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Ahoy! Spidey On Board!

By Georgina Cruz


November 2016: Disney Cruise Line is well known for having a world-famous rodent—Mickey Mouse—on board, but now, guess what? They have a spider too—Spider-Man, that is!

Spidey has been welcomed aboard the 83,000-ton, 2,713-passenger Disney Wonder, which was launched in 1999 as the line’s second vessel and has just been transformed with new magical spaces during a Sept. 9-Oct. 23, 2016 dry dock in Cadiz, Spain. It is something Disney Cruise Line has been doing through the years to update its fleet with new features that have proven popular with guests on its latest ships. In a 2015 dry dock, for example, the 128,000-ton, 4,000-passenger Disney Dream received a makeover that included adding the AquaDuck water coaster and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for princess and pirate makeovers that had earned accolades when they were introduced aboard the Disney Fantasy when that ship debuted in 2012. And the Disney Magic, launched in 1998, a year prior to her sister ship, the Disney Wonder, received a refit that added an AquaDunk water slide and other features in 2013.

Highlights of the Disney Wonder’s enhancements put on during her dry dock this fall include a jazzy new restaurant, new programs for children, a theatrical production inspired in the wildly popular “Frozen” animated movie, and a re-imagined entertainment district for adults including an English pub and a new nightclub.

Ask kids onboard and they tell you having Spider-Man in the ship’s new Marvel Super Hero Academy is “cool.” So cool in fact, one father of two sons told us while riding the elevator that he “couldn’t get them out of there.”

At the Marvel Super Hero Academy at Disney’s Oceaneer Club for ages 3-12, young sailors can enjoy hands-on play and activities that teach the value of teamwork, bravery and problem solving. Spider-Man makes personal appearances to help kids hone their “spider senses” by perfecting skills of reflex, speed and, of course, web-slinging and web-climbing—he has a 21-foot x 21-foot humongous web!

Other Marvel characters like Black Widow and Captain America also appear in person. In one activity, said Tony Giordano, show director for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, kids can learn to make a shield and Captain America shows them how to use it. And Black Widow shows them how to navigate a laser field.

In one game, “Avengers Assemble,” played by two players working as a team on a big digital screen, children can become Avengers and fight hydrabots in New York City. Cool props in the Marvel Super Hero Academy include Captain America’s World War II shield, Iron Man’s Helmet, Spider-Man’s web shooters and Black Widow’s gauntlets.

In addition to the Marvel Super Hero Academy, new play spaces and more character interactions for children in Disney’s Oceaneer Club include Club Disney Junior, featuring favorite characters, storytelling and games—one activity offers a visit by Doc McStuffins to help children diagnose and treat stuffed animals. Andy’s Room is a multi-level play space themed to Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story” trilogy where kids “shrink to the size of toys” and can climb on Andy’s high bed and go down a Slinky Slide as well as meet Woody when he appears in person to join the kids in a hoedown, and Jessie, who stops by for a scavenger hunt. Frozen Adventures is another new program in a new Oaken’s Trading Post space with a variety of activities inspired in “Frozen,” including the lovable snowman, Olaf, leading summery games with a wintery twist and a sing-a-long of “In Summer.” And the young sailors prepare for a “coronation” and receive a royal visit by Queen Elsa and Princess Anna.

And speaking of “Frozen,” the beloved animated hit is now a 55-minute theatrical stage production presented exclusively on the 977-seat Walt Disney Theatre of the Disney Wonder. The new show, “Frozen, A Musical Spectacular,” features a combination of traditional theater techniques, modern technology and Disney whimsy. It tells the story of the royal sisters, Anna and Elsa of the fairy tale kingdom of Arendelle, as they embark on a journey to find the true meaning of sisterhood, inner strength and true love. “It’s a story for absolutely everyone in the family,” said Jim Urry, vice president for entertainment, Disney Cruise Line. The production, arguably the most special-effects-rich one at sea, presents the movie’s popular characters, renditions of its music including the emblematic ballads, “For The First Time In Forever,” and “Let It Go,” impressive costumes, puppets (including adorable ones of Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer) and special effects including video technology, transformative sets, lasers, and even “snow flurries” that at one point come down really thick on both the stage and the audience. All of these elements not only retell the story of the blockbuster film but also “transport guests right into the world of Arendelle,” said Kevin Eld, creative portfolio executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. They did so for me and my husband Humberto, and judging by the standing ovation the show received, for others as well.

In addition to the new entertainment for all ages and programs for children, the ship’s transformation has brought novelties to many of its spaces. Perhaps most noticeable to those who have sailed on the Disney Wonder before are the changes in the ship’s beautiful, Art Nouveau-inspired Atrium. Here one of the two staircases has been eliminated to create a more open space for character appearances and mini-shows presented throughout the cruise, and the lovely bronze of the little mermaid Ariel has been moved from its former location in front of Triton’s restaurant, to the side, at the foot of the remaining staircase. The Chihuly chandelier that cascaded down the Atrium’s ceiling has been replaced with a red crystal one that recalls the flower that Ariel wears in her hair.

When it comes to dining, enhancements include a new restaurant, Tiana’s Place, one of three in Disney’s innovative rotational dining system, whereby guests and their servers go from one restaurant to another for dinner. Inspired by Princess Tiana, of “The Princess and the Frog” animated movie fame, the new dining room typifies an era of southern hospitality, spirited jazz and street parties in New Orleans. Décor details in the restaurant, that has a French Quarter supper club ambiance, include light sconces with a frog on a lily pad. Dining at Tiana’s Place includes live music on a main stage provided on our sailing by a quartet, the Crawfish Crooners, as well as appearances by Princess Tiana herself and a festive parade with wait staff sporting beads and parasols and winding their way around the restaurant. Chefs cook up Tiana’s recipes drawing from the flavors of the Louisiana bayou—everything from Mama Odie’s creamy tomato soup and New Orleans seafood pepperpot to Cajun spiced sea bass on shrimp jambalaya, to roasted Creole half chicken and beignets sprinkled with powder sugar.

Other dining novelties on the Disney Wonder include an updated Animator’s Palate restaurant that now features the popular “Drawn to Magic” and “Animation Magic” dinner shows, the Cabanas buffet-style restaurant with its nod to California beaches, and the refreshed Palo specialty restaurant for adults only with Venice-inspired décor including new Venetian-style lanterns (fee is $30 per person).

Also for adults is a re-imagined After Hours entertainment district, previously Route 66, with a new English pub, Crown & Fin, serving British and specialty beers and decorated with fine dark woods, leather furniture and brass accents. Subtle nods to classic Disney films set in London can be seen in artwork and props. For example, artwork depicting a flying bed inspired in the movie “Bedknobs And Broomsticks” can be seen on one wall, and a hat rack near the entrance to the pub and an umbrella on a shelf in its vestibule are two of the props that recall the classic film, “Mary Poppins” about the magical nanny. The English pub replaces the Diversions sports bar. After Hours also features a new nightclub, Azure, themed to the sea with wave-like walls and ceiling, to replace WaveBands, and a refreshed model of the ship’s popular Cadillac Lounge.

Throughout the Disney Wonder, other new and enhanced areas include a re-imagined Senses Spa & Salon with a new Chill Teen Spa, the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, the D Lounge for family entertainment and games, the Edge club for tweens, that has a new location near the Goofy pool, and the “It’s A Small World” Nursery for the youngest cruisers. All staterooms have been refreshed with new bedding and some new furniture including elevated platform beds to provide more room for luggage, and a new concierge lounge has been added.

The ship’s upper decks also have been redesigned. Kids and their families have new water-related activities including the Twist ‘n’ Spout water slide; Dory’s Reef, a fanciful splash zone for toddlers, and AquaLab, a pool and interactive water play area for children and their families.

The wave of new enhancements debuted on sailings from Galveston on Nov. 10. Visit disneycruise.com.


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