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Cultivating big-name partnerships has become an integral part of cruise line strategy. These alliances enrich onboard and shoreside experiences for guests, place a familiar stamp on the product and send a message to the consumer about the philosophy of the cruise brand.
However, in one case — Disney Cruise Line — the tail wags the dog. Disney’s beloved characters and stories have been embedded in its ships from the beginning. The company took advantage of its ability to offer something no one else could: encounters with famous characters in an intimate setting and the resources of Disney Studios to build an entire world that supports and amplifies Disney stories.
The whole process has been refined and intensified over the years since Disney Cruise Line’s 1998 introduction of the Disney Magic ship. Now, new additions to Disney Dream are evidence that the company has made an art of blurring the line between cruising and becoming a living part of its popular movies and games.
Dream returned to service in October after a three-week drydock, and spaces throughout the ship have been transformed, featuring themes based on the upcoming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” film, which debuts mid-December, and the Disney Infinity video game.
In Disney’s Oceaneer Club, designed for ages 3 to 12, kids can enter the ship’s new Star Wars section (which replaces Captain Nemo’s submarine) and sit in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon to battle evil with the Rebel Alliance, virtually piloting the ship through hyperspace. At the Jedi Training Academy, young Padawans learn how to handle a lightsaber and face Darth Vader with a Jedi Master.
However, it looks like Disney will need to add at least 30 years to the target age range for the attraction. The Disney Parks site is full of posts from adults who were young when the “Star Wars” movies were first released, pleading to play on the Falcon, asking for special or late-night hours for adults and requesting an adults Star Wars club.
Another new addition to Dream with appeal across generations is the Disney Infinity area, where children can share interactive virtual adventures customized for them on a screen using an interactive floor and a complete set of Infinity characters. Once back at home, kids can access exclusive Disney Infinity content from their cruise adventure.
Families can enjoy candy, novelties and handmade gelato and ice cream at the new Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats. The shop’s design is inspired by “Wreck-It Ralph,” with a racetrack- and checkerboard-patterned floor, gas-pump-style gumball dispensers and King Candy’s throne. Don’t miss Ralph’s Family Challenge Sundae, five scoops of ice cream served in a trophy souvenir cup for a whole family to share.
Additionally, children can transform into pirates, princesses and knights at the ship’s new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique while parents relax at Satellite Falls, an adults-only water feature.
Through 2017, families can book three- and four-night night Bahamas itineraries on Disney Dream, departing from Port Canaveral, Fla., and visiting Nassau and Castaway Cay.