Travel Weekly's Johanna Jainchill is on a two-day preview cruise aboard the Disney Dream, Disney Cruise Line's first newbuild in a decade. Her first dispatch follows.
Disney Dream, Dispatch 1: The attention that Disney Cruise Line is getting with its first new ship in a decade is a reminder that Disney is way bigger than its ships.
Dozens of TV and radio stations were broadcasting live from the ship on Thursday, and a multitude of travel and cruise writers from around the world were posting their first impressions about the 4,000-pasenger Disney Dream.
Most cruise lines wouldn’t get this amount of coverage for the delivery of only the third ship in their fleet.
But this is Disney, and that puts the Dream into a different category.
While this product is definitely a cruise ship with its lido buffet, an early and late restaurant seating, midship pools and the basic cabin set-up, it is first and foremost Disney.
Cruise ships have long had innovative amenities and often try to one-up each other, but Disney has an entirely different base of comparison. When Disney talks about new ideas and innovation, it takes examples from its parks.
The ship’s designers, called "Imagineers," also work in the parks and resorts side of the Disney family.
With the Dream 40% bigger than the other two Disney ships (the Wonder and Magic), Disney's creative team had a lot more space to use the plethora of Disney and Pixar characters at their disposal.
There are obvious Disney touches like the Disney show music piped into almost every space on the ship; the ubiquitous mouse ears on rugs, mugs and bedspreads; and Donald Duck shooting hoops with kids at the basketball court.
Then there are the Disney touches that exemplify the Imagineers in action.
The Enchanted Art at first appears to be another framed print in the hallway, but as you walk by, it comes alive for a few seconds. The Laugh Monitors machine in the Monsters Academy of the Oceaneer Club allows kids to help "power the ship" with laughter.
Then there’s one of coolest cruise ship innovations yet, the virtual portholes in the inside staterooms. These screens, placed above the cabin beds, display a feed from outside the ship. On Thursday, passengers woke up to a view of Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.
The most visible new feature is the very Disney-esque AquaDuck, the water coaster that takes riders rafting through a 765-foot clear, acrylic tube. It juts out 12 feet over the ocean, just for a second of the ride, and extends much of the top deck and through the forward funnel.
It all adds up to a decidedly Disney experience, and that is by design.
"It’s important to realize that if you talk about Disney parks and resorts, we’re not in the hotel business, we’re not in the parks business and we’re not in the cruise business," said Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. "We’re in the guest-experience business, and our fundamental focus is to make a spectacular experience for our guests to enjoy."