Have you heard the latest Disney cruise news? No, not the Disney Magic retrofit.
Chances are, if you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom any other Disney theme park with the exception of Disneyland Paris, you’ve ridden on the “World Famous” Jungle Cruise attraction. This long-standing ride takes visitors deep into the jungles of Asia, Africa and South America, and its family friendly nature attracts new guests each day.
So, when it was announced that the ride would receive a holiday overlay this year — the first since the Country Bear Christmas Special — the news created quite a lot of excitement among fans. We were teased with some clues from the folks at Disney, but we all wanted to see the transformation for ourselves.
The big reveal happened Friday, Nov. 8, and I experienced the additions during that night’s Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. (The holiday overlay stays in place for day guests and for those attending the separate-ticket parties.) Honestly, the many festive touches are great holiday fun, but I don’t think the Imagineers went far enough with the Christmas makeover. After all, the Jungle Cruise is known for its over-the-top corny jokes and obviously animatronic and low-tech features. How could anything be too much for this laugh-out-loud ride?
Here’s what to expect (spoilers ahead): When you step in line, you will notice a Christmas tree that appears to be made of palm fronds and ferns with rustic decorations. It’s both clever and appropriate to the Jingle Cruise theming. In fact, if you were a wisecracking Jungle Cruise boat skipper, you might even say it’s a “natural” extension of the attraction’s theme. As you wind through the queue and approach the office of jungle radio broadcaster Albert Awol, you’ll see more traditional decorations, such as holiday lights, poinsettias, garlands and even a small silver tree, which would have been typical of the 1960s. (I’m still scratching my head about that since the ride is set in the 1930s. Why the disconnect on historical eras?)
As you edge closer to the front of the queue, you’ll see the Christmas lights that adorn the building on the river and that the names of the boats have been changed. Articles of clothing are tossed over the first part of each sign, and new holiday-themed monikers appear: Brrrrr Bertha, Icicle Irma, Eggnog Ennie, Poinsettia Sal and Sleigh Ride Sadie. Plus, the skippers and dock crew are wearing jungle-themed Santa hats with their regular uniforms. I’m sure the new headwear even got Trader Sam’s attention.
But step aboard the Jungle Cruise boat, and it’s (mostly) business as usual. By that I mean that, of course, the attraction follows the same track and passengers see the same sights. And that’s what I found a little disappointing — with the exception of Trader Sam’s holiday attire, I didn’t notice any holiday touches to the ride itself. Why weren’t there other clever additions, like the tropical Christmas tree in the queue? Even a well-placed Santa hat would have garnered some laughs.
Speaking of laughs, the skippers do add some holiday-themed jokes to their repertoire, introducing themselves as “popcorn stringers” and “secret Santas.” Some of the scenes are recast as “gift-wrapping stations” and “holiday parties.” Others still have the classic lines, such as “Behold, the back side of water!”
While I’m sure many repeat visitors and Disney fans are thrilled to finally have the gift of a holiday overlay on an attraction at Walt Disney World, this one just may not be exactly what they wished for if they were expecting something totally new. If that’s what you’re expecting, then the cruise skippers might be right — you really are in de Nile.
The Jingle Cruise debuts at Disneyland on Tuesday, Nov. 12.