10 Highlights from Disney's New Fantasy Cruise

Posted by Fodor's Editors on April 13, 2012 at 3:19:06 PM EDT | Post a Comment

By Eric Wechter and Francesca Drago

On March 31, the Disney Fantasy sailed its maiden voyage. The Fantasy offers expanded entertainment and activity options to support longer itineraries than those of its sister ship the Dream. New seven-day cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida, sail eastern and western Caribbean waters, with ports of call including St. Maarten and St. Thomas to the east, and Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, and Cozumel to the west. Both cruises dock at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.

Fodor's Editor Eric Wechter was onboard to explore the Fantasy and Castaway Cay for three days alongside his wife and 14-year-old son. They consulted the Personal Navigator (a newsletter with the day's events and activities delivered to each stateroom) each morning to design their own schedule and cruise experience. Herewith, in no particular order (not unlike their improvised itinerary), are ten of their most lasting memories and favorite highlights.

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1. Whiling Away on Castaway Cay

Castaway Cay offers plenty of brisk activities such as parasailing, snorkeling, and kayaking, but it's also an island of pleasant diversions—a palapa bar here, a hammock there, and calm surf everywhere. While many ports of call produce a sense of urgency to make the most of your time ashore, Castaway Cay invites unhurried exploration of nothing in particular. Rent a bike ($6) and roam nature trails at your own pace. Pedal to the observation tower and take in panoramic views of tropical landscape and turquoise waters.

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2. Marveling at Mosaics

Disney artistry abounds on the Fantasy. First-draft pencil sketches, rich dioramas, and vibrant character portraits adorn the walls throughout the ship. At the Royal Palace restaurant, several majestic Disney scenes, such as Cinderella's ballroom dance with Prince Charming, are portrayed in stunning mosaic murals. Exquisite details and a few surprises make for truly Enchanted Art at every turn.

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3. "Streaming" Video

The family pool area on the upper deck becomes an open-air movie theater, dubbed Funnel Vision, at night. Disney films such as Wall-E and Tarzan are shown on a 30-foot-high, 18-foot-wide LED screen under the stars. Pull up a lounge chair or wade in a pool that shimmers under the glow of the giant screen.

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4. Taking in the Blue

The lagoon at Castaway Cay seems to have come straight out of a Disney animator's color palette. The deep blue beckons, but before you head ashore, behold spectacular beach views from the ship's stern. Better yet, head to the outdoor deck at Cabanas food court, the Fantasy's casual dining spot, and have your breakfast perched high above the island.

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5. Height-Water Rafting

The Aquaduck is a water tube that sends you streaming and screaming around and, for a split second, over the upper deck. It's not rocket fast, but it sure is high up—150 feet if you dare look down during the swing-out, 45 feet as you encircle the deck. The curving flume also whizzes you through tunnels and past the tween club, before coming to a gentle stop in a shallow exit pool.

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6. Globetrotting at Europa

Europa is a grown-up night spot that provides a sense of club-hopping around the best scenes in Western Europe. Each "country" sits within a series of interconnected spaces, so passing through Ireland, Italy, London, and Paris is as easy as walking through a door. The thematic transition from each club is admirable, but even more appealing is the convenience. Need a break from the pumping house beats at the London dance club, the Tube? Walk next door and relax on a Louis XIV chaise lounge at the quiet French cabaret, Ooh La La.

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7. Becoming a Lobbyist

Scenic overlooks on the Fantasy aren't just on the upper decks. Some of the ship's best views are from the floor and surrounding decks of the soaring atrium lobby. Rising three stories, the lobby is the Fantasy's elegant, bustling hub. From the bottom of the grand staircase (where Disney characters often descend to greet passengers), peacock feathers fan across the floor. High above, a 13-foot chandelier, textured like a flapper's dress, illuminates the atrium. Every vantage point provides people-watching and photo-taking opportunities. And just try to resist posing next to Mademoiselle Minnie for a kid-friendly keepsake.

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8. Getting a Vibe

Adolescents will find havens that offer privacy and quality time with peers. You must be 14–17 years young to hang at Vibe, or 11–13 to enter Edge. There's plenty of seating for sunbathing at Vibe, as well as splash pools and even a hot tub or two. Teens can play deck games, such as Ping-Pong and foosball, then belly up to the (fountain) bar for an icy smoothie or chill out with a video game. On-site Disney chaperones organize optional events in these casual spaces (dodgeball anyone?). Talent shows, karaoke, and dance competitions entertain in the evenings.

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9. Rotating Repast

Dinners onboard the Fantasy take place in three different restaurants, but your table service is provided by the same trio of waitstaff at each meal. "Rotational dining" provides separate restaurant experiences with consistent, personalized service. Food allergy or special requirement? You need mention it but once. Whether expertly extracting succulent lobster from its shell, entertaining the little ones with riddles, or teaching your teen how to fold a paper placemat into a rose, attentive and talented serving crews enhance the magic at the Animator's Palate, Enchanted Garden, and Royal Court restaurants.

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10. Getting Hydroactive

At Castaway Cay, wade in surf clear enough to see the groups of small fish that dart around your toes. Children try to catch them but eventually give up to pursue more attainable aquatic adventures, such as the water slides and cannons at Pelican Plunge or Spring-a-Leak, the island's 2,400-square-foot water park, where they can squirt and spray and saturate away. And hey, how about stingrays? Swim with them and interact—even feed them a snack—as part of a one-hour experience (fee applies).

Photo Credits: 1, 2 courtesy Eric Wechter; 3 Disney Cruise Line News/Kent Phillips; 4 Disney Cruise Line News; 5 Eric Wechter; 6 Francesca Drago; 7 Eric Wechter; 8 Disney Cruise Line News/Diana Zalucky; 9 Francesca Drago; 10 Francesca Drago

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