We had spent Friday night at a hotel at the Airport. We awoke at 0400 Saturday morning and headed to the terminal to catch our flight. Of course, it was freezing cold and snowing.
We checked our bags in and got through TSA security in pretty good order. Amazingly, they did not get into a tizzy over the SCUBA regulator that I had in my carry-on bag.
Flying on AirTran was a great experience. They initially had assigned us to an exit row, which was a no-no with kids. I noted to the check in person that if there was an emergency and I was in the exit row, the kids would be out of the way and out of the aircraft -- fast. That didn't mollify her so we had to proceed on and check in with the employee at the gate. The flight was overbooked so it was a little nerve wracking. No worries - the AirTran gate guy was fantastic, looked at our tickets, looked at his seating computer and then said: "Since you can't be in an exit row, I'm upgrading you to business class". A sweet way to start a vacation! So we had two seats in front and two behind, seats that were comfy with a lot of legroom. The kids were a bit nervous, especially when we seemed to taxi around the entire airport to get to the deicing pad. Deicing took about 15 minutes and was interesting to experience - steaming liquid being poured all over the wings and fuselage of the aircraft.
Once deicing was sufficiently complete, we taxied around what seemed like half the airport again to get to our runway, and we could see plows clearing the runway as we approached.
However, the takeoff was very smooth and the flight was just fine,as was the landing.
We arrived in Orlando to sun and beautiful weather conditions. We retrieved our luggage from the conveyor and headed over to the Disney transport area. Yep, we had decided to celebrate our mutual year 40 birthdays by taking the kids on a Disney cruise.
We then took the Disney shuttle bus to the ship. Our luggage had been loaded into a truck and would be reunited with us at our room after check in. We pulled into Port Canaveral and saw the ship that would be our home for the next seven days:
The Disney Fantasy - 4 football fields long, 130,000 tons displacement, this is one big and impressive ship, sailing in its inaugural season.
Check in was pretty fast considering the number of guests all trying to board, as was registering the kids for the youth center activities. We had done much of our registration already online, including port excursions, and most of the check-in process was just confirming what had already been entered, getting our room pass cards, and getting the kids' special wristbands for accessing the kid center.
We boarded the ship, and while the room would not be ready until 1:30 there was plenty to look around and see while we were waiting to see our room.
Just the view of the harbor from the 4th floor promenade was beautiful. The Coast Guard cutters were dwarfed by the liners in port that day:
After wandering around and trying to get oriented we went to the kid's center, which was practically a full deck in size itself. The Center comprised of the Oceaneer's Club and Oceaneer's Lab, as well other variously themed activity rooms, was in open-house mode so that parents and kids could see the facilities. When not in open house mode it was pretty well secured and you couldn't get your kid without your pass card and a password.
The level of cleanliness of the ship was amazing. Not only was everything clean and ship-shape but they really focussed on encouraging hand washing for all: before entering every restaurant, the crew would hand each passenger a wet hand-wipe, and the kids center had cool special Meritech handwashing machines that kids would put their hands in to wash before entering and leaving the play areas. Considering its flu season and the kids are the typical vector for every cold and flu around, this made a lot of sense. After washing our hands, we then stopped in at the Enchanted Garden restaurant on the third floor for a delicious buffet lunch, and then the room was ready.
We were on the 10th floor, in a stateroom with a veranda which proved to be a very inspired choice. The kids would get tired and we could tuck them in bed and then go out on the veranda to talk while they slept without bothering them. This happened a lot, and the veranda was a great place to relax and talk at night or to be when the ship hove into a port or just sailed the open sea.
After we got in our room we prepared for the obligatory muster station emergency drill. We also as instructed tried on the life jackets on ourselves and the kids prior to the drill and they were not amused to be wearing them.
The ship then got underway and the entertainment then started right off with the Sailing Away party that started at 4:30, with fun music and dance, character appearances and introductions from the cruise crew and staff.
The Funnel Vision, the giant screen TV you see in that picture wasn't just for ship announcements and party graphics. It regularly broadcast Disney cartoons and movies that you could watch while on deck or in the pool.
In addition to the funnel vision, there was interactive art all over the place - many of the pictures on the walls of the ship would move or change when you came into a certain distance from the "painting"
After the party we went back to the room and sure enough, most of our luggage had arrived outside the stateroom, and the remainder followed shortly. We unpacked and watched the sunset at sea.
Then we headed to the first entertainment show in the Disney Theater at 6:15 - The Welcome Show. It started with an intro from the cruise director Brent, who really set the tone with a fun patter and enthusiastic opening to the show and the cruise itself. Then Michael Holly put on a fantastic comedy and juggling act that had everyone, kids and adults alike, in awe and doubled-up in laughter. Here's a clip of his opening act:
Next came a troupe of Disney characters and performers, and the fun had truly begun with a great opening show. Abby and Leah loved the show and were awestruck by the ship and what it had to offer for their vacation.
After the show, we headed to an 8:15 dinner. We had the second seating which was good as the kids would be awake and alert for the show, but rough as they would be tired for dinner. Sure enough, by this time the kids were wiped after being up since 4:00 - Leah fell asleep before desert. We met our waitstaff, Amanda our waiter who was from Mexico, and Marijan the assistant waiter and he was from Croatia. Both of them are great people, and great with the kids, and they would be our waiters throughout the cruise at each of the three dinner restaurants. Great service always and restaurants offered fine dining and food that rivaled or surpassed the best restaurants on land.
We took the kids to the room and they were excited to see that they had a bunk-bed, with the top bunk having magically appeared and the couch having turned into a bed while they were at dinner.
After they changed into their PJs, they both immediately collapsed on their beds and fell asleep once more.
After sitting out on the veranda chatting for a bit we also quickly fell asleep, exhausted and exhilarated, ending Day 1.