Within minutes of stepping onto the Disney Fantasy for a 3-night Bahamian cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida, my 5-year-old daughter insisted that we check out the swimming pools on deck 11. The Disney magic had worked its spell instantly, and it would continue to wave its enchantment over all of us (mom, dad and grandma included) for the rest of the sailing.
Once on deck 11, she discovered Nemo’s Reef, a 1,500-sq.-ft. splash deck themed on Disney Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.” Located nearby was Mickey’s Pool, one of three freshwater pools on the ship along with Donald’s Pool and the adults-only Quiet
The shallow-depth pool was perfect for kids to play safely, and kept my daughter occupied until the Sail Away Celebration began. Here it seemed to dawn on her that this wasn’t just any ordinary pool area. As Mickey and friends came out on stage and began singing and dancing, she looked at me with a happy expression that I would see many times during the cruise.
Star Wars Meets Super Heroes
During her dry dock, the Disney Fantasy received enhancements to the Oceaneer Club youth center, including the addition of the Marvel Super Hero Academy. Here, interactive screens make it seem like kids are learning magic from the real-life Doctor Strange, who teaches hand gestures that appear to cause various mystical effects on screen.
The other new addition is the Star Wars: Command Post, which includes a holographic table that displays 3D models of famous Star Wars ships. Kids even get to meet the droid BB8 who rises up from the floor inside a futuristic column.
My daughter was eager to experience the Princess Meet & Greet, a ticketed event where she could interact with five of her favorite characters. With the Princess fix sated, we headed to the private beach on Castaway Cay, where the ship had docked that morning.
“Castaway Cay is our private island in The Bahamas with beautiful blue waters. We’ve taken the island and designed it much like the ship. You can enjoy the same luxury on Castaway Cay, and of course, not only is it a beach day but you can parasail, you can go snorkeling and more,” says cruise director Jimmy Lynnet. “Castaway Cay doesn’t just complement the cruise, it’s part of the cruise.”
After a day at the beach, that first evening we dined at the Animator’s Palate, where animated characters appear on screens and engage guests in real-time conversation. Disney’s rotational dining concept means that your clients enjoy different restaurants each night, but their servers accompany them so they have the same friendly, personal service wherever they eat.
As the parent of a child with food allergies, I had some pre-cruise concern about how we would manage finding meals that she could eat, but I need not have worried as the serving staff had it covered at every turn and her food requirements were taken care of wherever
Disney Magic at Every Turn
“My absolute favorite experience on board are the Broadway-style shows in the Walt Disney Theatre,” says Lynnet. “I mean, we are bringing Disney stories to life on our stage.”
All the stage shows are spectacular, but equally impressive is Disney’s expert stage management of the whole cruise. The entertainment program was so well thought out that sometimes the free spaces in-between the main scheduled events could be just as magical as the events themselves. After a meal at the Princess-themed Royal Court restaurant, for instance, a random character encounter with Cinderella quickly turned into an impromptu dance party with 20+ kids dancing to their favorite Disney tunes. Best of all, even these spontaneous happenings would always wind down to give you sufficient time to get to the next scheduled event, without any tears or tantrums.
There was even time for my wife and I to enjoy a quiet break at the Senses Spa, while our daughter was having fun at the Oceaneer Club, before our dinner date at adult-exclusive restaurant Palo. Our attentive server guided us through a Northern Italian-inspired menu that included crispy calamari, a beef medallion entree and tiramisu for dessert.
Even the only hiccup of the journey—a slightly delayed arrival time back to Florida—was effortlessly spun into prolonged vacation rather than frustrating hold-up. The buffet restaurant was opened for lunch, all of the Disney characters were deployed throughout the ship, and our extended stay quickly turned into an unexpected opportunity to sample some of the many activities that we hadn’t yet experienced during the cruise.
Disney Cruise Line: disneycruise.disney.go.com/ships/fantasy