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5 things to love about Disney’s new ship

USA TODAY’s Gene Sloan just returned from a preview cruise aboard Disney’s newest ship, the Disney Fantasy. For a more expanded view of the vessel’s features, see his new¬†comprehensive photo tour.

PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — Few new cruise ships over the past decade have drawn as much buzz as the Disney Dream, which launched last year. And for good reason: From an elevated “water coaster” wrapping around its top deck to interactive art on its walls, the 2,500-passenger Disney vessel offers some of the most innovative new features found at sea.

Disney is rolling out a sister to the Disney Dream, the Disney Fantasy, that combines many of the earlier ship’s most exciting new elements with a number of new attractions.

Thinking about booking a trip on the vessel, which sets sail on its maiden voyage Saturday? Here are five things to love about it:

1. Disney-designed shows. Disney has conjured up two new musicals for its newest vessel and, in typical Disney fashion, they’re both elaborate productions infused with Disney characters and music. Wishes tells the story of three friends who make a wish while on a visit to Disneyland, invoking an enchanted world where Disney characters guide them through a magical journey, and Disney’s Aladdin — A Musical Spectacular draws from the animated movie of the same name. Both productions are shown in the ship’s 1,340-seat Walt Disney Theatre along with Disney’s Believe, a show that first debuted on the Disney Dream. Read about the Disney Fantasy’s star-studded christening.

2. The AquaDuck water coaster. One of the most-ballyhooed features of the Disney Dream, this 765-foot-long water ride is back on the Disney Fantasy — and in identical form. Wrapping around the top deck of the vessel, it’s a family-friendly, two-person raft ride through clear acrylic tubes that remains one of the most creative innovations ever for a cruise ship.

3. Remy. Also returning from the Disney Dream is this elegant, jackets-required French specialty restaurant, which rivals the best eateries on land. It’s pricey, for sure, with the total bill for food, wine and tips easily approaching $200 a person. But not without justification. Some cruise lines pretend to do fine dining; here, it’s the real deal: An elaborate, three-hour-plus gourmet extravaganza designed by two of the world’s top chefs.

4. Europa. Worried the Disney Fantasy is just one big kid fest? In many ways, it is, until you step into Europa — a Europe-themed, adults-only playground that offers some of the best-designed nightspots found anywhere at sea (or on land, for that matter). Among them is Ooh La La, a champagne bar designed to resemble an elegant French boudoir, and The Tube, a London-themed nightclub that features an illuminated Union Jack dance floor. All but one of the venues are new on the Disney Fantasy. Returning from the Disney Dream is Skyline, a cozy bar with ever-changing “windows” along the wall that offer a birds-eye view of such cities as Paris and Barcelona. Read more about the Europa adult zone.

5. AquaLab. New on the Disney Fantasy is this watery deck-top play area for kids, tucked behind one of the ship’s red-and-black funnels. With such features as a “leaky wall” where children must work together to plug ever-changing leaks with their hands to spraying pipes, geysers and other interactive water elements, it’s a refreshing alternative for family fun to the ship’s main deck-top pool area.

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