“Each of our ships has a unique identity, a unique personality of its own,” said Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line and New Vacation Opportunities, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “In re-imagining the Disney Magic, we had an opportunity to really introduce stories and characters, classic elements that are all Disney, and introduce them onto the ship to surprise and delight our guests.”
And delight their guests they did, from the new “Drawn to Magic” show in Animator’s Palate to the 37-foot-tall AquaDunk to the new kids’ spaces with the introduction of Marvel characters for the first time on a Disney Cruise Line ship.
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But it’s about more than just thrills, spills and fun onboard the Magic.
“Disney is so much more than a brand, and we recognize that,” said Bruce Vaughn, executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering. “There’s an emotional aspect that our guests have with everything Disney, and we view that as a relationship.”
It’s not just shows and attractions, Vaughn said. “We see it as a holistic experience.”
Take the Oceaneer Club, for example. With Marvel’s Avengers Academy, children can now immerse themselves in the story through role-play.
“You can become Iron Man,” Vaughn said. “We allow the imagination to go beyond just a passive experience of watching and actually be immersed and interact and become part of the story.”
Why Marvel characters?
“We’ve been, as a company, been acquiring these new characters and these new worlds that they live in,” said Joe Lanzisero, creative executive with Walt Disney Imagineering. “One thing we think about [is] things kids aspire to. And what kid wouldn’t want to be a super hero? It was the obvious thing to do.”
Also new in the Oceaneer Club is the Mickey Mouse Club, where children can do arts and crafts, play Mickey’s Memory Match Game or tinker with Goofy Gears; Andy’s Room, a two-story space that shows kids what it’s like to be the size of a toy; and Pixie Hollow, where kids can play dress-up, draw and play computer games.
Danny Handke, creative director for the Oceaneer Club and Oceaneer Lab, said the new kids’ spaces have friendlier, brighter, warmer colors that evoke a sense of familiarity. The mix of fairies, toys and super heroes “is a nice balance” for kids ages 3 to 12.
“First and foremost, we listen to the guests. We try to understand what they’re responding to,” Lanzisero said. “The company has learned so much about how our guests interact with the product. We keep acquiring these incredible brands, which are so well aligned with the Disney brand because they’re all about great storytelling; they’re all about great characters … and they come with great places.”
Connected to the Oceaneer Club by a hallway is the Oceaneer Lab. Highlights in the lab include an animator’s studio, movie screen and Navigator Simulators — and trust me when I say, “docking” the ship isn’t as easy as it looks.
For the littlest guests is the new It’s a Small World Nursery, where parents pay by the hour for their children ages 3 months to 3 years to play or nap in the space redesigned in the style of Disney Legend Mary Blair.
To sum up the kids’ spaces’ transformation, Vaughn put it best: “The stage is set, and it’s the ultimate playground.”
New features on the ship’s upper decks include the AquaLab interactive water playground and pool, the Nephews’ Splash Zone for infants and toddlers, and the exhilarating AquaDunk. Turns out the near-vertical thrill slide almost didn’t happen because of the high importance to maintain the ship’s “classic lines,” said Lysa Migliorati, senior project manager for the Disney Magic’s re-imagining. But Disney, of course, found a way to make it happen. She said the colors of the slide coordinate with the colors of the ship’s silhouette, allowing it to blend in.
Another well-received aspect of the ship’s re-imagining is the new “Drawn to Magic” dinner show at Animator’s Palate. The show, which is exclusive to the Disney Magic, begins the moment guests sit down, as sketches of Disney characters appear one line at a time on the oversized screens. By the end of the meal, the characters are in full color and come to life in an animated show that brings out the emotion in kids, parents and grandparents alike.
“It’s truly emotional,” Migliorati said. “There’s a story; there’s a connection.”
Vaughn calls “Drawn to Magic” a “classic” and “deepened” experience.