Keeping Disney magic afloat
The 9,000-square-foot teen club Vibe (ages 14 to 17) steps it up even further. Without a hint of Mickey dressing in site, the swipe of a teenager's room key (allowing for the same VIP feel) reveals a den fit for MTV Cribs. Built-in, individual nooks with personal video screens surround a media lounge with a 103-inch LCD screen at the centre. In the next room, the musically-inclined can mix tracks in a DJ booth. A cafe bar offers immediate access to smoothies and coffee. And unlike the concierge sundeck - which is reserved for the ship's highest paying customers and lacks access to a private pool - Vibe offers teens a private sundeck, a plunge pool and two hot tubs. Plus, the club is open until 2 am.
On the first night of every cruise, teens are invited to an event called the Download, led by Vibe's counselors, where they can tailor the club's organized programming to meet their interests. The event also serves as a fun ice breaker for teens that may not know anyone else their age on the ship.
Unfortunately, if your kids are only looking for the next rollercoaster thrill, the Dream's Aquaduck, a 765-foot clear water slide that cantilevers 12 feet out over the ocean, will not match up. The "water coaster" is an industry first, but the Aerosmith Rock 'n' Roller Coaster in Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studio theme park, , which goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 2.8 seconds, is probably more their speed.
"We don't want an either/or experience when we say family entertainment," said Bruce Vaughn, Chief Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. "If you're coming with your kids or your grandparents, we want everybody to have their own vacation, in the way that they want it."
According to a survey of kids 6 to 17 years of age, conducted by Ypartnership, a marketing group focused on travel, leisure and entertainment, , 64% of respondents took at least one vacation with both parents and siblings last year and 19% went with one parent and siblings. A theme park vacation fits right into that nuclear mold. At Walt Disney World, families travel in packs - with younger kids waiting in the wings while older siblings attack rides with death-defying drops, and older siblings dragging their feet as younger kids wait in line for a photo op with Mickey. If parents are lucky, they might get away for a dinner or drink on their own, but even Disney's Pleasure Island - a Vegas-like strip of nightclubs and over-21 entertainment - was shut down in 2008 and has been reinvented to have a more family-friendly focus, with shops and restaurants instead of nightclubs.
A Disney cruise changes that idea of what constitutes a family vacation. Grandparents can spend time in the rainforest-themed spa while their grandkids are safely supervised in the Oceaneer Lab (ages 3 to 10 years old), battling pirates (both real and animated) in a game of Pirates of the Caribbean. Teens can break away from their parents and hang out with friends (while still being safely supervised by Disney counsellors). And the ship's nursery will watch infants as young as three months old until midnight or later - an industry rarity - allowing young couples a night, or even a full day, on their own.
The Pleasure Island experience that is now missing in Walt Disney World finds new life on the Dream in the District, an 18-and-over hideaway of five interlocking bars, lounges and nightclubs. Sip on the ship's signature champagne in the cocktail bar Pink; belly up to the bar at 687 - named after the number assigned to the boat as it was being built in Germany - for the pub's signature red lager; or catch some very un-Disney-like entertainment, dancers in full black Lycra, knee-high boots and whips, at the nightclub Evolution.