(7:30 a.m. EST) -- Disney Fantasy made its splashy off-Broadway debut Thursday night in Manhattan with pop superstar Mariah Carey on hand to serve as its godmother and a galaxy of other stars lending support.
The diva was a fitting choice for the honor: Her 1995 hit "Fantasy" scorched the pop charts for weeks and is one of her signature tunes. Escorted by Mickey Mouse and flanked by Disney honchos Robert Iger and Tom Staggs, Carey told the 900 invited guests in the ship's jam-packed atrium that she hoped to bring her 10-month-old twins on a cruise ("But not yet!"), then went about her duties.
"I christen thee Disney Fantasy," the native New Yorker intoned. "May God bless this ship and all who sail on her.” Cue fireworks spewing from a giant bottle of champagne and a torrent of gold confetti.
While widespread rumors of Carey's role in the proceedings preceded her appearance (the tight-lipped Disney machine didn't reveal anything in advance), an hour-long show in Fantasy's Walt Disney Theater before the christening was full of surprises. First up: actor Neil Patrick Harris, who emceed the high-spirited affair that spotlighted the three Broadway-style shows ("Wishes," "Aladdin" and "Believe") that will be featured during Fantasy's seven-day voyages.
As it turns out, the show snippets were second bananas to Harris, who mirthfully (and mercilessly) romped through a spoofy medley of Disney classics, including hilarious digs at the company's tendency to go big ("Super-Splashy-Synergistic-Glitzy-Celebration" riffed off the "Mary Poppins" tune) and the questionable history of Castaway Cay, a former smugglers paradise that now serves as
Seinfeld, another native New Yorker, rattled through a 15-minute set, touching on the fact that he was performing on a cruise ship ("I get to see what the end of my career will be like") and that Thursday was the birthday of one of his three children. Afterward, fashion guru Tim Gunn -- who was in the audience, along with actor Alan Cumming, "Extreme Makeover" host Ty Pennington and "Top Chef" also-ran Carla Hall -- could be heard saying, "Did Jerry Seinfeld really say it was his child's birthday? Shouldn't he be home?"
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also made a quick appearance, telling Harris that because "I only make a $1 a year," he couldn't afford to take a cruise on the pricey line. (It may not need the business: Staggs told Cruise Critic earlier in the day that the line's four ships are 75 percent booked for 2012 and that he's "not worried" about the outlook for the rest of the year.)
Disney Fantasy is slated to depart Manhattan on Friday, when it will head south to its homeport of Port Canaveral. After several preview cruises, the 4,000-passenger ship officially launches March 31 with a series of seven-night jaunts to the eastern Caribbean.
--by John Deiner, Managing Editor