Disney Fantasy Entertainment
Let's get right to the point: Character meet-and-greets are the heart of a Disney cruise, and you'll see Mickey and Co. everywhere onboard, from the sailaway party and shows in the D Lounge (a family-friendly gathering spot featuring karaoke and the like) to random sightings on Castaway Cay and in the atrium. As excited as kids can get at the theater productions and interactive events, nothing brings bigger smiles than snapping that one-on-one photo with Minnie.
That said, the stage shows are unlikely to disappoint (unless you love -- as we do -- DCL's "Golden Mickeys" production, which isn't in the Fantasy repertoire). The lavish Walt Disney Theater is home to "Wishes," a new 45-minute musical centering on three teens worrying about the ramifications of growing up (don't we all?). Before you know it, a steady stream of Disney characters is warbling to the trio. It's harmless, infectious, big-budget fun. Ditto "Disney's Believe," which premiered on Dream and focuses on the story of a workaholic single father who reconnects with his daughter. Another host of old-time favorites make song-and-dance appearances, including Cinderella and Peter Pan.
Our favorite show is "Disney's Aladdin -- A Musical Spectacular," which lives up to its title. A Disney theme park fave, the show is making its debut at sea on Fantasy. Don't skip this one: The special effects are terrific, the jokes timely, the music lovely and the story familiar if you've seen the flick.
The popular "Pirates in the Caribbean" deck party is broken into separate parts on Fantasy, though darned if we didn't think the kids' portion was just as fun as the one for adults. A sing-along early in the evening for little ones called "Mickey's Pirates in the Caribbean" is followed by "Hunt Fer Jack," a live-action show featuring Jack Sparrow rappelling off the funnel. The latter ends on an explosive high: Disney's now-iconic "Buccaneer Blast" fireworks. (Tip: For an unobstructed view, catch it from the Currents bar on Deck 13.)
Afterward, the family-friendly Club Pirate has everyone shaking their (pirate's) booty. It ends, unfortunately, precisely at midnight -- just when things really start to rock.
That's when adults can head to Deck 4's retooled "entertainment district," comprising a European-themed quintet of bars and lounges (hence its Europa moniker). On Dream, the area seems an afterthought, with winding corridors, empty bars divided by a tiled path and no real theme.
Not so on Fantasy: The areas include La Piazza, an Italian fun zone with a giant bar in the shape of a carousel; O'Gill's, an Irish pub packed with sports fans; Ooh La La, a sumptuous, garish French Champagne bar; and the Tube, a late-night club awash in a London vibe, complete with phone booths you can boogie in, subway-like seating and illuminated dance floor. Skyline, which features large-scale photos of European capitals that change every 15 minutes, is the only repeat from Dream -- though DCL wisely brought it back a bit larger. Look for the dancing Mickey in one of the photos.
Other watering holes include the aforementioned Currents, one of the few spots onboard that allows smoking, and the top-deck Meridien. The latter is a cocktail bar tucked between Palo and Remy; its outdoor terrace doubles as a cigar lounge.
Love Disney flicks? You can catch a wide variety for free on demand in your cabin or in the lovely Buena Vista Theatre, which features first-run movies (some in 3D) as well as classics. Movies, sporting events and music videos are also shown on the poolside jumbotron.
Disney Fantasy Public Rooms
There's no neon, jam-packed bar or bank of glittery ascending elevators in Disney Fantasy's marvelous three-deck atrium … just a bronze statue of Minnie Mouse, a grand piano, marble floor, a curving staircase and enough art nouveau flourishes to keep would-be designers in awe for days (the chandelier alone is a jaw-dropper). The entire affair takes its cue from a peacock, so there are feathery swirls aplenty -- even in the metalwork gracing the walls -- and a rich Caribbean palette of blue, green and gold. The balconies on all sides provide excellent vantage points for the events held here, including performances (vocal and instrumental), character greetings and a tree-lighting ceremony at Christmas.
While the shops onboard offer typical Mouse merchandise, jewelry and duty-free booze and fragrances, there is one newbie generating lots of buzz: the Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique, a small-fry salon that turns children into princesses and pirates for a fee (from $55 for hair and makeup to almost $600 for a three-makeover package that includes a wardrobe). It's a lovely little space in what used to be a bland meeting room, but those prices are fearsome -- though not enough to scare parents away, so be sure to make reservations.
Like the other ships in the fleet, Disney Fantasy offers neither a library nor a casino. And while there is Wi-Fi throughout the ship, there is no dedicated Internet cafe. The Cove Cafe, a Wi-Fi hotspot, does have laptops you can use for an additional fee.
Each deck has a laundromat with an iron to work out the creases before dinner.
Disney Fantasy Spa & Fitness
At first blush, Dream and Fantasy's top decks seem largely identical. Like that on Dream, Fantasy's pool deck features a large, family-oriented area, complete with hot tubs and a pair of pools. The Mickey pool -- whose spiral slide is supported by a giant gloved hand -- hosts a parade of happy young'uns as it does on Dream. Likewise, the bland, five-foot-deep Donald's Pool sits in front of the 24-foot-tall LED screen mounted on the ship's funnel. There's also a "Finding Nemo"-themed toddler splash area tucked out of the way in the shade.
But venture into the adults-only area and things start to change. The multi-deck Quiet Cove, Disney's adults-only pool area, has been tweaked on Fantasy; nicer loungers, canopy-covered shade zones and the "funnel puddle" fountain/wading pool have been added to the mix. And the forward area on Deck 13, a vast wasteland on Dream, has been transformed into the Satellite Sun Deck, with more canopied areas and Satellite Falls, a circular splash pool with a "rain curtain" that provides cool comfort on steamy Caribbean days. It's a splendid area with a big plus: We never had problems finding an open lounger.
The AquaDuck watercoaster remains the piece de resistance for, well, just about everyone. For some reason, Fantasy's seems a little faster than its Dream predecessor, but that could be wishful thinking. Riders on rafts zip through a transparent tube that rings the pool area -- at one point swinging out 13 feet off the side, 150 feet above the ocean. There is a 42-inch height requirement, so prepare younger siblings, and try to go in the early-evening pre-dinner hour, when the line dwindles to nothing.
Just behind the entrance to the AquaDuck on Deck 12 is the new AquaLab, which replaces the oft-empty Waves bar on Dream. Without the long lines of the 'Duck, the 'Lab is geared toward getting you soaking wet while explaining the backstory of the watercoaster. It doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, but who cares? Water pours down from above, shoots up from below, squirts out from the side. Watch out, kids. Mom and Dad may steal this one for themselves.
The predictably serene Senses Spa & Salon offers the usual range of treatments, from haircuts and manicures to more exotic fare like hot-stone massages and mud baths. Teens can get pampered on their parents' dime at Chill, a youth-oriented adjunct located within Senses. The Fitness Center provides treadmills, stationary cycles and the like. Classes in yoga and Pilates are taught for an additional fee.
Goofy's Sports Deck on Deck 13 aft offers mini-golf, a basketball court, ping-pong tables and virtual sports simulators that allow passengers to play soccer, football, ice hockey golf, tennis and basketball via digitized graphics (perfect for rainy days, but there's a fee). Runners can head down to Deck 4 for a jog; one lap around the promenade equals .4 miles.