This review of the kids’ clubs on the Disney Fantasy is by Amy Whitley, who blogs about travel with her three school-age sons at Pit Stops for Kids. She sailed with Disney Cruise Line in 2012, when this story first appeared on Expedia. Amy and her sons began their vacation in Orlando, then bussed to Port Canaveral for a short cruise to Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, and back to Florida.

Much like its sister ships, the Disney Fantasy houses five separate kids’ club for four age categories: It’s a Small World Nursery for infants and toddlers (ages 3 months-3 years), Oceaneer’s Lab and Oceaneer’s Club for kids (ages 3-10), Edge for tweens (ages 11-13), and Vibe for teens (ages 14-18). As I was the only adult traveling with my kids (ages 7, 10, and 12), I was heavily anticipating – i.e. depending on – these clubs being Disney-great.

To up the ante, my kids generally do not like hotel or resort kids’ clubs. They’d much rather explore or play on their own, and usually find them boring or, now that I have a tween, “lame.” So how did the Fantasy clubs measure up? During the course of our cruise, the boys deemed their clubs “awesome,” “sweet,” and “epic.” Only not at first.

Viewfinder Tip: Sign up your children for the kids’ clubs online before you even set foot on a Disney ship. They’ll be good to go immediately once you’re on board.

Our first evening on board, I dropped my seven and 10 year olds off at the Oceaneer’s Club, then deposited the 12-year-old at Edge. When I arrived to pick them up an hour later, I hovered for a bit, just watching, and I was really impressed. The clubs had enough adult staff in each section that no child was ever left alone – in a good way. There was always a lively group activity or game going on on the interactive, light-up play floor, and when any one child wandered away from it, a kids’ club Cast Member instantly noticed and joined him or her at whatever pursuit he or she was, well…pursuing. My seven-year-old, Toby, gravitated toward the myriad of video game options (all with fun Disney shorelines and theming) instead of the group game, and every time he detoured, someone came with him, engaging him and laughing with him.

When I sprung them and we debriefed, however, I found out that Toby had felt bored and Calvin (age 10) felt the club was too babyish. Nate (age 12) had decided there weren’t many things to do in Edge. Oh no! I spoke to the Cast Members at the Oceaneer’s Club, who, already getting to know my son, told me that Toby would probably be happier in the Oceaneer’s Lab, which is connected to the Club, but has another entrance (which we had missed). The games there are for the older age group of the 3-10-year-olds, and has fewer “event” style activities ongoing. Once he knew the Lab was an option, he went back happily.

Hand washing is mandatory before entering the Oceaneer’s Club

Nate returned to give Edge another try the next day, and found many more kids his age and more activities to his liking. There’s a schedule of events always posted by the door (and in the daily newsletter, Navigator) so you can see what’s coming (which gave him some sense of control). I asked whether Calvin (age 10) could move “up” to Edge to join his brother, and in under 10 minutes, his wristband had been returned to the Oceaneer’s Club, his name was on the Edge roster, and he was joining in the fun. I barely saw either of them for the next two days!

What made the Fantasy kids’ clubs great for me? The cast members. They were professional: the sign in and out procedure was efficient and thorough. They were attentive: as I said, no child slipped through the cracks. And they were fun: their energy seemed to know no bounds. I was able to drop the kids off after dinner every night and grab drinks with friends in Europa (the adults’ only system of European-themed bars and night clubs on Deck 4), which only made me love these enthusiastic and dedicated people all the more.

What made the Fantasy kids’ clubs great for my kids? The cast members. You thought I was going to say the games, right? Or the play spaces? The toys? Nope. Even though all five youth spaces are loaded floor-to-ceiling with technologically advanced, industry-leading entertainment, it was the Cast Members my kids noticed. (I think Toby had a crush on his favorite “teacher” in the Lab, and Nate and Calvin loved how “grown up” they were treated in Edge.) These are the things they remember about their clubs. When I toured the spaces as a member of the media, I was told all about the “features” in each of the kids’ clubs, but the people running them outshine it all.

Our advice? Give the clubs a try, and then, even if you’re unsure, try again! Disney goes to every measure to make sure every kid feels at home on the Fantasy!

At what resort or on what cruise have you found great kids’ clubs?