Disney Cruise Line has fine-tuned the pomp and gotten the circumstance mostly in order for the first paying customers on board its new ship Disney Wish.
The fifth ship in the fleet began its regular duty of three- and four-night cruises from Port Canaveral for the first time with paying customers Thursday. Demand remains strong, with most of available July staterooms sold out, and premium pricing in effect. The cheapest sailing on Disney’s website as of July 13 is for $1,751 per person based on double occupancy for a three-night Bahamas voyage for an inside stateroom.
The144,000 gross-ton, 1,254-stateroom vessel is the first of three in a new class for the line, slightly larger than the fleet’s previous two ships Dream and Fantasy, which debuted more than a decade ago, but still targeting 4,000 passengers.
The ship arrived to the port in June, but only began sailing with test passengers during a christening voyage on June 29, and not everything was running as smoothly as the line would like.
Officials were confidant Wish would be up to Disney’s standards for the first sailing, though.
“We’re going to have a great experience for our guests on our maiden voyage,” said Sharon Siskie, vice president of Disney Cruise Line, during the christening cruise. “We’re really happy about where we are. … It’s a beautiful ship, and with any new new ship, you’re always going to be putting little finishing touches here and there. … We are making little tweaks here and there.”
During the christening, for instance, the main top-deck attraction, the AquaMouse water coaster, suffered several shutdowns that required cast members to walk up through the tube and escort people off the ride.
That ride, unlike the AquaDuck on Dream and Fantasy, incorporates a dark ride section that is comparable to Splash Mountain or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World, in which riders slowly make their way through a story — in this case based on the new Mickey Mouse animated shorts that began airing in 2013 — before venturing into the thrilling part of the ride. The combination of water coaster and dark ride had Disney Imagineers referring to it as the cruise line’s first attraction at sea.
At full speed, riders were being loaded into two-person inflatables roughly every 30 seconds, so the turnaround has the potential for a speedier cadence than the other ships’ water coasters, which can see long wait times.
“It’s going to be a fun, popular ride for sure,” said Pilar Arroyos, senior manager for marketing for Disney Cruise Line. “We are expecting people wanting to do it many, many times. But we’re really good at managing crowds. And we really tried to make it easy, seamless, as well as entertaining just waiting for it.”
Most of the ship’s venues, though, were working near 100%, but some of the entertainment was working out the kinks.
One of the three Broadway-style productions won’t be performed for the first sailing — “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular” — although both of the other shows, which are new to the cruise line, will take place, the cruise line stated.
That includes an original version of “The Little Mermaid,” parts of which were performed for those sailing on the christening cruise, and the show that will be performed on the first say of sailing, “Disney Seas the Adventure.”
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One other new feature that has been in the works, but won’t be ready for the first sailing aboard the new ship is an interactive game that’s housed within the Disney Cruise Line app titled “Disney Uncharted Adventure.”
It’s an expansion of the idea behind the Midship Detective Agency found on Dream and Fantasy, and lets cruisers interact with all sorts of things on board such as artwork and hidden features as part of a series of quests, said Davey Feder, the software product manager leading the game’s creation. Feder demonstrated some of its features during the christening cruise. At one point, the game called on players to use their smartphones to capture escaped fireflies in the middle of a hallway.
“We’re really trying to bring the ship to life in a number of different ways,” Feder said. “Our goal is as you start playing this, when you walk on the ship, you’re now going to be looking at everything with a different eye, because I have no idea when I get there what’s going to happen, what’s going to turn on what’s going to respond to what I do.”
The line said it’s coming still for the inaugural season, but isn’t ready to be rolled out yet.
There were some other features in different spaces still in the works two weeks back, including some of the frosty magic related to a finale scene in the dinner theater performance of the rotational dining venue Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure and an interactive Marvel costume game in the Oceaneer Club kids space.
But most of the delights and surprises promised for new venues such as the Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge and Worlds of Marvel restaurant along with the Disney Easter eggs found throughout the ship design were perfectly in place.
“I would say keep your eyes open because every corner of the ship really has a story to tell,” Arroyos said. “People really have to walk slowly and pay attention to the details.”