‘Star Wars’ magic for all ages on Disney Dream

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A Millennium Falcon simulator lets guests “fly” over Star Wars landscapes.
A Millennium Falcon simulator lets guests “fly” over Star Wars landscapes.

ONBOARD THE DISNEY DREAM — The Millennium Falcon has landed, and my 5-year-old was piloting it through the frozen lands of the planet Hoth.

The Oceaneer Club on the Disney Dream had been open for all of five minutes when my daughter, my husband (a.k.a. the household’s “Star Wars” superfan) and I were standing on the bridge of Han Solo’s ship, or at least a pretty darn good replica of the bridge as dreamed up by Disney’s Imagineers.

As LEDs blinked on the console, my daughter took the controls and pulled a few levers, and faster than you can say “wookie” the screen above the console changed to simulate a high-speed flight over snowy mountains and under the feet of Imperial Walkers.

The replica of the Falcon bridge is the marquee design of the new “Star Wars” installation in the Oceaneer Club, and one of the highlights of the Disney Dream’s just-finished drydock refurb, its first major overhaul since its introduction in 2012.

Disney Cruise Line invited media to view the upgrades during a three-day cruise over the Halloween weekend, the ship’s second cruise with the enhancements. Several of the additions to the ship were redone with adults in mind. One of the biggest changes is the addition of Satellite Falls, an adults-only space on the top forward deck. Fans of the Disney Fantasy will already be familiar with the premise: The centerpiece is a wading pool and waterfall encircling one of the bulbous satellites on the deck.

Another addition is shade. The line has smartly added covered space around the Satellite Falls water feature and on Deck 12 just above the Quiet Cove pool, so cruisers can get a break from relentless sun. There’s also a new, small pool in the Deck 12 space, perfect for folks who want to splash with their kids but don’t feel like braving the hectic pace of the midship pool deck.

Another add to the Dream that nods to today’s adult guest is a juice bar created out of the waiting room at the Senses Spa. On the way out of the gym or spa, for example, a passenger could order a My Go Green: spinach, banana, avocado, lime, soy milk and plain yogurt, for $4.50.

Granted, my cruise beverage of choice is more in line with Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA, available by the midship pool. But I appreciated the juices as an option, and the juice bar itself is gorgeous.

On the opposite side of the spectrum from the juice bar, both in onboard location and calorie count, is Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats, a darling, high-concept candy store. Fans of “Wreck it Ralph” will get more of the references in the store, but even those unfamiliar with the movie can ooh and ahh over the presentation of handmade gelato, ice cream, brownies and fudge. The take-home dessert, literally, is Vanellope’s Go-Kart Sundae: three scoops of ice cream, a choice of five toppings and whipped cream presented in a souvenir go-kart, for $12.95.

A castmember scoops out handmade gelato at Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats, a new sweet shop on the Disney Dream.
A castmember scoops out handmade gelato at Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats, a new sweet shop on the Disney Dream.

Another change was the Disney Vacation Planning Center, where the future-cruise sales desk is located. The center was  carved out of the art gallery on Deck Four.

Kids zone

But back to the youngsters. The ship now has a Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on Deck 5, a salon concept imported from the parks where princesses can be decked out and bedazzled with makeup, a manicure, a sprinkling of pixie dust and brand-new gown and shoes. To call the room a jewel box is almost to take it literally: There are boxes of play jewelry on each vanity and crowns, wands, shoes and wardrobes of princess dresses. Prices for young knights start at $18.95; to go all-in on a princess transformation is about $200.

In the Oceaneer Club, for the XBox /Wii/PlayStation fans among us, the line has installed 10, two-player Disney Infinity video games, and players can select from an entire display case of figurines to plug and play, including unique figures like Darth Maul. An interactive game enables players to become their own avatars, sort of like a controllerless Wii. (Ever wondered what you might look like with Maleficent’s or Joy’s hairdo? Now you can find out.)

Star Wars

Still, the biggest buzz on the sailing was the “Star Wars” installation, which takes the place of a “Finding Nemo” sub. With the latest movie set to debut in December, everything “Star Wars” is at a fever pitch. The timing on the Dream’s drydock couldn’t have been better for fans, both those of Oceaneer Club age (3 to 12) and adults.

Parents are permitted in the club during open-house hours. As my kid was held in thrall by the Falcon, my husband wandered around the rest of the Star Wars installation, nodding in approval of a replica of Chewbacca’s bowcaster, on a shelf high above “Star Wars”-themed tablet games, and a life-size R2-D2.

Danny Handke, lead creative designer from Walt Disney Imagineering, noted that the themes had to be designed with a fairly big age range in mind.

“We had to design it to make sure it was sophisticated enough, so that way the 12-year-olds will enjoy the space,” he said. “So there’s things like the cockpit ... and then there’s things for younger kids, too, so those Holochess tables are really cool, and they double as craft tables, you can bring out the crayons and paper and draw your favorite Star Wars characters.”

Satellite Falls is a new adults-only space on the Dream.
Satellite Falls is a new adults-only space on the Dream.

He added, “I think a lot of fans on the [Imagineering] team were thinking the original trilogy; that’s what we grew up with, that’s what we appreciate. But then, you have a generation that all they know is the prequels and the ‘Clone Wars’ animated series. Now, you have a new generation growing up with ‘Star Wars Rebels’ ...  we’re going to grow up with the new films as well.

“So we have to make sure this space remains timeless. We call it classic Millennium Falcon. So that way you can have all these different stories here.”

Not surprisingly, the designers on the new spaces are major “Star Wars” fans in their own right. “I’m talking story with Lucasfilm!” Handke said he remembered thinking when the project got started.

Life at sea

Beyond the enhancements, life went on as usual onboard the Dream. My family were guests on the ship earlier this year on a four-day sailing; nearly everything else on the vessel remained just as it was when we saw it in April. The color schemes, furnishings, primary dining venues and, of course, the unique Disney programming were all in tip-top shape. Now, as then, passengers were easily able to get a shot at a hug and photograph with Disney characters.

Our daughter couldn’t wait to head to the Oceaneer Club (occasionally garbed in a “Frozen” princess gown), which enabled my husband and me to take advantage of the Quiet Cove pool. The club’s continuous hours also enabled us once on each cruise  to grab predinner drinks (at the Skyline and Meridian bars) before dinner in the adults-only Remy’s and Palo restaurants, a setup both child and parents considered a win-win.

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