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Disney Fantasy in the Spotlight
How do you turn a three- to five-day cruise ship into a seven-day ship? That’s the challenge Disney Cruise Line (DCL) faced with Disney Fantasy, which is currently sailing across the Atlantic with a crew of “cast members” trying out every system and service on the vessel in time for the Fantasy’s March 1 christening in New York City.
Now this is not a new challenge for DCL. It faced the same situation back in the late 1999s when Disney Wonder entered the fleet and Disney Magic began seven-days sailings of the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Both ships entered service by sailing three- or five-night cruises to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral. But with 4,000-passenger Disney Dream and the twin Disney Fantasy, DCL has taken things to entirely new level. The sophisticated technology aboard Dream has been augmented even more on Fantasy, as I learned when I traveled to the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany, in January.
Now I’ll admit I’m a bit late in writing this column, but a little incident involving the Costa Concordia occurred the day after I got back from Germany. After that I didn’t think it was such a hot idea to write about the Disney Fantasy so close in to that disaster, though I did write a news story for TravelPulse on the ship. Just a little more than a week before Disney Fantasy is christened in New York, however, it’s time to tell you just why this ship is so very different from its twin.
First, DCL has learned -- and learned a lot -- in the year since Disney Dream was completed. Fantasy is even more sophisticated and the Disney Imagineers who have worked on the ship have poured even more technology into the vessel, making it one of the most innovative ships afloat.
As Karl Holz, president of DCL, told me in Germany, Disney Fantasy has to have more entertainment, more activities and even more comforts onboard in order to keep guests occupied for seven-day sailings to the Eastern and Western Caribbean. Ports of call will be much more extensive with stops on the Eastern Caribbean including St. Maarten and St. Thomas, as well as Disney’s Castaway Cay, and stops on Western Caribbean sailing featuring Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Special Eastern Caribbean sailings in November and December 2012 will stop at St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
A longer cruise also means more entertainment, so Disney Fantasy also will have two new 45-minute Broadway-style stage shows in the ship’s Walt Disney Theatre, including “Wishes” and “Disney’s Aladdin a Musical Spectacular,” in addition to “Disney’s Believe.” And if you’ve never seen a show onboard a Disney ship, it’s a far cry from what passes for most cruise ship entertainment. Beyond the big productions, shows featuring comedians and other individual performers will take up the other nights.
Disney Fantasy also will offer a completely re-themed adult entertainment zone, now called Europa (on the Dream, it’s called the District). Europa will feature bars and clubs with a European theme, including La Piazza, a lounge inspired by Italian piazzas; O’Gill’s Pub, an Irish bar with a sports focus; Ooh La La, a French champagne bar; and The Tube, a nightclub with a large dance floor themed along London’s Underground. Like Disney Dream, Fantasy also features the Skyline bar, but in this case instead of world cities, it will feature “live” views of famous European cities.
On the dining front, DCL’s famed rotational dining remains in place with the Royal Court, Enchanted Garden and Animator’s Palate. But Animator’s Palate is getting a second dining performance called “Animation Magic” during which guests will be able to draw their own animated characters and see them included as part of the show with Disney characters. The new show, which has already won technical awards, joins “Undersea Adventure,” the existing dining event featuring an interactive Crush turtle character. Also featured on Disney Fantasy is Remy, the high-end French restaurant overseen by a two-star Michelin chef, and Palo, Disney’s Northern Italian restaurant, which is now on all four Disney ships.
For guests lying out in the sun for seven days, DCL has come up with new areas on Fantasy where they can play or take shelter. New on the top decks of the ship is AquaLab, a large water play area, which joins the now iconic Aqua Duck water coaster. Also new on what was formerly a sun deck far forward is Satellite Falls, an adult area featuring a small shaded pool with cooling cascading falls. There’s also more shade on all the decks for those who don’t want to spend as much time in the sun.
Also new on Fantasy is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and Pirates League, which will specialize in princess and pirate makeovers during the voyage. Finally, the Muppets will also be featured in a new interactive adventure quest for guests nine and older.
It all adds up to an entirely new and expanded Disney experience aboard Fantasy. Ever since I took the Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises on Disney Magic about 10 years ago, I’ve preferred the seven-day sailings that DCL offers to the shorter ones. The three- and five-day cruises give you a taste of what these massive Disney ships have to offer in terms of entertainment and dining, but the longer sailings give you time to truly savor and enjoy the vessel itself.
Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the christening here in New York City on March 1, so I can see how all the new areas onboard Fantasy have come together (since I only saw them under construction in Germany). The first revenue cruise will take place March 31 after a series of preview media and travel agent sailings earlier in March. If you get a chance, I urge you to go and sample everything that Disney Fantasy has to offer!
James Shillinglaw is editor in chief of TravelPulse.com.
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