A cruise enthusiast and Disney fanboy sets sail on and reviews his first ever Disney cruise. And now the continuation...
Parts one and two of my review showcase the beautiful Disney Fantasy herself as well as the onboard attractions and entertainment. Here I conclude with a look at dining, service, and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.
Do you dream of sailing onboard the Disney Fantasy? Talk about it in the Disney forums.
The restaurant arrangement onboard is most unique with three main dining rooms, each with their own distinct décor, made available to your party at least twice each during a seven-night cruise. Disney calls it rotational dining, and as your party alternates between dining rooms each night, so does your familiar wait staff move with you. This feature keeps the culinary experience fresh and is no doubt popular among children, entertained by the variety of venues.
The first dining room is Royal Court, an elegant restaurant most akin to the traditional ones on other cruise ships. Except here the décor is influenced by the Disney princesses from Cinderella to Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The result is a classical dining environment with exquisite details from wall paintings and mosaics to carriage light fixtures, carved wood and etched glass. While this room lacks the dinner shows of the other two, the details alone provide sufficient stimuli.
Enchanted Garden, modeled after the gardens of Versailles, does not offer a full dinner show per se, but it does provide visual effects during the course of your meal. The backlit panels in the walls and ceiling transition almost too subtly from day to sunset to night, and the floral light fixtures mechanically bloom open in succession across the room. This restaurant is a very relaxed space with pastel colors, tile-paved floor, and a calming central fountain.
The most playful restaurant onboard in Animator's Palate with its colorful lighting, paint brush pillars, plethora of props, and multitude of screens. Here you are treated to two shows during the cruise, "Turtle Talk with Crush" on one night and "Animation Magic" on another. The popular chance to interact with the animated sea turtle, Crush, from the film Finding Nemo has become a staple at the Disney's theme parks worldwide, and now here the show has been applied to an entire restaurant. After introducing himself and the fish gang to the entire room, Crush makes his way to each section during the night to chat it up with the diners in the "human tank" while his other friends swim about. It's always an impressive effect to be able to communicate with an animated character, and it's sure to make you giggle in between bites.
The second show in this restaurant is the wonderful "Animation Magic." Upon sitting down to your table, you are invited to draw your own character within the humanoid grid found on you placemat. Once you are finished drawing and your placemats have been collected, Mickey comes on screen to let everyone know that all of the drawings will be perfect for him to create some "animation magic." While the main mouse is away working with your drawings, the screens play a collection of all the Disney animated footage related to food during your meal.
Once dessert comes around, Mickey comes back to introduce the grand finale where all of your characters magically come to life animated alongside several Disney characters in many famous films. And each dining room section is guaranteed view of their own characters on the screens closest to them. Now if Disney would just offer the footage of your characters on DVD as a keepsake they would be onto something. You do at least get to take your placemats, now with a seal certifying you as an official Disney animator, back home with you. "Animation Magic" represents Disney at its best where creativity and technology intersect to delight kids of all ages.
The Food Itself
I was very pleased with the selection of the food offered in the dining rooms night and day, and I often found it difficult to choose a single preferred dish per course. The quality of taste was equally impressive, somewhere between standard and premium cruise fare. It's clear that the food itself does not take a backseat to the dining venues and shows. The dedication to excellent kid's menus and attentiveness to allergy restrictions were also impressive.
The food selection and quality at the Cabanas buffet were comparable to the main dining rooms with the weakest culinary link being the outdoor pizzeria. The pizza was satisfactory when fresh but often times it had been sitting around in the humidity for too long. The grilled food fared better being kept in warming trays until served, and the large variety of soft-serve ice creams and complimentary sodas onboard was most welcome.
The culinary arts really shine at Palo and Remy, the two adult-only alternative restaurants onboard. Palo offers Italian cuisine, as an homage to the Italian shipyard where the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder were built, for evening dinners as well as brunch on sea days. Champagne brunch here is very relaxed for a sea day when the other restaurants are usually at full capacity. The food selection is quite plentiful with buffet service for pastries, shellfish, antipasti, and desserts. The excellent entrées are on display and cooked à la minute with dishes ranging from frittatas and pizzas to chicken parmagian.
Remy is where I experienced the best cuisine I've ever had at sea. This eight course, three-hour meal is pricy at $75 per person, but the food and service is certainly worth the cost. The décor of Remy is handsome to begin with rich colors and elegant patterns alluding to the titular character from the film Ratatouille, but the Gusteau room is truly exceptional. This exquisite room, identically modeled after Gusteau's from the aforementioned film, is usually intended for large parties, but it can be requested for smaller parties if no large group has reserved the space that evening.
Dinner can be ordered à la carte or from a predetermined selection from two tasting menus – one more French, the other more American. However you order, the food is plated with artistic flair and reaches your palate with bold flavor. The evening begins with an effervescent champagne cocktail and tasty breads such as an incredible black truffle brioche. My French tasting menu acted as a sort of surf and turf with starters of scallop, shrimp, and fillet of codfish, followed by a delicious entrée of Wagyu Beef. Then came a pleasing cheese course and delectable dessert of Paris-Brest and petit fours.
Following their dedication to every detail, Disney also excels in their service as the onboard staff is extremely friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. From the restaurants and bars to the shops and guest services, the crew members – or rather cast members in Disney parlance – deliver the goods with a bright smile. And pleasantly, guest services never had any massive line to navigate.
Even the usually less desirable aspects of cruising are better handled by Disney. Embarkation and disembarkation are a breeze, and here there are no annoying assigned luggage groups for getting off. You just leave when it's convenient for your travel arrangements, and there are all your bags waiting for you at the pier. I would imagine the line having their own dedicated dock has a lot to do with this efficiency.
Off the Ship
The Disney Fantasy is enough ship to occupy your time during a seven-night cruise. In fact, we never got off save for Castaway Cay to briefly experience Disney's private island. Not having to tender to their facilities alone is enough of a headline to praise this port of call. Just walk off the ship, and you are in the middle of a tropical paradise that has been groomed with the usual Disney finesse.
The beautiful theming continues here from the common family beaches all the way to the adult-only area with fun full-sized props such as vintage aircraft placed within the dense foliage. The facilities and staff maintain excellent control of keeping the kids safe to the child-only spaces while families and adults can enjoy other activities like jet skiing, parasailing, and snorkeling. I even understand one of the old 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride vehicle submarines from the since removed Disney World attraction is sunk here for underwater exploration.
It is apparent that the Disney Fantasy and the Disney Cruise Line represent the culmination of all the best elements that the Walt Disney Company offers worldwide. This is certainly the company's jewel of a brand. Yes, the line does charge a premium, but as with everything, you get what you pay for, and here you get a lot of bang for your buck. Kids do not madly overrun the ship as we once feared, and in fact seeing their delighted reactions to everything was part of the joy of our cruise. The Disney Fantasy is a dream come true.
Do you dream of sailing onboard the Disney Fantasy? Talk about it in the Disney forums.