Fantastic Diversions

by Everett Stephans
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 8, 2013 Issue #694 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


Everett StephensDuring my recent first voyage on the fabulous Disney Fantasy, I had the opportunity to sit down with Disney Cruise Line's Ray Smale, Cruise Director. A wonderfully enthusiastic and energetic fellow, he coordinates the activities of the ship with many entertainers and a very talented staff. We talked about the numerous activities available on the ship, both the most popular ones and some of the lesser-known treasures. At sea or in port, it is not hard to find something happening onboard the Disney Fantasy.

The AquaDuck is familiar to anyone who has been aboard, and it's hard to miss when visiting the pool area. It's rare to see the 'Duck with a short or no wait. Even for the timid, the AquaDuck is worth a visit to see the launch over the edge of the ship!

Another favorite activity with Disney cruisers is the Midship Detective Agency. It's hard to miss all the children running throughout the ship with their cards while watching the animated artwork in the stairwell landings. Once signing up at either of the Detective Offices near the Oceaneer's Club or near Enchanted Garden, young (or young at heart) detectives visit a number of paintings throughout the ship in an effort to determine the culprit in a case. This scavenger hunt includes many familiar characters, such as Mickey and Kermit the Frog, though the Muppet cases are exclusive to the Fantasy. What is not immediately apparent is that there are far more than the initial three cases -- there are more than 60 different cases that fledgling detectives can explore. If you use the same ID card when registering for cases, the Agency will know which you have completed and assign a new case when you revisit the Office.

Just as fun are some of the lesser-known attractions on the ship, which the casual guest may just pass by.

Nemo's Reef is a highly visible splash area adjacent to the pools on Deck 11, but almost hidden behind the aft stack on Deck 12 is a really neat splash area known as the AquaLab. While Nemo's Reef targets toddlers younger than 8 years old with bubbles, splashes and squirts, the AquaLab is more than 1,800 square feet of splashtastic wet fun geared for any age group with jets, bubblers, splashers, buckets and sprays. While most people gravitate to one of the two pools, the AquaLab is a quick and fun way to cool off without the crowd of the pool area.

Mini Golf on the FantasyYou don't have to be a golfer to enjoy a visit to the nine-hole miniature golf course located on Deck 13 aft. Wonderfully themed, it wraps around the perimeter of the deck overlooking the ocean. What a view! Be aware that it does get congested at times during sea days. While there, be sure to check out the sports simulators for longer golf courses -- yes, even in the middle of the Caribbean.

For pin traders, check the daily Navigator newsletter for the pin trading session with the officers of the Fantasy. Usually scheduled mid-cruise in the evening, it is a great way to meet the officers as well as do some good ol' pin trading. Also watch for the Animation seminars -- sessions that explore various aspects of creating an animated feature. This course is usually held twice -- once for families and once in the teen lounges for teens and pre-teens only.

For adults, the Fantasy holds several hidden attractions. Unique to the Fantasy, the Satellite Falls area is a neat adults-only space on Deck 13 forward that has a wonderful waterfall feature, adults-only seating, and a beautiful view. If you haven't visited this area, don't miss checking it out sometime during the cruise, preferably during daytime when you can feel the wind in your face, see those miles and miles of sea ahead, and imagine you're Jack and Rose from the film "Titanic." I actually preferred this area over the adults-only area in Deck 11 aft of the pools.

Adults also enjoy the Anyone Can Cook seminars. Often in D Lounge, they are hosted by the talented cooks from Disney, who show step-by-step how to cook some yummy dishes as Apple Strudel and Lobster Ravioli.

An area worth a visit is the Meridian lounge, a wonderfully appointed space on Deck 12 located between the upscale restaurants Palo and Remy. A reservation is not necessary to visit the bar, which has a wonderful outside lounge area that overlooks the side of the ship. Sunset is the perfect time to visit.

Beverage tasting seminars are spread throughout the week -- providing a sampling of many varieties of alcoholic beverages: tequila, wine, champagne, bourbon and others, and discussions about them. Unlike Satellite Falls and Anyone Can Cook, the Tasting Seminars are very popular, and sell out quickly due to somewhat limited space. Large groups can schedule custom tasting sessions. This is a great activity if you are cruising with a group. Just contact the Cruise Director to schedule.

Ship tours such as the Art of the Theme Show Tour (adults only) can be a great way to discover the less well-known attractions of the ship. It starts in the Meridian lounge and moves on to Palo and Remy. Another interesting tour is the Galley Tour. It lasts approximately one hour and lets you visit the heart of the Royal Palace and Animator's Palate restaurants. Contact Guest Services for this special and limited-space tour.

While exploring the ship, all ages will enjoy the outstanding art collection hosted on the Fantasy. Almost 4,000 pieces of art are scattered throughout the ship on many decks, from the stairwells to the hallways. It would be a challenge to visit even a majority while on board. A bit of trivia: almost all of the art pieces are labeled except for those in the hallway between Royal Court and Animator's Palate on Deck 3.

If you somehow get tired of the wonderful room service (did I mention free?), you can check out some Behind the Scenes videos of the Galley, the engine room, and the bridge. You can also access well over 140 recent movies on your cabin TV, providing plenty of entertainment to enjoy with your late night cookies and milk from room service!

Most people can find the D Lounge on Deck 4, but another great family destination is The Tube. Located on Deck 4 aft, it often hosts family activities during the day and adult activities at night. The home for a variety of activities from comedians to racing vegetables to towel-folding seminars, it is a great place to find early in the cruise.

Origami on the FantasyCruise programs can also vary from cruise to cruise based on crew talents. Ours had a member who had a talent for origami. My daughter attended one of the origami sessions and had a blast. In some cases, the program (or movie) can be flexed to accommodate guest interests -- movies at a later time, a repeat showing, or repeat engagements. Feel free to contact the Cruise Directors' staff if you have any suggestions or requests, since they really can impact the program offerings.

We closed with Ray's advice to all cruisers: check your Navigator DAILY. It is printed each day, and is unique to each cruise. In some cases, it can vary tremendously from voyage to voyage. He gave the example using our cruise: while approaching Castaway Cay, winds from a developing tropical storm near St. Maarten were causing doubt of our ability to dock the Fantasy at Castaway Cay. In preparation of an unplanned day at sea, Ray and his staff hustled to prepare a full day's on-board activities in case we had to spend another day at sea.

It's clear that Ray and his staff work incredibly hard to provide a comprehensive array of activities, entertainment, and programs. Your Navigator can help guide you through the extensive offerings, whether extremely popular or less traveled. Undoubtedly, there are many treasures both obvious and hidden throughout the Fantasy. Enjoy exploring and seeking out these jewels!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Everett Stephens says his clan was bitten by the Mouse during the great 2010 "Buy 4, Get 3" sale, where the charm of the Polynesian Resort captured their imaginations and more than a few dollars. Most recently, he and his family enjoyed a week on the Fantasy in the Eastern Caribbean. In his spare time, he enjoys working on the family's large-scale railroad, playing with his Norwegian Elkhounds, and planning his next WDW trip.

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RELATED LINKS

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Read more about the Disney Fantasy and its "fantastic" offerings:

Disney Fantasy Overview:
http://allears.net/cruise/ships/fantasy/disney-fantasy.htm

Disney Fantasy Maiden Voyage:
http://land.allears.net/blogs/lauragilbreath/disney_cruise_line/fantasy_maiden_voyage_2012/

Disney Fantasy at the Holidays:
http://land.allears.net/blogs/kristin-ford/disney_cruise_line/disney_fantasy/


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.