Apart from the giant figure of Dumbo at the stern and the statue of seasoned traveller Mademoiselle Minnie Mouse greeting passengers in the grand lobby, you might expect Disney Fantasy to be an identical twin to last year’s debutante, Disney Dream. But you would be wrong, writes John Honeywell

 

Disney Fantasy Review
The Disney Fantasy float out at Pappenburg, Germany, on January 7, 2012

Disney’s imagineers, the creative brains whose influence is everywhere on the ship, have made a few tweaks based on the experience gained during Disney Dream‘s early months carrying passengers to the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

More fundamentally, they have had to take account of the fact thatDisney Fantasy will regularly be sailing week-long cruises – a short break, maybe, in the eyes of European passengers accustomed to two or three or more weeks, but a sea change for Disney aficionados taking three and four day breaks on the line’s older ships.

With long, lazy days at sea in mind, the new ship’s pool and sun decks have been adapted to provide room for more sunbeds and splash pools, as well as shade and cabanas – areas where passengers can relax OUT of the sun.

Disney Fantasy Review
The main deck on Disney Fantasy

High up at the bow on Deck 13 a giant dome whose main purpose is to receive TV transmissions does double duty as Satellite Falls, a calm circular pool with a tiled bench in the centre and surrounded by a rainfall curtain.

Not far away is a new splash pool with a central feature which consists of an enchanting  bubble fountain filled with a fine mist.

Naturally, the children have not been forgotten on the Disney Fantasy. Aft of the second funnel is AquaLab, a play area where they can splash to their hearts’ content, pretending to plug leaky pipes and imagining they they are controlling the flow of water in the Aqua Duck water coaster which circles the deck.

Back to that central lobby where Minnie, complete with parasol and steamer trunks, stands at the foot of a sweeping staircase and where every passenger is introduced by name as they board the ship for the first time.

“This is our opening scene; it’s a big creative statement,” said Bob Zalk, senior show producer for Disney Imagineering. “The atrium is a massive entertainment space, where we meet and greet our guests. We can do shows in here, and they love to gather here before dinner or going to  the theatre.”

Disney Fantasy decor

Where Dream‘s decor is inspired by the linear symmetry of Art Deco, Disney Fantasy‘s is based on the flowing forms of Art Nouveau. The central chandelier and the swirling colours of the carpet evoke a peacock’s shimmering tail feathers , and blue and pink hues are followed through in hand-picked slabs of Carrara marble.

New to Fantasy, and occupying space on the atrium’s upper level which is used for meeting rooms on Dream, is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a treasure trove of fancy dress costumes for potential princesses. Their brothers must be content with the one day a week when the shop is transformed into a hoard of tricorn hats, bandanas and eye patches for budding buccaneers ready to take part in Pirate Night.

Uniquely, Disney ships feature “rotational dining” using three separate restaurants, each with distinctly different decor and themes.

On Fantasy, the Versailles-inspired Enchanted Garden is virtually identical to the same room aboard Dream, and its Royal Court homage to Snow White and Sleeping Beauty has subtle differences from the earlier ship’s Royal Palace.

Animator's Palate Restaurant

Animator’s Palate looks the same, with its giant pencils and brushes, and huge plasma screens keeping diners entertained. But as well as an interactive show featuring Crush the turtle from Finding Nemo, the new version adds a new show to ring the changes for passengers on their second night.

When diners arrive, they find their table mats are a sketch pad; alongside the cutlery is a box of crayons. Everyone is invited create their own cartoon figure which is then taken away to become part of the show.

During the meal, the TV screens show a smorgasbord of food-related scenes from Disney and Pixar movies, and as a finale, children will watch their own creations dancing alongside Mickey Mouse, Pinocchio, Baloo the Bear and a host of other characters.

Each contributor gets their name in the credits, and the original artworks are delivered to cabins with a seal confirming the artist as “an official Disney animator.”

Adults only

After dinner, with the kids safely tucked up in bed, adults have their own play area on the ship. On Disney Dream it’s called The District,” on Disney Fantasy it has become Europa.

There have been some changes here, made as a result of experience gained on the earlier ship. The popular Skyline Lounge has been expanded, and the ever-changing vistas on the wall-mounted HD screens  now show day turning into night in seven European cities: London, Paris, Barcelona, Florence, Athens, St Petersburg and Budapest.

Instead of an American sports bar, Fantasy has O’Gills, a shamrock-filled Irish pub serving Guinness, and the Champagne Bar is now called Ooh La La and is decked out like a velvet-lined boudoir.

Aladdin will be on board Disney Fantasy

Brits  will find The Tube nightclub especially  welcoming if they want to be surrounded by decor inspired by the London Underground  as they party into the night. For added authenticity, the seating and ceiling design reflects Union Jack inspiration, and there will be a red telephone box on either side of the dance floor.

Passenger accommodation is virtually unchanged on Fantasy – Disney will say with some justification that the cabins were pretty much perfect already. Families with young children particularly welcome the split bathrooms, with proper tubs for mum to bathe a toddler while dad seeks a moment of peace in the “reading room.”

The magic portholes which were a popular innovation on Dream‘s inside cabins now boast an extended cast of surprise characters who pop up on the screens which display a live view of the sea outside.

As always, Disney’s attention to detail is unmatched. Tiny improvements which make all the difference include an adjustment to the food stations in the Cabanas casual restaurant to discourage passengers from forming time-wasting queues, and the movement of the soda fountains (serving unlimited all-inclusive Coca Cola) to a more convenient situation.

Fantasy will be a superb addition to Disney’s cruise fleet, now four strong.  It would be even more fantastic if it were sailing in the Mediterranean, but for the time being we will have to be content with the 13-year-old Disney Magic which will be back in Europe next year.

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage

Disney Fantasy will be christened in New York on March 1 and will make its maiden voyage from Florida’s Port Canaveral on March 31. The ship will sail seven-night cruises to the western Caribbean, visiting Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel and the private resort of Castaway Cay; and the eastern Caribbean, calling at St Maarten, St Thomas and Castaway Cay.


Disney Fantasy Construction Video

Video of Disney Fantasy bidding farewell to the Meyer Werft Shipyard on January 20, 2012

Fantasy Fact File

Length: 1,115 ft

Number of decks: 14

Tonnage: 129,690

Cabins: 1,250

Passengers: 2,500 (double occupancy), 4,000 (all beds)

Crew: 1,458

 

 For more on the Disney Fantasy and other Disney ships, visit our Disney Cruise Line area