No need for a Jedi mind trick.
With a cresting wave of new enhancements and offerings, Disney Cruise Line won’t have to use the Force to lure vacationers.
The two largest ships of its fleet, the Disney Fantasy and the Disney Dream, sail into 2016 by setting a course to impress both seasoned sailors and newbie cruisers.
Disney Fantasy’s ‘Star Wars’ Day at Sea
With Disney now flying the “Star Wars” brand and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” blasting box office records, it was only a matter of time before the franchise made waves on Disney Cruise Line.
The result is “Star Wars” Day at Sea, a daylong celebration taking place through April on a total of eight of the Disney Fantasy’s Western Caribbean sailings departing out of Port Canaveral, Fla.
Guests have the rare opportunity to see the first six films of the “Star Wars” series on the big screen in the Fantasy’s Buena Vista Theatre. The flicks each have respective showings on select days preceding “Star Wars” Day at Sea.
At the beginning of the big day, the booming sound of the ship’s horn plays the opening strains of the “Imperial March,” setting the tone for the next 24 hours. At the breakfast buffet, a tiny Princess Leia, her hair in those trademark buns, bites into a cinnamon bun of her own. Adults, some donning “Star Wars” T-shirts and others wrapped in Jedi robes, unleash their inner geek.
“Star Wars” characters begin appearing organically throughout the ship, some posing for photos with guests while others act as they do on screen. Stormtroopers march along the pool deck. Bounty hunter Boba Fett scopes out guests as he stands on the plank near the ship’s towering smokestacks. Sand People examine a guest’s iPhone, while a pig-faced Gamorrean Guard stomps by, ax in hand.
Guests are guaranteed at least two ticketed character photo opportunities. If you score a visit to Tatooine, you might rub metal with C-3PO and R2-D2 or get scowled at by Darth Maul. Cloud City features a meet-and-greet with either Chewbacca or Boba Fett. The Dark Side experience finds cruisers getting verbally grilled by either Darth Vader or Captain Phasma.
A laundry list of other experiences drop throughout the day. Those not so familiar with the franchise can learn more at a special “Star Wars 101” presentation. Kids lucky enough to be chosen can hop on stage and go saber to saber against Darth Vader for “Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple.” Costumed fans can parade their wares during special celebrations in the atrium. “Star Wars Saga: Tales From a Galaxy Far, Far Away” allows guests to play roles in a condensed stage version of the original trilogy. Of course, screenings of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” serve as one of the main attractions. Trivia, “Star Wars”-themed crafts and more round out the festivities.
Each of the ship’s three main restaurants serve up a special “Star Wars” Day at Sea menu. Fans bite into Lord Vader’s Nerf Steak, Yoda’s Pappardelle Pasta and other themed cuisine.
After dinner, the revelry culminates in “Summon the Force,” a pool deck stage show featuring all of the on-board characters with the “Star Wars” soundtrack and film clips in the background. Tiny Jawas chase C-3PO and R2-D2, Darth Maul gives a lightsaber demo and Chewbacca belts out a Wookiee roar for the crowd. Actual explosions blast from Stormtrooper rifles, and a fireworks display takes place.
For Dan Fields, executive creative director of Walt Disney Creative Entertainment, seeing the show on the inaugural sailing wasn’t the only high point of his day.
“I (loved) seeing the guests in the atrium talking to each other, taking photos together and sharing the costumes that they made or brought,” he said. “That’s when the guests really owned it.”
Not-so-nerdy cruisers have plenty to experience as it’s business as usual for the remainder of the seven-day sailing. This includes port stops in Cozumel, Mexico, Grand Cayman and Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas. More Earth-bound activities are available such as Broadway-style musicals, variety acts and the opportunity to see first-run, Disney-owned feature films.
Having emerged in late October 2015 from a three-week dry dock, the Dream, which sails three- and four-day cruises out of Port Canaveral, Fla., to the Bahamas, sparkles as it did for its 2011 debut. During dry dock, workers dove deep 24/7, not only adding new features, but sprucing up much of the old.
According to Thomas Praxmarer, the Dream’s hotel director, guests may not notice some of the refurbishments, including 62 miles of new carpet, new balcony glass for 800 rooms and approximately 750 fresh bathtubs.
Although many of the other enhancements gear toward younger guests, the company battles the misconception that it’s strictly a kiddie experience.
“I think people often forget the adult side of what we have to offer,” said Dream cruise director Jimmy Lynett.
Those ages 18 and older can find adults-only escapes both indoors and out. The District, the ship’s nightclub section, flows with new upgrades and more open space. The Senses Spa opened a juice bar. And like the Fantasy, the Dream now offers Satellite Falls. High atop deck 13, grown-up guests sit back on the bench of this circular splash pool as light blankets of water periodically shower from above.
All ages appreciate sweet temptations. The Dream fills that need with Vanellope’s Sweets and Treats, a new high-end dessert shop. Based on the Disney flick “Wreck-It Ralph,” Vanellope’s specializes in handmade gelato and ice cream, baked treats and more. Popular picks include Vanellope’s Go-Kart Sundae, served in a take-home bowl. Check out the leader board to see which sundaes are selling the best throughout the day. It’s one of the shop’s many immersive aspects, courtesy of Disney creatives.
When you’re not choosing between cupcakes, candied apples and other edibles, gaze at the gas pump-style gumball dispensers. One serves as home to mammoth jawbreaker Sour Bill, a “Wreck-It Ralph” character, who pops up unannounced, dishing out deadpan dialogue. Other photo ops include a life-size version of Vanellope’s vehicle.
Some adults may envy the new additions in Disney’s Oceaneer Club, a space specifically designed for kids ages 3-12. The Disney Infinity room drops tots in the middle of the popular video game. Players choose from a complete array of Infinity characters from the Disney, Marvel and “Star Wars” worlds, with each character figurine on display in a giant glass case. Special interactive Infinity games, found only on the Dream, have kids taking advantage of motion-sensor technology as they control their respective character on a jumbo screen.
The addition of the Millennium Falcon play area in the Oceaneer Club is sure to cause intergalactic elation. Disney Imagineers designed this spot-on replica of Han Solo and Chewbacca’s ship from the “Star Wars” films.
“We chose the Falcon because it’s timeless,” said Imagineer Danny Handke. “It appears in the new film, and it’s also in the original trilogy. Keeping it timeless means it’s updatable and refreshable.”
Using footage from the Disney Parks’ Star Tours attraction, it allows visitors to pilot the ship from the cockpit. Iconic droid R2-D2 bleeps to life nearby, and kids can engage in crafts or simply chill at the holochess table. The adjacent control room lures younglings with video games. Special Jedi training sessions allow guests to mind-trick Stormtroopers and telepathically move crates. Parents joining their kids during open house hours can make like Han and Leia and steal a kiss in a spot designed to look like the exact wall where the two characters first smooched in “The Empire Strikes Back.”
More feminine finds can be had at the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique on deck 5. Parents can spring for royal-style makeovers for wannabe princesses ages 3-12. Boys can get in the act, too, by transforming into knights or pirates.
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