Friday, 21 January 2011

Disney's 'Wow!' Event

Almost 13 years ago, Disney startled the cruise world with their debut vessel the Disney Magic. They followed up a year later with Disney Wonder, and everyone sat back awaiting the next Big Thing from the fledgling Disney Cruise Line.

And waited. And waited.

It seems DCL was in no hurry to 'push the envelope' until they were absolutely sure the market was ready for some more Disney sea-going Imagineering. And this year, the market was right.

I have already detailed the preamble to the launch festivities of the new Disney Dream, and, on Wednesday, it was time to see the finished work for real. Along with a whole heaped helping of that Disney style and entertainment to go with it.

So, after a 7.45am start from the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World, off we all set in the Art Deco DCL buses for Port Canaveral and the naming ceremony.

Disney has its own (Art Deco) terminal at the port, and the quayside was all set up with a huge stadium-style seating area, complete with a stage more than 50 yards wide and backed by a huge video screen. The ship herself sat at anchor in the harbour, away from the terminal and with a small attendant barge, with a huge (think about 20ft tall) 'champagne' bottle sitting on top.

Now, we fully expected a Big Show. Disney are renowned for putting on a visual extravaganza for all their significant events.

What we got was an absolute eye-popping spectacle of the first degree, a 30-minute theatrical production of non-stop colour, movement, song, dance and special effects. A complete entertainment pageant with every bell and whistle Disney could muster.

While the senior Disney executives introduced the event, it was left to Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and the rest of the gang - along with a cast of hundreds of performers, dancers, singers, band members (including the US Navy's SouthEast Band) and giant, stilt-like characters - to make it a cavalcade of pure fun in the best traditions of Walt himself.

We watched, entranced, as this huge cast took us through a series of set-piece features designed to fill the big 'champagne bottle' with enough 'dreams' for the official launch. We had Captain Jack Sparrow and a pirate 'invasion,' a host of Disney Princesses, the 'Wildcats' of High School Musical and a marching band, culminating in the ship's godmother, actress and singer Jennifer Hudson (and a former Disney Cruise Line entertainer!) appearing on a riser behind the stage to join with Mickey and the Fairy Godmother (naturally) in performing the time-honoured ceremony.

With the vast stage filling up once more with everyone who had already taken part in the earlier scenes, a helicopter appeared to lift up the big 'champagne bottle' and carry it over to touch it to the ship's hull - at which point the fireworks show took over and we were truly bowled over by a daytime pyrotechnic finale.

With all that, it was time to return to the Terminal and sip a glass of celebratory champagne ourselves, prior to embarkation on the Disney Dream and the next part of the inaugural festivities - a two-day cruise on the ship itself.

More soon...!