It’s sure the big cruise ship story of 2011, of that there is no doubt. Like Disney or not, like cruise vacations or not, Disney Dream is the big tamale of ships for the year. There will be more new ships from other lines coming out later in the year. But none will be as big of an event as the launch of Disney Cruise Line’s first ship in over a decade.
Why then, is it that so many have this all wrong?
If you’re not a fan of Disney, you won’t have too look far to find someone who has taken issue with something about the new ship. Some say it’s simply too much “Disney” to take. Others get more specific, pronouncing individual features disappointing. Still others compare what happens on board to a land-based theme park which I suppose is fair, since Disney does have a certain presence in that area.
Following their standard game plan, many who review cruise ships give Disney Dream a thumbs up but hedge their bets with a story or two about something universal that most people would agree is a negative. Kids bouncing off walls because soft drinks are free or comparing the cost per night on Disney Dream to some other new ship are common complaints.
On the other side, some reviews highlight innovative features like virtual portholes for inside cabins or the AquaDuck watercoaster as defining elements of the new ship. They mention the zillion dollars it cost to build Disney Dream and upcoming twin Disney Fantasy and get into details of how profitable these ships will probably be for Disney.
Neither one of them has it right.
What they are missing, the experience they are robbing themselves of is quite simple.Disney Dream is not a cruise ship at all.
Disney Dream is a show.
A grand show put on by the masters of storytelling, dream-making and all-things wondrous for kids of all ages for decades. The show begins before the curtain goes up as guests are greeted by cast members, dressed and rehearsed for the part, from the time they enter the cruise terminal at Port Canaveral in Florida.
Actually, the show begins before that. As guests approach the purpose-built cruise terminal, they see a carefully landscaped art-deco facade calling them into a grand space with a timeless air that transports them back to the days of grand ocean liners.
Waiting to board, guests line up, not to board the ship like they would on some other line, but to have their picture taken with a rotating parade of classic Disney characters. Do they really think this will be their only opportunity to get in a picture with Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck? Really?
No. Those people get it. Those people; large and small, young and old, get it. They have bought their tickets, checked in, are ready to board and have the time of their lives. Once on board they will experience a show that starts with their family name being called out as they enter the ship, answered by a round of applause. The show continues with every cast member they encounter along with every meal, activity and performance they attend. They’ll hear obscure bits and pieces of classic Disney music in hallways or elevators foreshadowing a culmination of energy, emotion, memories that represents a total escape from reality during some performance later in the day.
Disney has taken what every cruise line knows is the key to success: allowing passengers to Escape Completely, visit the Land of Wny Not or take a ride on The Fun Ships to an entirely different level.
If they believe.
Guests who allow themselves to be taken in. If they play along. If they can let Disney do what they do best on the perfect stage setting that the closed environment of a cruise ship provides, they will have a unique vacation experience like no other.
If they can’t do that, they might not like Disney Dream.
Photos: Whitney Owen