A month ago had you asked me if a Disney Cruise sounded like something I’d want to do as an adult (sans children), I’d have said “no, thanks.” Now I’m eating my words.
When I received a special press invitation to check out Disney’s new ship, the Fantasy, I immediately RSVP’d “Y-E-S!” (OK, well I asked my boss for permission first.) Who would turn down three days at sea with a stop in the Bahamas? But excitement aside, to be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of an actual vacation. I was there for work after all — to check out the ship and report back to Babble readers all that it has to offer. There would be nothing in it for me, I figured, as a mother of 0 (but proud aunt to 5 of the coolest, cutest kids on the planet). I was wrong. Very, very wrong. In fact, here’s why I’m telling all my friends — with and without kids — that the only cruise they should ever book is a Disney Cruise.
For starters, I may be one of the most cynical New Yorkers in my social circle. But as soon as I saw Mickey Mouse at the ship’s terminal in Port Canaveral, Florida, this happened:
That is sheer joy on my face. I was a little embarrassed about being taller than Mickey, but he was cool about it.
From the minute you enter the terminal to board the ship, the magic begins. After getting a greeting from THE Mickey Mouse, passengers got their pictures taken in a special prom-like photo setup to commemorate the beginning of their journey. It looked something like this:
That’s my colleague Andrea Zimmerman on the right with her mom.
Then you enter into an art deco inspired lobby as a team of crew members stand in line to welcome you onboard as your name is announced to the entire ship. I was a bit nervous for this part because my friends weren’t with me at the time and the people ahead of me were all in groups. “It’s ok, we don’t have to do this,” I whispered to the announcer as I handed him my ticket. “I’m alone.” He wouldn’t hear of it. “That’s OK!” he exclaimed, as if it were perfectly normal to be an adult cruising solo on a family-friendly ship. “Please welcome Dara Pettinelli!” Needless to say, I felt way less weird and way more welcome than expected.
Now I know what Rose felt like on the Titanic!
Though the actual cruise lasts for 7 nights and stops along various Eastern and Western Caribbean islands, from St. Thomas to Cozumel, Mexico (depending on which cruise you choose), for the press preview trip, we stopped at Disney’s very own private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay. Highlights include a private beach just for adults (it’s located about a mile away from all the awesome kid-oriented beaches) where there are cabanas in which you can schedule a massage and hammocks to relax on, oh and a bar. You don’t have to travel far for all the necessities: quiet, relaxation, BBQ, and Corona.
The view of the island from the ship.
I could get used to this view.
Relaxing with my friend Jennifer. (What you won’t see is what happened after this picture was taken — I made Jen get off and push me. Very grown up of us.)
Where does she think she is, the Bahamas?
Lest you think this trip was all about being lazy, I’ll have you know they also have a state of the art gym on the boat in addition to a track that goes around a section of the ship (some of the most fun I’ve had running ever; Chip ‘n’ Dale made an appearance and cheered me on!) And on the beach they offered yoga in the morning and a 5K run around the island. I’m proud to say I ran my first ever “race” and got a tee-shirt to prove it!
When we weren’t on the beach or running, we definitely enjoyed the pool areas on the ship. There are 2 large decks just for adults: the Quiet Cove Pool and the Satellite Sun Deck. Between the two decks there was a pool, a hot tub, and three bars. This is indeed the type of vacation where there’s always a fresh towel and someone bringing you a fruity drink with an umbrella in it.
Are those mouse ears? I believe so…
I recommend the Strawberry Pina Colada smoothie.
Yeah, I totally went on this water slide, which wraps around practically the entire ship; parts of it stand above the ocean. Coolest.Slide.Ever.
If you can’t take the heat from too much fun in the sun, there’s also a spa on board called Senses. Andrea and her mother enjoyed quite a few of the services, from massages to teeth whitening and facials. They even have services just for men like a pro-collagen shave. (Sorry, no photos for that one.)
At night adults can enjoy dinner and a show followed by some fun at Europa — the ship’s hangout for grownups boasting 5 European-inspired bars. A typical night for me and my friends involved a show at the Walt Disney Theater (a 1,340-seat capacity) featuring all original scripts, dinner at one of the six restaurants, and drinks at one (or two, or three … ) of the many bars.
One of my favorite restaurants was Animator’s Palate. As soon as you’re seated, you’re asked to draw a character on your placemat. And after you eat your meal, whatever you drew comes to life on one of the many screens surrounding the interior of the restaurant. It is complete magic to watch one of your own creations on the big screen! We couldn’t stop laughing at my friend Jen who drew a cat instead of the standard cartoon figure:
Jen proudly goes against the grain.
Even the waiters got a kick out of seeing her cat among all the animations!
Another favorite place to dine is Palo, a 5-star Italian restaurant practically hidden in the far end of the ship. There are two exclusive, adults-only restaurants [read: you must make a reservation] on board, Remy (French) and Palo. I live in New York City, home of world renoun restaurants so you know I’m not exaggerating when I say my dinner at Palo was one of the best meals of my life. My friend and I sat in a private booth overlooking the ocean and feasted on fresh antipasto, the biggest bread basket south of New York, salmon, perfectly al dente pasta (I heard that the chef, an Italian native trained by his grandmother, makes the pasta to order), and red wine; it was divine. And you cannot go home without tasting their signature chocolate molten lava cake. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare so you should order it at the same time you order dinner. Simply stated, I wanted to bathe in it.
I didn’t slow down enough to take a decent picture of the food. You’ll just have to try it for yourself.
Another place a I loved was The Tube — the mod-style nightclub fashioned after London in the 60s. Andrea will tell you that I’m not one to dance in public, but here? Here I was a on a first name basis with the DJ.
Dancing Queens: (from left to right) Me, Andrea, and Jen.
Another favorite was Ooh La La! A French lounge with velvet couches and a special champagne cocktail menu.
We’re very sophisticated.
When we came home at night, our room crew (yes, they have a special crew who makes sure your room is always clean and you have everything you need) left behind gifts such as this:
They said this was a monkey, but I don’t know … it’s wearing my sunglasses and it looks a bit like a ninja. Either way, it cracked us up for a long, long time.
From waking up to welcoming Disney characters, to spending the day with an accommodating staff, to coming home to towel sculptures, there were so many unexpected moments of delight on the Fantasy. I don’t know of any other place on Earth (except maybe a candy store) that can make me feel like I’m 10 years old again. This trip gave me something easily lost in the hustle of routine, something most adults forget to maintain — joie de vie.
In the original production of “Believe,” Dr. Greenaway’s daughter Sophia pleads with her worried father to put some of his faith in magic. It takes awhile for the scientist to understand what his daughter is asking him to do — facts are facts and fairytales are phony, after all — but eventually he sees the light and realizes the transformative power of positive thinking. “Think of your happiest memory,” the doctor is told, “and use that to fly.”
No willing suspension of disbelief is required to board this ship, but know that you will be put under a spell from the minute you board, no matter your age. –Dara Pettinelli
To learn more about Disney Cruises and book your next vacation, visit DisneyCruise.Disney.Go.com.