Disney's new cruise ship will include a 765-foot-long water coaster ride and virtual portholes with a live view of the ocean for windowless staterooms.
The Disney Dream ship is scheduled to launch Jan. 26, 2011, from Port Canaveral on a cruise to the Bahamas. It's the cruise line's third ship after Disney Wonder and Disney Magic, as well as its largest, with a capacity of 4,000 people.
The virtual portholes hang over beds in inside staterooms and stream live footage from videocameras mounted around the ship, with 24-hour views of the water and sky, punctuated occasionally by the appearance of a Disney character on the screen. Passengers have the option of turning the video off.
The ship's water coaster, the AquaDuck, will send a two-person raft on a flume ride around the perimeter of the ship's top deck, propelled up and down by water blasters. One loop of the ride juts 13 feet over the side of the ship, 150 feet above the ocean.
The video portholes and AquaDuck are among a number of innovative features on the ship. Pictures in hallways will become animated as guests walk by; restaurant environments will change from day to night; kids can have conversations with animated Disney characters on a plasma screen.
Paul Motter, editor of CruiseMates.com, said the AquaDuck will be the longest ride at sea. Motter said the just-launched Carnival Dream "is the longest now at 303 feet, but Disney's is a stronger concept using a raft and the water jets that push you upstream. Plus the extension over the side of the ship gives it a real 'wow' factor."
NCL's Norwegian Epic, due out in May, will have an inner-tube ride called the Epic Plunge.
"Obviously, water slides are becoming one of the big attractions on ships," he added.
Disney Cruise Line was passed over recently in awards given out by CruiseCritic.com for best ships for families (Royal Caribbean won the category). But CruiseCritic.com editor in chief Carolyn Spencer Brown was enthusiastic about the Disney Dream.
"Disney's ships were cutting edge a decade ago but have been surpassed, innovationwise, since," she said. "So all this new stuff, this is fantastic! It's a great boon for the family market, though I do still believe, and Disney hasn't yet convinced me otherwise, that it's a better cruise for Disney fanatics and families with younger kids."
Bookings for the Disney Dream's first cruise open Monday.