Teaching an old dog new tricks is an expensive proposition for cruise lines. But it’s a lot cheaper and quicker than building a new cruise ship from scratch.
These days, with the speed that technology and innovative designs are changing the cruise experiences for passengers aboard new ships -- and the corporate need for increased onboard revenue to pay for them -- refurbishing older vessels is more complicated.
Disney's Magical makeover
Some cruise lines -- among them, Disney on the Magic and Carnival on the Sunshine -- are spending millions on a different kind of renovation, much more than a nip-and-tuck.
They are transforming their lesser equipped, older ships, sending them to drydock to add activities, restaurants, and the latest innovations, some of which have yet to be introduced on their newest ships.
Which is how I found myself transformed into Iron Man on Disney Magic, which is sailing out of Port Canaveral, Fla.
A caveat: Unless you are ages 3-12, you can’t do the Iron Man simulation on Disney Magic.
About the best you can hope for is to watch the kids on days when the ship holds an open house in the expanded Oceaneer Club, where the little ones play with magical super heroes, toys, and fairies.
Seems unfair to adults, really
You’ll have to take my word for what quickly became one of my favorite cruise ship experiences (Disney allowed me to test it aboard ship).
Simply put, Iron Man is very cool. I began by virtually suiting up, watching a big screen as Iron Man replicated my moves, adding piece-by-piece a set of armor. I tested my agility, moving my arms and doing a little dance, which I could see Iron Man do on the screen.
I practiced with a repulsor that blasted moving targets and took a flight test by moving and swaying my body to jet around the screen in my suit, preparing to join “The Avengers” at Marvel’s Avengers Academy -- as if I were 3-12 years old.
For now, Disney Magic, a ship 15 years old, is the only place at sea where children virtually can put on armor, fly around the room, and practice shooting bad guys.
There’s more to the redo of Disney Magic, including AquaDunk, a 37-foot body slide that begins with a near-vertical launch, down through a trap door, plunging and whirling some 212 feet in 5 seconds, making a water landing with a splash. Disney also has redesigned the lido buffet, with stations, including seafood such as shrimp and crab claws.
The Disney folks have done a great job of making an older ship feel like new.
Of course, makeovers can’t fix everything. I missed much of the exciting new show in the reworked Animator’s Palate dining room, because I couldn’t see the show screens from my seat at our dining table. The big room has numerous support poles that could not easily be moved in renovation, explained a Disney spokesperson. Some wall screens are difficult to see from some seats.
Disney folks said they were working on table arrangements, but if your table includes one of the poorer sight seats, I recommend making sure the kids have the best view, then moving yourself temporarily to get a full view of this highly entertaining show. (I sneaked back on another night, and stood in a corner, just to watch it again).
The Magic, Disney’s first ship, will reposition in May to the Mediterranean, returning to Florida in October.
Next: Sun shines on Carnival’s cruise ship makeover
David Molyneaux writes regularly about cruising news, tips and trends at TravelMavenBlog.com. His cruise trends column appears monthly in U.S. newspapers and on other Internet sites, including AllThingsCruise. He is editor of TheTravelMavens.com