PORT CANAVERAL — Disney Cruise Line managed to tug on some heartstrings while christening its new ship Disney Wish inviting three children from the Make-a-Wish foundation to perform the traditional role given to the ship’s godmother during a ceremony at Port Canaveral on Wednesday.
Acting as representative godchildren of all past, present and future recipients of the Make-a-Wish charity, 13-year-old Jenna from Sacramento, California, 16-year-old Megan from Brookfield, Wisconsin, and 10-year-old Colby from Lexington, Massachusetts, all survivors of life-threatening illnesses, declared in unison, “I christen thee Disney Wish. May God bless this ship and all who sail on her.”
The ceremony flashed images of the three undergoing treatment in their personal journeys to overcome illness, including one heartwarming sign declaring “Cancer Free!” that had some in the audience holding back tears. Make-a-Wish has granted more than 145,000 wishes over the years. Megan, who had a rare form of leukemia that affects only 2 out of a million people, said her wish was to meet a Disney Imagineer, which she was able to do this week.
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option,” she said.
The event which soldiered through the threat of light rain featured a performance by Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog,” as well as speeches by Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek and Disney Parks, Experiences and Product Chairman Josh D’Amaro.
“This ship is a celebration of nearly 100 years of Disney storytelling excellence. And it brings fantastic worlds and characters to life like never before. As you walk through the ship, you’ll notice around every corner is another amazing story,” said Chapek. “We’ve combined these amazing characters and stories with incredible technology to create brand-new experiences for our guests that they can’t get anywhere else from bow to stern.”
D’Amaro detailed some of the numbers behind the ship that’s been in the works for six years.
“It has been a labor of love and our teams worked hard to get her here today,” D’Amaro said. “This incredible ship has 25 entertainment venues. It’s got more than 4,400 pieces of art onboard. It’s got 70,000 garments for cast and crew and Rapunzel’s hair on the ship’s stern is 60 feet long. And in every detail we are connecting people to our stories in fantastic new ways.”
It’s the first time Port Canaveral has hosted a DCL christening since Disney Dream in 2011. In that event, Emmy-Grammy-Tony-Oscar-winning Jennifer Hudson, who cut her chops in the entertainment industry aboard a Disney ship, took on the role of ship’s godmother amid fireworks and fanfare.
After the event, media were welcomed on board for the ship’s first sailing with any significant number of passengers, a three-day voyage to show off all the new Disney bells and whistles on what is now the fifth ship in the DCL fleet.
The ship at 144,000 gross tons is bigger than the line’s two most recent vessels — Disney Dream and Fantasy — but still looks to support about 4,000 passengers like those two older ships. It’s also the first in the fleet to be powered by liquefied natural gas, a cleaner burning fuel that the cruise industry has been shifting to. Carnival’s Mardi Gras became the first cruise ship to home port in North American using LNG-fuel, and Disney Wish is No. 2, both based at Port Canaveral.
Get away from it all with vacation ideas, trip planning help and money-saving tips.
The Wish boasts a new water ride called the AquaMouse, which is similar to the Dream and Fantasy’s AquaDuck water coaster that sends riders in a tube through a clear tube above and around the top deck,, but with the added treat of a classic Disney dark ride, this one with a series of animations based on the new animated Mickey Mouse shorts. There will be storyline-based squirting involved.
New spaces inside include the much-anticipated Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge, an adult-oriented bar that promises to suck in the Star Wars geeks on board. Also coming are three new main rotational dining options including interactive spaces based on Marvel and “Frozen.” The third — 1923 — pays homage to the studio launched by Walt and Roy Disney in 1923 with more than 1,000 drawings and other animation props showing the progress of the studio from first film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” all the way up through “Frozen 2.”
Fine dining is on board as well with the introduction of Enchanté from 3-star Michelin Chef Arnaud Lallement themed to “Beauty and the Beast.” Also on board will be a version of Palo, which looks to expand beyond the Northern Italian cuisine on the other ships.
For kids, the Oceaneer Club will continue the Star Wars, Marvel and Disney Princess themes with spaces called Star Wars: Cargo Bay, its own Marvel Super Hero Academy and Fairytale Hall. New to the Wish will also be a space called the Walt Disney Imagineering Lab.
On stage, the theatrical offerings include a new version of “The Little Mermaid,” the return of “Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” and an original production called “Disney Seas the Adventure.”
The ship arrived to the port amid cheers on June 20, but won’t begin sailing with paying customers until its inaugural sailing on July 14 as it begins three- and four-night Bahamas duty with stops that include Disney’s private island Castaway Cay. It takes the role from Disney Dream, which has called Port Canaveral home for more than a decade, but now sails out of Miami.
Disney Fantasy remains at Port Canaveral doing more seven-night voyages.