The first in a class of four 137,936-ton, 3,274-guest vessels (along with sister ship Splendida and upcoming sisters Divina and Preziosa), Fantasia is both one of the largest ships MSC has built to date and also one of the loveliest, designed with a fantastic sense of space, real glamour, and a truly individual design sense — inside, she and her sisters look like no other cruise ships at sea.
Launched in 2008, Fantasia marked MSC’s entry into the big league, with features developed for the Musica-class vessels mixing with a number of all-new elements. Among the latter, the most significant is the MSC Yacht Club, essentially a first-class section (a la Cunard’s Grill-class and NCL’s Haven accommodations) that provides its well-paying guests with a high-end luxury cruise experience just for them, while also giving them the option of journeying out into the general, democratic areas of Fantasia to mingle with the plebes.
Located primarily in the bow on Decks 15, 16, and 18, the Yacht Club offers suites with butler service plus a private concierge lounge; the elegant Top Sail Lounge, with wide windows facing the horizon; a private outdoor area with a pool, two whirlpools, a sundeck, and a bar; and L’Etoile restaurant, serving French cuisine. All in all, the Yacht Club is one of the most luxurious experiences at sea.
Back in the world of mere mortals, Fantasia splits her public rooms between low-down decks 5, 6, and 7 and high-up decks 14, 15, and 16. Spanning Decks 5 through 9 and giving hints of what’s to come is the ship’s gorgeous atrium, which gleams like a jewel box. On its various levels you’ll find the ship’s reception desk and shore excursions desk; the large Fantasia Bar, a great, social meeting spot; the Le Vele Bar, designed with a modern, angular feel; several shops, including the cute La Caramella candy shop, selling sweets by the gram; the Il Cappuccino Coffee Bar, always a busy spot on these Italian ships; La Cantina Toscana, serving Italian wines and tapas; and El Sombrero, a Tex-Mex restaurant with an open kitchen.
In the bow on Deck 6 (and spreading as well to Decks 5 and 7 as well), the 1,600-seat Teatro L’Avanguardia looks like no other theater at sea, with its modern, almost Frank Gehry–esque design. Moving sternward, the deck offers the large Casino della Palme, a Belle Epoque–inspired cigar lounge, a poker room, several shops, and the Piaza San Giorgio, a rotunda-style cafe serving pastries, sweets, and gelato.
On Deck 7, you’ll find the stylish Il Transatlantico piano bar with its ocean liner imagery, the gloriously colorful and modern Manhattan Bar for jazz performances, the large Sports Bar with big-screen TVs, and, in the stern, the L’Insolito Lounge, a fantastic space for music and dancing or just lounging on the free-form furniture.
These decks also hold Fantasia’s two main restaurants: the two-level Red Velvet, which serves Italian cuisine and operates on a walk-in basis for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the lovely Il Cerchio D’Oro, which offers views from three sides (including the stern) and focuses daily on dishes from a different region of Italy.
Moving up to Deck 14, the bow is dominated by the enormous Aurea Spa and Fitness Center, which includes a tiled Turkish bath, a stylish pre- or post-treatment relaxation room, a spa bar for juices etc., a yoga studio, a gym, a hair salon, and more than a dozen rooms for massages, mud packs, and other treatments.
Aft of here, the ship’s midsection is taken up with several pools: the I Tropici Pool, which offers a glass roof for inclement weather as well as several whirlpools and a bar, and the open-air Aqua Park, a multi-level grouping of pools, wading pools, whirlpools, and 150 illuminated musical fountains. The remainder of Deck 14 is taken up by Zanzibar and L’Africana, two interconnected casual restaurants that between them serve all three meals.
Up on Deck 15, the Lido Catalano is Fantasia’s third major pool area, a traditional stern pool with two whirlpools and a limited amount of seating. Reserved for adults only, it’s the most low-key pool area on board. Farther forward is a jogging track, a pair of whirlpools, and the ship’s children’s facilities, which comprise the North Pole–themed Il Polo Nord kids center, the Il Graffiti teen hangout room, and separate outdoor areas for kids and teens.
One more deck up, you’ll find the ship’s disco, a sports court, a video game room, and a couple of techie wow attractions: a Formula One racing simulator and a 4D cinema that simulates the motions and atmosphere on screen.
Like her MSC fleetmates, Fantasia offers a fairly small selection of stateroom categories. Fully 70% of the accommodations aboard are 194-square-foot balcony staterooms, which come with a sitting area, good storage, TV, wifi (for a charge), a vanity, a minibar, a bathroom with shower or tub, and a 42-square-foot balcony. Their design is attractively modern and uncluttered, with lovely wooden headboards and huge mirrors that do much to amplify the size of the room.
The 185- to 218-square-foot oceanview staterooms (with portholes) and 172-square-foot interior staterooms are not quite as upscale looking, but are still nicely designed, with modern art accenting their plain-vanilla beige walls.
At the higher end, Fantasia offers a handful of balcony suites with more or less the same features as the balcony staterooms but considerably more room: 285 square feet inside, plus a 61-square-foot balcony.
There are also Aurea Suites that come with a package of spa perks, plus three accommodations that are part of the ship’s MSC Yacht Club upper-crust: the 206- to 315-square-foot Deluxe Suites, 216-square-foot Royal Suites, and 474- to 571-square-foot Executive and Family Suites. All come with a sitting area, gleaming wood-veneer wall paneling, and a lot of little luxe perks.
Royal Suites include huge 177-square-foot balconies; Executive and Family Suites have no balconies but a lot of interior space.