Today’s Wheel of Years has stopped at 2013, so here we go. MiceChat and Fairy Godmother Travel hosted a recent Caribbean Cruise on Disney Cruise Lines fabulous cruise ship, Fantasy. By far the most beautiful cruise ship ever built, the Fantasy is not only attractive, but so innovative in entertainment creations that no other cruise ship even comes close. Disney’s own Imagineering group led the way in the creation of this sensational Floating Disney Resort, working hand in hand with the world famous ship builder Meyer-Werft in Papenburg, Germany. Their shipyard is not at a sea port, but located in a beautiful German farmland. Meyer-Werft ships reach the sea by canal.


While Disney Fantasy guests are captivated by all they can see and experience aboard, There is another Fantasy – the one that remains backstage. Not just the crew and cast member backstage, but the living heart of the ship, hidden deep below decks. Let’s take the secret tour of the Fantasy. Beyond just the giant warehouses that store all the food, supplies, and entertainment, beyond the giant laundry and service facilities common to a Disney Resort, but the beating heart – the engine room. Mysterious and never seen by any guest, it is in it’s own way equally as beautiful as Fantasy’s topside.

A cruise ship is actually two operations; a seaworthy vessel that supports a traveling resort hotel. All the power and utilities are furnished, not from land based suppliers, but internally generated independently while at sea for maybe two weeks at a time supporting perhaps 6,000 guests and crew. Heat and air-conditioning, hot and cold water, sewage and garbage disposal – all must be provided. And oh yes, the whole ship/resort has to drive across the sea at maybe 25 mph. All of this done without a guest ever seeing any of it. To any gearhead, this is the real magic – the secret tour.


Starting with thousands of tons of diesel fuel which feed five diesel engines that generate massive amounts of high voltage electricity, the heart of the Fantasy is an electrical load center, essentially a city power generating plant. About 80% of this power goes to run the hotel and all the ship’s systems, with 20% used for propulsion. The ship propulsion can be described as diesel engines running electrical generators (alternators) which feed the electrical load center, which in turn power two large electric motors connected to a pair of counter-rotating long shafts terminated with fixed pitch multi bladed propellors rotating at 135 rpm. The diesel engines run at 514 rpm.

In addition to the five diesel engines, separated into two different rooms (any damage to one would not effect the other, same with electric load centers) many other systems are installed. Sea water is picked up and converted to fresh water, while black and gray water is handled by an impressive sewage treatment plant. Then this treated water is injected back into the sea cleaner than when it was picked up. all sewage solids and garbage is incinerated, creating hot water, while giant chiller machines circulate cold water through the ships air conditioning units. Hot water is continuously circulated to all areas so that hot water is instantly available everywhere.


The Fantasy is equipped with a unique fire control system which utilizes a special fire suppression gas that is harmless to guests and crew. Every cabin and ship space has smoke detectors and gas nozzles that activate without the mess made by water sprinklers. The philosophy is that this gas will quickly control any fire even before a fire crew can arrive. It’s far better to stop any fire in seconds, then follow up with a crew. The below decks fire control system is the absolute latest technology at sea. All of the technical and control functions are centered in the most impressive engineering center ever installed in any cruise ship. What’s so impressive is that all walls and floors are painted a brilliant white, lighting is very helpful to inspection and service. What’s even more impressive is that nothing drips or leaks – the whole place is more like a hospital operating room than a typical ship engine room.


Additional equipment is also located in the ship; exhaust gas economizers, oil fired steam boilers, emergency diesel electrical generator, various air compressors, oil purifiers, bilge water separators, steering gear, stabilizers, thrusters and such. Much of this equipment is connected by virtually miles of electrical cables, ducts, and piping, all of which is beautifully arranged. Meyer-Werft designs every piping and electrical cable routing by computer, not leaving hook up work to shipyard technicians. The result is the most professional and spectacularly beautiful ship technical installation ever seen. A secret tour of the heart of the ship will prove that the beauty, innovation, and elegance of the Disney Fantasy extends top to bottom. All who built and serve this masterpiece surely must be so proud.

I may have been on a secret tour of the Fantasy, and I’d absolutely like to do it again!

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Bob Gurr is a true Disney legend who was hired on to design the Autopia for Disneyland. Over nearly four decades, Bob would become famous for developing the Monorails, Submarines, Flying Saucers, antique cars and double-decker buses of Main Street, Ford Motor Company’s Magic Skyway (at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair), Omnimover ride system, Matterhorn and lots more. It has been said that if it moves, Bob probably played a part.

Upon leaving Imagineering in 1981, Bob worked on a number of “leisure-time spectaculars” and “fantastical beasts” for parks and developments all over the world. Most notably, he created King Kong and Conan’s Serpent for Universal Studios Hollywood, A UFO for the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, and the memorable T-Rex figure featured in Steven Spielberg’s motion picture “Jurassic Park.”

You can find Bob’s column, Design: Those Were The Times, right here on MiceChat. Though don’t pin Bob down to a schedule, he’s busy being “retired.”

  • BradyNBradleysMom

    I just realized this is actually Bob Gurr writing these columns. Geesh, I feel dumb. This is the most amazing thing ever, that we actually get to read a column written by a real life legend. When I’d see these DESIGN kind of columns I thought it was someone else writing about Bob. I never knew it was really him. I am just floored and so grateful he does this. They are great primary source materials for future imagineers to study!!! 🙂

  • rstar

    I have been enjoying Bob’s columns about the past with his extensive knowledge, memory, and just having the opportunity to live an amazing life working at the Walt Disney Co. (and yes, I knew he wrote the columns himself, which he his very talented at doing as well!). But to read one where he is enjoying a current event like this one is such a treat as well! What a fascinating look behind the scenes of a wonderful ship!

    Thank you, Bob!

  • ScottG

    I’m a gear head too and that was an absolute treat!
    Thanks so much Bob!

  • It was so neat to be on this trip with Bob. He’s a total engineering nerd and was treated like a king by the ship’s crew (who were amazed that he knew almost as much about their ship as they did). We even got to celebrate his birthday!

    Bob has signed up for our Mediterranean cruise in June. If anyone is interested in joining us, please contact [email protected] for details.

  • davidrusk

    Man I sure did enjoy that article. It left me wanting more. I’ve not been on a Disney cruise because I always end up deciding I would rather spend the time and money at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. But after reading this article I need to reconsider.

  • IndianaJenn

    Having recently been aboard the Fantasy with Bob, it was really cool to watch how his mind works. You can almost see the wheels turning whenever he sees anything mechanical!

  • Amy VandenBoogert

    Another great article, Bob!

  • DisWedWay

    Hi Bob, Loved your layout and diagrams and I was wondering why the first 2 Disney Ships used a different drive-train than the latter or newer Disney Ships? When they count the number of Disney Cruise ships I hope they include the SS Columbia at Tokyo Disney Seas. I hope one day those Maiden Cruises will help finish it and utilize the areas in the stern top deck, wheel house, and interiors.

  • Awe_inspired

    Great article Bob. So neat. Thank you.

  • Awe_inspired

    When I saw the picture of the ship with the tugboat, I thought they had outfitted the tug with an overlay that made it look like Cinderella Castle!!

  • kayoss

    to DisWEDway: The SS Columbia isn’t a real ship, but rather a very nice concrete block show building with basically the skeleton dressing of a real ship covering it. Leave it to the imagineers to design such a convincing tease!;)

    • DisWedWay

      Tell that to the Imagineers who created the over 700 feet ship with over 2 million rivets.

      • DisWedWay

        All the ships that pass by the SS Columbia think it’s so real they had to fly warning flags to warn them to not pass by too close do to the shallow waters.