The New Disney Dream, A Designer's Perspective

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Disney Cruise Line

The latest Disney attraction combines creative wizardry and a lot of shipbuilding know-how. AOL Travel got exclusive insight into the design process for the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream at the shipyard in Germany where the soon-to-debut vessel is under construction.

The Disney Dream story begins about five years ago, when Disney Cruise Line decided it was time for a new generation of ships to follow the success of the Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.

Frank de Heer, vice president of New Ship Development, started working with his team on plans, making decisions based on size, speed, and the basic look for both the Dream and sister ship, Disney Fantasy (due in 2012). The team based the model in good part on guest feedback from the earlier ships.



A blueprint, which also includes technical stuff like propellers, thrusters and rudders, was taken to shipyards, and in April 2007 a deal was signed with Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany.

Walt Disney Imagineering, which creates Disney rides and attractions, meanwhile, began looking at ideas for the 128,000-ton ship's storytelling element and what Disney calls its "differentiators."

The first thing we notice onboard during a hard hat tour is the attention to detail, evident in design examples like Beauty and the Beast roses in the marble flooring, as well as other characters seamlessly incorporated throughout the ship's design.

Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, says that these touches are as much the work of Imagineers as the ship's whiz-bang attractions like AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea; Magical Portholes that show virtual ocean views from inside staterooms; and Enchanted Art.

"We're trying to tell a story. We're trying to create guest experiences," Vaughn says.

The look of Disney Dream tells the story of the romantic art deco period of the 1930s. Vaughn says his team felt it important that the ship include the same sorts of elegant materials that would have been used back then. So in addition to hidden Mickeys – which are in large supply on the Dream -- guests will find things like stateroom bathrooms done up with real tile.

The Imagineers also fought for and got real marble for the stunning princess-themed Royal Palace dining room. Never mind that it's a heavy material to work with at sea.

"We wanted to make sure that we delivered on that fantasy of 'I'm going to the kind of palace that the princesses from one of our stories would go to.' To do that there was only one material we could use and this was real marble," Vaughn says. Italian craftsmen were even brought in to hand-cut the stone.

While Disney doesn't talk cost, Vaughn concedes there is quite a lot of back and forth between the business side, shipbuilding side, naval architects (who have to approve all plans), and creative team.

"It's not just creative, we can do anything we want," Vaughn says.

In addition to in-house folks, the Disney Dream includes the work of design experts brought in from places like Boston, New York, San Francisco, Canada and Sweden. A Norwegian company came up with the ship's impressive, classically elegant exterior design.

"Everything that you see around you and what you don't see behind the scenes takes a long time to design," de Heer says. The biggest challenge in shipbuilding, he adds, is making decisions and sticking with them.

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