By Anthony Panzella
Imagine for a moment the joyous smiles of boys and girls when they truly get excited about something they’ve always wanted. As a parent, there is almost nothing as satisfying as that instant. My friends and relatives know that I am guilty of doing almost anything when it comes to my children’s happiness. And I know of no company, who goes to the same extreme, to bring smiles to their faces than the Walt Disney Company. But Disney is not the company it was when you and I were kids. No, they’ve grown and become leaders at pleasing the whole family. Beyond parks and cartoons, they have built and promoted a line of cruise ships that are some of the best in the world. Now they are feeling so bold that they’ve brought their ships to the hardest market in the world, New York City.
When I heard about Disney’s decision to come to New York I was both nervous and ecstatic. Obviously this was a great opportunity for local families to experience the “Disney Magic”. Well, I needn’t be worried because they are masters at bringing out the kid in all of us. From food, entertainment and down to the staff interaction with guests, Disney has created a world-class experience worthy of the pickiest New Yorker’s attention.
Since its launch in 1998, Disney Cruise Line has established itself as a leader in the cruise industry, providing a setting where families can reconnect, adults can recharge and kids can immerse themselves in worlds of fantasy only Disney can create. And with almost nine hundred rooms there is plenty of space to hold a large family gathering but not big enough to feel overwhelmed.
So it is easy to understand that beginning in May of 2012 when their cruise line will be setting sail from New York, my family and I will be one of the first families booking a trip aboard the ship. And with a total of twenty cruises including eight-night cruises to the Bahamas and five-night cruises up the New England coast to Canada plus two-night cruises that will give a sampling of the Disney Cruise Line experience over a weekend – there is plenty of itinerary to please all.
The 20 eight-night Bahamas cruises will include a day at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay; Nassau, Bahamas; and a stop at Port Canaveral, Fla., giving guests an opportunity to visit the nearby Walt Disney World Resort. As part of this itinerary, each guest will receive a one-day Walt Disney World Park Hopper ticket and roundtrip transportation between their Disney ship and the resort.
The 9 five-night cruises up the New England coast will call at Halifax, Nova Scotia and Saint John, New Brunswick. In these popular Canadian ports, guests can soak in splendid natural vistas, explore historic sites, visit quaint cafes and charming shops and browse Canada’s oldest farmer’s market.
Activities abound for the family and really set Disney apart from other cruise lines. From activity centers for children, entertaining and spectacular shows, a vast array of dining options and several pools – there is something for everyone here. From youngster to teen and all the way to the seniors among us, Disney has thought of everything.
For example, an entire deck is dedicated to children, with activities, areas and programs for kids ages 3-17. Flounder’s Reef Nursery is a full-service nursery for children ages 12 weeks to 3 years, and there are special clubs tailor-made for teens. Another great club for kids is the Oceaneer Club, a children’s activity center that has much to keep the youngsters occupied. It is the perfect place for kids to dress up as their favorite princess or hero, play computer games and enjoy a wide variety of supervised themed activities throughout the day.
Shows are plentiful on the ship and it is exciting to see kids’ faces light up when they see their favorite character on stage performing. Spectacular Disney shows performed nightly at the Walt Disney Theatre, include: such as “Disney’s Believe,” “The Golden Mickeys,” “Toy Story – The Musical,” and “Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular.”
Tied with the shows is the ability for all guests to greet, meet and take pictures with all of the major Disney characters throughout the stay on the ship. From Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and all the other characters, this is the opportunity for each guest to beam with pride as their photo is taken. In addition, what’s great is that the characters change outfits each day! Meanwhile Disney holds deck parties each night that are out-of-this world; and the best part is that they are the only cruise line to offer a fireworks display at sea.
The pools on the ship (there are three freshwater ones – all are themed) are a great escape from the heat and a way for families to bond. Each one – one for kids only, one for adults only and one for the family are suited to meet all needs. Goofy’s Pool, the family pool includes a 4-foot-deep, main pool with a charming portrait of Goofy on the bottom, and two whirlpool spas, perfect for parents looking to relax while at the same time keeping their children in full view. But one of the most exciting aspects of the area is that guests aboard Disney Cruise Line can enjoy poolside movies and entertainment on a state-of-the-art jumbo LED screen. Families can gather at the Goofy Pool and watch classic Disney animated or live-action movies on the giant screen.
Disney Cruise Line offers a day spa, beauty salon, fitness center and recreational sports courts for guests at the immaculate Vista Spa & Salon—a dazzling 10,700-square-foot retreat. Among the myriad services for relaxation, rejuvenation and beautification, indulge in massages, manicures and pedicures, hairstyling, aerobics, personal training and much more.
But for all of that (and believe me there is much more), there is one activity that draws large crowds and I predict will do the same in the New York market. Dining aboard the ship is sure to satisfy the appetites of the entire family—thanks to fresh, expertly prepared dishes made available twenty-four hours a day. Featuring diverse menus, distinctly themed restaurants and Disney’s innovative Rotational Dining – allowing guests to enjoy a different restaurant every night of the cruise, Disney Cruise Line invites you to experience the finest dining at sea.
Animator’s Palate is one of the main dining restaurants. Celebrating Disney animation, it includes an innovative dinner “show” starring favorite Disney characters. Another favorite, and one for adults only is, Palo. The restaurant serves Northern Italian cuisine for dinner and is a real treat for passengers seeking quality food with an authentic touch.
It is no wonder then that Disney continues to garner top honors in the cruise industry. They have been consistently ranked Number 1 in the Large-Ship Cruise Line for Families category in Travel + Leisure magazine’s “World’s Best Awards” and this year is no different. Furthermore, Disney received the 2011 Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Award in “Best for Entertainment” in the mid-sized category.
What little words I can shower on Disney Cruise Line have all been said before. The accolades, praise, awards and especially patronage are proof enough. And yet, I feel duty-bound to report that their arrival in New York marks a magnificent turn for the cruise industry here. Disney Cruise Line is so thoughtful and considerate in satisfying the needs and desires of each and every one of their guests that no matter what I say, the experience alone will make you go back for more. From food to fun and everything in between Disney has exceeded this journalist’s expectations and I know that they will exceed yours. Try for yourself, have fun and remember Disney is part of all of our families!