We were invited to see the ship -- which will be based in Port Canaveral and offer seven-night Caribbean cruises -- when it was "floated out" amid traditional Disney hoopla (i.e., fireworks and adults dressed in mice costumes) for the first time at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany.
Though it shares many similarities with Disney Dream, its year-old sibling, Fantasy adds a little more zippity do da to its well-received counterpart (81 percent of the Cruise Critic member reviews give it the thumbs-up). So what's new? Art-minded passengers will recognize that while Dream is adorned in art nouveau flourishes (think more colorful and decorative), Fantasy goes the art deco route, so expect understated elegance and glamour.
Kids get the lion's share of the attention on Disney ships, and the cruise line has ramped up the outdoor fun with Fantasy's AquaLab, a water play area featuring a leaky wall with squirting pipes, geysers and a dinghy that drenches those beneath when it fills with water. Don't worry -- Dream's already-iconic AquaDuck water coaster makes a return appearance on Fantasy.
Many of the other changes are reflected in the entertainment, with more shows being produced to fill the week-long voyages. (Dream, by comparison, has specialized in three- and four-night jaunts.) While the addition of a Muppets interactive game has garnered the most headlines in recent months, new shows will include "Wishes," a musical interweaving numerous Disney characters, and "Disney's Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular." They'll join Dream favorites like the stage spectacular "Disney's Believe" and "Buccaneer Blast," the line's unique at-sea fireworks show.
Want more fireworks? See what happens when you try to keep kids away from the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where beaucoup bucks turn your kids into little pirates and princesses. It's the first time the Disney theme park staple makes an appearance on a DCL ship.
"Animation Magic" is a dining experience in the Animator's Palate restaurant that will probably top the popularity chart. Passengers' placemats become animation templates for drawings, to which they can add details with color crayons. The works are then collected and, at the end of the meal, the dining artists will see their works animated on the 130 screens scattered throughout the restaurant. (At other meals, diners can interact with a talking animated Crush from "Finding Nemo," as they do on Disney Dream.)
At the end of the show, naturally, Mickey will make an appearance and thank the passengers -- just before the credit crawl that will include the names of the dining artists who signed their masterpieces.
For more on Disney Fantasy, check out our behind-the-scenes slideshow.
--by Alan Lam, Cruise Critic Contributor