The Disney Cruise Line will be adding three new ships to its fleet, in 2021, 2022 and 2023. With that in mind, we thought we’d look back at the christenings of DCL’s two “newest” ships, the Dream and the Fantasy, as we look forward to the arrivals of the three new ocean liners.
The Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy are often referred to as “sister ships,” meaning they are of the same class and feature an almost identical design, with the same hull and superstructure layout. At a quick glance, they appear to be mirror images of each other.
Both ships were built at the Meyer Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. They both sport two distinctive funnels, as well as a black, red, white and yellow exterior color scheme that cries out “Mickey Mouse.”
The Dream and the Fantasy were both christened during elaborate ceremonies, but those festive occasions were as different as night and day. Literally.
Here now: A tale of two christenings.
The Disney Dream was christened on the morning of Jan. 19, 2011, under sunny skies and warm temperatures in Port Canaveral, Fla., with all the pomp and ceremony befitting the majestic ocean liner.
The Disney Fantasy was christened on Feb. 28, 2012, under dark, drizzly conditions at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal in New York City … although it really didn’t matter that the outside temperatures hovered in the upper 30s; all the festivities took place in the ship’s massive entrance foyer and in the Walt Disney Theatre.
The over-the-top ceremonies for the Dream were held on the pier adjacent to Disney Cruise Line’s terminal in Port Canaveral. Aluminum bleachers were set up in the area where cruise workers usually load and unload goods and materials. The seats faced toward the waterway, where the Dream waited for its big moment in calm waters in the middle of the port. Also in the water was a large barge which contained an over-sized “bottle” of champagne.
The Dream arrived at its home port after crossing the Atlantic Ocean in early January with much hype and even greater expectations. In an effort to meet those expectations, Disney’s planners and designers spared no detail and seemingly no expense in making this Dream become a reality. Several DCL executives were on board for the trans-Atlantic sailing and many even tested the AquaDuck water coaster despite the frigid temperatures.
The Dream’s christening ceremonies matched the ship’s opulent aura.
According to Disney CEO Bob Iger in his opening remarks: “The mix of imagination and innovation found on the Disney Dream is non-paralleled and elevates the family cruise experience to new heights.”
A production number featuring dozens of cast members dressed as pirates highlighted the ship’s adventurous side, which was followed by a host of singers, dancers and costumed Disney princesses, which spoke to the ship’s fantasy, friendship and romance.
Then-Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs stepped to the stage and gave credit to former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo for green-lighting the Disney Cruise Line’s first big expansion from two ships to four.
The Dream’s “godmother,” former Disney Wonder performer and Academy Award winning singer/actress Jennifer Hudson, was introduced.
Then it was time for a momentous parade of Disney characters … a seemingly endless stream of well-known and oft-forgotten figures made their way on to and in front of the stage.
Finally, the ship was officially christened … in less than traditional maritime fashion. A helicopter swooped down and a rope dangling from it was attached to the faux champagne bottle. The helicopter then lifted the bottle and carried it to the side of the Dream. A small burst of pyrotechnics signified the bottle breaking over the bow … and the Dream was officially ready for service.
The ceremonies involved in christening the Fantasy were held a little more than a year later, but they were equally imaginative.
First of all, the very fact that Disney Cruise Line chose to christen the 4,000-passenger luxury liner in the Big Apple – a DCL first – was a major deal unto itself.
The gleaming ocean liner triumphantly sailed into New York Harbor on the morning of Feb. 26 and was truly the toast of the town during its stay. It was docked at Pier 88 in the Manhattan Cruise Terminal, right alongside the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.
The Fantasy was open to tours by media and travel professionals all day Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. Those on the outside looking in got great views of the ship from both midtown Manhattan as well as across the Hudson River in New Jersey.
Thursday night’s christening ceremonies were the culmination of the visit and, in typical fashion, Disney’s creative team somehow managed to top itself yet again.
Multi-talented performer Neil Patrick Harris served as the night’s master of ceremonies during the entertainment phase of the evening, providing song, dance and some humorous repartee … repartee which didn’t get past Disney CEO Iger when Harris walked out into the audience to interview several luminaries seated in the spectacular Walt Disney Theatre.
“I’m not sure that you cleared those lyrics with me!” Iger joked with Harris.
The two “go back a long way,” Iger said, “back to when I was an executive at ABC and we were looking for a young guy to cast in the role of ‘Doogie Houser.'” That role, of course, catapulted Harris to fame while still a teen-ager.
During his pass through the audience, Harris also interviewed then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who dropped in briefly for the occasion.
Asked by Harris if he might consider a Disney cruise, billionaire Bloomberg said: “Maybe in steerage. I work for one dollar a year, you know. I’m not sure I can afford Disney rates!”
Bloomberg was quick to point out how appreciative the city was of Disney’s presence. “The Fantasy is a fantastic boat,” the mayor added. “We’re thrilled that they decided to christen it here.”
During the evening, Disney’s talented stage performers gave one-song previews of the three shows that were to be featured when the Fantasy began regular sailings out of Port Canaveral later that March.
The entertaining snippets of “Disney’s Believe,” “Aladdin” and “Wishes” were easily enough to whet the appetites of any future Fantasy cruisers in the house.
Stand-up comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld was introduced by Harris – “So, this is what retirement looks like” – to rousing applause and his hilarious routine proved emphatically that Seinfeld hadn’t lost a step … or a one-liner, even on an ocean liner.
Grammy and Tony Award winner Heather Headley rounded out the evening’s entertainment. Ms. Headley originated the role of Nala in “The Lion King” on Broadway. She sang stirring renditions of “You’ll Be In My Heart” from “Tarzan”; “At Last I See the Light” from “Tangled” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King.”
The christening ceremonies took place in the Fantasy’s spacious grand atrium. Iger and Staggs again did the honors, this time at the foot of the long, winding staircase which punctuates the palatial atrium.
Five-time Grammy Award winner Mariah Carey was introduced as the Fantasy’s “godmother.” The stunning star made her spectacular entrance – accompanied by Mickey Mouse – by walking down the winding stairs to thunderous applause.
Meanwhile, Nick Cannon, Ms. Carey’s husband at the time, and Minnie Mouse were positioned outside the ship with a ceremonial bottle of champagne.
After Carey completed a countdown from 10 to zero, Cannon and Minnie did the honors outdoors, breaking the bottle on the ship’s hull. Meanwhile, indoors, the heavens opened up on the guests in the atrium as a seemingly endless stream of confetti rained from above.
Comparing the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy:
They are known as “sister ships,” the Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy, because on the outside, they are near-mirror images of one another … although there are many interesting differences between the two.
Here are relevant facts about the two liners’ christening ceremonies:
Where built: Meyer Werft Shipyard, Papenburg, Germany
Characters on the stern: Sorcerer Mickey and some “Fantasia” friends.
Christened: Jan. 19, 2011
Where: Outside, at the Disney Cruise Line Terminal, Port Canaveral, Fla.
Ceremonies began: 9 a.m.
Weather: Warm and sunny, low 80s
Ship’s Godmother: Jennifer Hudson, Academy Award winner, Grammy winner and former Disney Wonder cast member
Maiden voyage: Jan. 26, 2011
Among the dignitaries on hand: Marlee Matlin, John Stamos, Samantha Brown, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheryl Burke, Sam Champion.
Cruise Director: Rachel Quinn
Where built: Meyer Werft Shipyard, Papenburg, Germany
Characters on the stern: Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse
Christened: March 1, 2012
Where: In the atrium of the ship, which was docked at Pier 88 in New York City
Ceremonies began: 8 p.m.
Weather: Cold and cloudy, high 30s
Ship’s Godmother: Mariah Carey, five-time Grammy Award-winning singer
Maiden voyage: March 31, 2012
Among the dignitaries on hand: Ty Pennington, Tim Gunn, Nancy Grace, Nick Cannon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Cruise Director: Brent Davies