In January 2013, Beaches & Dreams Travel Co. celebrated its 15th anniversary. One of my most exciting memories of 15 years ago this month of July was the birth of the Disney Cruise Line. In July 1998, the Disney Magic made its transatlantic crossing to Port Canaveral, its new home and where it was scheduled to be christened on 7/25/98. Somehow I and my very lucky family were invited to participate in what was called the VIP Christening Cruise.
It was one of the most exciting and spectacular events of our lives. The Magic had two 2-day cruises scheduled, one with travel agents and one with the press, followed by the exciting christening on the pier and one 2-day cruise following the christening with a handful of travel agents (we were part of the handful), a lot of press, the WDW Board of Directors, many designers of the ship, many celebrities like Sidney Poitier, George Lucas, Denise Austin, Drew Carey, Michael Eisner, Roy and Patty Disney, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and all of the other characters and stars. The cruise itself was going to the fantastic Castaway Cay and back. It was meant to give us just a taste of how wonderful it would be.
The inaugural christening itself was done the way Disney does things…Spectacular!!!!!!!!!!!! In true Disney style. The ship was designed to replicate the Luxury Ocean Liners of the 1930s, something Walt and Lillian would have cruised on. The Magic pulled up to the dock, and Disney cast members, dressed with hats and outfits reminiscent of that same time period, performed and danced before the crowds. It looked as though the complete Navy was there in their whites, standing next to Captain Tom. Live music, vintage automobiles, kites, doves, power boats, and fireworks in the sky entertained us. The Disney Magic horn sounded the tune of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Not a dry eye in the audience.
It was an experience of a life time and we had not even gotten on the ship yet.
One of Walt’s dreams unveiled before our very eyes. The whole Broadway production reminded me a little of the old 1942 Jimmy Cagney Broadway musical, Yankee Doodle Dandy/Give my Regards to Broadway. Disney Chairman and CEO Michael Eisner and his lovely wife Jane drove up in one of the vintage cars, as did Roy Disney, Vice Chairman and animation chief, and his lovely wife Patty Disney, the designated Godmother and Godfather. Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in the Little Mermaid was on hand to sing. Patty Disney pulled a switch and a 3 foot bottle of champagne crashed against the side of the ship. There was not a dry eye in the audience and the program ended with a standing ovation. There was champagne and hors d’oeuvres for everyone. It was an experience of a life time and we had not even gotten on the ship yet.
The whole experience gave me that same feeling I used to get in the Disneyland Park as a child. A strong feeling of patriotism. Something about being in a Disney park always made me feel very patriotic. Like this was really America and where the whole world could come together in peace. I never tied my feelings to the song and attraction of It’s a Small World, but I suppose it was a part of it. The lyrics, as a whole, share this, but the one part really gets the point.
“ There is just one moon,
and one golden sun,
and a smile means friendship to everyone.
Though the mountains divide
and the oceans are wide,
it’s a small world after all.”
Long before Epcot, guests from all nations came to Disney and the world was peaceful in the magical Land of Disney. Maybe it was because everyone was smiling, no matter where they came from.
The brand new terminal at Port Canaveral was beautiful and unlike any other terminal in the Industry. It featured a one-of-a-kind 13,000-square-foot poured terrazzo tile floor map of the Caribbean and the sailing route of Disney Cruise Line’s first ships. In the middle of the “ocean map,” guests encountered a museum-quality model of the Disney ships. The terminal was big, roomy, and had plenty of area for the 2400 passengers. Checking in was simple.
Walking from the registration area onto the ship, we passed through a Mickey shaped entrance and were greeted…Disney style…by several of the cast members who welcomed us on board and offered help and directions to find our cabin. We did find the cabin easily. And what a cabin it was; can you believe there were two bathrooms in each room? They called it split bathrooms. One with sink and toilet and one with sink and tub/shower. Something else that impressed us then, and continues to impress us with each cruise we take, is that all our luggage was already there waiting for us. (Only on a Disney ship will you see this.)
The dining was unbelievable with three different themed restaurants. The food and venues were incredible. We went to a different restaurant every night and our wait staff followed us. This had never been done in the cruise industry before, and yet continues on all of the Disney ships today and just gets even better with Disney’s newer ships.
There were five restaurants, (rotational dining was introduced between three restaurants and the wait staff followed us). Many quick finger food locations, three adult only night clubs, two family night clubs, a Broadway production theatre, a first class movie theatre, clubs for kids 3 through 17, basketball, ping pong, shuffle board, room service, four swimming pools (one adults only), and much, much, more.
The Broadway style productions shown in the Walt Disney Theatre were and still are better than Broadway. My favorite and the one that Broadway wanted, but Disney would never let it off the ship, was Disney Dreams. They have made it even better and by the time I took my Transatlantic crossing in May 2007, they had changed the name to Disney Dreams, An Enchanted Classic. Disney Dreams was a brand new bedtime story with a young lady named Ann Marie, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, and others. The show was for the whole family; adults, teens, and kids. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and we only had teenage boys with us. In fact, we liked it so much we all went to two of the three showings. We saw the late show…and most of the audience was adults and teenagers. The applause and cheering was deafening at the end of each performance and always a standing ovation.
On that christening cruise, in a conversation with Michael Eisner, he told me I was going to really like this production and yes, he was right as he so often was. Every time I have the chance to go on the Magic or the Wonder, this is a must see for me. Can you believe I have taken a 3-day Disney cruise just to see this production, not once but numerous times?
There were many opportunities to speak with the celebrities. I had a fun, touching, and humorous encounter with Roy Disney in the Gift shop. My son, Tim, got a private tour of the spa from the daughter of the owners of all of the spas on all of the ships. Michael Eisner was in the spa and having a private hot tub soak, and Tim and he had a great 15 minute conversation.
Castaway Cay, the private Island, is probably as close to heaven on earth as one could get. It was wonderful on that hot sunny July day in 1998 and even better today. The barbeque is delicious and hearty. The waves are just right, and the water does look like someone painted this beautiful scene and laid it down for our enjoyment.
Writing about and recalling this memory brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I have always been very passionate about Disney, having been raised in the middle of the Magic when Disneyland was in the planning stages and opening in July 1955 and I was there…………… and that is a story for another day.
There are now four beautiful cruise ships as part of the Disney Cruise Line fleet. The Magic, the Wonder, the Dream, and the Fantasy. Try just one and you will be hooked. Call any one of my very qualified and experienced agents; Cheryl, Pam, Kristen, or partner support staff William, Tim, and Rodney at 1-877-R-Dreams. They have all of the answers and experience to get you a great Disney Vacation or cruise. Our agency is a designated “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.” I am also a Certified Sandals Specialist (CSS), Oahu Destination Specialist (ODS), AM Resorts Specialist, Outrigger Specialist, and Master Cruise Counselor.
This July, we may get out the video of that exciting day in 1998 and watch it together and laugh and smile and be happy. For today, we just want to say Happy 15th anniversary to Beaches & Dreams Travel Co, The Disney Cruise Line, and The Disney Magic!
440-834-1386 or 1-877-R-Dreams