PORT CANAVERAL — Disney Cruise Line managed to tug at some hearts at the christening of its new ship, Disney Wish, by inviting three children from the Make-a-Wish Foundation to play the traditional role of being the ship’s godmother during a ceremony in Port Canaveral on Wednesday.
Jenna, 13, from Sacramento, California, Megan, 16, from Brookfield, Wisconsin, and Colby, 10, serve as representative godchildren of all past, present, and future recipients of the Make-a-Wish charity of Lexington, Massachusetts, all survivors of life-threatening illnesses declared unanimously: “I christen you Disney Wish. May God bless this ship and all who sail on it.”
The ceremony featured images of the three undergoing treatment on their personal journey to overcome an illness, including a heartwarming sign that read “Cancer Free,” which caused some in the audience to hold back tears. Make-a-Wish has granted more than 145,000 wishes over the years. Megan, who has a rare form of leukemia that affects just 2 people in a million, said her wish is to meet a Disney Imagineer, which she was able to do this week.
“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option,” she said.
The event, held despite the threat of light rain, included a performance by Anika Noni Rose, the voice of Tiana in The Princess and the Frog, and speeches by Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Chapek and Disney Parks, Experiences and Product Chairman Josh D’Amaro.
“This ship is a celebration of nearly 100 years of Disney storytelling excellence. And it brings fantastical worlds and characters to life like never before. As you walk through the ship, you’ll notice a different amazing story around every corner,” Chapek said. “We’ve combined these amazing characters and stories with incredible technology to create brand new experiences for our guests that they can’t get from bow to stern anywhere else.”
D’Amaro describes some of the numbers behind the ship, which has been in the works for six years.
“It was a labor of love and our teams worked hard to bring her here today,” said D’Amaro. “This incredible ship has 25 entertainment options. It has more than 4,400 works of art on board. It has 70,000 pieces of clothing for the cast and crew, and Rapunzel’s hair at the stern of the ship is 60 feet long. And in every detail, we connect people to our stories in amazing new ways.”
It’s the first time Port Canaveral has hosted a DCL naming ceremony since Disney Dream in 2011. At the event, Emmy Grammy Tony Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, who made her mark in the entertainment industry aboard a Disney ship, took on the role of the ship’s godmother amid fireworks and fanfare.
Following the event, the media will be welcomed onboard for the ship’s first departure with a significant crowd, a three-day voyage that will showcase all the new Disney goodies on what is now the fifth ship in the DCL fleet.
The ship, at 144,000 gross tons, is larger than the line’s two newest ships – Disney Dream and Fantasy – but still appears to support about 4,000 passengers like those two older ships. It’s also the first in the fleet to run on liquefied natural gas, a cleaner-burning fuel that the cruise industry has switched to. Carnival’s Mardi Gras was the first cruise ship to enter North America’s home port on LNG fuel and Disney Wish is number 2, both based in Port Canaveral.
The Wish features a new water slide called AquaMouse, which is similar to Dream and Fantasy’s AquaDuck water coaster that sends riders down a tube through a clear tube over and around the upper deck, but with the added fun of a classic Disney darkness ride, this time featuring a series of animations based on the new Mickey Mouse animated shorts. There will be storyline based splashing.
New spaces inside include the highly anticipated Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge, an adult-focused bar that promises to suck in the Star Wars geeks onboard. Also coming are three new rotating main restaurants, including interactive areas based on Marvel and Frozen. The third – 1923 – pays homage to the studio founded by Walt and Roy Disney in 1923, with more than 1,000 drawings and other animation props charting the studio’s progression from the first film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, through Frozen 2.
Fine dining stays ‘Beauty and the Beast’ themed with the launch of Enchanté by 3-star Michelin chef Arnaud Lallement. Also on board will be a version of Palo, which is set to expand beyond northern Italian cuisine on the other ships.
For kids, Oceaneer Club will continue the Star Wars, Marvel, and Disney Princess themes with rooms called Star Wars: Cargo Bay, its own Marvel Super Hero Academy, and Fairytale Hall. Also new to Wish will be a space called the Walt Disney Imagineering Lab.
On stage, theatrical offerings include a new version of The Little Mermaid, the return of Disney’s Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, and an original production called Disney Seas the Adventure.
The ship arrived in port on June 20 to cheers, but won’t set sail with paying customers until July 14 as it begins its three- and four-night Bahamas service with stops including Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. It takes on the role of Disney Dream, which has called Port Canaveral home for more than a decade but now sails from Miami.
Disney Fantasy remains in Port Canaveral for additional seven-night voyages.