TravelPulse On Board: Disney Fantasy Review
Photos by Jason Leppert
Disney Cruise Line
At a Glance
By the Numbers
Take a Bow (What to Like)
Pain in the Aft (What to Dislike)
I had the wonderful opportunity to first see Disney Cruise Line's Disney Fantasy while she was still under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany, so the ship does feel like my baby, but that notwithstanding, the vessel is still one of the most exquisitely designed ships sailing the high seas. Architecturally, she exudes the grace and glamour of vintage ocean liners of yore, and technologically, few other ships compare to its long list of modern amenities. On the immaculately maintained surface, the art deco aesthetic is striking from the grand atrium down to the passenger hallways, and the "pixie dust" glow emanating from below the waterline at night is a magical touch.
The ship is perfect for families who are willing to ante up a bit more cash for the ultimate onboard as the ship provides a more premium experience than the other mainstream lines. Even guests traveling without children are sure to appreciate the ship's incredible thematic attention to detail. Every element exists in service of telling a story in true Disney fashion. Like the other ships in the fleet, the Fantasy forfeits a casino in favor of an expanded kids facility which keeps the young ones well entertained in dedicated spaces. As a result, they don't overrun the ship as you might initially expect.
There are occasions when children are far more prevalent, but adults have their own exclusive areas to escape to both indoors and out on deck. When she was first launched, the Fantasy had a number of exclusives, some of which have since rolled out onto the other Disney ships, but she still remains the only ship of its class with an AquaLab water play area, and like the Disney Dream, the Fantasy sports its signature AquaDuck water coaster that thrillingly stretches out over the side of the ship and circumnavigates the upper deck.
The Disney Cruise Line was the first in the industry to introduce family-friendly staterooms, which means their ships generally feature more space and storage than competing lines' comparable accommodations. Particularly welcome to families and private adults without kids alike are split bathroom compartments with a discrete toilet and sink in one section and another sink and shower/tub combo in the other. Deluxe family staterooms are even more spacious, and forward and aft cabins on deck five feature extra long verandahs.
Even inside staterooms are special onboard the Disney Fantasy thanks to Magical Portholes that digitally display a live view from outside the ship superimposed with playful character animations. As with the rest of the ship, cabins are full of extra details like double clotheslines in the shower, complimentary-use portable Wave Phones (that have been somewhat superseded by the line's free smartphone app and excellent messaging system), hidden Mickeys and handsome nautical touches throughout.
Activities onboard are all about keeping every member of the family entertained whether they are together or enjoying time to themselves or with new friends. The interactive D Lounge is the hub for family game shows, and the Midship Detective Agency ship-wide scavenger hunts, starring The Muppets in one version, employ the video game-like use of the ship's Enchanted Art collection, which is good fun for all ages. Otherwise, Disney's Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab keep children occupied with great spaces themed to Disney and Pixar films like Andy's Room from "Toy Story" and kinetic games involving a pair of digital-screen playfloors.
Tweens and teens are far from left out as the former group gets an exclusive observation lounge of sorts complete with dance floor, video games and a green screen studio, and the latter group gets the entire bow of the ship with a nightclub, movie theater, juice bar and outdoor deck with plunge pools and a water splash zone. Europa and the Cove Cafe and Pool are reserved just for adults as is the shaded Satellite Falls puddle pool under a circular rain curtain. The lounge district features cool venues themed to different European countries, and the Skyline Lounge is a particular favorite with screens that display changing evening cityscapes.
Dining is an area where Disney positions itself above the competition as a premium line. Three uniquely-themed rotational dining rooms serve guests complimentary meals as you and your servers cycle to a different restaurant each night. Royal Court is an elegant setting inspired by princes and princesses, Enchanted Garden is made to look like the gardens of Versailles with blooming flower lamps and Animator's Palate combines fine dining with fun entertainment like the opportunity to talk with Crush from "Finding Nemo" and see your own character drawings come to life on screen.
Food selections are always ample, and courses are very flavorful and artfully plated. Even the Cabanas buffet features premium items such as crab claws and peel-and-eat shrimp. Only poolside grill items and pizzas are standard fare. The best dining, of course, is reserved at the adult-only specialty restaurants. Palo prepares Italian cuisine and Remy presents French dishes for dinner and seaday brunches. Both experiences are culinary treats, but Remy takes the cake as the most superior. The price is hefty, but gourmet diners will find the food well worth the cost.
While more and more competitors are nipping at its heels, the Disney Cruise Line still sets the benchmark for entertainment at sea. No other company can achieve the in-house synergy that Disney has at its disposal, which was made evidently clear at the first "Star Wars Day at Sea" theme cruise aboard the Fantasy. Walt Disney Theatre productions expertly employ every theatrical technique to tell heartwarming stories that cast a talented company of singers and dancers alongside Mickey and the gang. Disney is an entertainment company after all, and its prowess shows onboard.
Buena Vista Theatre first-run and classic films provide even more options for the whole family to enjoy, as do screenings around the pool at the Funnel Vision jumbotron. The main theatre even hosts Disney film premiers at sea, and now that Norwegian Cruise Line has suspended its fireworks display, Disney once again is the only cruise line to offer such an evening show that follows the humorous antics of Jack Sparrow and the "Pirates of the Caribbean." Even the live musicians are exceptional. We've been serenaded on several occasions by the sublimely talented Clara Oman and her vocal piano ballads.
Despite a few inconsistencies, Disney Cruise Line's service is great overall. From the Walt Disney Imagineers who designed the ship to the custodial team, crew members are consistently friendly. The restaurant staff is especially attentive, always mindful of any food allergies and special requests, and waiters love to delight diners with their magic tricks. And the staff is always there to greet your family by name upon boarding and offer a Mickey glove wave when you must sadly disembark.
More by Jason Leppert
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