Disney Dream AquaDuck Water Coaster at Sea
Disney Cruise Line
The first water coaster at sea, AquaDuck can be seen rising above the 128,000-ton ship's football field-sized family pool deck. The coaster is an impressive sight: a clear tube gushes with water as it loops from one of the ship's large bright red funnels and passes right through the other.
At the shipyard in chilly northern Germany, where we visited the Disney Dream under construction, testers in wetsuits were doing calibrations and could hardly contain their excitement.
The man in charge, Disney Cruise Line production manager Peter Ricci, had ridden the coaster 10 times when we talked to him and says he has no doubt coaster fans too will be screaming with excitement.
"This is probably the funnest ride that I've been on for quite awhile," Ricci tells AOL Travel. "It's thrills from the beginning to the end."
The ride uses flume technology similar to Master Blaster at Typhoon Lagoon (at Walt Disney World), with water jets gushing some 10,000 gallons of water per minute to push riders upward and forward. There is lazy river technology involved too, but Ricci says "lazy" is a loose term when it comes to AquaDuck.
The action starts high up at one of the ship's bright red funnels where riders get in 2-person inflatable rafts and are propelled by rushing water through a 270-degree clear acrylic loop that actually swings 12 feet over the side of the ship, 150 feet above the ocean surface.
"It's almost like an inflated magic carpet that you're riding in," Ricci says of the sea views below.
The ride has two inclines, and at one point passes right through the ship's tween club located in one of the funnels. From start to finish, the whole experience lasts about 65 seconds.
"It's fast and fun -- you're going to get wet but you're going to enjoy it," Ricci says.
AquaDuck will be free, no ticket required, and Ricci says officials expect up to 300 riders per hour. There is a minimum height requirement of 48 inches.
Plans are to operate the ride during both daytime and nighttime hours, thanks to LED lighting around the coaster that can even twinkle and strobe.
Unfortunately, due to safety reasons, we didn't get the chance to try to ride uring our exclusive behind the scenes look we didn't get to try the ride yet for safety reasons, though I did get to sit in one of the rafts.
Ricci says the creation of AquaDuck took more than two years, and began with designers conceptualizing the coaster using a bottle, toothpicks and a surgical tube configured on a model of the ship. The coaster was built by a Canadian firm specializing in water coasters, and shipped to Germany for installation.
And of course, good things don't come easy. While several cruise lines have looked at the concept of building a coaster at sea, Disney is the only one actually doing it -- thanks in no small part to the Dream's large dedicated crew.
A team including naval architects and safety engineers used wave studies and a computer model to determine how waves will affect the fluid dynamics of the ride in the Caribbean, where the Disney Dream will be based.
"We're very confident that we'll be able to operate (AquaDuck) at least 90 to 95% of the year in the Caribbean," Ricci says. "The Imagineers have thought of everything to make it a fun, exhilarating, exciting, an experience you won't forget."
Bahamas cruises on the Disney Dream launch January 26, 2011 from Port Canaveral near Orlando.