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'Disney Dream' cruise ship a showcase for company's creativity

It's getting so a cruise passenger can't even stroll the 1,100-foot-long corridors in private without launching interactivity.

Which is exactly what the creative gang at the Walt Disney conglomerate, the Imagineers, have been planning for years.

The vessel is the company's first new cruise ship since 1999, the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream. It begins sailing from Port Canaveral on Jan. 26. Aboard the Dream, technology rules, in clever and entertaining ways.

For instance, in 22 places along its corridors, framed images from classics like Bambi and Fantasia become several seconds of the actual film when passengers approach, thanks to motion detectors.

Passengers can even play detective, solving any of six mysteries by passing a special card in front of some of those "Enchanted Art'' frames, which read a bar code on the card and then display a clue.

Speaking of animation, a starring role aboard the ship goes to Crush, the surfer-dude sea turtle from Finding Nemo. A few years ago, the Imagineers introduced an interactive version of laid-back Crush to the theme parks: Youngsters face a huge LED screen, onto which the animated turtle swims. He asks individual kids their names, jokes with them, answers their questions.

On the ship, Crush reprises this act on a 103-inch plasma screen in the Oceaneer's Club, a hangout for the 3- to 10-year-old set. But Crush is also the headliner in the Animator's Palate, one of the three dinner-only restaurants.

When diners enter, the 696-seat Palate is decorated as a studio where Walt Disney and his colleagues might have worked in the 1930s. Giant pencils and paintbrushes stand upright in the room, wallboards hold notes and character sketches.

But during the meal, the walls change, seemingly submerging into the waters occupied by Crush and his undersea pals. On more than 100 TV monitors of varying sizes, these creatures flit about, and Crush visits with diners in nine sections of the room.

The technological innovations are not all child's play aboard the Dream:

• Seven large "windows'' of the Skyline bar each day show a different cityscape — New York, Rio or Paris, for instance — though the ship sails to none of these places. Light or shadows play out in real time during the day as the sun crosses above that city. The windows are actually vertical LED screens.

• Inside cabins, which have no actual window on the world, nonetheless have a live view of what's happening outside the hull, courtesy of five high-definition TV cameras. The playful Imagineers also have arranged that one of three dozen animated images randomly flashes on to the real picture.

• What's likely to become the Dream's icon is hard to miss: the 765-foot-long, enclosed water slide named the AquaDuck.

Mounted 160 feet above the waterline and passing down both sides of the ship above the pool deck, the water coaster is a transparent tube, 54 inches in diameter, through which more than 9,000 gallons of water pulse. Beginning at the rear funnel, passengers sit on two-person rubber rafts and are thrust into a 360-degree loop that carries them over the side of the ship for about 12 feet, before the tube circles back for the first long, straight part of the ride.

The rafts pass through the forward funnel, then again parallel to the hull for another 335 feet, before ending about 46 feet below where they started.

The overall design of the Dream avoids the current boxy look of megaships, with a pronounced prow and an added curve of metal sweeping down several decks of staterooms near the stern.

Interiors blend touches of art nouveau, art deco and, of course, Disney whimsy. There's no chance passengers will forget that the parent company grew from cartoons to beloved, full-length animated films.

There's plenty to amuse adults, too, such as four themed bars plus a disco grouped in the area termed the District, and adults-only fine-dining restaurants, one Italian, one French.

The latter has a menu designed by a chef with two Michelin stars for his restaurant near Reims, France. Though the Dream's venue is named Remy, after the lead character in the animated film Ratatouille, there's no kidding around about the price: $75 per person.

Freelance writer Robert N. Jenkins is the former travel editor of the St. Petersburg Times.


Disney Dream

Disney's newest cruise ship will begin sailing three-, four- and five-night Bahamas cruises from Port Canaveral on Jan. 26. To get information about prices or make reservations, contact a travel agent or go to

On the cover: Throughout the ship, card-carrying guests can play detective when encountering framed "Enchanted Art."

'Disney Dream' cruise ship a showcase for company's creativity 11/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 1:00pm]
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