I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing a new ship christened, let alone a Disney ship, which pretty much guarantees that the event will be a no-holds-barred entertainment spectacle. Disney didn’t let me down, either with the over-the-top christening or with its fabulous new ship, the Dream.

The red carpet event, held at Florida’s Port Canaveral on January 19, featured stilt-walkers, every cartoon character ever concocted, and a heartfelt performance by the ship’s godmother, Jennifer Hudson (who began her career as a singer on a Disney ship). A gigantic bottle of champagne (actually, Mickey informed us, it was filled with dreams) was airlifted via helicopter toward the ship. Hundreds of news reporters, photographers, and TV and radio stations captured the spectacular moment as the fireworks exploded, a banner-towing airplane offered well wishes, and the bottom of the champagne bottle dropped out, sprinkling its dreams for the new ship onto the hull.

Disney, which has two other ships, has taken 10 years to launch its next ship, “and everything we’ve learned in that time that we’ve applied to the Dream to raise the bar,” said George Aguel, senior vice president at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. That raised bar was evident from the moment I entered the atrium, with its sweeping staircase, grand piano, and dazzling chandelier—more than 13 feet wide, descending more than 13 feet from the ceiling and sparkling with hundreds of crystals. Staterooms are spacious and well-appointed, most with private verandas. Even the inside staterooms have innovative “magical portholes” (leave it to Disney), which are fed by live video from outside. Guests who are seasoned at cruising and think they’ve seen it all will never have experienced anything like the ship’s cruise-industry first: a high-speed watercoaster that runs for 765 feet, high above the main pool deck. At one point, it even juts out over the ocean. The AquaDuck is a must-do—at least three or four times!

Especially appealing to incentive groups is the debut of Remy, a top-deck restaurant that’s the collaboration of Michelin-starred chef Armaud Lallement and Scott Hunnel, chef from the Grand Floridian’s elegant Victoria and Albert. There’s also an entire area of the ship (aptly known as “the District”) featuring five connected lounges and bars.

The Dream sails alternating three- and four-night cruises to the Bahamas and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. In the summer, it alternates four- and five-night itineraries with two stops at the island.

The 4,000-passenger Dream (significantly larger than the 2,700-passenger Magic and Wonder), will be followed by another equally sized new ship in spring 2012, the Disney Fantasy, more than doubling the capacity of the cruise line in little over a year.

The Dream offers groups who repeat Disney a new option, and the ship is also available for charter. “Everyone loves new—and new and Disney combined is awesome,” said Aguel, who, I’m sure, will see a strong reception for his new ship from the meeting and incentive community.

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