A cruise enthusiast and Disney fanboy sets sail on and reviews his first ever Disney cruise.
I was already impressed with the Disney Fantasy upon previewing her at the shipyard and touring her further at the christening in New York, but sailing onboard was the icing on the cake to experiencing this stellar new cruise ship.
As a lifelong fan of Disney and cruising, its strange to admit that I had never been on a Disney cruise until now. Despite my family's shared enthusiasm for all things Disney, the apparent premium in price and fear of a ship overrun with children previously deterred my parents and I from booking with Disney Cruise Line, but we have now been most pleasantly proven wrong.
What Disney has accomplished with this ship is the closest thing I have ever seen to providing a cruising experience to please every demographic. While the cruise is decidedly family-centric, the ship caters to a wide spectrum of passengers from infants to adults with activities ranging from casual aquatic play on the upper decks to exquisite formal cuisine at Remy. Of course, it helps if you're a fan of Disney to begin with, but it's certainly not a requirement to enjoying your time onboard.
Do you dream of sailing onboard the Disney Fantasy? Talk about it in the Disney forums.
Disney ships have always been beautiful facsimiles of vintage ocean liners, and the Disney Fantasy is no exception. Even the inclusion of the above deck AquaDuck water coaster doesn't distract from the elegance of her lines. When other cruise ships are quick to install garish neon water slides that clash with the ship's architecture, Disney instead has designed a nearly translucent water attraction that blends in wonderfully.
The art nouveau interiors are equally striking. The atrium warmly welcomes passengers with its perfect balance of sophistication and whimsy as it sets the tone for all the other ship spaces. On land, Disney is well known for its theming of spaces – the knack of telling stories through design, and the ships get this same treatment. Venues are not just painted and outfitted with upholstery and wall treatments. Here they are dressed just as a film set would be complete with props and subtle references including Disney's infamous hidden Mickeys, the character's three circle profile placed creatively about.
One curiosity of the ship is that it is very corridor and cluster heavy. That is due to the delineation of children's spaces from adult spaces, there is less of a freeform flow from venue to venue with many hallways flanking these spaces instead. Also, the kids spaces are very much clumped together as are the adult spaces, but this really works to everyone's benefit as each demographic can easily escape to their own nooks in the ship as well as come together to experience the common areas as a family.
The staterooms are extremely well designed down to the tastefully applied Mickey heads on the fixtures and the very practical inclusion of a nightlight. The split bathroom is especially a nice touch – one sink and toilet are separate from the other sink and shower, and both spaces are accessible by their own door. Getting ready in the morning as a family has never been easier. The beds are very comfortable, and the storage space for clothes and suitcases alike is ample. And the inside staterooms feature the now infamous Magical Portholes where character animations are superimposed over live video views from outside the ship.
As you are no doubt already realizing, it's the attention to detail onboard that is unsurpassed. The ship impresses down to the smallest bits of hardware, especially in the staterooms where practical hooks and quiet soft-close drawers abound. Plenty of other ships stick to using typical beige electrical switches and outlets, but Disney has color-matched all of these trim pieces to the room in which they reside. Even all fire doors and utility surfaces, often hidden from view, have been fully decorated.
And the great selection of Disney music played throughout the ship adds further to the fantastic atmosphere. Hearing "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" onboard a cruise ship is both somewhat surreal and just plain awesome.
What's New from the Disney Dream
The Disney Fantasy improves upon her sister ship, the Disney Dream, with a number of new features, the largest collection of which can be found on the upper decks. The underutilized Waves bar on the Dream here is the interactive AquaLab water play area where kids of all ages get to 'control' the AquaDuck water coaster amidst two leaky walls, pop jets, geysers, and other aquatic mayhem. It's a real fun area, but the water does tend to spray all over the surrounding decks when the wind kicks up.
Between the main pools and the adult-only forward deck space, a calm family wading pool has been added which features a neat bubble of water that fills with fog until the bubble is broken releasing the fog. Again, this is a water feature that functions best when winds are low. Plenty of shade structures have been added here as well as throughout the adult-only forward deck which now sports Satellite Falls, a new pool to recline in below one of the bulbous ship satellites while a curtain of water surrounds you.
A very well received addition is the first onboard Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, the famous princess makeover retail experience first introduced at the Disney theme parks. Here girls from 3-12 years of age can be dressed up as their favorite Disney princess and all passengers can be dressed up like a pirate on the day preceding Pirate Night. There are even makeover packages available that are exclusive to the Disney Fantasy.
What's more, Animation Magic is a new dinner show that has been added to the Animator's Palate restaurant, and two new production shows – Aladdin and Wishes – play in the Walt Disney Theatre. But I will discuss those in part two along with the dining and entertainment experiences in general.
Fun for All
While Disney cruises offer some of the best experiences for adults and children exclusively, there are many activities that can be enjoyed by everybody and as a family. For instance, the kinetic and colorful D Lounge is brimming with family fun such as karaoke, game shows, and dancing.
Ship-wide, the onboard Enchanted Art is quite entertaining. On its own the animated art pieces are creative innovations. My favorite is the diptych representing the ship versus fort battle from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride with one panel showcasing the ship and the other showcasing the fort. The animation of cannonball volleys between the two is activated when you pass by.
These interactive art pieces also act as windows to the Midship Detective Agency puzzle games. Choose either Mickey or the Muppets – new to the Fantasy – and you get to solve a mystery throughout the ship by interacting with and controlling the art panels virtually with your very own detective card. The resulting interactions with the characters are hilarious to kids and adults. One of the Muppets – Pepe, the King Prawn – even has his own 'stateroom' onboard with a delightfully Muppet-proportioned door that comes into play during the game.
The AquaDuck water coaster is quite the onboard treat. It may not be the most thrilling water slide ever, but it sure is fun to climb to the very top of the ship inside the aft smokestack and ride a raft over the side of the ship in a translucent tube. After an exciting helix at deck 14 and two quick drops and water propelled launches uphill, the ride turns into the forward stack lit with kinetic neon lights a la Space Mountain and out again into a relaxing lazy river finish. The experience is truly a blast.
Just for Kids
I started cruising before I was two years old, and if I had the kind of kids facilities then and later tween and teen facilities like they do onboard the Disney Fantasy, I would never have wanted to leave. In fact, now as an adult I would just as easily enjoy all the kid fun. That's why I am proposing to Disney that they should offer a swap hour or even a bit longer at some point during the voyage where the adults can have access to the kids facilities and the kids can have access to the adult facilities for a spell in order so that might happen. I think the kids and adults would love it. Who's with me?
But until then the kids facilities are just for kids, and with it they get two interactive video gaming floors, Pixar themed play areas, Flubber-making crafts, and the list goes on. A few available open house times due allow the adults to walk through the child-proportioned space with lowered ceiling and try out the fun industrial hand washers that amusingly clean and spray you down like a car wash.
Tweens also get their own room in one of the ship stacks, and teens get their very own deck space nestled in the bow complete with pool, hot tubs, and pop jets. And they even get to enjoy a private dance hall, interactive games, and smoothie bar. That swap hour is sounding pretty good right about now isn't it?
But of course, adults are certainly not left out. Europa is their space, and I'll talk all about that in part two of my review along with the fantastic entertainment. Dining, service, and Castaway Cay will be the focus of part three. The Disney Fantasy is indeed quite the ship.
Do you dream of sailing onboard the Disney Fantasy? Talk about it in the Disney forums.