Because it's part of the job before I board any cruise ship, I look to see where it was built, when it was built, its size, engines, and passenger count. It's just part of my routine.
For many of you, a ship is simply a conveyance to board in advance of "let's get cruising." However, if you notice that your ship was built by Meyer Werft of Papenburg, Germany, chances are good you will notice the difference in quality.
Frank de Heer, who spent three years in Vancouver with Holland America and is now the head of Disney's new-builds, calls this "one of the finest shipyards in all of Europe." Dan Hanrahan, President of Celebrity Cruises, had his five Solstice Class ships built by Meyer Werft and echoes those comments.
The new Norwegian ships, Breakaway and Getaway, which will launch in 2013 and 2014, followed by Royal Caribbean's yet-to-be-named Project Sunshine ships, will all come from that yard.
The Disney Fantasy, which rolled out of the Papenburg hangar a few weeks ago, represents the second in the Dream series. I was there to watch, as hundred of workers were putting the finishing touches on the ship. The Disney Dream was designed to sail on three- and four-day patterns, but Fantasy will sail for seven days at a time in the Caribbean.
"Our customers will have more days at sea, so we changed several features and expanded others to take that into consideration," de Heer says. "More sea days means more things to do for the consumer." One of those additions -- more stage shows -- has a Canadian connection. Two new shows, Aladdin and Wishes, are currently in rehearsals at the CBC in Toronto, before they move onto the ship.
Disney is unique in its daily dining routine. The ship has three dining rooms, each with its own kitchen, and you rotate among the three throughout the cruise, with your staff following you. Animator's Palate is probably the most popular, with the interacting character, Crush. For this ship, Disney has added an interactive feature, in which the kids draw their favourite Disney characters, which are then placed in a computer so the kids (and their parents) can watch as their drawings are animated, their characters singing and dancing along with the iconic ones from Disney.
A larger atrium, more room in the children's and adult areas, and more to do on the outside decks are just some of the new additions.
The water areas are enhanced with Aqualab for the kids, and for the adults, Satellite Falls, a new water feature and relaxing area.
The standard state rooms unique to Disney all have the pull-down bunks with the sofa turning into a bed in a curtained-off area for adults.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique moves from the Disney parks to the Disney ships. Here, kids are turned into princesses and pirates, all at a price.
For the adults, a new area will be called Europa. It's bigger than on the Dream, and each of the bars in this area will salute parts of Europe. The scenes going by in Skyline will now be from great European cities. La Piazza is the lounge that connects this web of bars. From there, you will have Skyline, Ooh La La, The Tube and Darby O'Gills -- serving Irish brews and offering interactive games for adults, along with monitors that cover your favourite sports.
After finishing sea trials, Fantasy will head to New York, where it will be christened during a lavish two-day event, then it's on to Port Canaveral for pre-cruise events, before starting its inaugural Caribbean season.
That maiden cruise will be March 31 from Port Canaveral (Orlando).
Fantasy will mainly sail seven-day cruises, alternating Western and Eastern Caribbean.
-- Postmedia News
Visit portsandbows.com for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Phil can be contacted directly at email@example.com.