Little Kids: 3-6 • Big Kids: 7-9 • Tweens: 10-12 • Teens: 13-17

Disney Fantasy Cruises for Families

My first glimpse at the massive and beautiful Disney Fantasy, the newest in the line by Disney Cruise Line, was during its christening celebration in New York City in March 2012. The evening onboard this magical ship was opulent and star-filled (I mean of the celebrity kind), and it certainly didn’t feel like this was a ship dedicated to families with the number of little black dresses and glasses of champagne moving about the rainbow-chandeliered-draped atrium.

I returned to Fantasy for her pre-inauguration guest cruises out of Port Canaveral, Florida, in late March. The three-night cruise simply set sail for Disney’s private Bahamian island, Castaway Cay, and I was able to glimpse the ship with families aplenty and children running around the promenades. The opulence was still present, but in the family-friendly way that Disney is known for. This ship features everything a child, as well as a parent, could want, including a way of making adults feel they haven’t sacrificed luxury in order to accommodate their children.

Fantasy rises 14 floors above sea, and the way-finding maps located near the elevators were needed by my party the entire four days and three nights we were onboard. Thank goodness for small touches in decor to help us remember which side was starboard and which side was port, because we could never remember which way it was to our cabin. But with each confusing turn, we would encounter another special surprise, and I felt like I was spinning in constant wonderment throughout our cruise.

Disney Fantasy Staterooms
The Fantasy offers five different cabin types to choose from. The cheapest cabin, a Deluxe Inside Stateroom, sleeps three to four people with a queen-size bed, a convertible sofa, and some rooms featuring a pull-down bed. In interior rooms, Disney magic provides a Magical Porthole with real-time views simulating the views others have from their actual ocean view rooms. A split bath with tub and shower allows guests to take a shower in one room and use a sink and toilet in another.

From there, cabins become ocean view rooms and begin with a Deluxe Family Oceanview Stateroom, which is similar to the inside cabin but provides a large porthole with built-in seating to take in the views. A Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah is five square feet larger due to its verandah, and was perfect for our stay in that it was roomy enough for four. All the rooms provide a curtain to separate the living space from the bed space, so children sleeping on sofa beds and berths can sleep well while mom and dad are not forced to bed at an early hour. The TV is in the area with the sofa and berth, and we found putting the kids to sleep in the queen bed allowed us to enjoy the sofa and TV, as well as the verandah, so we sacrificed the queen bed.

Larger families can enjoy the Concierge Family Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah, which accommodates five with a queen bed, double convertible sofa, and upper berth pull-down bed. This cabin features a full bathroom with tub and shower, as well as a half bath. The Concierge 1-Bedroom Suite with Verandah is twice the size of the stateroom and sleeps five in a one-bedroom with queen bed, a living area with a double convertible sofa and one wall single pull-down bed. There are two bathrooms, a walk-in closet and a private verandah in these rooms.

One thing I absolutely love about the rooms with verandahs is Disney changed its locks. On the Wonder, the verandah door had a lock at the top of the door to prevent young children from going outside without assistance, but my daughter figured out how to move a chair to the door and unlock it in mere minutes. The new locks are strong bolt locks that need to be turned and were a little tricky for me to work out the first few times. The verandahs also feature glass windshields beneath the rails that do not allow children to climb. (Again, my daughter just moved the chair next to the rail because she has no fear and likes to scare me, but that’s my own trouble!)

The cabin floors also offer launderettes with washing machines, dryers and irons — extremely helpful when traveling with little ones who can blow through clothes as if they were in a fashion show.

Disney Fantasy Dining
Disney makes its cruises unique in so many ways, but one thing that always impresses regular cruise-goers is its rotational dining. During a cruise, guests are assigned to different restaurants on different nights in order to try out each location, and when they move to a new location, so do their servers, providing exceptional and personalized service. Guests also sit at tables just for their families, and do not share tables with strangers, like on other cruises. The rotational dinners are featured in three restaurants: Animator’s Palate, Royal Court and the Enchanted Garden.

Animator’s Palate may be familiar to some Disney cruisers who have tried other ships in the line, but they haven’t seen animation like this. Guests draw pictures on placemats and sign their names, and while enjoying dinner, Disney works its magic to convert the drawings of every guest into a whimsical cartoon played on a number of screens during the dessert course. It’s amazing to watch a stick figure dance, twirl, and leap with the characters of beloved Disney movies, and at the end, all the guest names scroll through as featured animators. I cannot remember what I had to eat (it was good) because all I remember was how cool the animation was!

Enchanted Garden is made to look like the gardens of Versailles (although I didn’t notice the resemblance) with overhead lighting fixtures in closed flowers that eventually bloom over the course of dinner and the wall and ceiling lights turning from a bright, sunny white to hues resembling a sunset and an early evening. The Royal Court is meant to evoke a French castle setting, and the menu is decidedly French as well.

Cabanas is the ship’s casual indoor/outdoor restaurant buffet serving up breakfast, lunch and dinner. Midship, guests can grab burgers, pizza, chicken fingers, fresh fruit and ice cream at Flo’s Cafe, Luigi’s Pizza, Tow Mater’s Grill, Fillmore’s Favorites and Eye Scream for quick-service dining.

For adults, Cove Cafe is forward ship and serves up pastries and coffees and teas. Palo and Remy, Disney’s uber-popular adult-only dining spots feature the best views, impeccable service, and a quiet, refined ambiance that is in such demand the restaurants are booked solid for lunch and dinner by the time most guests board the ship. (Definitely go online to book in advance!) If you miss your chance to try the neighboring restaurants located on the top floor, aft, visit Meridian’s adult-only lounge for a drink between the two hotspots.

Disney Fantasy Activities
AquaDuck & AquaLab
I think parents will be hard-pressed to get their kids away from this new feature for Disney Cruise Line: the first-ever water coaster at sea! AquaDuck’s 765-foot-long tube will send fun-goers up, down, around and off the side of the ship and back, as well as a funnel and river rapids, while at nearby AquaLab, the kids can play in a splash zone.

Goofy’s Sports Deck
Located on Deck 13 this open-air playground provides a place for kids to enjoy a rousing game of mini golf or virtual sports simulators, as well as play some hoops on the open-air court.

Nemo’s Reef
A special place for toddlers to splash and play, safely tucked away from the big kids, little ones will enjoy this water playground located on Deck 11. Pop jets, bubblers and fountains feature characters found in “Finding Nemo.”

Pools
Families will enjoy Donald’s Pool and Mickey’s Pool, both located on Deck 11. Donald’s Pool rests before a giant LED screen where dive-in movies are shown, such as “Toy Story” on our first night of the cruise. Mickey’s Pool is two feet in depth, so younger kids have a happy place to splash. If kids are enjoying the many kids’ programs, mom and dad can head to Quiet Cove Pool on the same deck but forward, where 18 and older have a quiet place to unwind poolside.

Disney’s Oceaneer Lab & Club
Both popular Disney Cruise Line programs are available again on Fantasy, in the largest setting yet. Located on Deck 5, the lab and club provide a place for kids 3 to 10 (children must be potty trained) to play and make friends in a supervised environment. In Oceaneer Lab, the magic play floor provides interactive games all ages will love (I know because I was wracking up points in a lily pad/frog game and had to be dragged away!). Kids will enjoy science projects, book making, talent shows, and a number of themed playrooms, including Andy’s Room with life-size figures from “Toy Story.”

It’s a Small World Nursery
Also located on Deck 5, the nursery is for infants 3 months to 3 years of age. Trained caregivers staff the quiet and intimate space, so even the youngest Disney fans can enjoy the cruise. (A nominal fee is required, as are reservations, with space provided on a first-come, first-served basis.)

Edge
The tween club for kids, Edge, was filled night and day during our visit, with kids dancing on an illuminated dance floor and playing dodge ball. L.I.T.E., Live Intranet for Tweens Exclusively, is an intranet available only to tweens to see photos and videos of themselves on the cruise and messages from fellow tweens.

Vibe
For teens, Vibe is the ship’s lounge featuring a sun deck, video games, TVs, dance area and supervised activities in a hip and little-kid- and parent-free environment. Vibe has it’s own teen-only sundeck for relaxing, and they get their own intranet as well, called T.O.R.C.H., Teen Only Resource & Communications Hub. On Castaway Cay, teens also have their own Hideout with a private beach and deck just for them.

Walt Disney Theatre
Deck 3’s two-story theater features nightly musicals and acts designed around popular Disney shows, such as “Aladdin: A Musical Adventure” and “Dreams,” hosted by Aladdin’s Genie. Shows are also held on the pool decks, including the ever-popular “Pirates in the Caribbean” show with Captain Mickey Mouse and a buccaneer blast fireworks show followed by Club Pirate deck dance party for families.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Be prepared to drop some serious change in this shop — or be sure to avoid Deck 5’s Midship if you don’t want to be pulled in by your princess-loving little ones. Little girls can get the full fairytale treatment with pixie dust makeovers and hair styling, as well as purchase princess costumes, tiaras, wands and shoes. Little boys can become pirates, but all the kids I ever saw in this boutique were giddy little girls and parents who couldn’t say no to the high-priced experience.

Disney Fantasy Travel Tips
For Mom and Dad
Visit the aft section of Deck 4 for a collection of bars to enjoy each night, when the kids are safely playing in the kids’ clubs. For me, my favorites were a toss up between O’Gill’s Irish bar with live music and a staff of Irish-accented servers and bartenders and Ooh La La’s intimate, couch-lined champagne lounge that resembled a French boudoir and served champagne cocktails and a number of champagnes by glass and bottle. La Piazza is an Italian-inspired bar setting that felt more like sitting on a vintage carousel, sans horses. Skyline is called a “metropolitan sky bar meets luxury penthouse,” and The Tube’s nightclub emulates the London Underground. Looking to dance, visit Europe for an 18+ disco experience.

Senses Spa & Salon is for guests 18 and up, and for any stressed out parent looking to truly relax, a visit is a must. For $27 a day, guests can access the salon’s deck, which features fabulous forward ship views and comfortable seating, the steam rooms and hot tubs, and the unique shower system where various showers simulate a different type of rainfall. Massages, facials, body treatments, mani/pedis and more are all offered, including a fabulous couples treatment in a private suite. Couples who visit will be treated to their own private suite with verandah, where a hot tub awaits and staff provide couples privacy to enjoy some alone time before receiving simultaneous treatments like bamboo or hot stone massage.

Serenity Bay on Castaway Cay is also reserved for guests 18 and older, if children are enjoying kids programs and mom and dad want a quiet spot on the beach to relax.

Read full reviews of Disney Cruise Line Cruises
Disney Wonder
Disney Dream
Disney Magic

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