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The More, The Merrier On The Disney Fantasy
September 2012

By Georgina Cruz

With our family, the mantra is “the more, the merrier at sea.”

Through the years, we have enjoyed more than a dozen three-generational get-togethers afloat. Why? Because on a cruise ship, no member of the party gets stuck with the cooking, cleaning and other chores for a family gathering or reunion, and, just as important, because on a ship there is something for all ages with plenty of activities and entertainment for the whole family.

Our latest get-together was a three generational seven-day cruise in early September aboard Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Fantasy, which debuted this spring as a sister to the popular Disney Dream launched in 2011. In addition to my husband Humberto and me, our daughter Veronica and grandsons Aidan, 11, and Julian, 8, came along. We chose the Disney Fantasy because, as its name implies, the ship has many experiences to enable guests of all ages to live out their own fantasies.

From the moment we boarded the 130,000-gross ton/4,000-passenger Disney Fantasy, we knew we were in a place we would all love. Like previous Disney ships, the Fantasy is inspired in the grand ocean liners of the 1920s and 1930s, and like her predecessors, has scrollwork and Disney characters and Mickey Mouse colors on the hull.

“Wow!” Julian exclaimed as we entered the three-deck atrium lobby, which is so grand in dimensions and décor it takes even veteran adult cruisers’ breath away the first time you see it. Like other areas of the ship, the atrium is decorated in Art Nouveau style with that gracious style’s details and patterns in hues of blue, green, pink and gold. A spectacular chandelier, themed to peacock feathers and 22-feet in diameter, hangs from the ceiling and descends 13 feet in a cascade of blue and green crystal and stained glass beads. But since this is a Disney ship, there is something visual here for young sailors too: a bronze of Minnie Mouse with the beloved character dressed in vintage clothing with a parasol and steamer trunk.

The atrium lobby’s other magical touches include meet-and-greet sessions with Disney princesses and other characters, and pieces of Enchanted Art (artwork that “comes to life” when a guest comes in front of it, introduced with the Disney Dream).

On the Disney Fantasy our family used the Enchanted Art to get clues to play, along with the Muppets in the pictures, the new game “The Case of the Stolen Show.” Julian particularly enjoyed this activity, moving about the ship at his own pace and discovering clues as to who stole Kermit’s banjo, Fozzie’s squirting flower, Gonzo’s crash helmet, Animal’s drum sticks and Swedish Chef’s cleaver.

The princess and pirate fantasies of young sailors can come true in the first Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at sea and The Pirate League on the Disney Fantasy. Here little girls can be transformed into Cinderella or their favorite Disney princess with the perfect makeover before dinner in the princess-themed Royal Court restaurant onboard. And during the Mickey’s Pirates IN The Caribbean deck party, Julian “became” a buccaneer – the “boney pirate” – with a costume from the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. The rest of the family joined in the festivities, donning the pirate bandanas supplied by our cabin steward.

Besides the Royal Court, we enjoyed dinner at two other main restaurants, Enchanted Gardens and Animator’s Palate – all part of the Disney Cruise Line’s innovative “rotational dining” concept, introduced with the Disney Magic in 1998, in which guests and their servers go together from one restaurant to another on different nights of the cruise.

We loved them all but our favorite was the Animator’s Palate, where we enjoyed two different shows during dinnertime that charm youngsters and the young at heart. At this restaurant, the décor is highlighted by giant pencils and brushes, character sketches, maquettes (three-dimensional character models) and filmstrips. During one of the dinner shows called “Animation Magic,” Mickey Mouse invites diners to draw their own character on a simple template on their placemat awaiting them at the table and, through the magic of technology, guests see their character come to life along with Disney characters on monitors all around the room. When they receive their drawing back after the show, it has a gold seal that proclaims them to be official Disney animators. Menu specialties for the “Animation Magic” dinner include popcorn soup, beef Wellington and roasted red snapper.

The other dinner show at Animator’s Palate, “Undersea Magic,” is themed to Crush, the turtle from the “Finding Nemo” movie. Guests are immersed in an undersea world and Crush makes an appearance on screens next to the tables and engages diners in impromptu live conversations as they munch on such dishes as sesame-flavored rock shrimp, Angus beef tenderloin and cookies-and-cream sundae.

The Royal Court, with a magical storybook palace setting, is inspired in the Disney classics “Cinderella,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Beauty and the Beast.” The ambiance includes such touches as glass slippers, roses, tiaras, chair backs, chandeliers, sconces and columns with marble bases and fluted tops adding details from the fairy tales. Handcrafted tile mosaics depicting the princesses and their princes grace the far wall. Palatial menu items here include lobster and jumbo shrimp, escargot, beef tenderloin and Dijon-roasted rack of lamb. “I feel like a duke –in a good way,” Julian commented as we left the Royal Court after one of our sumptuous dinners.

The third of the main “rotational dining” restaurants, the Enchanted Garden, is an enclave inspired in the gardens of Versailles and elegant conservatories in France that transforms from day to night. Adornments include white trellises, green arches and landscape artwork, but what caught both youngsters’ and adults’ eyes most were the “flower” light fixtures, light columns and a fountain with cascading water rising seven feet tall and featuring a whimsical touch: a cherub Mickey Mouse on top. At breakfast and lunch, the Enchanted Garden is bright with the light of a blue-sky day; at dinnertime the illuminated ceiling transforms into a constellation of twinkling stars, the “flower” light fixtures “bloom” with color and the fountain is bathed with light. The cuisine matches the ambiance with a seasonal menu with market-fresh ingredients.

Alternative restaurants for adults only are Palo (Italian, fee is $20) and Remy (French, fee is $75) both with ocean views and ideal for a special occasion at sea. And Cabanas is the buffet-style restaurant for convenient quick-out-the-door breakfasts and lunches that we patronized often (there are 16 food stations) and table-service casual dinners. Located on Deck 11 aft and inspired in California beaches, tables are “sheltered” under trees, ocean views are on three sides, and offerings include delicious stir-fry, pizza, pasta, comfort foods and grilled specialties.

In between meals or for fast, light meals, there is plenty of opportunity for snacking and munching at such venues as Flo’s Café (pizza, salads, sandwiches), and Eye Scream Treats, Frozone Treats (two quick service venues on Deck 11 featuring sweet treats such as fruit smoothies and soft-serve ice cream that both Aidan and Julian loved).

The magic of the Disney Fantasy overflows at the three-deck 1,340-seat Walt Disney Theatre with musical productions for the whole family that bring Disney stories to life. “Disney Wishes” is the ship’s signature show, a 45-minute journey by three friends who visit Disneyland to celebrate their high school graduation and are unsure as to what the future will hold. Along the way they discover that the secret to being a happy adult is to keep in contact with their inner child. The show presents a cavalcade of Disney characters including Rapunzel, Hercules, Pinocchio, Lilo, Stitch and others, as well as special effects including a Hawaiian sequence during which the stage fills up with giant windsurfing sails, kites and surfboards, and one of the youngsters gets on a surfboard to “ride” a giant blue silk wave.

Another excellent show for all ages is “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular.” The Broadway-style production presents Aladdin, his wisecracking Genie, the Princess Jasmine, the evil Jafar and other characters from the popular animated feature. A spectacular highlight is the magic carpet ride as Aladdin and Jasmine soar to the tune of “Whole New World.”

Other production shows presented in The Walt Disney Theatre include “Disney’s Believe” (the story of a workaholic father who discovers what is truly important in life) and “A Fantasy Come True” (the first evening’s welcome show). Still other entertainment offerings include first-run movies in the Buena Vista Theatre (some movies in 3-D), films on deck, and the “Mickey’s Pirates IN the Caribbean” deck party with buccaneers rappelling from atop the ship’s funnel and other swashbuckling fun and “Buccaneer Blast,” the only regularly featured fireworks display at sea.

Families encounter daytime H2O fun at the new AquaLab water park, a 1,800-square-foot area on Deck 12 that has “water experiments” by Donald Duck’s mischievous nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, with the results being squirting walls, bubblers, geysers, falling water, pop jets and more. The Ducky Dinghy, one of AquaLab’s features, is popular with its many leaks and every so often a fish comes out from a big bucket in the front of the dinghy and sprays water at you.

Other whimsical features of AquaLab include inventions by the ducks that enable youngsters to spin wheels and pump handles to “control” the water temperature, speed and cleanliness of AquaDuck, a water coaster introduced with the Disney Dream that was Aidan’s and Julian’s favorite feature onboard. AquaDuck on Deck 12 is a 765-foot long (more than two and a half football fields), four-decks high, flume ride that sends guests on a high-speed journey on inflatable rafts through drops, twists, uphill climbs and turns. Most exhilarating of all: a swing out loop sends passengers sliding 13 feet over the side of the ship in a transparent tube for a look at the sea a whopping 150 feet below. Another breathtaking moment for AquaDuck riders is a 335-foot stretch of “river rapids” before the splash down to the end of the ride.

"Guests of all ages are raving about the ‘splashtacular’ fun in the innovative AquaDuck water coaster and the AquaLab water play area," said Brent Davies, cruise director of the Disney Fantasy. "These wet and wonderful experiences provide unique ways to cool off while soaking up the sun in the upper decks of the ship."

“In a word,” Julian proclaimed, “it’s awesome!”

The ship also boasts the Goofy’s Sports Deck with a nine-hole miniature golf, ping-pong, basketball court and other pastimes as well as swimming pools for families and adults.

Continuing Disney’s tradition of clubs and entertainment for all ages, the ship offers the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab including a huge interactive floor filled with sights and sounds, for children ages 3-10; and other clubs like Edge for tweens and Vibe for teen-agers. Aidan thought Edge was “ very cool” and spent time there every day, winning both a video game and chess competition.

For the little ones, there is the It’s A Small World Nursery. For the whole family, D Lounge functions as a family club. Adults have the Senses Spa & Salon (Veronica’s favorite adult area of the ship), with a state of the art fitness center and separate treatment rooms, plus an area catering to teens; the Cove Café with coffees and snacks (Humberto’s and my favorite area to check our e-mail when the boys were at their clubs), and an entire entertainment district, Europa, themed to popular European destinations.

Clubs and lounges in Europa include La Piazza, inspired in Italian squares; Skyline, a chic lounge that features changing vistas of European cities; O’Gills Pub, a rollicking Irish bar; The Tube, recalling London, and Ooh La La, an elegant French champagne lounge.

With all that was available onboard, we were tempted to stay on the ship when we were in port (and did so while at Cozumel, where we had all been before). We did enjoy wonderful adventures at the other ports, starting with a visit to the Turtle Farm & Boatswain Beach on Grand Cayman, an ideal attraction for families with its many turtles and water fun. The next day, which in Costa Maya, Mexico, we visited the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben, an adventurous and educational tour featuring the first pyramids our grandsons had ever seen, including the nine-level Pyramid of the Sun. At Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay in the Bahamas, we splurged on a private cabana steps away from the beach to live out our upscale Robinson Crusoe fantasies. The cabanas are full of amenities including cold mineral water and soft drinks, snacks, towels, hammock, chilled face towels, and lounge chairs. Other perks that come with the cabanas include bike rental to explore the island, snorkel equipment and floats. Young and old wanted to just stay at our cabana forever.

After days filled with activities and entertainment, we retired to comfortable and attractive staterooms with split bathrooms and nautical accents on the Disney Fantasy. Interior cabins offer a bit of techno-wizardry: a “magical” porthole that features real time views of the sea and appearances by cartoon characters. We selected two adjoining and connecting veranda cabins, which gave the boys room to roam from one stateroom to the other and all of us a place to sit and enjoy port departures and arrivals from our balconies.

The Disney Fantasy offers alternating 7-night itineraries to the Caribbean year round from Port Canaveral, Florida. Eastern Caribbean runs visit St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Castaway Cay. Western Caribbean cruises call at Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay. Special Eastern Caribbean itineraries in November and December 2012 stop at St. Thomas and San Juan, Puerto Rico, in addition to Castaway Cay.

Rates for the Disney Fantasy itineraries start at $959 per person, double occupancy, for a standard inside stateroom (category 11C). Government fees and taxes are not included.

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