Live Voyage Review: Disney Fantasy, Western Caribbean 2012
I will be sailing aboard the brand new Disney Fantasy along with my parents for their anniversary from this coming Saturday, April 28th to May 5th.
While it will be a Western Caribbean cruise, many of the ports we have already visited. So, my live voyage review will consist primarily of the shipboard experience and Castaway Cay.
I’ve been onboard this ship twice now, but I have never sailed on her nor any Disney ship yet. I look forward to sharing the experience with you all!
I’m onboard the beautiful Disney Fantasy with my parents to celebrate their anniversary. I’ve been on the ship twice previously, once at the shipyard and once at her christening in New York, but I have not set sail on her until now. As a cruise enthusiast and Disney fanboy, it does seem strange to report that I had never been on a Disney cruise before now. And now that I am on my first DCL cruise, I’m asking myself what took me so long to get on one. If you love Disney and cruising, this line is for you.
We boarded yesterday, and I made a point to tour my folks around the youth areas of the ship first since those are almost always off limits to adults afterwards except occasional open-house hours which I discovered on the schedule later. I feel very familiar with the ship having toured it extensively in the past, but some areas were even new to me such as Vibe, the teen center in the bow of the ships.
It was a bit of a maze to access it forward of the deck’s staterooms and promenade, but I’m sure the teens love that aspect of their secluded space. It’s a fun area on a part of the ship typically allocated to crew recreation on most other cruise ships. Here there are video alcoves where they can recline and chill out.
Also inside is a smoothie station, dance floor, and internet terminals. Outside, teens have their own deck with a small pool, two spas and a pop jet grid. While there is no view over the sides of the ship, there is a great perspective of the ship’s forward superstructure and bridge.
Getting younger a la the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, there is also a space specific to tweens, although it was locked up yesterday, so I couldn’t see it. Children get the most deck space to themselves, however, with the Oceaneer Lab and Oceaneer Club complete with play sets themed to Monster’s Inc., Toy Story, and Finding Nemo. Even the It’s a Small World Nursery makes you want to start crawling again.
Many of these areas can be explored more in photos as a part of my previous Disney Fantasy reporting here.
You can’t help but wish you were a kid again when you explore the youth facilities onboard. In fact, I think it would be great if the line offered a ‘swap’ hour or longer where the adults could enjoy the kids areas while the kids could enjoy the adult areas. Why not? After all, the adults seem to have just as much fun getting photos with the characters as the kids – yes, my own experience included.
In fact, it’s amazing just how easier it is to mingle with the characters onboard than it is at the Disney parks themselves. Sure there are lines to take photos, but they are short in comparison to the park equivalents. And nowhere onboard could a bad photo with them be taken with so many beautiful backgrounds.
We’ve also been really impressed with the entertainment and food onboard, including brunch today at Palo.
I want this next bit to focus primarily on the food onboard the Disney Fantasy, but let me first begin by saying just how much fun my parents and I are having onboard. This ship has such personality with extremely unique venues that aren’t just cookie cutter recreations from other cruise lines. What stands out to me is that the rooms aren’t just painted and wallpapered. They’re ‘dressed’ like sets would be with props filling all the nooks and crannies, providing a full backstory for every space on the ship. But let’s talk food for now…
The food onboard Disney Fantasy has been impressive. Everything Disney does ashore and aboard is driven by narrative. It must have a story, and that right there makes such a difference. The dining rooms, as with every venue onboard, are themed leaving layers of story to be revealed during one’s meal.
Of the three rotational dining rooms – each night your assigned dining room differs – Royal Court is perhaps the most static room with no kinetic nor video elements, but it’s also the classiest. Here the Disney princesses inspire all of the decor – from the rose of Beauty and the Beast to the carriage from Cinderella. Wall paintings and mosaics tell the stories more directly while the decor itself acts as a subtle homage to the royal characters. With so many film elements to draw from, such a room could be quite cluttered, but the actual effect is well-balanced and extraordinarily tasteful with beautiful light colors on the walls and ceiling, and rich reds and greens on the tile floor and carpet. The young female passengers who are formally made up at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – the retail experience where girls are made up to resemble Disney princesses – fit in perfectly here.
Enchanted Garden – modeled after the gardens of Versailles – harkens back a bit to the Victorian parlor rooms of vintage ocean liners. Here the lighting and faux horizons transform during the meal from day to dusk and then to a starry night while the floral lighting automatically ‘blooms’ open thanks to some mechanical magic. This is a very relaxed venue with a lovely fountain in the center of the room and pastel colors adorning the surfaces. I did wonder, however, if the ceiling lighting was working entirely as intended as the fiberoptic stars were lit but there was no further blue backlighting of any kind in the overhead panels. All in all, the transformation makes for quite a nice backdrop to a meal.
Animator’s Palate is the most engaging of the dining rooms. Here Crush, the sea turtle from Finding Nemo, comes to each section of the room to actually have a conversation with the diners. It’s a technology first introduced at the parks, and it applies quite well to the dining atmosphere. Here, of course, his interaction with you pertains mostly to the cruise experience and where people are from. It is indeed amusing, and you can’t help but let your inner child out to talk with an otherwise imaginary character.
The other show offered here is Animation Magic, which Paul Motter and I experienced during the christening event onboard in New York. That’s where you draw your own character and see it come to life onscreen with full animation next to famous Disney characters. It’s quite an impressive show.
While the venues themselves have personality, the food quality itself must be considered to compare it to other cruise cuisine. The food selection is top notch with creative dishes that will not overwhelm you with outrageously eclectic flavors. In fact, I’ve found myself having a hard time deciding between dishes here, more so than on any other cruise I’ve taken.
The food quality itself is generally excellent, however, we have experienced inconsistency with food temperatures. I would put the quality of taste somewhere between standard and premium cruise fare with some dishes exceeding that. And the service from our dining staff is superb, very quick and friendly.
We will also be trying out Remy, the three hour dining experience inspired by the film Ratatouille. I will discuss that along with Palo, the other adult-only dining venue once we’ve experienced both…
Let’s talk about the entertainment and adult-only dining onboard the Disney Fantasy. I’ll also follow up with an official review article soon after I return home. So, stay tuned for that as well.
It is very apparent that the Disney Cruise Line represents the culmination of the best elements of all that Disney has to offer worldwide, from entertainment to service. Along with this achievement, the line has also managed to include and balance a wide spectrum of cruise industry offerings as well, from casual to formal. For example, the formal dining experience at Remy was the best I have ever enjoyed at sea, and tonight we will enjoy a midnight premiere screening of The Avengers in Dolby Digital 3D just as it is released shoreside. I must admit I’m really geeking out about the latter.
The entertainment onboard is truly top notch. The theaters themselves are technologically impressive, and the performers are the best I have ever seen on a cruise. The Walt Disney Theatre hosts the broadway-style shows, but that alone is not worthy of describing the caliber of the performances.
While most cruise lines will offer a generic “Taste of things to come…” type show the first night, Disney tells a story right from the get go about a family rediscovering the joy they can share together and individually onboard, showcasing Disney numbers that appropriately convey said message. Unfortunately, photos are not allowed in the theaters, so all I have to visually share are images from the fantastic Pirate Night on the upper decks.
This ship is loaded with pyrotechnics. I am truly amazed by the sheer amount of impressive flashes and explosions on stage, not to mention the abundant showers of various confetti. Of course, such elements should only be used to support the narrative and not define it, and surely in Disney fashion, this is exactly how it is done. Their shows are far more than just spectacles of light and sound because they do indeed pull at the heartstrings with beautiful music, staging and stories.
The first main show is Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular, which is a remounted version of the long-running stage show at Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim. And while some elements have been scaled down, the overall effect of the show is not lost. There are still grand entrances of characters and elaborate set pieces.
The magic carpet ride scene is also included. Hanging the carpet off of the ceiling as in the California show is infeasible on a cruise ship, so here the effect is quite impressively replicated by a fully articulated gimbal that is all but entirely hidden by a billowy cloud of fog. The audio quality in the theatre is superb and does a fine job of reproducing the stellar vocals of the cast as well as the unforgettable, signature music.
Another great performance is Wishes. In what would usually be just another medley of Gershwin tunes or the like strung together by a thin narrative or nothing at all on other ships, here is another great story of three best friends on the eve of high school graduation who spend the night at Disneyland for one final ride of their lives before stepping into the future. This narrative is indeed weaker than Aladdin and even the opening night show in my opinion, and this show does play a bit as a playlist of some of Disney’s newer or re-imagined hits.
Nonetheless, the show is still excellent and features many costumed Disney characters as all the shows do, and the characters in this show utilize the recently introduced technology of articulated-mouth and blinking-eye character masks that sync up perfectly with the vocals. Surely, this technology will eventually become common place across all of the characters in every show.
Tonight’s show is Believe from the Disney Dream which I’m certain will showcase Disney’s usual staging finesse. It really is impressive how well Disney utilizes every staging element and technology in the book to create a visual depth in a very size-restricted ship space. They spared no expense here.
Even the entertainment on the top decks is astounding. Disney remains the only cruise line to offer fireworks at sea, and to be honest, I was expecting far less explosions in the sky than we were actually treated to. Even the video from previous Pirate Nights that was previewed to the press on my earlier ship visits looked less than stellar. But I was blown away by the actual show which is much improved from what I saw on the video.
Captain Jack Sparrow makes a characteristic entrance via catwalk cantilevered from the top of the forward smoke stack, and from there all manner of pirate and Sparrow mayhem ensues. The interactive antics come to a climax with the famous fireworks at sea which last for quite some time considering the physical limitations of how few can be stored and launched off of the smoke stacks.
All of this followed by the late night opening of the AquaDuck water coaster and the club music blasting from a sound system likely loud enough itself to launch fireworks shells makes for one seriously fun evening. Now if they would just increase the volume of their outdoor displayed movies to comparable if not just slightly higher levels – currently, dialogue is rather unintelligible from the Funnel Vision films.
And now for the adult-only dining options – Palo and Remy. The restaurant service onboard is already superb, but these specialty restaurants kick it up a notch. We enjoyed the Italian Palo for one of the sea-day brunches they offer there. The private party dining room is reconfigured to offer a buffet of appetizers, seafood, pastries, and dessert.
The entrees are cooked a la minute per your choice of the displayed dishes including traditional choices such as Chicken Parmesan as well as pizzas. The chilled shellfish, including crab claws and scallops, was a very nice addition to the buffet, and the entree egg dishes and pizzas were most tasty.
The real culinary gem onboard is Remy. Yes, it is expensive with a $75 surcharge, but it is indeed worth the cost. This is my 46th cruise sailing, and Remy was the best onboard dining option I’ve ever experienced. It’s a long affair at three hours, but the relaxed pace does not drag on. And to be sure, you are rewarded with delicious culinary treats.
I chose one of the preselected tasting menus and was very pleased with the dishes I consumed. Even prior to the courses, you are offered a lovely champagne cocktail and a selection of breads including a delicious truffle brioche.
My pan-seared Saint-Jacques scallop appetizer was delectable as was the following Grosse Crevette shrimp course. Cabillaud Girolles was a lovely filet of cod served in a bowl of warm cream, mushrooms, and beans. The main steak course of medium-rare Boeuf de Wagyu was rich and tender. And the final Paris-Brest hazelnut dessert was light and refreshing. Every plate was composed brilliantly and made quite the visual statement. Remy is worth every penny.
Last night, The Avengers took over the ship as the brand new film premiered onboard at midnight along with the eastern seaboard of the U.S. People began lining up outside the Walt Disney Theatre more than an hour ahead of time in a scene reminiscent of Comic-Con. The crowd was a lot of fun, cheering and clapping at the grand moments during the film. I haven’t had that much fun in a movie theatre for some time. It was a great movie on a great ship during a great cruise.
I’ll finish off this live voyage review of the Disney Fantasy with some images from Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island destination. In many ways, this port itself is worth the cost of the cruise. The ease of docking and not having to tender in and the peaceful adult-only areas are sublime. The theming is in typical Disney fashion, and the activity and food service stations are very well kept and operated.
This cruise has been a blast, and I can’t wait to return to the Disney Cruise Line. Stay tuned for my full report coming soon…