That said, prepare for Broadway-style stage shows, a revamped version of the line's popular pirate-themed costume night and a three-deck-high theater -- plus digital animated effects said to be among the most advanced in live theater.
"We're not a cruise company; we consider ourselves to be an entertainment company," explained Tom Wolber, chief operating officer of Disney Cruise Line, during the Toronto reveal. "We have stories to tell, to pull from, which are beloved by children and have become part of mainstream popular culture."
So why Toronto? Why not DCL's home port of Port Canaveral or the Walt Disney Imagineering studios in Glendale, California?
Ease of logistics, it turns out. The Disney shows are typically comprised of about a 50-50 mix of Americans and Canadians, plus a smattering of British and Australians. Canada's streamlined work-visa process makes it simpler to bring internationally drawn casts to rehearse in Toronto -- which is not only Canada's largest city, but also the third-largest theater capital (after New York and London).
Here are highlights of the entertainment aboard Disney Dream, which is under construction at the Meyer-Werft Shipyard in Papenburg, Germany. It's due to take its maiden voyage from Port Canaveral on January 26, 2011.
The Walt Disney Theatre is a 1,340-seat Art Deco-styled theatre that spans three decks and offers orchestra and balcony seating. Among its novelties is an infrared camera with motion tracking, which allows actors' movements to be blended with projected digital animated effects.
"Disney's Believe" is an original stage show, directed by Broadway veteran Gordon Greenberg and written by award-winning librettist Kirsten Childs. After meeting such characters as Cinderella, Peter Pan and Mary Poppins, a workaholic dad reconnects with his daughter on her 13th birthday and sorts out his priorities.
A musical comedy about Disney's most malevolent characters, "Villains Tonight" premiered on Disney Magic's European itinerary and will run as-is on Disney Dream.
DCL favorite "The Golden Mickeys" -- a Hollywood-style awards tribute to classic Disney characters -- gets new digital animation effects and musical numbers, including a duet by characters Flynn Ryder and Rapunzel, who will star in "Tangled," an animated feature film set for release over Thanksgiving.
Based on feedback from families, the popular "Pirates IN the Caribbean" costume party has been split into two events separated by a fireworks show. An earlier sing-along for kids is called "Mickey's Pirates IN the Caribbean"; later that evening, "Club Pirate," a special-effects-laden dance party for adults, takes place on the upper decks.
The only cruise line to feature fireworks at sea, Disney is ramping up its "Buccaneer Blast" -- which, for the first time, will be its own stand-alone show set to music -- with even more pyrotechnics.
The ship's horn featured prominently in "Sail Away," the line's popular bon-voyage deck party, is getting a makeover. It'll toot not just the first line of "When You Wish Upon a Star," but it'll be able to answer with the song's second line: "Makes no difference who you are." The result? Disney Dream will be able to answer a passing DCL ship's call.
-- by Sarah Staples, Cruise Critic contributor
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