It’s been a day of discovery in Orlando, Florida, in the build-up to the launch of Disney Dream.
It all started at breakfast, in the 1900 Park Fare restaurant at the top-of-the-range Grand Floridian Hotel, where we were joined by a frightfully English Alice – who had just emerged blinking into the light from a rabbit hole – and a very strait-laced Mary Poppins (above). At least they were able to talk to the hotel guests; characters like Winnie the Pooh and Tigger could cuddle but not converse.
Then we discovered that Disney’s famed prowess at regimented organisation can sometimes break down; the check-in procedure for the ship, which took place in the Grand Floridian’s convention centre, was achingly slow because only one person was authorised to deal with UK passengers. Five other people at five other computer screens had to sit and watch as we queued for about 45 minutes before all 16 of us were processed.
Minibuses then took us through secret “authorised users only” roads on the Disney estate to a staff entrance to Animal Kingdom, where we were first shaken up on the terrifying Expedition Everest roller coaster ride, and then strapped in to safety harnesses so we could be among the first to experience the new Wild Africa Trek, a superb safari adventure.
During the course of the afternoon we also discovered that the godmother for tomorrow’s christening of the cruise ship in Port Canaveral will be Jennifer Hudson. The 29-year-old singer and actor, who was a finalist in the 2003 series of American Idol, was a performer on the cruise ship Disney Wonder before she auditioned for the TV contest. As well as a Grammy for her debut album, she won a best-supporting actress Oscar for her role in the 2006 film Dreamgirls.
To round off the day we were introduced to an amazing hi-tech light show in the Magic Kingdom, as Cinderella’s Castle was transformed by a series of images and animations for The Magic, The Memories and You. One moment the main tower appeared to take off like a space rocket, the next the whole building seemed to be lifted aloft by balloons – like the house in Up – and in an instant it looked as if the building was ablaze. What a fantastic illusion!
Now on to Wednesday and the first chance for almost everyone to step on board Disney Dream. I can’t wait to see how it has changed since the day I squeezed past an army of workmen and engineers to tour the ship as it was floated out at the end of October.
I’m sure I’ll discover Dreams really will have come true.