Disney understands, as no one else, the importance of balancing big, bold statements with extraordinary attention to detail. That understanding played out beautifully aboard the Disney Fantasy the evening of March 1 at its christening along Pier 88 of the New York City cruise ship terminal.
The ship itself is the sister of the Dream, which debuted in January of last year, and in most respects is its twin. Minnie has replaced Mickey in the atrium, and there are a few other tweaks, but on the surface, things will look familiar to anyone who has sailed the Dream.
In addition to the ship’s big, bold architectural and design statements, the ship’s high-tech Walt Disney Theater played host to an impressive array of star power prior to the actual christening.
Master of ceremonies Neil Patrick Harris sang, dance and joked his way through an evening that began with a show number poking fun at Disney’s expected over-the-top promotional efforts surrounding the ship’s launch (in the chorus, “Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious” was replaced with “Super-splashy-synergistic-glitzy-celebration.”)
Following that, the cruise industry itself was the target of light teasing. Harris introduced a song he said was about “the very foundation upon which the entire cruise industry is built,” then launched into “At the Buffet,” sung to the tune of “Under the Sea.”
Jerry Seinfeld stepped out from behind a curtain and did a standup routine. Opening line: “I’m on a boat! Finally I get to see what the end of my career will be like, and it’s not so bad.”
Harris walked into the audience to greet New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who plugged Manhattan’s two Disney stores, and shook hands with Tim Gunn, Alan Cumming and other celebrities present.
He paused to pay respects to Disney Chairman Bob Iger, who reminded Harris that he had given the actor his start as Doogie Howser, back when Iger was president of ABC.
After the show, guests went to the atrium, picking up a glass of champagne poured from Taittinger bottles that sported a special Fantasy label.
While Minnie Mouse and Nick Cannon, husband of godmother Mariah Carey, stood outside with a physical magnum to send smashing into the bow of the ship, Carey joined Iger and Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Tom Staggs for a toast and the official naming.
Although Carey didn’t perform, she did sing a few words – mid-sentence — in praise of New York.
Dinner followed in the ship’s dining rooms. Media ate at the Animator’s Palate which, on the Fantasy, offers an entertaining bit of technology for diners.
Prior to ordering, servers instruct guests to fill in a humanoid-shaped figure on a sheet of paper. Servers collected the sheets, and as dessert was served, an animated short appeared on screens around the room that incorporated everyone’s drawings into classic Disney scenes.
Finally, guests were invited to an after-party in the ship’s adult clubs, collectively called Europa. (This is a Fantasy exclusive — the club grouping on the Dream is called The District.)
Europa features a British disco (Mod-themed — and delightfully furnished — The Tube), a French champagne bar (Ooh La La), The Skyline (its windows cycle through subtly animated views of the skylines of Budapest, Florence, Athens, London, Paris and St. Petersburg), La Piazza (Italian decor; if you want, you and a companion can drink Campari while sitting in a Vespa/sidecar combo) and an Irish pub, O’Gill’s Pub (not sure whether the Guinness-champagne cocktails were a signature drink, or offered only on the occasion of the christening).
I had mentioned earlier that Disney understands the importance of detail, and during the christening ceremony I saw ample evidence of small, fun touches of design or clever motifs that rewarded the observant.
And as I poked through my swag bag during my taxi ride home, I noticed a small detail that struck me as odd.
Earlier on the day of the christening, I had interviewed Staggs, whose responsibilities include the cruise line. I asked if he had any new ships planned.
“Our focus today is on these ships we’re launching,” he replied, and went on to say that it was certainly a possibility, to be evaluated another day.
But among the items in the bag was a small bottle of the private label Disney Cruise Line Taittinger champagne. Below the profile of a Disney ship on the label were the words “Inaugural Sailings.” And in mouse type below that: “2012-2013.”
Could there possibly be an inaugural sailing in the works for 2013? For Disney to allow an error in the dates on the label would certainly be unusual — anyone who has worked with their standards police will tell you that if, for example, Mickey is not exactly to an agreed-upon scale compared with other figures, the graphic will need to be redone, regardless of cost.
It’s my observation that they do not allow mistakes to be seen by any outsider.
On the other hand, 2013 seems far too soon for another ship to be built and inaugurated, even with the aid of Disney magic.
So, typo or clue? Not sure, but I’m guessing that in either case, some of these bottles will end up on eBay as a result.
But not mine. I expect it will be drained before the weekend is over, following a toast wishing Disney and the Fantasy smooth seas ahead.
Follow Arnie Weissmann on Twitter @awtravelweekly.