A Very Merrytime Cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy fosters memories that will last a lifetime. (Jennifer Bardsley)

A Very Merrytime Cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy fosters memories that will last a lifetime. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Family-friendly Disney cruise makes fantasy become reality

The Bardsley family spent a week on the Disney Fantasy cruising around the Caribbean.

Real life for my family means homework, sports, volunteering and work. Our weeknights are so frantic that we eat from the Instant Pot and scatter. We spend weekends catching up on chores.

What’s the cure for all this stress? For us, it was spending a week on the Disney Fantasy, cruising around the Caribbean and making all of my dreams come true.

Happy family dinners — check.

Live theater — check.

Beach-cruising bike rides — check.

Art, cooking and juggling lessons — check.

Romantic French restaurant for Mom and Dad — check.

On Monday, we trekked into the Yucatan Peninsula to see the ancient ruins at Chichen Itza. On Tuesday, we snorkeled over the sunken remains of the USS Kittiwake in Grand Cayman. On Wednesday, we cheered each other on as we completed a floating obstacle course in Jamaica. On Thursday, we watched fireworks shoot off the boat into a darkened sky. On Friday, we were one of the first families on the beach at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, and one of the last groups to leave.

What makes Disney Cruise Line different than other cruises I’ve been on is that the atmosphere was 100 percent family-friendly and the childcare was superb. Our 9-year-old had so much fun in the Oceaneers Club that she would often send us away when we came to pick her up. “Mom,” she’d say. “I can’t leave now. Tinkerbell just came.” For 13-year-olds like my son, Edge was the place to be. Older teens had their own club called Vibe that had a smoothie bar.

Childcare came in handy when my husband and I spent time reading books in lounge chairs by the adults-only pool, or when we ate dinner at Remy, the restaurant inspired by the film “Ratatouillie.” Remy’s menu was crafted by the chef from a Michelin three-star restaurant in France. When we had Date Night at Remy, our daughter ate in Oceaneers and our son went to the formal dining room all by himself and ate a four-course dinner. “The seared bass was delicious,” he told me. “You would have loved it.”

Speaking of food, the room service menu on the Fantasy was somewhat lacking and the coffee was terrible, but the food on a whole was excellent, and the service was outstanding. Every night we rotated between three different restaurants, and our server and assistant server, Edil and Gabriele, came with us. They remembered our names and kept both kids entertained with jokes and origami. Gluten free and vegetarian options were clearly marked on the menu, and families with food allergies received top-notch attention. Courses were served promptly, which made things easy, but there were also Oceaneer counselors available to whisk kids away who got cranky.

For me, the best part of the entire cruise was when I was snorkeling in the turquoise blue waters of Grand Cayman and felt a calloused hand in mine. It was my son, swimming up beside me. When we surfaced he said, “Mom, this has been the best week of my life.”

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal.

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