Disney Cruise Line finally admitted changes are coming to Disney Wonder, its second oldest ship.
Line president Karl Holz said that changes were coming in 2016 to the 2,713-passenger, 83,000-ton ship, but would not divulge details about its redesign.
“There’s even more up our sleeves,” Holz said at a media event at Walt Disney World last week. “I can’t share the details quite just yet. We’ll be making some very exciting enhancements to the Disney Wonder later this year. Please stay tuned.”
Its sister ship, Disney Magic, had a makeover in 2013, getting the AquaDunk water slide, dining venue Cariocas and the Marvel Avengers Academy space in its Oceaneer Club. Back then Holz said the changes were coming to Wonder, and speculation was it would take place in 2014, but no major changes came.
Wonder, which began sailing in 1999, is scheduled now for dry dock to the Navantia shipyards in Cadiz, Spain in September, which is when major changes would take place. What will be coming is still unknown, but don’t expect a carbon copy of Disney Magic.
“We don’t want to do the same things on all the ships,” said Imagineer Peter Ricci back in 2013 about the Magic’s refurbishment. “We want different experiences.”
Structure aside, one possible change coming to Disney Wonder would be a new stage show. Disney auditions have put out a call for characters from “Frozen,” which right now only has a three-song arc as part of “Disney Dreams” on Disney Magic, which also debuted a new “Tangled” production last fall.
The casting call put out earlier this year sought actors for the line’s “newest onboard production” seeking voices for Elsa, Anna and Olaf, which do perform on Disney Magic, but also Hans and Kristoff in a production to be directed by Broadway’s Sheryl Kaller, known for productions of “Mothers and Sons” and “Next Fall” and choreography by Joshua Prince, known for Broadway’s “Shrek the Musical” and “Beautiful – The Carol King Musical.”
A second casting call specific to this new production seeks performers with “strong tumbling ability.” That could be a call out for those trolls that look like rocks and do a fair bit of rolling around.
A previous casting call pointed to the end of the ship’s “Toy Story” musical production, which will continue through the summer as Disney Wonder sails in Alaska. The new production schedule says performers will train over the summer at the line’s Toronto rehearsal facility and then begin performances in late summer and into spring 2017. That falls in line with the ship’s emergence from the September dry dock. Wonder’s announced sailing schedule offers nothing for September or October, which would be a long dry dock. The ship’s other two productions are “The Golden Mickeys” and “Disney Dreams – An Enchanted Classic.”
When it does emerge from dry dock, it will eventually begin sailing in Galveston in November and December before repositioning to Port Canaveral to offer 3- and 4-night Bahamas cruises through April 2017 after which it returns to Alaska.
The plans for Disney Wonder have been in the works for a long time. Back in 2013, Holz said, “When it comes to the Disney Wonder, every single one of our ships we’ve had a robust reinvestment program in those ships and we’ll continue to do that. We’re obviously in that period of time when we’re asking ourselves, “What’s next?” … This is not something you dream up over the course of six months. The reimagining of a ship is something that really begins 2, 2 1/2 almost 3 years out.”
One reason, though, Disney Wonder’s refurbishment has been put off is the continued construction in the Panama Canal, which is in the final stages of expansion. Right now, Disney Wonder is the only ship in the fleet that can pass through the canal with its maximum height and width limitations. After the canal expansion, all four of the current ships will be able to make it through.
“Alaska has been a very important itinerary to us,” said Disney Cruise Line marketing manager Jennifer Haile-Tinn. “We want to make sure we have a ship that can fit through the canal so we can continue to give that to our guests.”
The nugget of news confirming Wonder’s refurbishment was the only new information about the cruise line revealed at the media event, although sister outfit Adventures by Disney announced the expansion of its river cruising plans to include new trips on the Rhine River in 2017 in addition to the Danube River cruises its offering beginning this summer.
There was also no new information on the recently announced two new ships coming to the fleet in 2021 and 2023, other than they’re working on them.
“These vessels will showcase the immersive family entertainment, enchanting storytelling and unparalleled service that only Disney can deliver,” Holz said, “The Walt Disney Imagineering team is already dreaming up exciting new ways to create the world’s most magical oceangoing adventures.”
From the Orlando Sentinel