Hollywood Hot Mom’s own Jennifer Cohen just returned from a sneak peek media cruise aboard Disney’s newest ship, the Disney Fantasy.
Last year, Disney Cruise Lines launched the Disney Dream. “I was able to sail on the Dream and it truly was the trip of a lifetime. This Spring, Disney has added the Disney Fantasy, the sister ship to the Dream and the fourth ship to the Disney fleet. I was lucky enough go on the media preview sailing. Here’s what you need to know if you are considering a Disney cruise….
In many ways, the Fantasy is very similar to the Dream but with even more to do and experience. It felt like Disney took the best elements of the Dream and then, in typical Disney style, waved their magic wand and incorporated new — and even better features — into the Fantasy. Just when you think the people at Disney could not possibly outdo themselves, they do exactly that!
First, the similarities: When passengers board both ships, they are instantly astounded. I heard several oooh’s and aaah’s and loud gasps from passengers as they stepped off the gangway and made their way into the lavish grand atrium lobby. All eyes turn upward to gaze at the Fantasy’s dazzling glass and crystal chandelier. This focal point was designed in a peacock motif in blues, greens and pinks and features 60,000 Swarovski crystals. The sophisticated peacock pattern is repeated all around the ship.
Like the Dream, the Fantasy is elaborately decorated, but while the Dream features an Art Deco style, the Fantasy is done in an Art Nouveau style. It’s classic elegance meets whimsical playfulness, all at the same time. The lobby also features a sweeping grand staircase, a stone inlaid floor, and stunning fluted columns which “bloom” into golden-petal capitals. Opulent furnishings complement the atrium design, with a grand piano providing spot for live entertainment each night.
As gorgeous as the ships’ decor is, the truth is that the kids just want to have fun. My daughters were especially thrilled to see that the Fantasy also features the Aqua Duck, the only elevated water roller coaster at sea.
For those who have never sailed on the Dream, here’s what you need to know about the Aqua Duck: Riders climb a few flights of stairs located on Deck 12, Aft. An attendant helps guests get situated on a two-person raft and a mini conveyer belt leads riders into a clear acrylic tube. That’s when the fun begins! The raft is propelled by water jets that gush 10,000 gallons per minute, so once your raft enters the tube you’d better hold on! The Aqua Duck wraps around the entire top deck and propels riders through the tube on a breathtaking journey up, down, around and off the side of the ship. Once you get through the dips and turns, the ride turns calmer and feels like a lazy river or flume ride. Turns are made in a covered portion of the tube and there’s also a thrilling 4-deck drop. The ride lasts only a minute, but it is worth the wait. The Fantasy added a photo opportunity (available for purchase) and now a picture is snapped just at the end of the first straight-away portion of the ride so be sure to smile for the camera. (Truth be told, most of the photographs I saw were not very flattering – most people have their eyes closed, were squinting, or had a surprised look on their face — but it is great to be able to have a photo taken while riding the Aqua Duck. Disney does know photo a good photo opp!) Friends and family on the pool deck below can also snap pictures and take video as you sail through the tube. Almost every Aqua Duck rider can be seen waiving wildly to everyone and anyone who can see them. (Hint: for those staying on the deck waiting to get that photograph, it is helpful to see who is right in front of the riders you are waiting for when they get in line. That way you will know your friends or family member will be coming through the tube next.) Parents, be prepared – your child will want to ride the Aqua Duck nonstop. So will you. Also note that all riders must be 42″ tall to ride with someone else, 54″ to ride alone.
Another similarity between the Dream and the Fantasy is that both ships offer rotational dining. Passengers can select between first or second seating. First seating is at 5:45pm each night and while this may be better for those sailing with little ones, be aware that in order to have a family of four showered, dressed and ready for dinner so early it means leaving the pool or whatever activity you are doing no later than 4pm.
Guests visit a different restaurant each night but the servers stay with them. This way, passengers are able to experience the unique atmosphere of each restaurant, with the benefit of staying with wait staff who quickly get to know your family and your tastes. (Our servers remembered we are vegetarian and that our daughters prefer club soda.) The servers also entertain guests, with magic tricks and silly jokes and really try to make it a personalized experience. Most servers are young adults from all over the world and the international crew makes for an interesting multicultural experience. One of our servers had a lovely British accent and seemed as though she had stepped right out of Mary Poppins. My daughters fell in love with her and were truly sad when it was time to say goodbye to her.
All of these similarities between the Dream and the Fantasy will make passengers who have been on the Dream feel right at home. But the enhancements, which include everything from expanded kids’ programming and play areas to the entertainment and nightlife are what really make the Fantasy Disney’s most special cruise ship.
Some of the newer features were born from necessary while others came about simply because, well, Disney wanted that additional wow factor for their fourth ship. The Fantasy offers seven-day trips (vs. three-or four-day drips on the Dream.) Longer cruises make it necessary to offer more activities on the ship to keep guests entertained.
Here are some of the new features and fun things to do on the Fantasy:
AquaLab: The biggest addition to the Fantasy is the AquaLab, a watery play area for kids.
Disney set out to create more interactive experiences for passengers and the AquaLab features the excitement of the Aqua Duck and expanded it. This play area features water wet fun including a leaky wall that encourages children to work as a team to plug the ever-changing leaks. This 1,800-square-foot playground also features a floor with pop jets, misters, bubbling fountains, dripping pipes and geysers. There’s a boat that fills up with water and then tips over to surprise unsuspecting guests. Be warned – you never know where water may shoot out from next. Once you climb the steps there really are no “safe” or dry zones. Half of the fun is the anticipation of getting soaked at any minute. The AquaLab is a fun alternative play area for kids who are too cool for Nemo’s Reef play area but are not tall enough to ride the AquaDuck.
Muppet Adventure Game: The Midship Detective Agency is an interactive detective game on the Dream. Taking this popular game a step farther, the people at Disney created the Muppet Adventure Game on the Fantasy. While playing “The Case of the Stolen Show,” guests take an interactive adventure quest around the ship, uncovering clues using more than a dozen pieces of Enchanted Art and physical “evidence.” The adventure begins when the Muppets get ready to stage a big performance. But there’s a problem — all of the props for the big show have been stolen by a cunning thief (or more likely, another Muppet). Using a unique game card in front of select pieces of Enchanted Art, guests unveil clues and find missing props. For those unfamiliar with Enchanted Art, this is framed art work that magically comes to life. While Enchanted Art looks like other hanging art pieces around the ship, it is actually a framed LCD screen that utilizes technology to create special effects. Enchanted Art “recognizes” a guest is present and activates several seconds of animation. There are more than 20 pieces of Enchanted Art on the Fantasy, and all are inspired by classic Disney characters and animations. Some of the framed pictures that hang side by side even interact with each other! Guests may see new and different animation when they visit the Enchanted Art another time. It’s really pretty magical.
Some examples of Enchanted Art new to the Disney Fantasy include:
• Dual circus art posters featuring Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse flying from one frame into the other – a nod to the Disney Fantasy stern characters.
• Walt Disney animating three new clips that spring from his sketch pad featuring the “Fab Five” (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto).
• Fanciful animations of “Alice in Wonderland” inspired by Disney Legend Mary Blair’s art.
Elsewhere on the ship, guests may check a Muppets message board and find a Muppet-sized stateroom door to discover clues. Their mission is to solve the crime before it’s time to raise the curtain and light the lights on the Muppets’ big show. Each game features several possible endings and multiple randomized events – so each time a guest plays, they have a different adventure.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique: For the first time at sea, at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on the Disney Fantasy, aspiring young princesses and pirates receive the full fairy tale treatment with pixie- dusted and piratical makeovers at this very special salon. The girls are greeted by their very own Fairy Godmother-in-training who transforms them with magical makeovers. Princesses-to-be can choose from a variety of royal treatment packages that include intricate hairstyles, shimmering makeup and nails polish. Little girls can select from Disney Diva, Pop Princess or Fairy Tale Princess looks. Prices at BBB start at $54.95. There are also several costume packages starting at $185. There are a variety of princess costumes are available, along with a Fantasy-exclusive “Under the Sea” package, featuring a swim suit and matching mermaid tail cover-up (in place of the princess costume), and colorful sun block instead of makeup. One of your nights at sea will feature a Pirates night. That day, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is transformed into the Pirates League, offering pirate-theme makeovers for all ages. Prices start at $34.95 for a “face transformation,” which includes hairstyle and application of either makeup (for girls) or facial hair and fake scars (for boys), plus a bandana and eye patch.
Animation Magic: All four Disney ships have a restaurant called Animator’s Palate, but the Animator’s Palate is a little different on the Disney Fantasy. That’s because the diners become the animators! The fun beings as passengers sit down to a special place mat that says “Draw your own character!” and markers. The placemat has the outline of the shape of a person broken up into different sections. Servers ask diners to draw a character on the place mat. Be sure to stay in the lines and put the head in the head box, the arm in the arm boxes. No artistic skill is needed. Most passengers draw stick figures with squiggly hair, dots for eyes. For identification purposes, guests sign their paper and include their stateroom number. The place mats are collected just before the first course is served. Mickey Mouse appears on the screens all around the restaurant and introduces a montage of films from various Disney movies highlighting the cooking portions of the films. (There are a bunch of scenes from Ratatouille!) The magic starts when Sorcerer Mickey Mouse brings the passengers sketches to life. Every character appears for a few seconds and can be seen walking, dancing, skipping and marching across the screen. It was very exciting to see your own drawing come to life and all of the diners were amazed! We often heard, “That one is mine!” from fellow diners. After the show, the place mats are returned to each passenger with a gold seal recognizing the artist an “Official Disney Animator”.
Other helpful hits:
· Staterooms may not be ready until the afternoon, and luggage may not arrive until later in the afternoon, so it is necessary to bring a carry-on bag with bathing suits, sunscreen, a change of clothes and any other items you may need for the first day including diapers or medication.
· There are a variety of activities throughout the day, so it is imperative to read the Personal Navigator newsletter which is delivered to your stateroom each night with details about the next day’s schedule of events and activities by start and end time. You cannot get the schedule beforehand. It is impossible to do everything, so we planned out the things we wanted to do. Some activities are offered at a few different times so pick what works best for your schedule and be sure to plan some down time for the kids.
· If you plan to eat at the adults-only restaurant or have a spa treatment, make those reservations as soon as possible to get the time you want.
· If you plan to snorkel on Castaway Cay, rent the gear in advance at Guest Services on the ship. This will save you a lot of time waiting in line on the island.
· Bring a sweater to dinner and the shows because the hallways, restaurants and theatre can be chilly.
All too soon it was time for our cruise to end. Our luggage was picked up outside our cabin the evening of our last night on board. This is where that day bag comes in handy again! Breakfast was early and we were sad to head back home. Getting to our luggage and car was easier and quicker than parking at the mall. A porter retrieved our bags, walked us through customs and brought everything out to the parking lot for us, all in less than 15 minutes. We got in our car and waved goodbye to the Fantasy.
This was our fourth cruise with Disney (we have been on every ship except the Magic) and I can tell you that there really is something magical when you sail with your family on a Disney cruise. Our first cruise was when my daughters were just four-years-old. Now they are 9-year-old cruising experts but their excitement over Disney cruises has not diminished. I don’t think I will ever forget my daughters hugging me tightly and whispering “Thank you Mommy” when I told them we were going to sail on the Fantasy. Some of our most special family memories have taken place on a Disney cruise. And to think it all started with a mouse!
The Fantasy is now sailing from Port Canaveral, Florida, and will embark on alternating Eastern and Western 7 night Caribbean cruises, and will visit Disney’s private island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas. For more information visit Disney Cruises.