Disney Dream Ship Takes to the Water

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Disney Cruise Line

The 4,000-passenger Disney Dream has made its public debut, and AOL Travel was on-site to cover the event. Thousands of spectators were on hand to cheer the Float Out, despite rain and chill in Papenburg, Germany.

A Float Out is basically when a ship leaves its indoor construction area for outfitting and testing in the open-air. In Northern Germany, the event is somewhat akin to a shuttle launch in Florida. In just under two weeks the Disney Dream will make its first voyage, traveling about 35 miles down the River Ems to the North Sea, where engineers will put the ship through its paces.

With the 128,000-ton Disney Dream the largest ship ever built in Germany, and, given the world-wide allure of Mickey, there was additional attention.

By some counts, close to 15,000 people came to witness the Float Out. More than a hundred campers could be seen parked alongside the shipyard, and the festive atmosphere even included a carnival complete with carousel and bratwurst stands.

The crowd watched in awe as the 128,000-ton ship was slowly pulled outdoors by tugs, a process that takes nearly an hour.

Many in the crowd carried both umbrellas and plastic Mickey hands provided by the shipyard. Bundled up kids could be seen clutching Mickey dolls and other favorite Disney characters.

They were rewarded for the wait. As always, Disney did things dramatically.

"Presenting the latest jewel in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, the Disney Dream," said a pre-recorded American-accented announcer when the ship was fully in view. Then there was a recorded sample of the ship's horn blasting the first few notes of Cinderella's "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes," with the full song playing over speakers as fireworks surrounded the ship from both the sky and ground.

With its classic 1930s-inspired pointy bow and deep blue hull topped by white decks and red smokestacks, the ship cuts an elegant figure. A sculpture of Sorcerer Mickey clinging from the stern is a big hint at the fun inside.The ship will debut several unique Disney attractions, including the first water coaster a sea and a brand new show production, Disney's Believe.

The Dream is 50% bigger than Disney's other two ships, Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, and is the line's first new build in more than 10 years.

"It's exciting," Karl Holz, president of Disney Cruise Line, tells AOL Travel in an exclusive interview at the event. "It's the first time our guests, our fans, get a chance to see the entire ship."

Bernard Meyer, managing partner of Meyer Werft, says the event is an "emotional moment" and a source of pride for the shipyard and the thousands who have worked on the ship's construction.

The concept for the ship started nearly five years ago, Holz says. With the exterior complete, the focus now is final touches inside.

"It's getting to be ready," Holz says. "I couldn't be more pleased." He says his excitement has been so much his adult daughter asked what was more exciting, her birth or the birth of the ship? "I told her she was, but this was very special," Holz says.

Bahamas cruises on the Disney Dream launch January 26, 2011 from Port Canaveral near Orlando.

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