The whole world was biting at the bit to experience Disney’s newest cruise ship the “Dream” when it launched on its inaugural cruise on January 19 of last year. This first of Disney’s two new ships was everything and more you could expect from Disney. And its sister ship, the Fantasy which made its first voyage on March 25 of this year had the same electrifying impact as well. The Fantasy, which weighs in about 130,000 gross tons, was completed in the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.
Both ships take their design style from past classic liners as the Queen Elizabeth and the Normandie, both from the golden age of cruise ships. I was on the Disney Dream’s inaugural three day cruise last year as a member of the media. But three days is woefully short to take in these beautiful floating palaces. The amenities aboard both ships are too numerous to discuss on that short time span. This ship is just beautifully detailed and themed in the turn-of-the-century art nouveau style. There are stunning tile and mosaic murals all around, even on the elevator floors. Many guests in their scurrying around, miss out on some of these stunning details. The art work and attention to the smallest item are what makes these new ships amazing. My wife and I decided to take a week’s cruise on the Fantasy to enjoy and report on what you can expect when you cruise with Disney. My wife and I are very qualified in this area, this having been our 36th total cruise and the 7th with Disney. We have cruised most major lines and have been everywhere from Hawaii, Bahamas, Bermuda and points in-between. We know what makes a great cruise, and what does not. But this is a review of the Fantasy, not our vacation. Since there is so much offered here, I have decided to cover one subject at a time so you can appreciate just what a “Magical” adventure is in store…
The Food…I have decided to start with this area, since it is one of the aspects that for us, is one of the most important part of any cruise, or cruise line. The Disney Cruise line has one of the finest cuisines on the high seas, barring none. It is unique in the fact that instead of one main dining room, guests switch between three distinct themed restaurants, all with select menus. The Enchanted Garden, deck two midship is like dining in a beautiful garden in the countryside of France. With warm green pastel paint, pictures of the French countryside in the rear, opening tulip-light fixtures, the experience is calming and wonderful. Even the atrium in the ceiling transforms from twinkling stars at night, blue sky during the day and you can even see the sun set at dusk. Serving American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is truly a unique experience. The fountain with Mickey on top under a circular rotunda as you walk in is the centerpiece of the restaurant. Dinner is sit down and buffet lunch and breakfast are served on select days.
Next up is the Royal Court restaurant. Located deck 3 midship this eatery is themed after the palaces in the classic Disney movies as Snow White, Beauty and the Beast. You feel as if at any moment, one of the Disney Princesses will make an appearance. On top of the partition walls are beautiful lights patterned after Cinderella’s coach, the chairs, chandeliers, carpets and even the minute details are fashioned after decors seen in these timeless films. The Royal Court serves a French inspired menu, and has the best escargot (My favorite) anywhere. As with the Enchanted Garden, dinner is table service and breakfast and lunch buffets are served on choice cruise days.
My favorite restaurant is the Animators Palate. But this “Palate” unlike its namesakes on its three sister ships, is completely unique and amazing. Located on deck 3 aft, it serves American and Oriental inspired menus. But it’s not the food that makes this an amazing place to eat, but the “Magic” Disney has put into it. Modeled after an animator studio, it is full of items you would find in such a studio, but on the walls, you’ll see sketches and pictures of Disney characters and backgrounds from Disney’s memorable films. Here is the magic… as you begin eating, the push-pin boards holding the pictures are actually LCD monitors! Here, Sorcerer Mickey appears (The screens are all around the dining room) and you’ll see Disney Characters dance across the screen, from black and white to color images. And using similar technology as Turtle Talk with Crush at EPCOT, the boards turn into a seascape from the classic film; “Finding Nemo” and Crush will swim by all the tables, and interact with the guests! However the real magic is when guests draw their favorite character or drawing on a special paper template, later on during the meal, they all become animated! Everyone sees their masterpiece dancing around the room across all the monitors, it’s amazing.
For casual dining, breakfast, lunch and dinner and anything in-between, it’s Cabanas, deck 11 aft. This open, airy eatery is buffet style and cruise casual attire. This amazing sumptuous buffet has everything the discriminating palate could want. If you are hungry in between, on Deck 11 midship is Flo’s Café, with Luigi’s Pizza, Tow Mater’s grill and Fillmore’s favorites. On starboard side Ice cold treats await you at the Frozone Treats and Monsters Inc. Mike Wazowski’ Eye Scream. For that coffee or latte break for adults, the Cove Café’ Deck 11 forward offers specialty coffees, teas, mixed drinks and sweet treats.
As on Disney’s other three ships, Palo’s Northern Italian fare restaurant is on board for that perfect elegant dinner, paired with your favorite wine and scrumptious desserts, located Deck 12 aft, a wonderful adults-only eatery for a perfect getaway. A brand new luxurious restaurant has been added to both the Dream and Fantasy, “Remy’s” This French inspired gem (Modeled after the hit movie “Ratatouille” in both décor and food) is reminiscent of the experience guests will find at “Victoria and Albert’s” This is elegance from start to finish. Guests have a choice of a French or American inspired menu, and each course is brought out and detailed by your specially trained wait staff. It took up almost 2 hours to finish, and worth every penny! They also have an extensive wine cellar. Both restaurants are an additional charge.
Entertainment…Disney’s Cruise line is known for its Broadway quality shows and adult and Family presentations. Since the Fantasy offers 7 day cruises, the entertainment list is longer than the Dream. The Fantasy has five shows compared to the Dream’s three. The new musical show on the Fantasy is “Wishes” where three teenagers about to graduate High School learn that growing up does not mean giving up being a kid at heart. There is an opening and closing show and Aladdin; and the only show seen on both ships, Believe. The Walt Disney Theater (Deck 3 Forward) is the place for movies and live entertainment. The Buena Vista Theater (Deck 4 Midship) has first-run Disney movies, many in 3D. We were treated to the first showing of the “Avengers” before it hit the movies!
For the adults, Deck 4 aft offers its Europa area. These five adult-only nighttime lounges ape the trendy lounges and bars in Europe. La Piazza, inspired by Italian outdoor plazas, Ooh La La a French lounge with an outdoor seating area, O’Gills (Our personal favorite) Irish Pub complete with a performer singing Irish pub songs, The Tube, modeled after the London Underground (Subway) which is where many of the adult entertainment performances are held and the Skyline, a trendy bar that features a different city “Skyline” every 20 minutes. (Skyline is the only bar on both ships).
Families have the D Lounge (Deck 4 Midship) with shows and games for the entire family. The Teens have their own indoor-outdoor lounge, the Vibe with a sun deck, dance area, TV’s and video games. The Tweens had the Edge, Deck 13 Midship, with a dance floor, games, videos, and computers.
Disney is famous for its family, teen and adult-only areas. Adults can relax in quiet at the Quiet Cove Pool and hot tubs on Deck 11 forward and a new area called the “Satellite Sun Deck” (Deck 13 Forward) a large round pool with cascading water. The kids have Goofy’s Sports Deck, 13 aft will all kinds of games, AquaLab deck 12 aft were kids can control the AquaDuck’s ride. And speaking of the AquaDuck, this Disney only attraction at sea (On Both ships) is a 765 foot long Plexiglas tube enclosed water tunnel that pushes you all along the 12 deck, through the forward funnel and back, it’s just a blast.
Between Palo’s and Remy’s is the adult-only Meridian Lounge, the perfect place for a cocktail while waiting for your dinner reservation to be called. New to the Fantasy is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, Deck 5 Midship where kids can get the full princess and pirate makeup treatment. Even getting you ship board pictures has changed. You go to the “Shutters” photo store Deck 4 midship, where all photo accessories can be found, including your pictures. Just scan your cabin key on the monitor and it will give you the number and character name of the kiosk you pics are in. You can pick what you want and even embellish them a bit. And speaking of cabin keys, new technology on the ship requires just placing the credit card key in front of the door sensor and “magically” the door unlocks.
The Disney Cruise line has the most comprehensive youth care program on the high seas. Special child care cast members are ready to keep the kids happy and occupied while the adults can get some private time either at the adult areas or the senses Spa and Salon. From infants to teenagers, there is a program for all youth. The outdoor pool on board all of Disney ships is fantastic. The younger set has Nemo’s Reef with all kinds of fountains and spay jets, all family members have Donald’s and Mickey’s Pool, deck 11 midship. Here is where the deck parties are held and movies are played all day on the huge “Funnel Vision” LED TV screen. There is also 24hr all you can drink soda, coffee and teas on deck.
One of the best places to relax and wind down is the Senses Spa and Salon, Deck 11 forward. This is a world-class spa with a gym (18 years or older) Sauna, aromatherapy steam rooms, special “Couples Villa” Treatment rooms with their own private verandah and hot tub. We took the special Couples treatment, I will not reveal no more, but it should be experienced at least once! The teens have their own private “Chill Spa”. And for you fitness buffs, check out the well-equipped gym. And all through the week there are special shows and performances held during the day and at night. Disney always has the best entertainment in the industry, both adult and family. One of our personal favorite shows is the comedy duo of Alfred and Seymour. We caught their performances on past Disney Cruises and they will have you rolling in your seats with laughter. Magicians, jugglers, comedians, it’s all here. All this information is on your ships “Personal Navigator” This pamphlet is delivered daily to you stateroom, with information on everything going on for the day.
In addition to daily games and shows, there are wine pairings, character greetings, fitness classes, beverage seminars and much more. There is so much to do on the ship; many guests do not even go on the port-of-calls. My wife and I have been on the islands countless times; many times we will skip going ashore and just hang on board, enjoying the many amenities.
And speaking of the islands, the Fantasy offers seven-day cruises to the Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises, with stops at Costa Maya, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and St. Maartan. The Disney Dream offers 3, 4, and 5 night Bahamian Cruises. Both ships stop at our favorite port of call, Disney’s private Island of Castaway Cay. Here are beaches as beautiful as Hawaii, for teens, families and adults. A sumptuous lunchtime buffet is available for all beaches and shopping and watersport fun is right on the island. Disney had recently added additional 20, 325 square foot cabanas in the family and Serenity Bay locations, The Hideout, a teen’s only beach, 3 massage cabanas for adults, two water play areas, Pelican Plunge and Spring-a-Leak and an additional 700 feet of beach to the family areas.
I could continue for many pages about the Fantasy and the Dream, but there is too much material to talk about. Suffice it to say, and this may be a personal opinion, but one gleaned from 36 past cruises that Disney is the best out there, barring none! But many will say every cruise ship has almost the same amenities. But what makes Disney the premier vacation venue? For me it is the Cast Members. Whether it’s in the parks, resorts or the high seas, these dedicated workers make all the difference. There is a genuine and honest sincerity in their smiles and capacity to go the extra mile to make your vacation special. There may be other “Theme” parks and Cruise lines out there, but what makes the Disney Company the aspiration of all others, are these special people dedicated to all the guests. Walt Disney said it best… “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality” And with that, I will close. Enjoy the pics!