Relaunched Cruise Ships Bring Sunshine and Magic

Disney Cruise Line

In the world of cruise travel, the big story is often about the latest, greatest, biggest cruise ships to be launched and what they have to offer travelers. Those new floating resorts often command the highest fares as cruise travel fans line up to book passage and be one of the first to sail. But while major cruise lines build new ships with the best of what they have to offer, they have not forgotten about their existing fleets. Older ships, relaunched with major updates, can often be one of the best cruise travel values available.

Disney Cruise Line is proud of new Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream, the two new ships that more than doubled their fleet capacity. But Disney Magic, first launched in 1998, is not forgotten. The ship has been kept up to date with periodic dry dock maintenance but after living with new features rolled out with Fantasy and Dream, Disney imagineers have taken another look at Disney Magic. The result of that look is an extensive remodel that will bring a host of new reasons to sail the ship.

Disney Cruise Line

Headlining the new features on Disney Magic is The AquaDunk, a 37-foot body slide that starts by taking riders down three decks from Deck 13 to Deck 10 through a translucent tube. That tube extends 20 feet over the side of the ship above the ocean that is over 100 feet below.

We have always been committed to reinvesting in our fleet and continuously making shipboard enhancements that elevate the guest experience,” said Karl L. Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line in an Orlando Sentinel article. Marvel comics is now a part of the Disney family of brands, so the Super Hero icons of Marvel have been introduced on Disney Magic as a new space for children. Marvel’s Avengers Academy will be a big part of Disney’s Oceaneer Club as young crime-fighters are transported to a high-tech command post used by The Avengers for special mission.Dining venues are also getting an update with Animator’s Palate getting all-new, larger high-definition flat-screens for better views of the animation magic that takes place all around. “Drawn to Magic” is a new dinner celebration where the black and white “blank canvas” of the Animator’s Palate turns full color, as Disney and Disney-Pixar characters come to life throughout the dinner event.

Carioca’s is a new restaurant tapping the current cruise industry trend to make public spaces multi-use areas. By day the area (which replaces the current Topsider buffet) is a fun quick lunch venue. By night, the now air-conditioned area is an elegant dinner place.

Disney has also added a bigger, better Spa area with a barber shop and more redesigned areas for adults only. Staterooms will get more room, storage and bathing space too. This new Disney video gives full details of all the re-imagined features to be on board Disney Magic:

Disney Magic will be taken out of service on September 10, 2013, returning with all of the above and more on October 8, 2013. But cruise travelers will not have to wait that long to see the result of Carnival Cruise Line’s new Carnival Sunshine, sailing right now after a $155 million refit.

Formerly launched in 1996 as Carnival Destiny, Carnival Cruise Lines took that popular ship, gutted it, and added back all the best features from all their ships and then some. As the first ship in the Carnival fleet to incorporate all of the dining, bar and entertainment options that are part of Carnival Cruise Line’s refreshing Fun Ship 2.0 enhancement program, this one is far more than a pit stop dry dock overhaul.

Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival is adding new, branded onboard dining and programming elements like Guy’s Burger Joint designed by the Food Network’s Guy Fieri, comedian George Lopez’s Punchliner Comedy Club & Brunch and an assortment of games, music and activities through partnerships with names like Hasbro, EA Sports and Miami Heat celebrity DJ Erie.

New on Carnival Sunshine will be:

  • WaterWorks, a racing-themed water park featuring the line’s longest water slide
  • Havana Bar, by day a Cuban coffee and finger foods place and by night a Cuban-themed bar
  • Shake Spot, which will offer classic milkshakes and floats, as well as tropical fruit shakes and adult shakes and floats
  • JavaBlue Café, which will have sweet and frothy cappuccinos, lattes, espressos and other caffeinated favorites
  • Pizzeria del Capitano, an expansion of the line’s popular Cucina del Capitano family-style Italian restaurant

For both Disney and Carnival, the name of the game is being relevant. Much of what worked for cruise lines 10 or 15 years ago does not work today. Today’s cruise travelers are inundated by more ships, with more features every year. But that one new ship for any given line – the one that is the newest, best ship in the fleet – is a small percentage of the line’s capacity and not everyone can sail on it. Reworking older ships to bring relevant features is becoming more of a must-do item all the time and these two ships are great examples of the magic and sunshine that can come as a result.

Take A ‘Brave’ Adventure With Disney

Disney's Brave Adventure in ScotlandOn Friday of this week, “Brave,” the next big animated film from Disney and Pixar, hits theaters. Set against the lush and sprawling landscapes of Scotland, the movie introduces audiences to Merida, a plucky and headstrong princess who longs to live a life of adventure. When Merida defies Scottish custom to pursue her own path, she unwittingly brings a curse down upon her kingdom. Armed with her trusty bow, sharp wits and a single wish, she must work to undo the chaos that she has let loose.

Merida’s big screen exploits will no doubt inspire more than a few members of the audience to want to visit Scotland for themselves. Fortunately Disney can help with that as well, as their travel experts at Adventures by Disney have worked closely with filmmakers to custom build an itinerary based around the movie. The result is a fantastic mix of history, culture and physical activity designed to engage travelers of all ages.

The nine-day, eight-night tour includes visits to ancient villages, castles and other locations that inspired animators working on the film. Those places include the Black House of Arnol, which was the basis for the Witch’s cottage, and Dunnottar Castle, which bears a striking resemblance to Merida’s family home. They’ll even get a private tour of Edinburgh Castle, which is seldom open to the public.

One of the hallmarks of any Adventures by Disney tour are the unique activities the itineraries offer. On this particular trip travelers will have the opportunity to go horseback riding across the Scottish countryside, mountain bike through the Highlands and shoot a bow and arrow just like Merida. They’ll also go canoeing (and perhaps monster spotting!) on the world famous Loch Ness and take lessons in Celtic music and dancing too.

Scotland: A Brave Adventure is just one of numerous itineraries that Adventures By Disney has to offer. The company organizes tours to Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australia. For a full list of their family friendly escapes, click here.

[Image courtesy of Disney]

National Geographic builds Pixar’s Up floating house

Pixar's Up floating house
Did the floating house from Pixar‘s animated film Up inspire you to fly to South America? This weekend, somewhere east of Los Angeles, a house tied to 300 helium-filled balloons flew 10 stories in the air. Each of the 8′ weather balloons contained an entire container of helium. Inspired by Up, a crew from National Geographic Channel‘s new show How Hard Can it Be? filmed the house reaching an altitude of 10,000 feet. The 16′ x 16′ house remained airborne for an hour, presumably not weighed down by an old man, a Wilderness Explorer, or a talking dog.

[Photo courtesy National Geographic Channel via My Modern Met ]

Thanks to Legal Nomads‘ Jodi Ettenberg for the link.

A travel guide to the 2011 Oscar movies

Travel guide to Oscar moviesThe 83rd annual Academy Awards are coming up in a few weeks and the Oscars race is on. This year’s nominations contained few surprises, with many nods for Brit period piece The King’s Speech, Facebook biopic The Social Network, and headtrip Inception. While 2010’s ultimate travel blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love failed to made the cut, there’s still plenty to inspire wanderlust among the Best Picture picks.

Read on for a travel guide to the best movies of 2010 and how to create your own Oscar-worthy trip.

127 HoursLocation: Danny Boyle’s nail-biter was shot on location in Utah’s Blue John Canyon near Moab and on a set in Salt Lake City. Go there: Should you want to explore Moab’s desert and canyons while keeping all limbs intact, check out Moab in fall for bike races and art festivals.



Black Swan
Location: Much of the ballet psychodrama was shot in New York City, though the performances were filmed upstate in Purchase, New York. Go there: To see the real “Swan Lake” on stage at Lincoln Center, you’ll have to hope tickets aren’t sold out for the New York City Ballet, performing this month February 11-26.

The FighterLocation: in the grand tradition of Oscar winners Good Will Hunting and The Departed, the Mark Wahlberg boxing flick was filmed in Massachusetts, in Micky Ward’s real hometown of Lowell, 30 miles north of Boston. Go there: For a map of locations in Lowell, check out this blog post and perhaps spot Micky Ward at the West End Gym.

InceptionLocation: The setting of this film depends on what dream level you’re in. The locations list includes Los Angeles, England, Paris, Japan, even Morocco. Go there: There are plenty of real locations to visit, including University College London and Tangier’s Grand Souk. Canada’s Fortress Mountain Resort where the snow scenes were shot is currently closed, but you can ski nearby in Banff.



The Kids Are All Right
Location: Director Lisa Cholodenko is a big fan of southern California, she also filmed the 2002 Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. Go there: Love it or hate it, L.A. is still a top travel destination in the US and perhaps this year you can combine with a trip to Vegas, if the X Train gets moving.

The King’s SpeechLocation: A prince and a commoner in the wedding of the century. Sound familiar? This historical drama was shot in and around London, though stand-ins were used for Buckingham Palace’s interiors. Go there: It might be hard to recreate the vintage look of the film, but London is full of atmospheric and historic architecture and palaces to visit. If you’re a sucker for English period films or places Colin Firth has graced, tour company P & P Tours can show you around many historic movie locations like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

The Social NetworkLocation: Another Massachusetts and California movie, this very academic film shot at many college and prep school campuses, but none of them Harvard, which hasn’t allowed film crews in decades. Go there: If you enjoyed the Winklevoss rowing scene, head to England this summer for the Henley Royal Regatta June 29 – July 3.

Toy Story 3 – Location: The latest in the Pixar animated trilogy is set at the Sunnyside Daycare. Go there: Reviews are mixed, but Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a new Pixar parade, to let fans see their favorite characters in “person.” Visit any Disney gift shop to make your own toy story.

True Grit – Location: The Coen brothers western remake may be set in 19th century Arkansas, but it was filmed in modern day Santa Fe, New Mexico and Texas, taking over much of towns like Granger. Go there: If you’re a film purist or big John Wayne fan, you can tour the locations of the original film in Ouray County, Colorado.

Winter’s Bone – Location: Many moviegoers hadn’t heard of this film when nominations were announced, set and shot in the Ozark Mountains in southern Missouri. Go there: The difficult film centers around the effects of methamphetamine on a rural family, but travel destinations don’t get much more wholesome than Branson, Missouri. Bring the family for riverboat shows and the best bathroom in the country.

[Photo by Flickr user Lisa Norman]

New Pixar Pals parade disappoints many Disney World fans

Walt Disney World debuted a new parade – Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! – at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Sunday. The new parade features characters from Pixar films Up! and Ratatouille that have never appeared in a Disney parade before.

New stuff at Disney is frequently met with breathless wonder by the many fans of all things Disney out there. But when it comes to this parade, reaction from Disney World fans, including many locals who turned out to see the parade’s debut, has not been good.

In the comments sections of blogs and YouTube videos about the Pixar Pals parade, Disney fans are describing the parade as “low budget,” “horrible” and “disappointing.”

Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun! replaces the Block Party Bash, a street party-parade hybrid that moved through the streets of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and stopped at certain points to bring the audience out to dance with characters from popular movies including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life.

The main beefs with the parade seem to fall into two categories: First, that the parade is not different enough from its predecessor Block Party Bash, and second, that the parade is too short.As for the charge that the Pixar Pals parade is too similar to Block Party Bash, well, it is pretty similar. Many of the floats are the same; the rest are simply repainted. Cast members’ costumes and props are also unchanged.

“All of the floats are recycled from Block Party Bash, merely repainted and slightly re-themed and the music isn’t original. Overall, it comes as a disappointment to many who had high hopes for the new production,” writes a blogger at easyWDW.com.

And is the parade, which has a soundtrack made up largely of Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” too short? At less than 8 minutes in length, it is shorter than other Disney Parks parades, which typically clock in closer to the 15-minute mark.

Shelley Caran of OnTheGoinMCO.com describes Pixar Pals as a “lack luster eight minute blink and you missed it.”

About the only positive reaction we could find in the blogosphere comes from Ricky Brigante of Inside the Magic.net, who was a vocal opponent of the way the Block Party Bash stopped in the theme park’s walkways each day: “At least it doesn’t hog the streets for extended periods of time like Block Party Bash once did.”

So, while kids may enjoy catching a glimpse of their favorite movie characters, the overall consensus from the grown-ups seems to be that Disney’s previous afternoon “parade,” Block Party Bash, was superior.

StudiosCentral.com, a blog devoted to the Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park where the new parade debuted, writes: “The previous two daytime parades at the Studios, Block Party Bash and Stars & Motor Cars Parade, were far superior displays and much more of an engaging experience. … For those that have enjoyed quality Disney World parades over the years, you may find yourself disappointed and underwhelmed.”

Now that you’ve seen the video, what do you think?

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