There's little doubt that sailing on the Disney Fantasy during its inaugural year is a memorable experience for most, but I recently discovered the holidays make it even more special.
As soon as passengers enter the terminal at Port Canaveral, they will notice that the cruise line already has decorated for the season with a Christmas tree, wreaths and large ornaments.
Once they board, the decorations are beautifully themed to each area of the ship. The lobby is elegant, with its giant tree and bountiful garlands. Other trees are whimsically designed to coordinate with their location. For example, the tree outside Animator's Palate has miniature paint palates. Cast members onboard the ship are even wearing red-and-white winter scarves as they greet the guests.
In addition to the decor, Cruise Director Brent has many holiday-themed activities planned for those who are interested.
King Triton's Tree Lighting
On the first night of each cruise in December, the three-deck-tall Christmas tree in the grand lobby is the star of "King Triton's Tree Lighting" ceremony. We were fortunate to see the first such performance on the Fantasy on Dec. 1. A child is chosen from the audience to help MIckey Mouse and Minnie Mouse use the powers of the sea to bring the tree to life. Other children were selected to help throw confetti from the deck above the ceremony.
The tree lighting is a short ceremony that takes place on Deck 3 and the grand staircase. Passengers can gather in the lobby or along the railings on Decks 4 and 5 to view the festivities.
Tip: Arrive a little early for a good viewing spot and the possibility of your child being chosen to help with confetti.
It's impossible to miss the giant gingerbread house that has been constructed in the lobby on Deck 3. It smells delicious, and the sweet details are exquisite. Apparently, it's also a little too much temptation for some of the younger passengers who attempt to sneak a taste. A cast member told me that they have to make repairs about twice per week during the holiday season.
Guests ARE encouraged, however, to eat the gingerbread houses they make during a special session held in Animator's Palate. In part, that's because passengers cannot take such food items off the ship when they return to port.
To participate, guests must sign up for the traditional holiday activity held on one sea day during each cruise. Building the miniature treats was so popular on our cruise that the staff added multiple sessions as they filled up. The activity is limited to one gingerbread kit per stateroom, though the number of people working together is not restricted.
In Animator's Palate, a chef walked all the budding architects through the process of constructing the house, and his instructions were shown on the video screens throughout the restaurant. My 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter and their cousins were able to follow along with just a little help from the adults in our group.
Then, they were encouraged to decorate and sample their creations. With the exception of a few missing gumdrops, our gingerbread houses made it back to our staterooms intact and we enjoyed them for the remainder of the cruise.
Tips: Be sure to sign up as soon as possible if you're interested in participating in this activity. Also, many guests thought of creative ways to incorporate hidden Mickeys, so put on those thinking caps.
Deck the Deck Tropical Holiday Party
On a port day, passengers were invited to a Deck the Deck Tropical Holiday Party on Decks 11 and 12 -- the pool and recreation areas near Donald's family pool.
During this late-afternoon event, the characters appear on stage decked out in their holiday attire and they interact with selected children. The party kicks off with Chip and Dale hosting a limbo competition and continues with hula-hooping with Goofy and Pluto, a pass the coconut game with Lilo and Stitch, and dancing with Mickey and Minnie.
Unfortunately, our show was cut a little short by rain, so I'm not sure if there was more to come. I suspect there was.
Tip: If your child is not shy and would like to participate on stage, plan to be on Deck 11 at least 15 or 20 minutes before the party starts. Cast members will ask for young volunteers. They only can take 20 children, so once that number is reached, there is no wiggle room for more. (My son was in the Arr-cade when my daughter was chosen for the show, and he was disappointed to find out he couldn't join his sister in the party when he returned to our deck chairs.)
Although there weren't holiday activities per se on Castaway Cay, there is a nice photo opportunity on the pier for families wanting to capture a Christmas or winter image.
On another note: Participants in the Castaway 5K are again receiving medals for completing the island race. There was a period in which paper certificates were being awarded instead of medals and many guests were upset about this. The medals are a nice holiday surprise for participants, no doubt.
For a look at Disney Cruise Line's exclusive holiday merchandise, please see my previous blog, and stay tuned for more details from my Disney Fantasy voyage.
The previous post in this blog was Sailing away on the Disney Fantasy this week.
The next post in this blog is Disney Fantasy's newest port of call: Puerto Rico.