Featuring virtual portholes, interactive dining experiences and animated art, the Disney Dream, the newest member of its cruising fleet, was unveiled last month in Port Canaveral, Fla.
Bill and Sally Bryson, along with Sarah Coleman, all of Uniglobe Ohio Valley, attended the pre-inaugural cruise of the Disney Dream at the end of January.
The Dream, Disney's third cruise ship, follows Magic and Wonder, which began sailing in 1998 and 1999, respectively.
There are a number of innovations and enhancements to this ship, Bill Bryson noted.
"Walt Disney understood that repetition without innovation wasn't interesting or in Disney's words, 'You can't top pigs with pigs,'" Bill Bryson said. Disney was referring to his 1933 success "Three Little Pigs." He produced sequels to the hit, each with diminishing response. That's when he realized, you can't "top pigs with pigs," which has been the company tenet for decades.
With the third ship in the Disney fleet, Disney's Imagineers "saw an enormous opportunity to expand, enlarge, update, upgrade and improve the experience of the Disney Cruise," according to "Welcome Aboard! The Creation of the Disney Dream," written by Jeff Kurtti.
One of the most exciting new features, Bryson noted, is animated art which immerses guests in Disney storytelling in a completely new way. A piece of art that appears to be static animation begins to move when visitors approach, he explained.
Another fun attraction are the virtual portholes in the ship's inside staterooms. (Nearly 90 percent of the rooms have an ocean view, however.) The virtual portholes offer a real-time view outside the ship, corresponding to the actual location of the stateroom.
High-definition cameras placed on the exterior of the ship feed live video to the portholes.
And, every once in a while, one of Disney's characters may pop by the porthole.
"Technology is an enabler throughout the entire ship," Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz said. "It brings the ship to life in many, many different ways."
Interactive dining was another innovative attraction, Bryson said, just one of the many features he enjoyed.
Various princesses make visits at the Royal Palace restaurant, while Crush the Turtle interacts with guests at Animator's Palate. A third restaurant, The Enchanted Garden, was inspired by the gardens of Versailles.
Guests have the opportunity to dine in the three restaurants during a three-night cruise, he said.
Bryson pointed out that your wait staff follows you to the various restaurants, too.
Also on board is an adults-only restaurant, Palo, and a food court, Cabanas.
A cruise-industry first, the AquaDuck combines the thrill of a coaster and the splashing fun of a water slide on a 765-foot journey around the ship, he said. "We had the opportunity to ride the AquaDuck, and "it is a lot of fun and not too scary," he said.
There also are several pools, a toddler water-play area and a sports deck.
Disney offers many opportunities for families, starting with the Small World Nursery for youngsters ages 3 months to 5 years. The Oceaneer Club for ages 3-10 is an oasis that transports young guests to lands of fairies, monsters and undersea exploration. The Oceaneer Lab, also for ages 3-10, offers a journey of discovery and exploration and has scheduled visits from the Disney character, Stitch, Bryson said.
"Tweens," ages 11-13 can enjoy their own private club, "Edge," while 14-17 year olds have their own space in a 9,000-square-foot area called "Vibe," Bryson said.
Bryson noted that character availability is really very good on the cruise ship. While at the Disney theme parks you may be 33rd in line, you aren't too much beyond third in line on the ship, greatly minimizing your wait to say hello to your favorite character.
For adults, The District, offers nighttime entertainment featuring sophisticated bars and lounges. Skyline is an ever-changing venue with "window" views of Paris, New York, Rio, Hong Kong and Chicago.
"Every 20 minutes you feel like you are looking out at a different city," he said.
The main club for adult guests is Evolution, inspired by the evolution of the butterfly. A sports lounge is also available.
"The Disney entertainment is spectacular, as one might expect," Bryson said.
"The shows on the other two ships have won 'best show at sea' nine years running. And the new show rivals the others."
A rain-forest themed aromatherapy steam room and sauna are part of Senses Spa and Salon on board the Dream. Spanning two decks, the spa features 19 private treatment rooms, hot tubs, a 2,500-square-foot gym and more.
Ports of call for the Dream include Nassau and Disney's private island, Castaway Cay.
"On the island, guests are treated to a barbecue lunch and they can choose between the family beach and the adults-only beach. Water sports are plentiful, and even cabanas can be rented for the day," Bryson said.
"Castaway Cay is like a theme park. In addition to white, sandy beaches, there are plenty of water activities for everyone."
"The goal was to create an experience for all generations - for people who come with grandparents and great-grandparents, for people who come without children," Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an interview with The Associated Press on one of the Dream's first trips out of Port Canaveral. "I think everybody takes out of it what they want, but I think we're providing a tremendous amount of surprise, too."
The new Dream offers "a lot for anyone, regardless of age," Bryson said.
"Disney has a way of making everyone feel special. They've incorporated that into the new ship. It's that magic they are so good at creating, in everything they touch."