I just returned from a magical week on the Disney Fantasy with my husband and 15 yr old son. We were on the eastern Caribbean itinerary, including stops in St. Marten, St. Thomas, and Disney's Castaway Cay. First of all, I can't say enough how beautiful this ship is. We have sailed twice on the Disney Wonder, and the Fantasy is better in almost every way.
We were in a deluxe family stateroom with verandah, which was a first for us. The slight extra space made a much bigger difference than I imagined and was well worth the price. The round shower with the rain head was fabulous, a word you wouldn't normally use to describe a cruise ship shower. As everyone mentions, the split baths on Disney ships make getting ready with a family so much more hassle free. And who wants hassles on their cruise?
We absolutely loved the newly imagineered Animator's Palette. The turtle show was cute (more so for younger children), but the animation show was a blast. Everyone in the room, young or old, was straining to find their creation dancing across the screens, then shouting in delight when they saw it. Magical!
There were little improvements in such areas as the Walt Disney and Buena Vista theaters, adding an inch or two of extra leg room between seats. Honestly, as a taller woman with knee problems you'd be surprised at how much that meant to me! We also enjoyed being able to slip into the balcony of the Walt Disney theater from deck four, avoiding the crowds. Nice touch.
The food was really good. Obviously there were some hits and misses, but I'm not going on a cruise looking for fine cuisine every meal. The Cabana's buffet was our least favorite dining, though the set up (individual food stations vs cafeteria style line on Wonder and Magic) was a huge improvement over the smaller ships. It was fine for a quick meal, but the food was just adequate. Though I did love that seating was always readily available. The pool area food was surprisingly good. Is it gourmet food? Of course not. It's tasty, fast food to munch on in your swim suit. And my son hit the soft serve bar every afternoon. My least favorite dining room from a design aspect was Enchanted Garden. I agree that Parrot Key needed replacing, but I'm not sure this is any better. We ate there three nights on our rotation and we were underwhelmed. However, the food in all the main dining rooms was, for the most part, very good. Highlights: beef Wellington, seared Tuna, most all pastas we tried, and the Tandori chicken appetizer at Royal Court for lunch. Misses: Salmon at Royal Court for dinner and the popcorn soup (tasted like burned popcorn). My one quibble with the food service is that there seemed to be less interaction between the severs and the guests on this ship than on the Wonder. The server shows were completely gone (I always particularly loved the one on the last night when they all carried flags form their native countries). While the servers did a wonderful job of well, serving food, there was definitely not the same level of guest interaction as we had experienced before. In talking with our server one night about the difference between the Fantasy and the Magic where he had previously worked, he noted how far away the galley was from the dining rooms on this ship. I suspect that is a big part of the reason for the change, but it's still a shame. We missed it.
Other than that, I could go on and on raving about Disney service. It's obvious that the crew are well trained with an emphasis on fast, friendly service. Truly a delight!!
For those of you worried about your teenager being too old (or too cool) for a Disney cruise, worry no more!! The new, improved teen lounge, Vibe, will keep them busy and happy for the entire cruise. On previous cruises, our son spent very little time in any of the children's programs, preferring to hang out with us. Not so, this cruise! He was in Vibe every chance he got. The inside portion is much larger and improved from the smaller ships. They even have their own sun deck with two plunge pools, lounge chairs, ping pong and foosball tables. I also felt very comfortable allowing him to roam the ship on his own. I don't think I would feel that way on cruises filled with partying twenty something's, rather than the family atmosphere you find on Disney.
With the teenager happily occupied, my husband and I were able to explore the adult areas for the first time. We found the extensive outdoor area surprisingly empty! We spent several afternoons lounging in one of the pool areas (Satellite Falls was our favorite), not a child in sight - or in hearing distance. We enjoyed exploring Europa at night, with Skyline bar being our favorite. But our favorite after dinner spot was the Currents bar in the adult outdoor area, sipping a glass of wine under the stars, enjoying the cool Caribbean breezes. This, however, brings me to my biggest complaint about this cruise. Currents closed at 11 PM and most of Europa at midnight. The night club, the Tube, did stay open until 2 AM but wasn't exactly our style. That ship sailed 25 years ago (pun intended). With Vibe open until 2 AM, and the teenagers safely enjoying their new friends, it would be wonderful if there was somewhere other than the Tube for their parents to hang out. Here's a hint, Disney, most parents old enough to have teenagers, aren't into blaring dance music at 1AM. We've mellowed with age, shall we say! Every night, when the other bars closed there were plenty of guests still inside, only to be told that they were closing up. You're missing out on income here, Disney!!
The main pool areas were the expected madhouse. But with only a fifteen year old with us, we just mostly avoided it except for occasionally getting food. The two main pools were very small and frankly looked miserable, packed with screaming kids. Fortunately as adults and teenagers each have their own pool areas, it didn't affect us at all. My husband and son did ride the Aqua Duck once and gave it a big thumbs up!
As for ports of call, they were a mixed bag. Frankly, neither St. Thomas nor St. Marten impressed us. We did enjoy the 12M regatta excursion on St. Marten. We got to help crew the same sailboats used in the America's Cup races. Very cool! We did the Coral World land and sea package on St. Thomas and it was just OK. Nothing special. Disney's Castaway Cay was wonderful. Our day was cut short there due to a medical emergency on board the night before requiring the ship to detour to Nassau . (As a side note, I don't know if Disney was required to do this by maritime regulations, but we were quite impressed that they did, non the less. It was quite comforting to know that a company would value the well being of a single passenger over their bottom line. They also did an amazing job of keeping us informed and entertained until we arrived at Castaway Cay in the afternoon. Kudos, Disney!!). But the short time we had there was fabulous. The island is clean, the water is lovely. Simply a great way to spend your day! My son especially loved the snorkeling path. The fishing excursion planned for the morning had to be scrapped due to the itinerary change, but that just leaves us something to do next time!
We are now planning a Mediterranean cruise in two years (on Disney of course). I imagine it will be on one if the smaller ships, as that is what is over there now. We will miss the beautiful Fantasy, but will still enjoy that magical Disney service.