First Look: Disney Dream

Disney Cruise Line

Now that the exterior of the Disney Dream is about done, it's time to look inside. The ship is packed with hundreds of workers finishing interior spaces, so for our behind-the-scenes tour we had to don a hard hat and safety glasses and carefully step over wires and construction materials to see all of the magic.

A few things were clear right away. The 128,000-ton Disney Dream is an elegant ship -- even more upscale than Disney Cruise Line's Disney Magic and Disney Wonder. Outside, the exterior embraces the classic 1920s to 1930s age of shipbuilding. The Disney Dream is 50-percent larger than the other Disney ships and looks like a fabulous ocean liner with its pointy bow and deep blue hull.

Onboard, the first place guests will see is the Atrium Lobby -- a sight so remarkable that even with scaffolding up I had to pause to take it in. The focus here, too, is 1930s art deco, with gold columns, a marble floor, and a grand staircase you can imagine princesses gliding down.

Soon the 24-carat gold and Swarovski crystal chandelier will be installed, along with a featured statue of Admiral Donald Duck. Characters are also, subtly, on the art deco friezes. While Mickey et al are present in the design, the ship remains elegant, and doesn't knock you on the head with Disney.

Disney Dream makes major use of the latest and greatest in technology with things like fiber optics, interactive animated characters, and Enchanted Art that springs to life with animation when you stop to look. And that's just the beginning of the innovations.

The ship's big attraction will no doubt be the AquaDuck, the first water coaster at sea, which tops a football-field length family pool area that includes two pools and water play zones with splash and squirt features.

The Walt Disney Imagineers have pulled out all the high-tech stops to make this a fun ship, especially for kids. Most of Deck 5 is dedicated to keeping kids happily occupied, from infants (in the nursery) to teens.

In the Oceaneers Club and Oceaneers Lab (for those ages 3 to 10) the draw will no doubt be the Magic PlayFloor, which is basically a giant video game you play with your feet. But there's also Andy's Room -- a Toy Story themed room with oversized toys -- plus there's a Monsters, Inc.-influenced climbing area, animation studios, a sound studio, big screens where kids can talk to Disney characters, and much more.

Kids ages 14 to 17 get the largest and arguably coolest teen area at sea. This was a big focus for the designers, because as one official told us, if the teens aren't happy, no one in the family is happy. The space includes hangout spots, a dance club, a fountain/coffee bar, and even an outdoor area in the bow of the ship with two wading pools. Tweens have a separate club space located in one of the ship's funnels.

But don't for a second think the Disney Dream is all about kids. Disney Cruise Line knows from its earlier ships that it attracts couples without children, and even some singles, so an increased focus on adults is present on the ship.

The line did not break its no-casino rule, but the Disney Dream features what can best be described as an adult party area, called The District.

Located on Deck 4, The District is a series of clubs and lounges including Skyline bar, where thanks to special effects, you may find yourself in Paris one night, and New York the next -- with drinks to match.

Look closely at the bubbles that decorate the Pink champagne bar and you'll see elephants, a la Dumbo. The featured Tattinger champagne, Pink, was created specifically for the ship, and the sports bar will have a special Dream brew. The disco, done up in a Fantasia and butterfly theme, has a bar at its entrance so folks can mingle before they hit the dance floor. Officials admit they may be pushing the envelope a tad here, going for a very adult party atmosphere.

There are other spaces reserved for adults too, including an adults-only pool and two adults-only restaurants. Palo, which is also on Disney's other ships, serves northern Italian cuisine. But unlike on the other two ships, Dream's Palo has an outdoor dining area. At the Remy restaurant, the line will show off its culinary skills with a Michelin-starred chef contributing to the French menu (one room at the restaurant is done up to look exactly like the restaurant in Ratatouille.)

The Senses Spa promises to be a soothing space complete with ocean-view sauna, 10 ocean-facing heated ceramic beds for lounging, sensory showers, and couples massage suites with outdoor Jacuzzis. There's a spa area reserved for teens, as well.

There will also be two theaters on board: The Buena Vista Theatre will screen first-run Disney movies the same day they open in land-based theaters (including in Digital 3-D) while the gorgeous, red and gold art deco Walt Disney Theatre will stage productions including the brand new Disney's Believe.

The Dream's staterooms range from inside cabins with the super cool feature of Magical Portholes that show virtual sea views and Disney characters on up to elaborate suites -- the largest of which sits at nearly 1,800 square feet. Guests in 48 top accommodations have access to a Concierge Lounge, a first for Disney, where amenities will include complimentary evening cocktails. Most staterooms have the popular Disney family-friendly feature of one and a half baths.

All will have amenities that include custom-made Frette linen, iPod docking stations, and flat screen TVs.

Disney uses a rotation dining system that has guests sampling several dining spaces with the same wait staff. And it's clear much focus has been put on creating new dining venues on Dream.

Animator's Palate gets a new look and new show. During dinner the room changes from an animation studio décor to the undersea world of Finding Nemo, and includes appearances by an interactive Crush and other characters from the movie.

Enchanted Garden uses special effects to change décor from day to night complete with 600 light panels that will create a virtual sunset.

But I was particularly taken by the Royal Palace restaurant, the fancier of the dining spots. Here the design focus is Disney's princesses, and the spectacular room is modeled on the ballroom in Cinderella with elements as well from other princess stories.

On a grand ship, it's sure to please the inner princess (or prince) in all of us.

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