On Fridays (ahem, sometimes Saturdays), I highlight products that I think are sweet, in every sense of the meaning–sometimes literally, but not always!
I’ve unintentionally taken an extended break from my series of Disney Fantasy recaps, and I’m sorry for that!
My grandpa passed away a few weeks ago. Along with his death came so many tasks and to-do lists that I didn’t expect, not to mention that overall feeling of fatigue that often accompanies loss. Not-so-surprisingly, writing vacation posts hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of my mind since.
Goodbyes are always hard, but I was very blessed to have four (four!) living, loving grandparents for over 25 years, and I’m happy to know that my grandpa’s in a better place now–the best place! The smile on his face when he breathed his last told my family all we needed to know about where he is for eternity, and I’m looking forward to the day when I get to see him again in heaven. :)
(Side note: Who else is excited to see the movie Heaven Is For Real? I read the book a few years ago and it was the coolest, cutest story, but now that I know someone close to me is there, I’m even more anxious to see the movie.)
Until that incredible day, nothing here on earth can quite compare.
But if it could…a Disney cruise would probably come pretty close. :)
The fifth day of my Disney Fantasy cruise was spent docked on St. Thomas/St. John, beginning with a pretty sunrise view of the island as we floated in early that morning. We didn’t have time for a sit-down breakfast this time, because we were in a time crunch to make our excursion appointment. Instead, we hurried through the buffet breakfast at Cabanas, where we all enthusiastically filled our plates with enough smoked fish, glazed Krispy Kremes, fresh fruit, and muesli to keep any human full all day.
After the quick meal, we began the journey to our port adventure of the day, the dolphin encounter. Dolphin Discovery was actually located on nearby Tortola, so we first boarded a ferry to take us there. The trip took about an hour, whizzing us by picturesque islands, spendy-looking yachts, and even some homes owned by celebrities! (Our tour guide mentioned Madonna, although she was quick to add that the singer hasn’t been spotted there in years.)
Once we reached the island of Tortola, we went through immigration and then took buses to the Dolphin Discovery location (which we could actually see from a distance coming into the island on the ferry). We were fitted with life jackets and led through a quick orientation, and then our tour group was divided into smaller groups and each one went to a separate “pool” area to spend one-on-one time with one dolphin each.
I was lucky, though–instead of one full-grown dolphin, my group got to swim with three baby ones! Our playful little dolphin friends were named Paris, Hector, and Little Penelope, and they were so cute!
Although the whole experience was admittedly a bit commercialized, I was very impressed by how much you got for the money. The price tag seemed so high when we booked the port adventure (especially for my mom, who came along as an “observer”) but we really did receive a lot for the cost. We were promised the advertised 30 minutes of group time with a dolphin, but my group had closer to an hour with three dolphins! Plus, there was the complimentary buffet lunch, the included equipment (Iife jackets), and transportation to and from the ship and dolphin encounter location. After seeing how much was involved, I felt much more satisfied with the price and felt it was fair.
Plus, swimming with dolphins had been a lifelong goal of mine, and I was pretty excited to check it off the bucket list! :)
The only disappointment was the lack of high-quality photos. As someone with a photography background, I was excited to have my mom along to take pictures with my camera, but she was held back in an observation area that was too far off to get any great close-ups without a nice zoom lens (which I do not have). Of course, the Dolphin Discovery team had their own photography team ready to aim and fire right next to the action, but I was unimpressed with their photos or their ridiculously high prices. The cheapest print was $30 and a flash drive with photos of one participant (We had two) would’ve set us back $129. I completely understand that they need to make extra money wherever they can to stay open, but in my opinion, the photos weren’t worth it. It would have been nice if observers could have moved closer since there was an extra cost for them to come along.
That said, the actual swimming-with-dolphins experience was really fun. Not only were we in the water with the baby dolphins for an hour, but we each got up close and personal with our dolphin friends, getting to touch them, play “fetch” with them, and kiss them. The best part was the belly ride, which the company threw in as a bonus!
After everyone in our group had gotten a turn with the dolphins, we were directed to fill up our plates for the buffet lunch, which was nothing special, yet an appreciated addition of the excursion. Cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, fries, Spanish rice, macaroni and cheese, and potato salad were offered, along with bottled water and various beverages, which were also complimentary.
Once we’d all finished an unhurried lunch, we got to take an optional tour around the outdoor facility, getting to see demonstrations of the dolphins performing tricks and getting fed. After that, we boarded our bus back to the harbor, and from there we took a boat back to the ship on St. Thomas/St. John again.
Going through customs was probably the most frustrating part of the whole trip. We waited in line for over an hour and barely made it back to the Fantasy by the time the horn sounded. I think the customs process alone would prevent me from doing the dolphin excursion again, but I am glad I did it once!
After waiting in another line to get back onto the ship, we hightailed our sweaty selves straight to the soft-serve machines to cool down, watching the most beautiful sunset as we slurped our strawberry-banana swirls before the nightly entertainment began. As usual, I have no pictures to share since they’re prohibited, but this evening featured a magic and comedy show. This one wasn’t my favorite, but I had pretty high standards from the previous nights.
Dinner at Enchanted Garden that night was a Thanksgiving feast! Appropriately so, since Turkey Day was only days away.
It also happened to be the night for the “Prince and Princess Dinner.” It was, indeed, a meal fit for royalty.
I snapped a few photos of the appetizer and entrée menus. Tonight we were served a fig and date bread with mint yogurt dip. I wasn’t crazy about either one, but there was also a variety of plainer rolls and pats of butter to choose from, too.
I ordered “‘Belle’s’ Blue Cheese Polenta Cakes” as my appetizer, and they were kind of bland.
Next time I’d try something else, like the duck quesadillas my cousin chose…
Or the roasted Roma tomato with herbed goat cheese my mom sampled…
For my salad, I chose the “Coronation of Mixed Leaves.” This was the best salad I had all week! It was loaded with toppings and flavor, just how I like it. With candied walnuts, apples, a vinaigrette and a TON of blue cheese, the whole thing was completely delicious. Best salad award goes to this baby!
I’m a huge turkey connoisseur and I was very hesitant to order it on the cruise, afraid they’d serve it too dry like most people tend to unintentionally do. I took a risk and ordered it anyway. The turkey was a bit dry, as feared, but the meal as a whole was so good I didn’t mind! The turkey was served with mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, gravy, sweet cranberry relish, and the most amazing rosemary stuffing. The stuffing alone was a highlight of the cruise! Definitely recommended.
I’m told the Peppercorn-Crusted New York Strip was also a winner.
Jasmine’s Banana Bread Pudding was possibly the best dessert I had onboard. The thick brioche was loaded down with sugary caramel sauce and looked as good as it tasted. Yum!
My mom ordered the Sweet Temptations (chocolate soufflé, lemon cheesecake with cherry compote, and sugar-free tiramisu), but for me, nothing topped the bread pudding! The rocky road ice cream sundae also looked really good.
As always, the night included five-star service, and the meal was so good that it was a close second to dinner at Palo. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Disney cruising–truly!
Stop by again next week for another installment!
Disclaimer: No compensation was received for this post. All opinions are true and I chose to share them simply because I enjoyed this trip so much!