Fun To The Max On A Charter Cruise
By Georgina Cruz
Snapping a selfie with a celebrity… Attending a Q&A session with an artist… Getting autographs for your collection… Making friends with people who share your interests. Charter cruises are, you could say, opportunities to enjoy the fun of sailing to the max, providing as they do more in the way of entertainment, activities, opportunities to rub elbows with artists and celebrities and other features typically themed to an interest. Popular annual ones are The Malt Shop Memories Cruise (https://maltshopcruise.com/ – a nod to the time when the malt shop was the center of our universe – and the 70s Rock and Romance Cruise (https://rockandromancecruise.com/) celebrating that special decade in our lives.
Another way charter cruises provide more than regular voyages is in instant camaraderie – these voyages themed to an interest typically attract like-minded people who have opportunities to mingle in more sociable activities like parties, concerts, question-and-answer sessions, trivia contests and the like.
My latest experience with this type of voyage was a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members cruise.
To be totally relaxed already upon setting sail, we booked a cabin at the Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at the Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World in Orlando, a DVC property that features two-bedroom/two-bath/screened porch cabins with private hot tubs on the shores of Bay Lake, a short boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom Park. We went on our favorite rides at the park, then relaxed in our hot tub while taking in the view of the nightly Electrical Water Pageant with illuminated floats on Bay Lake. Nice!
The next day, we headed to Port Canaveral to set sail on the DVC charter cruise. The DVC is a vacation timeshare program owned by Disney Signature Experiences, and this cruise for DVC members, which is one of the available benefits of membership, was a celebration of Disney and family. It took us on a four-night sailing to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral aboard Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream on July 23-27.
In addition to hob-knobbing with the most famous mouse in the world and his pals including Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and many others, posing for photos with them and getting their autographs, we could also goof off during special, one-of-a-kind events created for the cruise.
These included, on board the Disney Dream, a full advance screening of Disney’s live action feature film “Christopher Robin” opening in theaters on Aug. 3. The movie, presented in the ship’s Walt Disney Theatre by Walt Disney Studios’ Lisa Cabello, stars Ewan McGregor (“Fargo”) as Christopher Robin, with Jim Cummings reprising his roles as the voices of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. In all, 35 Disney legends and artists as well as celebrities, entertainers and personalities in various fields participated in special activities during the cruise, including Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Josie Trinidad, head of story for “Ralph Breaks The Internet, Wreck-It Ralph 2” who presented a behind the scenes look – and scenes from the movie – that is scheduled to open in theaters on Nov. 21.
Other special events onboard ship exclusive to the charter cruise included a talk by Pete Docter and Michael Giacchino, the director and composer of Pixar Animation Studios’ “Up” and “Inside Out,” about how these Academy Award movies developed from scene to score. A highlight was a Cooking in the Atrium presentation with celebrity chef Art Smith (who worked as Oprah Winfrey’s chef for a decade) and food-and-wine personality Marcy Carriker Smothers (author of “Eat Like Walt”) during which the celebrities shared stories and created a macaroni Mickey mousse. There were talks by screenwriter Jared Bush (Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia” and “Moana”) and by Roy Patrick Disney (son of Disney Legend Roy E. Disney and grandson of company co-founder Roy O. Disney), who shared what it was like to “grow up Disney.”
Onboard entertainment also included not the usual one, but two editions of Disney’s fireworks at sea; deck parties including a Member Mouse Party celebrating 90 years of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse with not only the famous characters but also the voice actors –among them, Bret Iwan, who succeeded the late Disney legend Wayne Allwine as the voice of Mickey Mouse – plus sweet treats and fireworks. Other voice artists onboard included Disney Legend Bill Farmer, the voice of Goofy and Pluto.
A special exhibit for Mickey and Minnie fans from Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives displayed authentic artifacts associated with the world’s most famous mice, including a vintage Mickey Mouse plush doll that Walt Disney was often photographed with and the portrait of Minnie from Mickey’s Country House in the old section of Toontown of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Yet other special offerings included a concert in the show lounge with Disney On Broadway stars including Ashley Brown (Broadway’s original Mary Poppins). The concert, “Stars Set Sail: Heroines And Heroes,” celebrated heroes and heroines real and imagined.
Ashore during two visits to Disney’s private island of Castaway Cay in the Bahamas – bedecked with a banner proclaiming that “Members Have Claimed The Island!” – special events included Member Mouse Parties with Midway Games and an Island of Heroes with beach games and a Community Heroes Project in which guests could participate in a Disney Vacation Club project by stuffing backpacks with school supplies to be donated to local Bahamian children.
Other special surprises were commemorative in-room gifts delivered every day including tote bags, beach umbrellas, wireless speakers, “Christopher Robin” T-shirts and DVC Member Cruise caps.
The July 23 Disney Vacation Club cruise aboard the Disney Dream sold out quickly, and two DVC Member Cruises have been announced for 2019:
* A five-night Pacific Coast sailing on the Disney Wonder from San Diego May 15-20. Ports of call include San Francisco and Victoria before ending in Vancouver.
* A seven-night Bermuda cruise on the Disney Magic from New York City on Oct. 5-12. Ports of call include Boston and two days in Bermuda before ending in New York City.
DVC keeps entertainment and other features of its future charter voyages on Disney Cruise Line close to the vest so there are no details on those aspects of the 2019 voyages. And each voyage may offer unique features. For example, a 2017 DVC Member Cruise kicked off with an unprecedented Member Cruise Film Festival featuring screenings of more than 20 films (including Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, months ahead of its release), studio and filmmaker presentations, interactive workshops and special deck parties. That voyage also celebrated 50 years of Pirates of the Caribbean, presented talks by Disney Legends, concerts and conversations with Disney on Broadway stars, among other features.
The Disney Vacation Club has 15 resorts in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. and in Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. DVC beach resorts include one right here on our Treasure Coast, the Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Spa in Vero Beach, Fla., plus Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii.