Getting to Orlando/Port Canaveral & Day 1 – Embarkation: Seven-Night Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Disney Fantasy

Another year, another Disney cruise – that’s what I like to say! It was August 23, 2018, and time for my family of three to board our JetBlue flight to Orlando, Florida. Two days later, we would be back in heaven, boarding the Disney Fantasy, our third Disney cruise in less than three years.

We had a direct two-hour flight from Richmond, Virginia, to Orlando, where we would stay for two nights prior to our cruise out of Port Canaveral, which is a 45-minute drive east of Orlando. We were booked to stay two nights at the Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. Then, we would board the ship on August 25, 2018.

After a non-eventful flight, we landed around 5:00pm.  We always rent a car when we arrive to Orlando International Airport (MCO), which is very easy to do. The rental car garage is located at the airport, so you can walk right over after claiming your bags. Word of warning, though: if you arrive in late August, be prepared for BRUTAL Florida humidity! The air literally smacked me in the face when I walked outside of the well-conditioned airport to walk to the garage.

We always travel with a high-back booster seat for my son, so once we installed it into the car and got our luggage situated, we left the garage. It’s a 20-minute drive from the airport to the Four Seasons Orlando.

The Four Seasons is located in the Disney Springs area and is closest to Epcot (of all four Walt Disney World Parks). This was our fourth stay at the hotel, which is absolutely my favorite hotel ever! You can read about our our pre-cruise stay here.

After two fabulous nights, I woke up and was ready to scream – eeeek! It was the first day of our Disney cruise!!! This was our third Disney cruise (first time on the Fantasy), and it seemed like being a “veteran” cruiser did nothing to dampen my excitement. If anything, having been on two previous Disney cruises made me even more excited, as I knew about all the magic that would be in store for us.

Part of that magic was to see the “cruise countdown” on my Disney Cruise mobile app. Check out this beautiful image:

We were ready to Seas the Day! So, naturally, we wanted to board the ship as soon as we could, especially since we were sailing Concierge level. After having room service breakfast, we called for the bell hop to assist with our luggage and had the valet bring out our rental car. We left the hotel by 10:00am.

It took us about 45 minutes to drive from the Four Seasons Hotel Orlando to the rental car office at Port Canaveral. As soon as we started unloading our suitcases from the rental car, the monstrous August Florida heat and HUMIDITY enveloped us and turned us into popsicles of sweat. I should have brought an extra change of clothes in my hand bag, as I couldn’t believe how quickly I was drenched.

We used National Rental Car, which had a convenient shuttle bus service running continuously between their office and the port. It took only ten minutes to get dropped off and then to begin our queue through security. We couldn’t get into the air-conditioned part of the cruise terminal fast enough!

Security didn’t take too long, and soon enough we were in the main terminal, which was loaded with masses of people. It was around 12:00 noon. We literally had to push our way through to the very end of the terminal to reach the Concierge level check-in area. Thankfully, there were only two families in front of us, and within five minutes, it was our turn to get checked in.

After check-in, we hung out in the cruise terminal’s private Concierge waiting area for a few minutes and then were escorted into a place where they take embarkation family photos. I still was recovering from my sweat storm, so our photo was a winner! Just kidding. No, I looked like I had just finished running a marathon. I won’t ever be framing THAT photo on my wall…

We were escorted directly onto the ship and all the way up to the Concierge Lounge. The lounge was somewhat crowded, as that’s where they like to first direct all the Concierge guests in order to meet all the Concierge hosts and sync up regarding each family’s itinerary for the week. Our hosts for the week were Tawanda, Amanda, and Michelle.

We were starving, so I grabbed a million finger food snacks that were being offered in the lounge and scarfed down a complimentary prosecco (yes, booze is free in the Concierge lounge!).

The Concierge staterooms ended up being ready early (before the standard “rope drop” time of 1:30pm). Someone actually came into the lounge to announce it. Because of the busyness in the lounge, none of the Concierge hosts were able to go over our custom itinerary with us. However, before we left the lounge, Tawanda promised to circle back with us later in the day. He also informed us that there was a private dining option for Concierge guests wanting to have a sit-down lunch in the Royal Court restaurant. This was news to us! In our prior two Concierge sailings on Disney Cruise Line, there was no such exclusive dining on embarkation day. Apparently, they started offering this perk to Concierge guests in April 2018.

Before heading over to Royal Court, we went to our stateroom to drop off our hand bags. And, then, we were ready to gorge ourselves! Lunch did not disappoint. We were seated at Table 73:


The dining room was virtually empty (only a few other families were dining at the same time as us). Our table was right near the center, where one lucky family was able to enjoy a grand meal under an amazing chandelier and was able to sit in some very regal chairs. Keeping with the theme, our bread basket was a carriage, fit to carry Belle’s favorite baguettes:


Since this was a special Concierge-only lunch, we were treated to free booze once again (yay!). I had a delicious glass of Malbec. I believe the menu was not exclusive to this private dining experience and was the same that is offered to any guest wanting to have a sit-down lunch on embarkation day. For this embarkation day, non-Concierge guests could have a sit-down lunch at Animator’s Palate restaurant, which was the alternative option to the buffet at Cabanas and the usual poolside grill favorites at Flo’s Cafe.

My husband had the Pennette Pasta, while my son had chicken fingers and French fries. The pasta was very good. I had the Beef Empanadas as an appetizer (excellent, and the same as what I had at the old Carioca’s restaurant on the Disney Magic), the Leek and Potato Soup (bland after having eaten a spicy empanada), and the Chicken Caesar Salad (just OK).

My son had a yummy chocolate brownie sundae for dessert:


And, I began my seven days of dessert (and other culinary) indulgence with the Cookies ‘n Cream Cheesecake:


After our relaxing lunch, we headed back to the stateroom to unpack and situate ourselves a little bit. To our surprise and delight, the Concierge team left us a gift while we were out:


Then, shortly after arriving, we heard a knock at the door. It was Tawanda! He came in and apologized for the “chaos” of the Concierge lounge and let us know that he had brought down the wine as a token of good will, since he was not able to go over our itinerary previously. And, then, he sat down with us and went over said itinerary. What service! I love how Disney Cruise Line cast members go over and above what is expected of them, especially when the Concierge team does it (we certainly pay beaucoup bucks for such service).

Soon after Tawanda left, it was time for mandatory “guest assembly drill” (a.k.a., the safety or muster drill). Luckily our muster station was in the Walt Disney Theatre – indoors with air conditioning (we had to be outside on the Disney Dream). They actually were kind of strict about “paying attention” during the drill. I got reprimanded by a Cast member for looking at my smartphone – whoops!

After the drill, everyone rushed up to Decks 11 and 12 to secure prime viewing/dancing locations for the Sail Away party. This actually was the first Sail Away party I had attended in all three of my Disney cruises. None of us really cared and thought to attend during our first cruise on the Disney Dream, while only my husband and son attended during our second cruise on the Disney Magic.

I have to say it was lots of fun (despite the unbearable heat and humidity)! Disney always knows how to throw a good party. And, luckily, as soon as the ship literally started “sailing away” during the festivities, a nice breeze came across the deck to cool us off.

After the Sail Away party, it was almost time for dinner (we had the main seating at 5:45pm). But, first, I had to swing by the Concierge lounge for happy hour! One of the perks of sailing Concierge is a complimentary happy hour from 5:00pm until 10:00pm every night.

While I was in the lounge, my husband and son were busy meeting Pluto:


My son is a HUGE fan of getting photos taken with all the Disney characters and also getting their autographs!

Dinner was in the Enchanted Garden restaurant. We met our servers for the week: Igor from Croatia and Anastasia from Ukraine. Both were absolutely FANTASTIC! Igor especially catered to us throughout the duration of our cruise by entertaining my son (and us) with puzzles and magic tricks. He also had a clever sense of humor. Anastasia had a quiet grace and always was impeccable in her service.

My husband had the Cucumber Garden Roll as an appetizer (decent) and the Pearl Barley Cakes for his entrée (good but needed a little seasoning):


I had the Heirloom Tomato Soup as an appetizer, which was very good (those are some yummy croutons in the bowl):


I had the lobster ravioli as my entrée, which was good:


My son got some pasta with French fries. I just love how the waiters are now doling out ketchup a la Mickey:


For dessert, I got the Chocolate Garden Torte, which was excellent:


One thing I loved about the Enchanted Garden is the ever-changing lighting. It’s as if you are dining outdoors and the sun is setting into twilight:


I also absolutely loved this fountain with Cupid Mickey as the centerpiece:


After dinner, we rushed over to the Walt Disney Theatre to see the show for the night: Wishes. (This show only can be seen on the Disney Fantasy.) Believe it or not, even though this was our third Disney Cruise, it was the first time we saw an evening show. My son typically goes to bed by 8:00pm, but I decided that for this trip, I would see all the shows, and, of course, he wanted to join. How could I deny him such a fun experience? And, we all loved it! Highlights included “Techno Pinocchio” and a tribute to Stitch and his Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride.

We were pretty tired after the show ended, so we retired to our room to see our first towel origami of the cruise, prepared by our Stateroom Host, Vincente, who was from Mexico:


The next day was our first day at sea, and we were looking forward to some relaxation and fun on the ship!


Click here to read about day 2 of our Seven-Night Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy.

This post also may be viewed on the Disney Cruise Mom Blog in two spots: here and here.

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