Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Cruise… “Cubed”

By Georgina Cruz

Double the activities, triple the entertainment, quadruple the opportunities to rub elbows with celebrities and add special surprises and the result is a charter voyage. One could define charter voyages as “cruises that are cubed,” providing much more than regular cruises in the way of entertainment, activities, opportunities to mingle with artists and celebrities and enjoy other features typically themed to an interest. Some popular annual charter voyages are The Malt Shop Memories Cruise – a nod to the time when the malt shop was the center of our universe – and the 70s Rock and Romance Cruise, celebrating that special decade in our lives.

Another important way charter cruises provide more than regular voyages is in instant affinity – these voyages are themed to an interest and typically attract like-minded people who have opportunities to enjoy each other’s company in more sociable activities like parties, concerts, question-and-answer sessions, trivia contests and the like.

My latest experience with this type of voyage was a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) cruise. The DVC is a vacation timeshare program owned by Disney Signature Experiences, and this cruise for DVC members, one of the available benefits of membership, was a celebration of all things Disney and family life that took us on a four-night sailing to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral aboard Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream on July 23-27.

In addition to hob-knobbing with the most famous mouse in the world and his pals including Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and many others, pose for photos with them and get their autographs, we could also goof off during special, one-of-a-kind events created for the cruise.

These included, on board the Disney Dream, a full advance screening of Disney’s live action feature film “Christopher Robin” opening in theaters on Aug. 3. The movie, presented in the ship’s Walt Disney Theatre by Walt Disney Studios’ Lisa Cabello, stars Ewan McGregor (“Fargo”) as Christopher Robin, with Jim Cummings reprising his roles as the voices of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. It made you feel very special to be able to watch this movie ahead of everyone else and hear lovable Winnie and pals once again!

In all, 35 Disney legends and artists as well as celebrities, entertainers and personalities in various fields participated in activities during the cruise, including Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Josie Trinidad, head of story for “Ralph Breaks The Internet, Wreck-It Ralph 2,” who presented a behind-the-scenes look at that movie, scheduled to open in theaters on Nov. 21.

Other special events onboard ship exclusive to the charter cruise included a talk by Pete Docter and Michael Giacchino, the director and composer of Pixar Animation Studios’ “Up” and “Inside Out,” about how these Academy Award movies developed from scene to score. Another highlight was a Cooking in the Atrium presentation with celebrity chef Art Smith (who served as chef to Oprah Winfrey for many years) and food-and-wine personality Marcy Carriker Smothers (author of “Eat Like Walt”) during which the celebrities shared stories and created a macaroni Mickey mousse. And additionally there were talks by screenwriter Jared Bush (Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia” and “Moana”) and by Roy Patrick Disney (son of Disney Legend Roy E. Disney and grandson of company co-founder Roy O. Disney), who shared what it was like to “grow up Disney.”

Onboard entertainment also included not the usual one, but two editions of Disney’s fireworks at sea, one during the pirate-themed night and the other during the Member Mouse Party. This party celebrated 90 years of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse with appearances not only by the beloved characters but also by the voice actors – among them Bret Iwan, who succeeded the late Disney legend Wayne Allwine as the voice of Mickey Mouse – plus sweet treats and fireworks. Other voice artists onboard included Disney Legend Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy and Pluto.

A special exhibit, one of my favorite events, was great for Disney fans: “Mickey and Minnie from Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives.” It displayed authentic artifacts associated with the world’s most famous mice, including a vintage set of Mickey and Minnie bean bag dolls dressed in formalwear. Yet other special offerings included a concert in the show lounge with Disney On Broadway stars including Ashley Brown (Broadway’s original Mary Poppins). The concert, “Stars Set Sail: Heroines And Heroes,” celebrated heroes and heroines real and imagined.

Ashore during two visits to Disney’s private island of Castaway Cay in the Bahamas – which was bedecked with a banner proclaiming that “Members Have Claimed The Island!” – special events included Member Mouse Parties with Midway Games and an Island of Heroes with beach games and a Community Heroes Project in which guests could participate in a Disney Vacation Club project by stuffing backpacks with school supplies to be donated to local Bahamian children.

Other special surprises were commemorative in-room gifts delivered every day including tote bags, beach umbrellas, wireless speakers, t-shirts and caps. No need to budget for souvenirs on this cruise!

The July 23 Disney Vacation Club cruise aboard the Disney Dream sold out quickly, and two other DVC Member Cruises have been announced for 2019:

  • A five-night Pacific Coast sailing on the Disney Wonder from San Diego May 15-20. Ports of call include San Francisco and Victoria before ending in Vancouver.
  • A seven-night Bermuda cruise on the Disney Magic from New York City on Oct. 5-12. Ports of call include Boston and two days in Bermuda before ending in New York City.

DVC keeps entertainment and other features of its future charter voyages on Disney Cruise Line close to the vest so there are no specific details on those aspects of the 2019 voyages. And each voyage may offer unique features. For example, a 2017 DVC Member Cruise kicked off with an unprecedented Member Cruise Film Festival featuring screenings of more than 20 films (including Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, months ahead of its release), studio and filmmaker presentations, interactive workshops and special deck parties. That voyage also celebrated 50 years of Pirates of the Caribbean and presented talks by Disney Legends, concerts and conversations with Disney on Broadway stars, among other features.

The Disney Vacation Club has 15 resorts in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. and in Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. DVC beach resorts include the beautiful Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Spa in Vero Beach, Fla., Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii.