Feb 21-28 2015
Last week, I and my two sons ages 6 and 8 years embarked on our fourth Disney cruise. Despite fantastic previous experiences, this last cruise was truly our best. This review is meant to share my thoughts ... Read More
Feb 21-28 2015
Last week, I and my two sons ages 6 and 8 years embarked on our fourth Disney cruise. Despite fantastic previous experiences, this last cruise was truly our best. This review is meant to share my thoughts and experiences on Disney Cruise Line (DCL) and the Fantasy, with a focus at the end of my review on the concierge service.
This Disney Fantasy is a magnificent luxury vessel built in Germany and launched in 2012. We sailed on the Fantasy during her inaugural year and two years later the ship still appears to be brand new. Many of the 1500+ crew members spend the day (and nights) maintaining the interior and exterior of the ship. The décor is a mix of intricate art deco and Disney motifs. The ship itself would take a full day or two to explore if one were to discover all of the abundant artwork pervasive on the ship. I suspect that the Disney Fantasy is one of the most beautifully arranged and decorated moving structures in the world.
The Fantasy staterooms include inside rooms with ‘virtual windows’ (a camera view of the outside view of the ship), staterooms with actual windows, and staterooms with verandahs. The concierge area also has suites with a separate bedroom, two bathrooms (one massive), living room and dining room. The two largest suites (the Royal Suites) in the forward area of the ship also boast a kitchen, several bathrooms, and a hot tub on the verandah.
All Fantasy staterooms are spacious with plenty of storage space and partitioned bathrooms with the toilet separate to the shower/bath. Even the ‘cheaper’ inside staterooms are comfortable and beautifully designed. The choice of a verandah is personal as some guests prefer an outside walkout, and others do not. If you prefer fresh sea air in the morning, the one drawback of choosing a verandah room (smoking neighbors) has now been eliminated as DCL has banned smoking on the stateroom verandahs (Yay DCL!).
The public spaces are sparkling clean (again, the work of industrious crew members) and generally do not feel crowded. The exceptions are the main swimming deck on sea days and popular evening shows. However, there are many spaces to escape to for more quiet time. The adult-only areas are relatively unobtrusive and tend not to be overcrowded.
The activities on the ship are seemingly endless and vary from family dance parties, to animation instruction sessions, to cooking lessons, to character events, to game shows, to baby crawling races, to bingo games and to wine and spirit tasting sessions. At any given time, there are probably 3-5 scheduled activities to choose from on the ship (apart from just hanging out and relaxing on deck). Professional well-trained staff members who truly appear to enjoy their work run the various activities on the ship.
Many other reviews have described the rotational dining schedule. There are three unique restaurants on the ship and families rotate to a new restaurant each evening, with the same serving team each night. This allows for familiarity with the staff and a higher level of service than would be possible if the serving team changed on a daily basis. The food is very good given the fact that 8000 meals are served a day on the ship. There are many healthy options, if that if of interest to you. The available wine choices are excellent and passengers can bring their own bottles with a corkage fee. Overall, the dining experience, particularly at Animator’s Palate, is an enjoyable time for families to experience top-notch service and delicious food in a child friendly environment.
Food options around the ship during lunch and breakfast focus on Deck 11 locations with the varied food stations at Cabana and Flo’s V8 Café fast food burgers and fries. The breakfast and lunch service again provide healthy options such as fresh fruit, salads and sushi. Even the soft-serve ice cream is ‘reduced fat’ and is available all day until late evening. One cannot go hungry at any time of day on the Disney Fantasy and healthy eating options are ubiquitous.
The workout facilities include a well-equipped gym with plenty of cardio equipment (with the most awesome view of the sea during your workout), free weights and weight machines. The boat deck (Deck 4) is a running deck; however, a faster runner would have a difficult time navigating the traffic. The Senses Spa offers many luxurious services. Although the spa staff are likely required to do so, the staff tend to ‘push’ the purchase of take home products that one probably doesn’t need (or even want).
The childcare services include a nursery for children under 3 (not included in the cost of the cruise) and the Oceaneer’s Lab and Oceaneer’s Club for school-age children. The childcare staff is well trained and extremely friendly. Organized activities abound, among many digital play options and relaxing movie-watching coves. Often children enjoy the ‘camps’ so much that they regret leaving with their parents! Given the age of my children, I have not had first-hand experience with the special areas for ‘tweens’ and teenagers, but these spaces appear to be quite popular.
The entertainment on board is another major highlight of the cruise. There are Broadway-type musicals, juggling acts, magic shows and first-run movies, some in 3D. My sons and I have thoroughly enjoyed the shows on the ship and have left the theatre with smiles on our faces and plenty of regaling of the most entertaining parts of the show.
My sons and I prefer to stay on the Fantasy when the ship is docked at ports of call (with the exception of course of Castaway Cay), therefore I cannot comment on the excursions, except to say that the dolphin experience on Cozumel is a child-friendly enjoyable interactive experience with sea life.
Before I indulge in a discussion of the concierge service on the ship, I would like to mention that the DCL staff is universally friendly, helpful and genuinely kind and courteous to all of their guests. This includes those in customer service and those that spend the day maintaining the ship. All guests on the ship are treated like they are uniquely special. The crew of the DCL is first rate in the industry and DCL should be commended for maintaining such a consistently high standard in customer service.
Finally, I would like to outline the advantages of the concierge service, an upscale more expensive option for guests. The concierge area is located on Decks 11 and 12 in the forward area of the ship. The cornerstone of the concierge service is the Concierge Lounge in which the concierge staff members (PJ, Julia and Kemisha) ensure that every need and whim of the concierge guests is fulfilled immediately. The lounge is essentially a ‘home base’ to relax, grab some small artisan snacks, a glass of wine or a cappuccino, before your next activity on the boat…or first thing in the morning…or just before retiring to bed. We chose concierge service this cruise, which took the Disney Fantasy experience to a whole new level. We were able to get to know the staff (who are paid 100% through tips) and to spend time with other concierge guests in a more intimate environment. The décor of the rooms and hallways is a notch above in luxury, as are the linens and bathroom toiletries in the staterooms. The bar service is personal and always at-hand (two happy hours per evening, one before each dinner service). The private concierge sun deck is an absolute oasis of peace and tranquility.
Concierge guests have 24 hours head start on booking a cabana for Castaway Cay. This is the first time we were successful in booking a cabana, which probably sell out in those first 24 hours. The privacy and serenity of a quiet space on the beach, along with full drink, towel, beach toy, biking and snorkeling service, raises the spectacular experience of Castaway Cay to an even higher level. Of all of the advantages of concierge service, I would vote the option of securing a cabana on Castaway Cay very much near the top.
I would like to thank and acknowledge the outstanding service of PJ, Julia and Kemisha (concierge staff), Christopher (concierge bar), Vincent (concierge stateroom host), and our serving staff Ali (head server), Stefan (server) and Messeil (assistant server).
The ONLY downside of taking a cruise on the DCL Fantasy is that debarkation is inevitable!
Miscellaneous tips and tricks:
1. Concierge service also includes pre-cruise service (to book excursions, dinner time preferences, seating preference, etc.). More importantly, concierge service provides priority boarding. We walked past a massive crowd of people to register and obtain our children’s wrist bands, and then walked onto the ship within 5 minutes of reaching the terminal: priceless!
2. The Navigator app is fun way to plan your day, change your plans at the last minute, or plan ahead for your dinner selections. The app also counts down the days until your cruise, which is a fun visual to have on your iphone/smartphone.
3. Remy is an upscale French restaurant that is for adults only. Since I travelled without my husband, I did not dine at Remy. However, several concierge guests reported that the food and wine pairings are ‘world class’.
4. Sit at the front of the theater for shows if your children would like to collect the various decorations that are thrown into the air at the end of the shows.
5. The Pirate Night fireworks can be seen from the verandahs on the port side of the ship.
6. On the formal night, a great photograph option is with the Captain of the ship with a ‘sunset on the boat deck' backdrop. This option will be found on Deck 3 mid-ship.
Enjoy the vacation of your dreams!