May 17, 2017 I set sail on a 3 night Disney Cruise on the Fantasy. The Fantasy had just been in dry dock and I was looking forward to all of the enhancements they had made. It was the only Disney ship I hadn’t sailed on, so I was excited.
The voyage was great, all of the things you would expect from Disney Cruise Line (more on that later), but the last night we hit a bit of a snag. Something broke on the ship.
We were sitting at the late seating for dinner on the last night when one of my tablemates said they felt a big shudder. We weren’t sure what it was, but continued to enjoy our dinner.
On the last night of the cruise, you leave your luggage outside of your stateroom before 10:30 so that the crew can take it off the ship for you. Some people hold on to their bags because they’ve got early flights to catch and want to make sure they can walk off the ship at 7am with their bags. Since we were spending another week at Walt Disney World, we weren’t in a rush and put ours out. Then we headed to O’Gills pub to meet some friends for a drink.
We were enjoying the live entertainment and some good conversation when Commodore Tom made the announcement – trouble in paradise! He let us know that there was a mechanical problem – we were going to be delayed getting in to port the next morning. He didn’t provide many details except to say that we would arrive at approximately 10am with the earliest time to disembark being 11. Anyone who had flights before 1pm needed to change them.
While I didn’t have to worry about flights, I had friends on board that did. One spent an hour on hold with Delta trying to get her flight changed. Thankfully she managed to get it done without a fee for an 8pm departure from Orlando the next day. It was a big relief for her; she didn’t have to worry if we were delayed further.
Other people weren’t so lucky. I spoke to people who spent $800 to change their flights due to the delay. Without insurance, they are out of pocket for these costs unless they had insurance. Not something they expected to have to spend after getting their onboard ship charge bills!
The next announcement came at 8am saying that no one would be off the ship until 12:30. We were chugging along; you could see how slow we were sailing just by looking at the water.
Another friend had a 2pm flight and was originally a little worried that it was cutting it close, now had to change them. She called Westjet and they had no later flights to put her on. She had to book a night at Walt Disney World and fly out the next day.
When we finally made it close to land – there were tugboats along side of the ship. It was hard to tell from the decks, but it looked like they were pushing or pulling us at different points throughout the last stages of our arrival.
I decided to wait on the ship and let the masses leave. We had a nice lunch and took our time. I felt terrible for those who were rushing to catch flights – I can only imagine how stressful it would have been, especially those with little ones.
What Disney did right:
- Made alternate flight arrangements for those who booked their airfare with Disney Cruise Line
- Handed out calling cards to those who booked their flights on their own. This allowed them to call their airlines for free from their stateroom to make alternate arrangements
- Offered an additional 50MB of data free to those who needed to get online to arrange their travel plans.
- They added additional events and activities while we were waiting to dock. This included a showing of Beauty and the Beast in the theatre and a character dance party on Deck 11. Entertainment was a great distraction.
- They served lunch. They opened up Cabanas, the ice cream station and the burger/sandwich windows on Deck 11. People who are hungry can be cranky – this helped alleviate that!
What Disney could have done better:
- The communication was sparse on what the actual problem was. There was a sense of panic from some of the guests about what ‘mechanical issues’ meant and some conversations referenced the Carnival Cruise that was stuck at sea with no power. I didn’t worry that we would end up like that because we had power, it just seemed like we were short on engine power.
- After dry dock you expect some issues. There were reported issues with Air Conditioning and toilets in the staterooms. Disney accommodated by moving people to other rooms where required, but that was an inconvenience on only a 3 night sailing.
With everything considered, I think Disney handled the situation very well. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a flight to catch that I thought it went well. After reading some of the boards and comments, I know there are plenty of people who won’t agree with me. I can’t think of what more they could have done, they made the very best of a bad situation.
For those who were boarding the Fantasy, they received emails asking them to delay their arrival to the port. Reports say they were told they would get a $25 per person stateroom credit to pay for their lunch while they waited. Their itinerary was changed and it was almost 11:30 PM before they left the dock. I can’t imagine what it felt like when they arrived full of anticipation for their cruise, only to experience delays. I’m sure Disney was going out of their way to make sure they were happy, but it’s still something that no one wants to have happen.
I think my big lesson from this is that I won’t book those early afternoon flights to go home after a cruise. Make sure you’re flying in the day before – and you’re not trying to catch a noon flight on the day you leave.
Were you on the Fantasy or boarding? What was your experience?