A Disney cruise vacation is like no other cruise, and I knew no one would appreciate one more than my daughter. Before you start picturing a little girl in a Princess Elsa dress, my daughter is 22. She is a lifelong Disney fan (genetic predisposition), but we were looking for a grown-up mother/daughter experience. When the Star Wars Day at Sea dates were released in early 2015, I knew this was the perfect cruise for her. Disney + Star Wars = perfection.
Was the bar set pretty high? Absolutely. Did the cruise disappoint? Not at all. The reviews from the first Star Wars Day at Sea sailing were mixed, as people were disappointed in limited interaction with their favorite “characters.” We were hopeful that Disney took note of the criticism and had figured out how to make their passengers happy. For the most part, they did.
The full day of all-things-Star Wars included a “Summon the Force” deck party and fireworks (set to Star Wars music, of course), family and youth activities, special food and beverages, and appearances with Star Wars characters, including scheduled appointments to meet and take a picture with one or more favorite characters. These character meet and greets were set-up with input from a preference form putting in order the three choices Dark Side, Tatooine or Bespin, and we got our first and second picks (Bespin and Dark Side, naturally). At our appointed times and locations we took our official tickets and waited our turn (short waits). We also had some great impromptu character interactions with Storm Troopers, Tusken Raiders, Jawas and Zam Wesell, to name a few. Some of the other guests had great costumes and would oblige a photo here and there, too. The day ended with a Star Wars Superfan Contest, which was hands-down the nerdiest thing I’ve ever seen in person, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.
The only complaints we really heard regarding the Star Wars Day at Sea were from parents and grandparents of children who were not chosen to be participants of Jedi Training. There were simply too many young Padawans who wanted to be Jedi Masters, and they did not open a Dark Side training for those who may have been well-suited for it.
My daughter and I thought the Star Wars Day at Sea was fun and amusing. Kids and kids at heart were dressed from morning until night in their Star Wars finery – from Little Reys and Storm Troopers to adult Princess Leia’s and Jedi Knights. My daughter chose our costume theme – droids. I dressed in honor of “old” droid, R2-D2, and she dressed in BB-8’s gear.
Throughout the sailing all seven Star Wars movies played in the theatres, as well as other Disney movies, including the newly released Zootopia. Of course Disney did not miss the opportunity to merchandise the official Star Wars Day at Sea and passengers were encouraged to purchase their must-have items before the cruise, so it could be waiting on the first day with no chance of missing out. Were we sucked into this? You bet!
After the excitement of the Star Wars Day at Sea we decided to take a spa day and get Rain Forest passes. We tried the chocolate mint scrub and steamed, soaked and warmed ourselves into bliss. My daughter had a deep tissue massage, and I took a nap. It was a relaxing sea day and prepared us for Castaway Cay, Disney's own island.
Castaway Cay was impressive. We opted for the adult beach, and the parents who escaped the family beach were giddy when they got to the quiet, adult part of the island. Serenity Bay lived up to its name, and we enjoyed lounging on the beach and exploring the crystal-clear waters. Castaway Cay is an example of how Disney Cruise Line is able to provide secluded adult areas while entertaining families.
On the Disney Fantasy we appreciated the adults’ only pools, and at night Europa on Deck 4 became an adults-only oasis. We saw great adult entertainment, including a magician, illusionist, hypnotist, and juggler. These were not kid-friendly shows – not raunchy (hello, Disney!), but they were for an 18 and over audience.
Without exception, the service was great on Disney Fantasy. We chose the late dinner service with the idea there would not be as many little kids. One night we dined at the Palo restaurant, which was definitely worth the $30 per person surcharge. Both specialty restaurants, Palo and Remy, are adults-only venues and consistently get rave reviews.
By the end of the week, we had explored the ship from top to bottom, including the kids’ areas during the open house when kid-free adults could check out what we were missing. In the kid zone we were greeted with an automatic hand-washing station and then were able to roam the Oceaneer Club.
Some of our favorite areas on the ship were the AquaDuck (yes, we went on it. Fun!); Ooh La La, the champagne bar (glass bubbles and sparkles); the Skyline bar (rotating skyline images) and, here’s a tip for the ladies, the ladies’ restrooms outside the Tube are not to be missed (fun mix of tiles and mirrors).
As for our cabin, our Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah was roomy for the two of us. We were able to put away all of our clothes and put our suitcases under the bed. We took turns trying to sleep on the sofa converted to a bed, but it was clearly designed for little sleepers, so we ended up sharing the queen size bed, which was fine. The split bathroom worked out well with two sets of mirrors and sinks.
It was a great week and fortunately no eyes were poked out with errant lightsabers. Our experience as adults seeking adult-refuge on this Star Wars Day at Sea cruise was very good. Other than lots of little ones running up and down stairs, we were able to escape to quiet areas and enjoy a big-kid Disney experience. By the end of the week we were a lot more relaxed than the parents traveling with their young children. We have great memories of our mother/daughter Star Wars Day (and week) at Sea, and we have the pictures with Darth Vader and Chewbacca to cherish.
2016 was the first year for their Star Wars Day at Sea itineraries, and Disney is doubling the number for 2017 to 15 with both eastern and western Caribbean itineraries on the Disney Fantasy. It appears they have a big hit. If you would like more information on my Disney Cruise Line experience or Star Wars Day at Sea, contact me.