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All Aboard The Fantasy

Disney Magic on the Seas

There’s a lot to love about Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship, the Disney Fantasy, especially for a Disney fanatic like myself. The 4,000-passenger ship captures not only the latest in technology, but also the magical spirit that makes Disney one of the most loved and recognized brands in the world.

Even the Fantasy’s horn is recognizable. It is able to perform not only the first line of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” but also the second line of the song, plus several measures of “Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life for Me,” “It’s a Small World,” and “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”

The Disney Fantasy is the fourth ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, joining Disney Magic, Disney Cruise Line’s first ship, which embarked on its maiden voyage in 1998, the Disney Wonder (1999), and Disney Dream, which had its maiden voyage last year. The Fantasy offers seven-night Caribbean itineraries that depart from Port Canaveral, Florida, and alternate between the Eastern and Western Caribbean.

Port Canaveral is just one of the Disney Cruise Line ports. Other ports include New York, Miami, Seattle, and Galveston, Texas. Ship itineraries feature the Bahamas, the Caribbean, New England, Alaska, the Mexican Riviera and in 2013, the Mediterranean. Families can opt for everything from a fun three-day cruise to the Bahamas to a luxurious 12-night voyage to the Mediterranean. You can even coordinate a Bahamas or Caribbean cruise with a stay at Walt Disney World Resort.

If you and yours are lucky enough to board Disney Fantasy, you’ll have Bob Zalk to thank for one of the ship’s hallmark attractions. The senior show producer and director for Walt Disney Imagineering is like a proud papa when he talks about Animation Magic. That’s the interactive show in the Fantasy’s Animator’s Palate restaurant which lets guests try their hands at animating as part of an innovative multimedia dining and entertainment experience. “Animator’s Palate celebrates animation,” Zalk says. “For the Fantasy, we wanted to get back to the roots of pencil-drawn animation.”

But Animator’s Palate is just one of many attractions on the Disney Fantasy. There’s plenty to keep everyone entertained during the week, especially the younger crowd. There is nearly an entire deck of spaces designed to inspire, entertain, and spark the imagination of children. For example, Disney’s Oceaneer Club, a child-friendly oasis filled with Disney fairies, adventuresome toys, and undersea exploration, includes a Magic PlayFloor. The interactive floor gives children the chance to take part in activities by using their movements to control the action. The club is adjacent to Disney’s Oceaneer Lab for children ages 3 to 10 with another Magic PlayFloor, as well as an Animator’s Studio where kids can bring computer-animated characters to life.

The Fantasy also debuts the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and The Pirate’s League. Youngsters can transform into a favorite princess at the Boutique, and on the evening of the deck party “Mickey’s Pirates In the Caribbean,” kids can discover their inner buccaneer with the Pirates League treatment.

Last year, when the Disney Dream launched, it boasted the AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea. The Disney Fantasy takes that concept a step further with AquaLab, a water play area behind the entrance of the AquaDuck. The 1,800-square-foot space features a variety of water experiments created by Donald Duck’s nephews – Huey, Dewey, and Louie. You’ll find everything from a leaky wall where kids try to keep water circulating by covering holes in squirting and spurting pipes with their hands to overhead water leaks and sprays that are intended to drench anyone in their path.

Teens and tweens haven’t been left out of the action. The teen-only Vibe club features video gaming, movies, and a dance floor, while Edge, the tween club has computers, a video wall, and a dance floor. The Chill Spa for teens, 13 to 17, includes spa treatments such as an ice cream manicure and pedicure.

Adults have their own escape at Europa, an over-18 area that whisks you away to Italy, Ireland, England, and France by way of five different nightspots. Michael Davie, development manager for Walt Disney Imagineering, worked on Europa’s design. “We wanted to create a story inspired by European travel,” he says.

The La Piazza lounge includes a bar modeled after a vintage carousel while the Ooh La La bar is reminiscent of an elegant French boudoir with a bar design that was inspired by a jewelry box. “The jewels in the wall twinkle with fiber optics,” Davie says. “The back of the bar has a bubble [effect]. It’s cool at night when you see thousands of bubbles cascading up.”

The Tube, a high-energy dance club, resembles London’s underground transit system. “It has a Union Jack feel,” Davie says. “It pulls you in. It wouldn’t be London without phone boxes and we have four actual London phone boxes on either side of the stage.”

Disney Fantasy, like all of the Disney Cruise Line ships, is a floating resort. Eighty eight percent of the 1,250 staterooms on the ship are outside rooms, and of those, 90 percent have a private veranda. To accommodate larger families and groups traveling together, there are 500 connecting doors that adjoin staterooms. Most staterooms feature what’s called a split bath-and-a-half with a sink and tub/shower in one room and a sink and toilet in a separate room, a cruise-industry first.

You can expect the unexpected on Disney Fantasy, including an innovative rotational dining concept that allows you to enjoy different restaurants and menus for dinner each night and have the same servers wait on you. Most Disney Caribbean and Bahamian cruises also will take you to Castaway Cay, a private island paradise exclusively for Disney Cruise Line guests, with activities and areas for families, teens, and adults. Onboard entertainment includes deck parties, movies on the deck’s giant screen, first-run films in the movie theater, Disney character appearances, and fireworks at sea during the “Pirates In the Caribbean” celebration. Disney Cruise Line is still the only cruise line to have fireworks at sea.

It wouldn’t be a true Disney experience without top-notch musical productions. The Disney Fantasy has three: “Disney’s Believe,” which is also on the Disney Dream, the new “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular,” and “Disney Wishes,” the ship’s signature show. The 45-minute musical journey focuses on three best friends who discover the secret to being happy grownups is keeping their childhood zest for life. “Aladdin is a straightforward musical retelling of the movie,” says David Duffy, creative director, entertainment and port adventures for Disney Cruise Line. “It has all of the wonderful music that everyone knows and features the genie who is also in ‘Disney’s Believe.'”

Moving the costumes and scenery around is a major operation for the production teams. As each show changes, costumes are pulled out of storage and put into the dressing rooms at the same time that the costumes for the previous show are stored for the week. “Our performers and technicians make it look so easy,” Duffy says. “It seems effortless.” The ensemble cast of 24 performers rotates between the three shows. “They are getting a real workout on their acting chops,” Duffy says, adding that it makes perfect sense that the productions have as much space as they do on the ship for costumes and scenery. “Entertainment was at the forefront of mind when they designed the ship. That is Disney, after all.”

An award-winning writer based in Richmond, Joan Tupponce is a parent, grandparent, and self-admitted Disney freak. She writes about anything and everything and enjoys meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. Joan’s work has appeared in RFM since the magazine’s first issue in October 2009. Look for original and exclusive online articles about Richmond-area people, places, and ideas at Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.
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