Posted on Saturday, January 22, 2011 by Peter Knego
Peter Knego’s account of the spectacular christening of Disney Cruise Line’s 128,000 ton DISNEY DREAM at Port Canaveral by singer/actress Jennifer Hudson and the first night of the ship’s inaugural cruise.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011:
Exiting Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel on a bright, early morning, we stepped onto one of Disney Cruise Line’s colorful coaches and were soon rumbling eastward towards Port Canaveral.
All photos by and copyright Peter Knego. Please click on image to view a larger version.
There was time to pick through portions of a bagged breakfast and even post a tweet or two before the driver announced that on the next bridge we would get our first glimpse of the DISNEY DREAM. Those of us on the port side of the bus pressed our phones and cameras into the tinted glass for the first of what would, in my case, tally over 1,000 photos in the next couple days. We were soon pulling up the Disney Cruise Line terminal, built in the late 1990s to accommodate the now “classic” DISNEY MAGIC and DISNEY WONDER.
The terminal, itself, is a lofty place, inspired in part by the gorgeous, since demolished Ocean Terminal in Southampton. Once past the metal detectors at the entrance, an escalator leads to a towering lobby with terrazzo floors inlaid with nickel Disney motifs. The centerpiece is a giant cutaway model of the liner-like DISNEY MAGIC, showing her impressive features in great detail.
The waiting was exacerbated by tasty hors’d’oeuvres and bottled water. Suddenly, people started moving toward the down escalator and the crush had begun. The lower lobby quickly filled to capacity but the escalator was still moving masses of people downward…
Just in time, someone stopped it and we were able to pass through the next phase of security and out to the quayside toward specially erected bleachers. Immediately before us, backlit by the morning sun, the DISNEY DREAM awaited in the turning basin. The ship is an utterly stunning apparition for souls that rejoice in the symmetry of a classic ocean liner.
We found seats toward the top of the bleachers. Behind us, a man chided his crying daughter, “If you don’t go down there NOW and do it, it will be too late!” His wife chimed in, “And your absence from school will be unexcused!” Whatever the poor little Miss Sunshine was supposed to eventually do, she apparently didn’t.
As the sun seared our necks and ears, Disney tunes played and various characters frolicked across the stage. Off the DISNEY DREAM’s bow lay a barge with a huge bottle of champagne.
Soon, all the bleachers and the lower VIP section were filled with spectators. The top executives arrived along with Mr. Bernard Mayer, whose family-run shipyard, the Papenburg-based Meyer Werft built the DISNEY DREAM and some of the finest cruise ships on the seven seas. His yard is legendary for the quality and precision of its work.
There was more music, fanfare and announcements, songs from “Aladdin”, “Pirates Of The Caribbean” and fireworks. A speeding pirate ship engaged in a simulated battle with performers on stage, then passed alongside the DISNEY DREAM.
Robert Iger, President and CEO of The Walt Disney Company made a short speech and then the crew of DISNEY DREAM waved from the ship’s portside rails.
Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts introduced young Godmother Jennifer Hudson (a former DISNEY WONDER cast member, American Idol finalist and star of “Dreamgirls”) who rose from underneath the stage like Olivia Newton John in her peak “Xanadu” moment.
Looking svelte and very much in charge, Hudson belted out a song, then stood amongst Disney cast and crew as the Reverend Doctor Warren D. Langer Junior did the blessing.
In the ultimate moment of spectacle, a big black helicopter emerged from behind the ship, swooped over the floating bottle of champagne, hitched it up and swung toward the DREAM, releasing its bubbly brew on the side of her bow. Bigger fireworks, more music and then off to the terminal we marched for a “special champagne toast”.
We hurtled through the masses to the front of the terminal where hors’d’oeuvres and champagne were being served. There was too much sun and too many cameras to spare a hand for the toast but we did manage to maneuver through some of the nibblings.
The magnificent-looking ship began pivoting in the basin, so we returned to the dockside for photos, only to be ordered away by a security guard so the area could be “sweeped”. A balcony above us was accessible if we could make it there in time, so we zigzagged quickly through the throngs and up to get the last shot or two before she outgrew our cameras.
Skillfully, the 128,000 ton mass approached, her brilliant red, black, white and yellow livery putting the bland midnight blues, turquoise and white liveries of most cruise ships to shame. A helicopter hovered ahead, welcoming the vessel “home” and the shell doors were opened as the DREAM lined up with her gangway. Oops(!), we accidentally stumbled into the highly-secured VIP section were the top Disney brass dined on haute cuisine, then excused ourselves for a retreat into the terminal hall.
More waiting, time to study the nice details of the terminal, then finally, the ship was ready to receive her inaugural guests. Through the Mickey Mouse portals we went…
At the gangway, a unique Disney feature is having one’s name “announced” to applause from a lineup of greeting crew.
The Atrium, which I last saw in Germany while the ship was under construction (when no photos were allowed), had emerged from scaffolding and plywood to a three deck high fantasy land with a bronze Donald Duck sculpture and grand staircase. Before long, the television media took it hostage, queueing to send various hosts and hostesses on microphone-clenching grand descents.
The centerpiece of the lobby is an imperial blue, turquoise and orange jellyfish-like chandelier festooned with Swarovski crystals.
Onward, over poshly-tufted carpeting and thick marble marquetry to the midships elevator banks, each “car” fronted by fetching Deco floor indicators. The Meyer Werft quality and detailing was impressive.
Up to Deck 8 we soon soared, heading a short way aft along the portside passage to Category 5B Deluxe Ocean View With Veranda stateroom 8080.
With a touch of the key card to the scanning lock, the door was ready to open.
A comfy queen bed and convertible sofa would provide two night’s sleep. The cabin featured a nice palette of wood tones, maroon, white and blue. Furnishing and amenities included a flat screen television that swivels, a desk, coffee table (that opens up for additional storage), ample closet space and a chair.
A small veranda was a few steps away through a full length sliding glass door.
One coup of the cabin design, especially for families, is the two bathrooms, one with toilet and sink…
…and the other with sink and tub. Mirrors in each have a circular magnifying portion.
General amenities are the excellent H20 Plus soap, shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer. Suites are supplied with Elemis products.
Our luggage, including laptops and camera supplies (which had to be packed due to Disney’s stringent security) had not arrived, so there was limited battery power for our documentation.
But first, some fuel was required. We headed up to Cabanas, the ship’s buffet style eatery on aft Deck 11. Immediately, we were given hand sanitizers and assigned a table (fortunately by the window).
My favorite decorative aspect of Cabanas are the hand-set mosaics of sea life on either side of the room. They are reminiscent of the Hawaiian-themed mosaics on the old Matson LURLINE and MATSONIA and are quite skillfully rendered.
By the time we meandered through all the stations, our seating section was filled with guests. Water and soft drinks were at the aft end and somewhat difficult to obtain with so little room between chairs, tables and rows.
Out on deck, the lighting couldn’t have been better. The often fickle Florida weather was behaving kindly as we made our way along Deck 11, underneath the Aqua Duck water coaster, past the aft funnel and up to Deck 12.
The exclusive, extra tariff Remy’s French Restaurant was packed with visitors. Disney’s VP of Hotel Operations Ozer Balli (who guided several fellow journalists and me through the ship in Papenburg) was on hand to show us the special “vault” in Remy’s where its most expensive and exclusive vintages are kept. For those with deep pockets, a white-gloved steward presents a special velvet bag with an unfolding panel of plaques etched with their choices, including a Chateau Cheval Blanc for a “mere” $25,000. And if that is slightly over budget, one might settle for a $15,000 Chateau La Tour.
Next door in Palo, the extra tariff Italian eatery, I took photos between passing visitors.
Palo also has a special “wine cellar” in the form of handmade leather cradles that hold hefty vintages.
On the pool deck, children played while “Good Morning America” and other media outlets claimed exclusive access to the Aqua Duck. Maybe tomorrow we’d get our chance to sample the much-hyped water coaster…
Although it was supposed to be open, the concierge area on forward Deck 12 was mysteriously locked. Finally, a staff member let us in to see the suites that were supposed to be open for the self-guided tour.
Down on Deck 5, the two “virtual porthole” Insides were crammed to the rafters with agents and guests waiting to see the animated characters appear. Disney has devised a very clever tool in making what are normally the least-desired cabins among the most sought-after.
Swarovsky crystal-studded, etched and frosted glass chandeliers hover above most passages and vestibules.
The Enchanted Art, which comes to “life” via sensory detectors, will soon be fitted with face-recognition technology so that each piece can play a new vignette for repeat visitors.
Back up on deck, the lighting provided some irresistible shots.
I particularly like the yellow-rimmed cowls underneath the crimson funnels.
For those needing an escape from the little ones, there is an adults-only pool with a wet bar called The Cove at the base of the forward funnel on Deck 11.
The Spa and nearly all of the DISNEY DREAM’s other public spaces will be fully covered in an upcoming Decked!
After boat drill, we went up to deck to watch as the DISNEY DREAM sailed away. At Currents, the al fresco bar on forward Deck 13, champagne flowed into commemorative glasses.
The DISNEY DREAM passed Carnival’s comparatively boxy-looking CARNIVAL PRIDE in utter silence.
Once out of the channel and with the daylight fading, we headed to the gym to work up an appetite.
Dinner was assigned at 8:30 in the 697 seat Enchanted Garden, one of three restaurants where guests are rotated from night to night with the same wait staff and table mates. The dining room has decor inspired by the gardens of Versailles, which during the course of dinner, transforms from pastoral afternoon setting to tranquil, starry night.
The main focal points are the fiber optic trompe l’oeil glass panels around the room but a number of other details also enhance the transformation such as the light fixtures, which can “bloom” or close, accordingly.
We were pleased and surprised when an amuse bouche of edamame was brought to the table. According to Ozer Balli, VP of Hotel Operations, the “hybrid modern” food in Enchanted Garden is meant to be organic, fresh and seasonal, featuring ingredients such as organic meats and free range eggs.
Each of the ship’s dining venues features its own specially-themed tableware, including some cleverly-concocted bread baskets, salt and pepper shakers and the like.
Butter pads are available for the delicious breads but so are a hummus dip and olive oil with balsamic vinegar.
Our two friendly stewards were Gianpiero (Italy) and Gilbert (Philippines). Starters from the fixed menu included an Ahi Tuna Tower with crispy noodles and wasabi dressing.
The Golden and Red Beet Carpaccio with Celtic salt and ginger, garlic and rice wine vinaigrette was delicious. The two other starter choices included a North Atlantic Lobster Ravioli and a Thyme and Garlic Brioche.
We both had the Baby Spinach Salad with heart-sliced seasonal pears, roasted pine nuts and crumbled gorgonzola. Other choices included Duck Consommé, Curried Carrot and Apple Soup and a Romaine Wedge.
A Marjoram Scented Organic Chicken was among the entrées.
There was also a Roasted Pork Tenderloin Seasoned With Smoked Salt. Other menu choices: Caramelized Sea Scallops; Pearl Barley Cakes With Shallots, Leeks and Rosemary; Enchanted Garden Tuna Salad; Pan Seared Sea Bass; Glazed Portobello Mushrooms and New York Strip Steak.
We both selected the Banana Foster Sundae with rum-glazed bananas, whipped cream and caramel sauce.
But that was not enough, according to Gianpiero and Gilbert, who insisted on bringing us an additional Sweet Temptation: a trio of esterhazy cake, strawberry cheese cake and chocolate silk mousse. Other desserts thankfully not ordered included: Steamed Buttermilk Pudding, a full order of Esterhazy Cake and Sacher Chocolate Torte With Apricot Sauce.
And then there was a finishing plate of rich chocolate and apricot/mango fudge squares….
There was still so much ship left to explore, so we decided to work off some of the extra calories with a walk to aft Deck 4 for a visit to The District, the DISNEY DREAM’s adults-only suite of public rooms. In the Skyline Bar, which features a changing projection of several major cities (New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Paris, Rio), we ran into Hotel Director Mats Oskaarson.
When opened, the menu lights up — a very clever innovation for those of us who cannot read in dim light.
In the champagne-inspired decor of Pink, there is a special Taittinger created exclusively for the venue.
Much more on The District to come, so please stay tuned… From there, we headed out to the full wrap-around promenade, also on Deck 4. A lovely feature about the ship is how she illuminates the seas along her waterline.
When we finally returned to Cabin 8080, we enjoyed another perspective of this extraordinary sight.
Finally, in the wee hours, it was time to switch off the lights….
End Of Part One.