750,000 reasons to like Disney Cruise Line

It’s been all over the news, the launch of Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Dream, the line’s first new ship in over 10 years. Adding Disney Fantasy in 2012 more than doubles the size of the Disney fleet, bringing the line up to speed and beyond with new-ship features, new capacity to dominate the family cruise market and a new brighter outlook towards the future. But as is so typical of the American success-story company, as they look ahead, they look back.

It’s been so long since Disney launched a new ship that a world of media eyes descended upon Florida to sail along and see just what the legacy of Walt Disney had built. Most told of new features like the AquaDuck onboard water coaster, virtual portholes for interior cabins, the latest technology and new onboard entertainment.

On a short two-night preview cruise of the new Dream, Disney added one extra element hosting a fund-raising cruise for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America that raised $750,000.

Just being able to do that would be plenty for most organizations. But in typical Disney style the company brought along a number of Boys and Girls club members for the ride, treating them to an experience they’re not likely to forget any time soon.

Also along for the ride were normally land-based Disney cast members and their families who paid to sail along on the fund-raising cruise, see the new ship, and be part of it all.

As the ship prepared for “sail-away”, always a festive time on any cruise, company officials, dignitaries, cast members and friends packed the ship’s top deck. Disney Channel celebrities, the ship’s entertainment staff and the entire stable of Disney animation stars worked the crowd into a total Disney-immersion frenzy.

But it was bringing those Boys and Girls club members out on stage that sent the event wild, drawing the largest response from all. The deer-in-the-headlights look on the faces of those kids, unaccustomed to a rock star reception, gave way to smiles of appreciation with a side of “Yes, I DO have a future now!” . Once high-risk youths were safer, happier and had a much brighter future in no small part due to the Disney company and a relationship with the Boys and Girls Clubs that dates back to the 1950’s.

How appropriate for a ship all about dreams.

Photo: Chris Owen

Disney’s Dream comes true

Amid smoke, fireworks and every magical trick in the book, Grammy award-winner Jennifer Hudson was on hand this morning at Port Canaveral in Florida to send off Disney Cruise Lines latest creation, the new Disney Dream.

It’s been 10 years since the Mouse launched a new ship and Mickey and the gang were in top form today as the latest seafaring creation from the legacy of Walt Disney was sworn into service. With singing, dancing, fireworks and a 16-foot champagne bottle “cracked” against the hull of the new Disney Magic via helicopter, a new era began in magical family cruising from Florida.

“For over a decade, Disney Cruise Line has been making vacation dreams come true for millions of families and we continue that tradition today with the launch of the Disney Dream,” said Disney CEO Bob Iger. “The mix of imagination and innovation found on the Disney Dream is unparalleled and elevates the family cruise experience to new heights.”

The Disney Dream will sail three, four and five-night itineraries to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay.

On board the new ship, up to 4000 guests will enjoy features ranging from the “splashtacular” AquaDuck, the very first water coaster at sea to virtual portholes in interior cabins showing what is going on outside the ship with some characters stopping by from time to time.

See complete on-the-scene coverage from AOLTravel’s Fran Golden too.

Photo by CruiseGuy.com

Disney Dream to sail in profitable waters, magic a bonus

When new Disney Dream arrived in Florida this week, crowds gathered to celebrate. New ships arriving are always a special event and this one was no exception. But beyond the first-look hoopla, the new ship will have some real-world financial impact that’s pretty cool to consider.

Buoyed by a nod from Wall Street analysts, shares in Walt Disney Co hit a 10-year high Wednesday, due in part to the arrival of Disney Dream. The new ship and sister-ship Disney Fantasy coming in 2012 represent a $1.8 billion investment that will increase the line’s guest capacity by nearly 150 percent.

Older and smaller ships Disney Magic and Wonder will be redeployed to make room for the new, larger ships that bring with them more jobs and more revenue for ports they visit too. The Bahamas will see an estimated $3 million additional spending and $900,000 in tax revenue the first year alone.

The cruise business has been a profitable venture for Disney, with ships sailing fuller and demanding higher prices than other major cruise lines. While other lines carry an average of two guests per cabin, Disney’s family focus gets them an average of 3 and that adds up to higher profits.

It’s no surprise that rival lines Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line have tried to capture that profit magic by adding Dreamworks and Nickelodeon characters to their on-board programming. It’s a bold attempt to stifle the effect of Disney’s increased capacity but side by side, it’s pretty hard to beat the mouse on his own turf.

“Oh, this line is all for kids?” you say? Not so fast.

Disney has gone out of its way to attract adults as well with new features on board that let adults ditch the kids, at night anyway, for features along the lines of the latest and greatest being offered by the newest of ships on other lines.

Wrap it all up, tie a bow on it and sing “Happy Birthday”, Disney Cruise Line’s new child may very well be the future of cruise vacations. Now that’s magical.

Photo- Disney Cruise Line

Disney Dream lets adults ditch the kids, at night anyway

Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Dream debut’s next month with all the bells and whistles one might expect from a new ship coming out these days. There’s an AquaDuck water-coaster on deck, virtual “portholes” for inside cabins and a whole lot of Disney magic for kids of all ages. Adults on this ship will receive special attention too with a new area created just for them.

Called “The District”, it is a section of the ship that caters to adults in the evening with a selection of lounges and nightclubs.

Skyline is an ever-changing cocktail bar that celebrates some of the world’s most famous cities. Tall “windows” (actually huge LCD display screens) line a wall and show guests some of the world’s most beautiful city skylines which change from day to day and transform from day to night as each day progresses.

Pink is a “chic cocktail bar” and is designed in French Art Nouveau featuring back-lit glass “bubbles” inset into the walls to create an effect of cascading Champagne.

Evolution is a trendy disco that plays contemporary hits and classic favorites. During the day, Evolution provides dance classes, bingo, and arts and crafts. At night, Evolution caters to adults only, offering dancing, games, karaoke and a full bar serving mixed drinks.

687 is the sports bar. During the day, 687 provides family games and activities in a comfortable, casual setting; after 9:00 p.m., the venue transforms into a place for adults seeking more grown-up activities and games to enjoy over a beer, wine or mixed drinks.

Adult-only time is also available all day at the Cove Pool, a multi-level pool of varying depths with the Cove Cafe close by. Signature dining venue Palo, a reservations only premium restaurant open for dinner, is also just for adults.

Ditched kids are not just left to wander the decks though. Youth programs ranging from in-cabin baby-sitting to engaging age-appropriate group care is also available.

Photos courtesy Disney Cruise Line

New Disney Dream features magical water-coaster

Disney Cruise Line’s new Disney Dream will set sail from Florida on January 26, 2011. On board will be several new features not seen before on cruise ships along with a good dose of that trademark Disney “magic”.

Two big features are getting a lot of attention, the AquaDuck on-board water coaster and Magical Portholes on inside cabins.

Taking advantage of Disney’s vast theme-park experience, the line custom designed an attraction worthy of land-based parks especially for the new ship. The AquaDuck water coaster will sweep guests on a 765-foot high-speed flume ride with uphill acceleration and a swing-out loop letting them look down to the ocean 150 feet below, all in about a minute.

From the “Why didn’t I think of that?” department, Magical Portholes make standard inside staterooms something special. High-resolution cameras stream live digital video to each stateroom, reflecting the scene outside.

Look for Mickey and friends to swim by the porthole of each cabin from time to time too.

Currently on her way across the Atlantic and heading to Port Canaveral, Florida, new Disney Dream is the first of two new ships from the line with sister-ship Disney Fantasy scheduled to sail in 2012.

Photo courtesy Disney Cruise Line