boys for that matter) can go in there, dress in a beautiful princess gown, and get whatever treatment they would like. Whether it is a manicure, pedicure, or an up-do with glitter, you can get pampered just as a princess should. They sit in these adorable salon chairs and are being waited on by two….maids by the looks of them. They really get the royal treatment. The girls would get all dolled up just in time to meet the real princesses at the grand staircase. I believe the princesses made their appearances three or four times throughout the cruise. And let me tell you, it was a grand and popular affair. As observers, it was one of our favorite activities: people watching as they met the princesses. My dad was shamelessly teased that this was his favorite part of the entire cruise. It was so precious and priceless to see these little girls “ooh and aah” at the princesses...and these princesses were legit! They had the poses and postures down to a tee. And it wasn’t just a quick hello and take a picture. Each princess would give each child their undivided attention for several minutes. It looked as if they were telling their life story and making each one feel loved. It was adorable...and quite amazing. With each child getting such personal attention, you can imagine the line that was assembled. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people waited at least an hour to finally get to the front of the princess line! (That is why they needed so many appearances throughout the cruise). Once at the front, you got to go from one princess to the next: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Princess Tiana, Ariel, Belle, and Snow White. They were all awesome, but I would have to say that Belle was my favorite. She was gorgeous and looked just like her! Funny story, one day we actually saw a boy taking turns with the princesses, and he was just as excited as the little girls. He had glitter in his spiked hair, wore a shield and a sword, and had the biggest grin on his face! Hilarious and so cute! Of course, there were endless Disney character appearances throughout the cruise, but the princesses were by far the popular favorite!

One of the princess appearances...I love the little girl in front of Sleeping Beauty..caught mid-jump!

Dad's princesses!

People/Princess watching...

The brave knight and princesses

He may be happier than some of the girls

Another smart thing that the ship offered was physical and digital copies of all of the pictures taken by their professional staff throughout the cruise. Using your key cards and their face-recognition systems, they are able to assign each room a separate “photo album” that you can visit if you want to see physical prints of your pictures and then purchase at that point if you would like. Or you could go down the hall to the Shutters room, and use your key card to access digital copies of your pictures. So just another fun way to view your photos and select the ones you want to take home with you. They make bank on those pictures, I’m telling you! Well, I guess I’m not totally sure on that once you take into account all of the wasted pictures that they print that you don’t end up buying. They take tons and TONS of pictures! But they charge a butt-load for they make up for it somehow.

A really clever activity that they have on the ship is the Detective Agency game. It is an on-going game that you can play at any time, child or adult, solo or in a group, advanced or beginner, that takes you on a journey throughout the entire ship looking for clues in the “enchanted paintings”. There is a ton of artwork on the ship (as I have mentioned), and about a dozen of those paintings are actually digital. You wouldn’t be able to tell by taking a quick glance at them, but once you stand up to them with your Detective Badge, you unlock their mysteries and it plays a little clip with a clue for you. It is an interactive clip, too. One time you might have to pop balloons with your badge, or use your badge like a flashlight to search through the dark. So clever!

On the final sea day, we spent our afternoon on Deck 12. We played mini-golf, foosball, ping pong, and even a few games of Speed on the basketball court. I was delusional thinking my family was very athletic and coordinated! Okay, Tyson and Jason were pretty good, but beyond that it was a little embarrassing. I’m sure everyone thought themselves to be good (especially us girls), but honestly it wasn’t very impressive. But regardless, it was a ton of fun!

Way too many missed baskets! 
At one point, a random kid joined us...but he didn't speak English, so he didn't quite understand all of the rules.

One of my favorite memories of the the ship was just taking in the magic of it all! I talked about the quality, beauty, and detail that was put into every inch of the ship, and just being able to enjoy it and take it all in was such a treat. As you walk through the halls and the different decks, you are surrounded by constant Disney and old. You know that feeling you get when you walk down the streets of Disneyland? That magical, enchanted feeling of tremendous happiness and pure joy? You feel that constantly anywhere you are on the ship, all day long, every single day of the cruise. It is so amazing and so priceless!