From the moment Disney announced it was adding two new cruise ships to its line, there has been nothing but talk and speculation about what these new ships would look like, what new amenities they would have, and what major differences there would be over the Disney Magic and Wonder. All the questions are finally answered because on Wednesday, January 19, 2011, the newest addition to the Disney fleet, The Disney Dream, had its Christening Event and Cruise here at Port Canaveral.
This was perhaps the biggest press event since the Year of a Million Dreams, and Disney pulled out all the stops to ensure it was a memorable occasion. But in order to begin reporting on all the events and fanfare that occurred over the three day cruise, we have to start at the beginning. This Christening event began on Tuesday afternoon when members of the media began gathering at select Disney resorts for a very important media briefing held in Mickey’s PhilharMagic auditorium. In addition to the new Disney Dream, the press was made aware of many other projects in the works for Walt Disney World. In Paris, Toy Story Playland opened in Walt Disney Studios Park, and In California Adventure, the World of Color debuted. In 2012, Cars land, from Disney-Pixar’s Cars will open, and of course there’s the new Disney Vacation Club in Hawaii.
But closer to home, here at Walt Disney World, the “Let the Memories Begin” campaign began in earnest. Walt Disney World president Meg Crofton came to the podium to elaborate, “This new campaign celebrates memories made in Disneyland and Walt Disney World every day.” She also spoke of several new projects in development, but the ultimate goal was to create lifetime memories through experiences in the parks. The new Fantasyland expansion was discussed with a goal of bringing the stories of Fantasyland to life. The new Under the Sea Journey with the Little Mermaid, the Be Our Guest Restaurant, and the new Seven Dwarfs’ Mine Train ride are just a few of the exciting new attractions in the Fantasyland expansion. Even Darth Vader made an appearance with his Storm Troopers to tout the new upgraded Star Tours attraction set to reopen this summer in the Studios.
But the media got a look at one new attraction firsthand: “The Magic, The Memories, and You” Castle light show.
After the briefing and dinner, the press had a chance to see the new Castle Light Show. This light show is projected onto Cinderella Castle, utilizing the latest technologies for one of the most amazing displays you will ever see! Pictures of guests, Disney Characters, and cartoons playing seamlessly and wrap around every nook, cranny, and contour of the Castle. Brilliant lights and figures flash around to the beat of the music. It is truly a remarkable sight, and only can Disney give its guests such a show. In order to create this magic, the entire castle was subjected to a sophisticated computer mapping that registered every curve and contour for the projections to flow smoothly. The technology explained to the Media is a little intense, but the end result is spectacular. After the show, a dessert party for the media and the “Wishes” fireworks capped off an exciting and memorable night.
Early the next morning, the Disney Cruise Line buses transported the media to Port Canaveral for the Disney Dream Christening Event. Everyone was charged with excitement to see this new “Modern Classic.” All the Disney Cruise Line Ships are designed to look like the classic Ocean Liners of the past but with all the latest technology and comfort of today. After arrival at the terminal at 9:15 a.m., everyone was served light refreshments, and finally at about 11 a.m., the festivities began. For anyone who has not attended a Disney Press event, it is an attraction unto itself. The Disney magic is abundant, and the energy is intense! The Ceremonies started with a stage show of Disney Cast Members singing and dancing. There were two huge side-by-side LED movie screens with Tinker Bell flying in the background. They displayed many of the features of the new ship in “Blueprint” animation. It was a wonderful start. The music and singing kept your toes tapping.
After the opening show, Donald, Minnie, Goofy, and the rest of the Disney Characters arrived on stage. CEO Bob Iger followed them. Bob welcomed the media to the Christening of the new Disney Dream. He expressed his thanks and gratitude to the Imagineers and workers who had helped make this “Dream” come true.
Of course Sorcerer Mickey was on hand to help “fill” the huge champagne bottle on the barge with “Dreams” so the new ship could be launched. “Officially” Mickey called in the Pirates, the Princesses, and the Princes to make the dreams to fill that bottle. Disney’s Chairman of Parks and Resorts Tom Staggs spoke next. He also gave praise to all who helped make the new ship a reality. But he gave his greatest kudos to the cast and crew of the new Disney Dream, and to Captain Tom Forberg, who has been with the cruise line since the launch of the Disney Magic. In addition, the Navy Band from the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida paid special tribute to the Dream with “Anchors Aweigh” while members of the Dream’s international crew carried their respective countries’ flags on stage. Even the Fairy Godmother arrived to help with the Christening. Coming on stage next was Disney’s own Jennifer Hudson, Godmother of the Disney Dream. Jennifer began her singing career on the Disney Wonder, and she wished that the new Disney Dream would help make dreams come true for everyone as the Disney Wonder had for her. The Reverend Warren Langer came onstage to issue the traditional Maritime Blessing. Finally, the helicopter lifted up the huge champagne bottle, and christened the Dream accompanied with what else? Fireworks!
After the Ceremonies, the media began to board this beautiful ship. My wife and I could not wait to get on board to explore. After checking in and grabbing a quick bite on the beautiful “Cabanas” food court buffet on Deck 11 aft, we started. This of course was not all play. I was on assignment and, after a short time, I realized that there was just an enormous amount to take in. For those veterans’ of past Disney Cruises, you will find that the basic and I mean BASIC layout of the Dream is similar to the Wonder and Magic. In this, the kids’ Donald and Mickey pools are Deck 11 midship, the “Quiet Cove” adults’ area is Deck 11 forward. The Senses Spa and Salon, like the Vista Spa and Salon, is located on not one, but TWO decks forward, 11 and 12. This and other similarities are helpful, but good studies of the ship’s deck plans are a must! This ship is 40% larger than its sisters, the Magic and Wonder. And I realized that when I came down the wrong lift a few times. Our stateroom was aft, and if you get off the forward lift by mistake, it’s a heckuva long walk! That’s when you realize just how much bigger the Dream is.
There is one thing I can say with confidence. Disney became an acknowledged leader of the cruise industry upon launching their first ship in 1998. With the Dream entering service this year and the Fantasy about a year away, Disney’s leadership is undisputed. My wife and I can say this; we are veterans of 28 cruises since 1994 and have sailed on many of the major lines. We have been everywhere from Hawaii to Bermuda and everywhere in-between. There is nothing, nothing like a Disney Cruise. There is that special “Magic” that can be only found on a Disney ship–and I use that term very seriously. Could it be the Disney Characters, the fact that every age group from infant to 100 has a special place here? Or is it the great shows and entertainment found nowhere else? Or could it be something as whimsical as the ship’s horn blowing “When You Wish upon a Star?” I guess trying to explain a Disney Cruise is like trying to explain a sunset in Hawaii. In order to appreciate it, you have to be there. In the next installment of this report, I will explore all this ship has to offer: the new restaurants, night clubs for the adults (The District) and teens (Vibe), all the magical technologies on board, and other fun and innovative niceties found on not other cruise ships. A second part is necessary because there’s just so much to talk about. Stay tuned for part two next week. Bon Voyage!
Contributed by: Bill Iadonisi (NDH#35) Bill is the DDL History Blogger.