More Tech-Inspired Innovations Planned for New Disney Cruise Ship

March 30, 2010
(8 a.m. EDT) -- Disney Cruise Line is slowly trickling out details on its under-construction Disney Dream. The 128,000-ton, 2,500-passenger vessel is the first new Disney ship in over a decade, and is set to launch in 2011.

Over the last few months, we've gotten a taste of how technology is being used to revolutionize the Disney cruise experience. Inside cabins will have a window to the outside world via virtual portholes, and the AquaDuck -- the industry's first "watercoaster” -- will use water pressure to send rafts through a see-through acrylic tube that winds up and down around the top deck from funnel to funnel.

Today, the family line has announced even more high-tech innovations, developed in partnership with Walt Disney Imagineering -- the creative force behind Disney theme parks and resorts across the globe.

Here's what's new:

Re-Imagined Animator's Palate. The Animator's Palate restaurant on Disney Wonder and Disney Magic famously changes from black-and-white to color while screens lining its perimeter come alive with Disney animations past and present. On Disney Dream, however, the concept is tweaked and taken to a new level thanks to fresh technology (pictured above).

Diners enter a room decorated with character sketches and images of tools one might find in an art studio (paint brushes, etc.) -- but, as the meal goes on, wall-mounted LCD screens change, transforming the space into an undersea world. The effect is of being in a room underwater with windows out to the sea and its creatures. But that's not all -- Crush, the turtle from "Finding Nemo," will swim around the restaurant via these screens engaging guests in live, impromptu conversations (we saw this same technology in action during the show-and-tell last fall; Crush will also interact with guests in the ship's kids' areas).

Crush caps off the meal with a virtual surfing lesson before he and his friends -- Nemo, Dory, Squirt and Bruce the shark -- transform into pencil sketches before guests' eyes.

Interactive Play-Floor. The cruise industry's first-ever interactive floor will debut onboard. What this is, essentially, is a gaming device that allows young cruisers to play in a more active way, the same concept that has made the Nintendo Wii console and its components wildly successful. For example, children might move around the perimeter of the floor to control the pitch of a virtual tilt maze.

It will also serve as a unique storytelling device, allowing kids to, say, virtually fly over the streets of London with Peter Pan. The play-floor will be found in Disney's Oceaneer Club and Disney's Oceaneer Lab.

Detective Adventures ... with Enchanted Art. We've already reported on the special animated art that will grace the walls onboard; this art will actually be framed LCD screens that recognize when a guest is present, activating several seconds of animation in the picture. For example, an animation cell from "Bambi" might show a butterfly flitting across the scene.

What's new, however, is that this technology is going to be used to host unique, detective-themed adventures for guests of all ages. Participants will receive a card-shaped device through which they can "peer behind" these virtual canvases to uncover hidden clues and solve a mystery (stolen artwork, missing puppies). The game is self-paced and features six potential villains as well as randomized events, so it is different each time a guest plays.

Disney Dream is due out in January 2011. Stay tuned for more information as it is announced. --by Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor