Trip Report: A Disney Fantasy Cruise with Little Ones – Part 4
BY BETH S – MAY 2012
- St. Thomas / St. John
- Last Sea Day
- Castaway Cay
- Disembarkation and Final Thoughts
- Packing Advice for Traveling with Small Children
Following Ella’s injury we scrapped all visions of another tropical beach day in St. Thomas, and instead had a leisurely morning on the ship before venturing to port. We disembarked and decided to visit the Butterfly Garden. You can purchase tickets for the Butterfly Garden either online, on the ship at the Excursions Desk, or directly from the facility. I would recommend doing the latter, because you don’t need a reservation and that will give you flexibility with scheduling.The Butterfly Garden is located just a short walk from the dock, and costs $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 3+. (You can save a little with a printable coupon that is available online.) Signs clearly direct visitors to the facility once you disembark.
The Butterfly Garden is a small, fully enclosed garden filled with brightly colored exotic butterflies from around the world. The flora is beautiful and well maintained, and there are about a dozen species of butterflies present. I was a bit disappointed to find out that none of the butterflies are indigenous to St. Thomas. That said, a well-informed docent gave a short ten-minute lecture on the butterflies present, the life cycle of butterflies, and answered questions. It was informative and fun. Ella enjoyed the garden, and also convinced us to pay the exorbitant $20 for her to hold a parrot and have her picture taken outside of the Butterfly Garden. The pictures turned out to be adorable.
St. Thomas was unusually hot that day, and with Ella’s thumb injury we returned to the boat shortly after touring the Butterfly Garden. Ella requested to go to the Club, and we dropped by the Nursery to see if they could take Mia for a few hours so Danny and I could have some adult time. The Nursery had availability, so Danny and I rode the AquaDuck together and sat in the adults-only pool area of Deck 11 for a few drinks together before picking the girls up again.
Mia decided to wake up unusually early, and Danny took her out of the room to allow Ella and me to sleep in. Actually, he did this a few mornings. They walked around the jogging track on Deck 4 for a few miles before getting coffee at Vista Café on Deck 4. During the early morning hours, the cafe is fairly uninhabited and Mia could crawl around and explore freely. Danny claims Cove Café and Vista Café have the best coffee on the ship. He was not impressed with the dining room offerings, but he’s also kind of a coffee snob. Not to worry though, he’ll eat anything. But I digress.
After we reunited for breakfast and dined at Cabanas, Danny took Ella to see the movie Chimpanzees, which was playing in theaters nationwide as well as shown on the ship at the Buena Vista Theatre. Mia and I passed our time playing in Nemo’s Reef.
After lunch, the girls were both tired and napped in our stateroom. When the girls woke up we played miniature golf on Deck 12 (located behind Goofy’s Sports). It was a small course, containing perhaps 9 holes, but was easy enough for Ella to have fun playing. We had a great time, and will take Ella miniature golfing again soon.
That afternoon Ella wasn’t feeling great, but we had dinner reservations at Remy, and dropped her off at the Club in spite of her slightly ill demeanor. Mia went to Small World Nursery. I alerted both that we would be at Remy.
Dinner at Remy ($75 per person up-charge) was an amazing experience. The food, service, and wine selections are truly world class. We were seated in the private wine room, and opted to do the five-glass wine pairing for an added $99 per person. We selected each of the prix fixe menu choices in order to try all the dishes.
Remy is a luxuriously long dining experience. I would recommend that if you have small children, you make the dinner reservation for early in the week when the children are less exhausted and can be stretched a little later into the evening. Our dinner reservation was at 6:20 pm, and lasted until after 10:00 pm.
Just before the cheese course I received a text from the Club saying Ella wanted to be picked up. I left Danny to enjoy the remainder of the meal, and found that Remy cannot allow guests to take any food to go, so I would sadly miss cheese and dessert. (The staff at Remy kindly offered to let Danny and me return the next night for the missed courses, but it just didn’t work out with our schedule.)
When I arrived at the Club, I found Ella sitting in the submarine room with a staff member. She had her head down and was clearly not feeling well. When I picked her up it was obvious she had spiked a very high fever. We had visited the Health Center to have her thumb examined and redressed at 4:00 pm, and I knew she wasn’t getting an infection, but was concerned. I later found out fever comes with inflammation.
I picked up Mia from the Nursery and ran to the stateroom. I texted Danny on the Wave Phone, and he quickly joined me. When I got to our stateroom I called the emergency medical number and reached a nurse that I knew was familiar with us. She told me she would consult the doctor and call back, which she did with basic instructions on lowering a fever. We gave Ella a dose of ibuprofen and put her in a cool bath. After about an hour the fever broke, and she slept the rest of the night peacefully.
Mia again woke up early, and Danny followed his routine to walk with her and take her to Vista Café. He also enjoyed feeding her breakfast at Cabanas when they opened after 7:00 am.
Ella slept late, but woke up feeling totally fine so we got the girls ready for a beach day at Castaway Cay, and ventured to join Mike and Mary at the private cabana they had reserved on the family beach. We borrowed a second stroller from Castaway Cay (a Baby Jogger City Elite), and walked from the ship to the cabanas.
We taped a latex glove over Ella’s thumb and she was able to play carefully in the sand and water. The waves at Castaway Cay are nonexistent, as they’ve designed and successfully executed the perfect lagoon, and Mia was able to crawl around, eat a few tablespoons of sand, and splash in the shallows. The island is incredible, and we could have stayed for a week just on Castaway Cay.
We returned to the ship around 4:00 pm. Ella fell asleep in the stroller on the way home, and both girls continued napping while we showered and started to pack for home. We left all suitcases outside our room by 9:00 pm and set our alarm for 6:00am to make the 6:45 am breakfast the next morning.
We woke and left the stateroom in time for our 6:45 am breakfast seating at Royal Palace. We ate quickly and then stood in line to disembark.
The exit process was quick and painless. We were soon on land and whisked back to Orlando International Airport on a Disney bus ($35/person for the return trip).
On the way home we had a connecting flight. I have found there are pros and cons to both the non-stop (it’s long) and the connecting (the travel time is much longer). On the way home Mia was so exhausted she slept 90% of both legs of the flight home, and the flights were relatively painless.
We are counting the days until our next Disney Cruise vacation, which won’t be for several years. The majority of cruise activities are geared toward – and most appropriate for – young, school-age children. We will likely return when our girls are 5 and 8 years old.
If you’re thinking about taking a cruise with a child under 3 and/or who is not potty trained, there are some things to consider:
- Mia, like all non-toilet trained children under the age of 3, was confined to playing only in Nemo’s Reef and Small World Nursery. There were not a lot of spaces set up for toddlers to play onboard. While Mia is content to crawl around on the floor and pull up on anything, an older, more aware toddler might be frustrated that she cannot participate in many of the activities that are approved for kids age 3 and up.
- Besides the 3-year-old age restriction at the Oceaneer’s Club and Lab, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique will not apply any products to children under the age of 3, and non-toilet-trained children are not permitted in any of the pools.
- Ideally, you may wish to wait to do a Disney Cruise until after your kids no longer require daily naps. At times we had to sit in our stateroom for 3+ hours while the girls got much needed rest. That was not where I would have chosen to spend the middle of each beautiful day on the cruise.
I strongly recommend bringing an umbrella stroller. Our MacLaren was used daily and easily collapsed to fit underneath the bed. Both girls napped in it at different times. We did not use our baby carrier as much as I expected, but it was nice to have the option.
If you plan on using Small World Nursery, you need to pack baby food and / or snacks. They often have bananas and yogurt, but they will also feed children any foods you have packed including baby food, finger foods, crackers, etc. The staff told me they prefer the squeeze packets of baby food to the jars. I also included the attachable spoon for the squeeze packets and they used that.
I packed Dr. Bronner’s Extra Mild Baby soap to use both as the girls’ shampoo and to wash baby dishes in our stateroom sink. That worked well.
If you are planning some beach time at the ports, bring a small set of sand toys.
Bring two of all essentials. We lost one of Ella’s sunhats, but had another one and didn’t have to depend on the expensive, sparse onboard selection.
Bring enough diapers and wipes. They are not easy to find and will be expensive onboard.
I packed an abundance of sanitizing wipes to disinfect surfaces. However, the ship was extremely clean, and crew members distribute hand wipes at each restaurant, and so you don’t need to pack them.
I went a bit overboard and packed an extensive medical kit for (almost) any foreseeable malady. I packed drops for swimmer’s ear, cortisone cream, pain medication, a first aid kit, Benadryl, etc. While there is a well-stocked, excellent Health Center on the ship, obviously it’s better if you can avoid going there, and not just because of the cost. One of our visits to get Ella’s thumb examined exposed us to a girl with a volatile stomach virus, a young woman with a severe upper respiratory infection, a man with a rash, etc. The Health Center is a windowless, confined space, and all those germs made me squirm. I would suggest trying to avoid it if you can.