More Stories of the Disney Dream

by Jim Korkis, contributing writer

I've written about the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) before and the stories behind Castaway Cay.

Last year, I wrote about the Disney Dream and its art as well as the stories behind the dining locations.

I have always enjoyed the Disney Cruise Line experience and have done it eight times (three of which as an animation presenter from the Disney Institute when it first launched in 1998-1999). I have been on the Disney Magic, the Disney Wonder and the Disney Dream. I haven't made it on to the Disney Fantasy, yet, to experience any differences.

I had the opportunity in January to once again voyage on the Disney Dream, as I instructed students from Buena Vista University from Storm Lake, Iowa, on Disney storytelling; the history of the Disney Cruise Line and how it became a natural extension of the larger Disney Brand; customer service; and the challenges of addressing international needs and wants.

So a special shout-out to instructors Jerry Johnson and Henry Hardt, as well as students Kailey, Austin, Cooper, Abby, Michelle, Bonnie, MacKenzie, Mariah and all the others who made it a very bon voyage.

Want to know if you are port or starboard on the Disney Dream? The stateroom doors provide a hint.

I didn't think there was much more to say about the Disney Dream, but, I found after I had unpacked my well-worn notebook, that I had enough material for another article of some interesting facts that I hadn't previously known.

Late last year, the ship underwent a three-week enhancement (including the addition of a Star Wars-themed area in the Oceaneer Club and Vanellope's Sweets and Treats candy shop on Deck 11 near Cabanas).

By the way, the first day of the cruise, the Oceaneer Club has "Open House" a few hours before and after the muster drill so adults without children can explore the space and get a few photos with things like Chewbacca's bowcaster that is haphazardly placed on an upper shelf, or standing next to a gigantic Slinky Dog figure or at the flight console of the Millennium Falcon.

Castaway Cay

I have written about the real and elaborately fictional stories about Castaway Cay, but the bottom line is that the majority of the DCL guests and cast members have little interest in any of them.

On my recent voyage, I found that both the story in the hardcover stateroom guide, as well as a sign posted at the Pelican Point tram stop, had been extensively shortened and here it is:

"Three explorers set sail to the scattered out islands of the Bahamas in search of fame and fortune. They brought along their families and a diverse crew. Through mild mishap and extreme good fortune, they located the objects of their desire, sunken treasures and the secret of youth.

"Though cast away on this island, they had no desire to leave due to the breathtaking beauty of this tropical paradise. Visitors to this island can still see the original structures built by the explorers and take part in many of the same pleasures our castaways enjoyed years ago.

"Disney Cruise Line welcomes you to the island paradise of your dreams, Castaway Cay."

I found that neither the cast members nor guests could tell me any part of this simplified version of the story. Regrettably, it is a story that no one seems interested in, other than the fact that the private island was home to castaways.

This time, I was told that Disney does not own Castaway Cay, but has leased it from the Bahamian government for 100 years. The lease is set to expire in 2096.

Disney has preserved most of the land of the three-mile-long island of approximately 1,000 acres and there are no current plans for any expansions. Only 55 acres are currently being used.

By the way, Serenity Bay has a better, more varied selection of items for lunch.

Most ships use tender boats to ferry guests to and from their islands, but Disney built its own pier to accommodate even the largest of its ships and built a breaker wall so it is a safe harbor.

To tell the truth, I was more interested in the fact that the stingrays at Castaway Cay have had their barbs manicured and groomed back by Disney's "marine specialists" for the protection of the guests, and that one of my traveling companions could not find a "Hawaiian" shirt in 3XL anywhere in the stores or their backstage storage area, despite him being willing to buy more than one.

How can you tell where you are?

An authoritative and perky tour guide on the ship named Natasha pointed out that if your stateroom has a fish on it, then you are on the port side since it has the same number of letters as "fish," and if you are on the starboard side, your stateroom has a seahorse because it is the same number of letters. To tell whether you are forward or aft, look at the design in the carpet. If it is upright, then you are heading forward. f it is upside down, you are heading aft. She also said that the nautical flags that decorate the design spell out "Disney Dream".

Secrets of the Skyline Lounge

This intimate adult cocktail lounge on Deck 4 Aft in The District features a panoramic view of different cities and their skylines in the seven "windows" behind the bar. Every 15 minutes the images change as Tinker Bell drops pixie dust on them. It is as if you are sitting on a high skyscraper penthouse apartment looking down at the city. The Imagineers call these digital screens the "windows to the world."

The five cities highlighted on the Disney Dream are Rio, New York, Paris, Hong Kong and Chicago. Looking very closely will reveal some surprises, like cars speeding along the highways, and even silhouettes of residents doing things like closing their windows. The images even change from day to night as the time progresses. Since this is an adult area, there are signature cocktails inspired by each of these cities.

Correspondingly, the poster images in the lounge itself also change to match the current city.

By the way, the menu lights up in the dimly lit bar and, if you look at just the right angle (from over on the right hand side), the coals in the "digital" fireplace form a silhouette of Cinderella Castle at the Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom.

Vanellope's Sweets and Treats candy shop

Wreck-It Ralph was a 2012 animated feature film from Walt Disney Pictures that recounts the story of an arcade game villain wandering through several other video games in an attempt to become a hero. One of those games is Sugar Rush, a racing game in a land made entirely of candy and featuring a go-kart racer named Vanellope von Schweetz.

This new candy shop, unique to just the Disney Dream, so far, recreates that experience. Yes, purchasing anything here is an additional charge, like at any of the other shipboard shops.

During the Disney Dream's three week 2015 dry dock, Vanellope's Sweets and Treats was added, replacing the former Arr-cade (a dark game room with arcade games) on the starboard side, Aft area near Cabanas on Deck 11. Disney claims that arcade game rooms are no longer the attraction they once were, before kids started playing the games on their own mobile devices.

There is an entrance inside Cabanas, as well as on the pool deck just outside the door to Cabanas.

When you first enter the space from the outside deck, there is a mural of the Starting Line from the racing game, a sculpture of Vanellope's racing go-kart, and a sculpture of King Candy waving the checkered flag from the winners tri-level podium. The racetrack circles the entire interior space.

The grandstands on top of the candy dispenser are exact replicas from the ones in the film. Each grandstand represents a racer in the game. The background music in the shop is a combination of music from the film, 8-bit video game music, and J-pop, to match with the theme of the shop.

Vanellope's Sweets and Treats candy shop is one of the newest additions onboard the Disney Dream. It is full of little interactive experiences inspired by Wreck-It Ralph.

Behind the sculpture of Vanellope hanging upside down is a mural of the Candy Cane Forest where she first met Wreck-It Ralph. Her go-kart is in front of a racetrack background and was specifically made as a photo opportunity.

The festive shop offers 20 flavors of gelato and 16 flavors of ice cream, all handcrafted and often different each day. There are more than 28 different toppings that can be added, as well. The whipped cream is made fresh every day.

The six artisan sundaes on the menu include two signature ones served in special souvenir cups. Families can indulge in the Ralph's Family Challenge Sundae, eight scoops of ice cream and eight toppings in a 52-ounce winner's trophy cup.

A solo ice cream lover might try Vanellope's Go-Kart Sundae, three scoops and five toppings in a souvenir plastic go-kart shaped dish that features wheels that move.

The shop's animated leader board, designed to look like the one in the movie, showcases the day's trending sundaes. All six start the day on the board, and as they're purchased, the leading sundaes move up the board to highlight the guest favorites that day.

Eclairs, designer cookies, cupcakes, candy apples, rice krispy treats, macaroons, truffles, tarts, and specialty brownies on a stick are just some of the delicious treats offered, along with bulk candy from dispensers. A colorful candy assortment, some of it with Ralph's image, is available, along with signature lollipops atop King Candy's lollipop tree.

Every now and then, the bad green head of Sour Bill (the majordomo of King Candy's sour ball henchmen) emerges from beneath a pile of gumballs in a large glass globe on top of the gasoline pump to lament in a sad, monotonous voice: "Hey, do you see your favorite racer on the leader board? I'm so happy for you" or something else equally sour.

Rich Moore, who directed the film and was the voice of Sour Bill, recorded new lines just for this experience. There are 30 different sayings.

This surprise is just one of many in this new immersive environment. WDI Creative Designer Danny Handke felt it was a challenge to bring the story of the film into such a limited space. The design process began around 2013 and construction happened 24/7 when the ship was in dry dock.

In case you don't remember, the names of the other racers in the film are Taffyta Muttonfudge, Crumbelina Di Caramello, Gloyd Orangeboar, Adorabeezle Winterpop, Citrusella Flugpucker, Torvald Batterbutter, Nougetsia Brumblestain, Sticky Wipplesnit, Minty Zaki (a tribute to Japanese animator and director Hayao Miyazaki, one of John Lasseter's idols), Snowanna Rainbeau, Rancis Fluggerbutter, Jubileena Bing-Bing, Swizzle Malarkey, and Candlehead.

Design delights

A steel-hulled passenger liner that launched 1905, the S.S. Amerika (later renamed the U.S.S. America in 1917 and converted to a troop ship), was the inspiration for the initial design of the Disney Magic. The goal was to capture a reference to the Golden Era of cruising with modern amenities.

The Disney Cruise ships have rounded backs rather than the more common square backs.

The exterior color was meant to suggest the black, white, red and yellow of Mickey Mouse. Mickey's yellow shoe color is Pantone 99 and Disney had to get special permission to use that color on lifeboats.

The white on the exterior of the ship is actually an "off-white" because white would be too blinding. It was felt that a solid black, while traditionally on ships, would be too much like a funeral, so the color is only 87 percent black and the rest is blue.

While they were working on the color, a female employee named Monica came into the room wearing dark blue pants. No one had seen that particular color before and they used it, calling it "Monica Blue," a tradition that goes back to Disney animation where Tinker Bell's green is called Dreiss Green after an ink and painter who wore that particular color on a dress to work one day.

Before the creation of the AquaDuck, Imagineers considered having a "lazy river" on Deck 12, but eventually determined that the weight of that much water would negatively effect the balance of the ship.

Deck 5 is where the Oceaneer Club is located, and primarily for children, which is why the section mid-ship is isolated from the forward section of Deck 5 where staterooms are located. Deck 5 has a lower roof and the portholes are smaller, so the kids feel bigger. The Aft area of Deck 4 is done in forced perspective so it seems longer and further away, so it discourages kids from wanting to go back in that direction where adult-geared The District is located.

That design reflects the Imagineering philosophy that you do not control people, but you control the experience so that the people make the choices you want them to make. For instance the crenellations on the walkway railings at Cinderella Castle discourage guests from trying to sit on the edge without the use of signs or a cast member monitoring the area.

In one of the four paintings in Palo is a "Hidden Mickey" formed by clouds that was deliberately included there by the Imagineers. It is in the second painting from the left. The special small dining room in Palo was meant to recreate dining with an Italian family in Morono, Italy. Looking closely, you can notice that the design of the ceiling mirrors the design on the floor carpet. There are elements of a small family kitchen, including a kitchen hatch so you can see the meals being prepared.

The painting in the Gusteau dining room in Remy was meant to depict Paris through Remy's eyes. If you look closely, Gusteau's restaurant is under the Eiffel Tower. In the room the chairs and drapes are exact reproductions from the film. On the painting depicting Gusteau's kitchen, look to the pots on the right-hand side and you might be able to discern an image of Linguini. Since only a percentage of wood is allowed on ship because, it would be a fire hazard, the ceiling that looks like carved wood is actually plastic, reflecting the Imagineering philosophy that only what can be touched by a guest needs to be real.

As you enter Pink in The District, it was designed so that you seemed to be entering through a champagne bubble.

Deck 11's quick-serve area near the pool area is themed to Disney-Pixar films.

On one side, Flo's V8 Cafe is themed to popular characters from Disney-Pixar's animated feature film Cars – Luigi's Pizza, Tow Mater's Grill and Fillmore's Favorites.

On the other side of the ship is Frozone Treats, named after the icy-powered superhero in the The Incredibles, that has fruit smoothies. Next to it is Eye Scream, inspired by the big green eyeball creature Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc., which offers soft-serve ice cream.

Few, if any, guests notice some of these wonderful touches but, subconsciously, as in the Disney theme parks, this attention to detail provides that special Disney difference that makes the entire experience so magical.

What amazes me is not just how wonderful a Disney cruise can be, but that there is always something new to discover, whether it is Donald Duck's rear end sticking out of a funnel or the often unseen image of the Disney Cruise Line logo hidden in the lighting fixtures in the middle of the overhead lights in the Meridian Bar, or that the tablecloths in Remy are individually steamed each day to remove any wrinkles.

I hope all MousePlanet readers get an opportunity to go on a Disney cruise someday, and I hope the information I have shared in these columns will help enhance that experience.