With the unveiling of details for Disney's newest cruise ship, the Disney Dream, and the green light for a new theme park in Shanghai, China, meeting professionals have plenty to look forward to from Disney. In fact, the next couple of years reflect "one of the largest growth phases in our company's future," says George Aguel, senior vice president for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. The company is investing billions in its theme parks and resorts, heightening itspresence, and—in true Disney fashion—affording meeting planners, and their groups, an opportunity to feel good by giving back through its unique Give a Day, Get a Day program.
The announcement of two new U.S. Disney hotels, both outside of their theme parks, is sweet music to meeting planners' ears. A convention hotel at National Place, just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., is in "its early design phase," says Aguel.
Construction is under way on a new Disney resort at the Ko Olina Resort & Marina development on Oahu's western side, to open by 2011. The 21-acre, oceanfront resort will feature 1,066 guest rooms, suites, and villas; a full-service spa; and extensive recreational amenities. The resort will also feature 63,000 square feet of meeting space and outdoor event lawns, including a state-of-the-art conference center.
"We're introducing an entirely new Disney experience for incentives and meetings," says Aguel. The new resort will "offer a unique blend of Hawaiian culture and the best of Disney magic." A variety of learning adventures and cultural programs will be offered, suitable for conference attendees and their guests.
At Disney World in Florida, a new 15-story tower opened in August at Disney's Contemporary Resort. Containing 295 two-bedroom villas, the tower gives the Contemporary a total of 951 rooms, suites, and villas. The expansion also caps off a three-year transformation of the resort, which includes completely redesigned common areas and guest rooms, a new entrance and lobby, and the addition of two new restaurants and a second pool complex.
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, the largest of Disney's six convention resorts (all of which are certified as Green Lodges by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection), has renovated its 1,921 guest rooms and introduced a new Business Club Lounge. Club rooms include upgraded amenities and Club Lounge access. Other recent resort enhancements include an elegant Chef's Table in the resort convention center and a new lounge that features a dramatic private room that accommodates up to 100.
For the lowdown on what's going on at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., click here.
Cruising the Disney Way
Disney Cruise Line is expanding its fleet by adding two new ocean liners that will more than double the line's passenger capacity. Recently Disney announced details for the first, the Disney Dream, its new 122,000-ton ship, which is under construction and scheduled to set sail in January 2011. It will have 1,250 staterooms and be two decks taller than DCL's existing 83,000-ton liners.
The Disney Dream introduces several industry firsts, including "virtual portholes" inside staterooms, a sophisticated lounge where the sun sets over the skyline of a different world-famous city each night, and an exciting water coaster, the AquaDuck, which will send guests racing through a giant high-speed flume ride over the ship's upper decks. It will sail three- and four-night cruises from Port Canaveral, Fla., to the Bahamas.
The other big cruise news is the announcement that the 122,000-ton Disney Wonder will be repositioned in 2011 for new Alaska sailings. During the summer, the ship will depart Vancouver, British Columbia, and call on Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway. Before and after its Alaska summer season, the Disney Wonder will sail seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises, departing the Port of Los Angeles for Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta. In response to guest demand, the Disney Magic will return to the Mediterranean in 2011 with 10- and 11-night cruises sailing out of Barcelona, Spain.
Castaway Cay, Disney's private island paradise in the Bahamas, is sprucing up to receive the 2011 arrival of the new Disney Dream. Scheduled for completion by summer 2010, the island will have new amenities including private rental cabanas that will provide the privacy and luxury of a deluxe beach retreat as well as additional massage cabanas.
Make Your Attendees the Idols
There's so much going on at Disney's theme parks, too. Groups can now enjoy the hottest pop culture phenomenon in America: The American Idol attraction opened in January at Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly known as MGM Studios) and captures all the high-energy fun of the popular TV show. Participants have the chance to audition, perform on stage in competition, or become a judge in a live, interactive entertainment setting. Show buy-outs are also available.
At the center of the largest expansion in Magic Kingdom history will be a new ride-through attraction based on The Little Mermaid. The expansion is scheduled for completion in 2013 and will offer a variety of private-event venues and entertainment options for large groups.
For Disneyland theme park news, click here.
Do Good, Feel Good
On a final and fitting note: Disney has extended its Give a Day, Get a Day program to groups. Its popular volunteerism campaign, which gives free tickets to people who prove they are volunteering their time in their hometowns. Disney is working through the Points of Light Foundation to process and validate work.