Just for Adults
Aside from all the great family and kid fun, adults are not left without their own exclusive space to enjoy onboard. In fact, they get an entire continent – well at least by way of representation – with Europa. At first glance on a floor plan, this appears to be another clumped space that is essentially a collection of five bars, but in practice the effect of wandering about five distinctly themed European lounges is quite enjoyable.
Making your way aft towards the rear of the ship, you first encounter La Piazza – the effective hub of Europa – with its central carousel bar styled with Italian flair. The surrounding banquettes, small bandstand, and fun Vespa and side car with pedal-activated motor sound effects creatively support the venue’s theme.
Immediately off to the sides of La Piazza are Ooh La La and O’Gills. Whether you choose the French boudoir or Irish pub atmosphere respectively, you will be treated to comfortable retreats with tasty libations. The excellent O’Gills house brand Irish cream liqueur surprisingly gives Baileys a run for its money.
As the night wears on, you’ll find Europa has some of the best themed bathrooms anywhere. On the outside, the sandy, sinuous lines of Gaudi’s architecture is represented, and on the inside, beautifully detailed Spanish mosaics are showcased.
Opposite the bathrooms is my favorite lounge. Skyline is made to look like a hip after-hours penthouse that offers a room with a view. Day or night, the horizon is composed of various nighttime European cityscapes from Paris to London stitched together by a series of high-definition video panels in place of windows. Every twenty minutes or so, pixie dust magically transports you to a different scene populated with animated citizens and vehicles all set to the local music.
Europa is crowned by the queen herself with The Tube, a London Underground-themed dance club and variety stage that serves as the home to extra performances during the cruise – although the space proves too small for this purpose. The eclectic space is decorated in parts as an Underground station and cars, queen’s sitting nook, and dance stage topped off with a Union-Jack on the ceiling and genuine London phone booths off to the sides.
And if all of that wasn’t enough for the adults, the relaxing treatments found at Senses Spa and Salon are sure to cover the rest.
Entertainment: Production Shows
Disney is first and foremost an entertainment company, and true to that outstanding pedigree, the Disney Fantasy delivers in spades. The main production shows are housed in the state-of-the-art Walt Disney Theatre. While some other cruise ships try to spice up their subpar productions with ostentatious interior design, Disney Fantasy’s theatre is simply classy with the focus appropriately onstage instead of off.
Each seven night voyage presents five main productions with the other two night dedicated to a variety act or feature film screening. As with other cruises, the shows on the first night and last night act as bookends to the cruise, but here Disney emphasizes narrative.
Instead of a mindless medley, A Fantasy Come True opens the cruise with the story of a disoriented family meandering the ship for the first time and ‘stumbling’ upon the stage during the middle of the show. The cruise director gets in on the act to show them their way towards enjoying everything the ship offers – a creative preview of the cruise to come – and then the parents and kids begin to rediscover their family values along their musical journey. The resulting show is very humorous and heartfelt.
The three main musicals presented onboard are Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular and Wishes, brand new on the Fantasy, along with Disney’s Believe, transplanted form the Disney Dream. Aladdin is most impressive as a remounted version of the show from Disney California Adventure. Disney makes great use of all possible staging techniques and elements to make the most of their otherwise limited onboard space. The superb company of performers is supported by elaborate set pieces, video projections, incredible sound, puppetry, balcony staging, aisle performances, pyrotechnics, fog, and confetti.
Unlike the shoreside version, Aladdin and Jasmine do not ride the magic carpet suspended from the ceiling but instead ride one on an impressive fully articulated gimbal – itself worthy of being a Disney theme park ride – shrouded in a cloud of fog with the mechanism still not entirely hidden from view. The gimbal should really be painted white instead of black to blend in with the fog. Small technical gripes aside, the performers nail each number with high energy and pitch perfect vocals making for a fantastic show.
Wishes is very good, but the narrative is not nearly as fleshed out as Aladdin. This show comes across more than any other onboard as a series of Disney hits loosely stitched together. The promising but ultimately weak story of three high school best friends going on one final ride of their lives at Disneyland before graduation is not quite powerful enough to support the great songs. Still, Disney’s unmistakable brand of sentimentality does pull at the heartstrings, and the numbers – themselves superior to standard cruise ship fare – are worthy enough to overshadow any shortcomings.
Disney’s Believe is a stellar show and features a strong science versus faith storyline. Here is the journey of a botanist father struggling to come to terms with his daughter’s belief in magic. Following the ever comedic genie, reprising his role from Aladdin, the father begins to see the light with the help of Disney’s songbook and company of characters just in time for his daughter’s birthday.
Unfortunately, the final show, An Unforgettable Journey, was a bit of a letdown as a haphazard homage to Walt Disney combined with some original music and a final showcase of all of the Disney characters, all of which wasn’t helped by the insertion of the unfunny onboard juggling act. But to be sure, the productions as a whole onboard were extraordinary, and seeing your favorite Disney characters dance onstage along with the other performers is sure to tickle your inner child.
Entertainment: Disney Exclusives
Another huge plus to cruising with Disney is their screening of first-run films onboard. Whenever a Disney-distributed film is released shoreside, that same film is made available on their ships. Although originally unscheduled and saved for a ‘surprise’ announcement later, our sailing included a midnight screening of the current blockbuster juggernaut, The Avengers, followed by additional showings until the end of the cruise. Even the underappreciated but fantastic John Carter was available in 3-D in the plush dedicated cinema of the Buena Vista Theatre. Other Disney films are played back during the day on Funnel Vision, the massive LED screen mounted poolside.
Disney is also the only cruise line that offers a fireworks show at sea. The dazzling spectacle on the ship’s Pirate Night is truly stunning. I was amazed by how well the Jack Sparrow character was portrayed and just how long the fireworks display was given the likely limitations of such a production at sea. The safety officer told me that many precautions are made to wet down the decks and position the ship upwind prior to commencing the elaborate show. It’s truly an impressive sight.
What’s more, character meet-and-greets are a real gem onboard. From Mickey and the gang to the princesses, there are plenty of opportunities to get a picture with your favorite characters during the cruise. In fact, it is much easier to get face time with them here than it is in the theme parks on land. The ship masterfully utilizes the grand atrium for the majority of the appearances, but the characters make their way about different areas of the ship for additional photos as well.
The usual formal portrait stations are placed about but so are those to pose with Chip and Dale, Remy from Ratatouille, and many more which make for great keepsakes. Disney is also very fare to take photos with their cameras as well as your own if you so wish. This is a really fun shipboard feature for kids and adults alike.
Stay tuned for the final part of my review coming up where I will discuss the excellent dining and service onboard as well as Disney’s private island destination, Castaway Cay. You can also check out our video review here.