The new Disney Cruise Line Fantasy, which was christened last night in New York City, is swoon-worthy, no doubt, but it is also something you might not expect: Subtle. Unlike many modern cruise ships, the 4,000-passenger Fantasy eschews loud color schemes, smoked glass, and an abundance of brass in favor of sophisticated Art Nouveau details, 1930's ocean-liner styling (witness the round portholes), and well-curated handcrafted design elements from around the world. It is, in a word, sophisticated.
The Disney Fantasy does something else you might not expect: It plays down the Disney imagery. Sure, the Oceaneer's Club for the kids abounds with Stitch and Cinderella and the usual suspects. But outside of that you could conceivably pass your first evening onboard without realizing the Walt connection. "We've always felt we had to create ships that can host multi-generational families," said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, just before the christening on Thursday. "It has to be elegant. And it has to evoke Disney, but in a way that appeals to everyone."
Or as Joe Lanzisero, the senior Imagineer in charge of the Disney Fantasy's design, puts it: "You're going to be on the ship for seven days. You really don't want Mickey in your face all the time."
Perhaps the splashiest room on the ship is the Atrium Lobby, where guests enter and leave. With its massive butterfly-inspired chandelier, sweeping staircase, peacock-tail carpeting, and three-deck-high golden columns, it may not be everyone's cup of Mad Hatter tea. But otherwise, stylish subtlety reins.
Here are my favorite parts of the new ship following a recent five-hour tour:
- The ship architecture itself, with a hull and superstructure that recall the grand ocean liners of old. The exterior colors (black, yellow, red) subtly recall the colors of Mister Mouse, but the reference is so subdued you might not recognize it unless it was pointed out to you.
- The private dining area in the French restaurant Remy, a jewel box of a room whose art nouveau richness is an almost exact recreation of the restaurant in the animated film Ratatouille.
- Senses Spa, with its water wall, floors paved with river stone, private hot tubs overlooking the ocean, and a series of steam rooms ranging from Hammam (with a dry heat infused with tangerine) to Caladarium (super hot and moist, with an infusion of eucalyptus).
- Europa, the adults-only nightlife "district" with drinking spots themed on an Irish pub, French cafe, Italian bar, and a Swinging '60s London club.
Tom Staggs, comfortably ensconced yesterday in the vast Walt Disney Suite, seemed very happy with what his team had created. Guests don't have to be parents of small children to get a bang out of a cruise on the Disney Fantasy, he said. "The adults get just as much shine and wow as the kids get."
The Disney Fantasy begins regular seven-day sailings from Port Canaveral, Florida, to the Caribbean starting March 31.
Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the international editor of Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter.