by AllEars® Team Member Fred Bock
As a father of 2 girls ages 6 and 10 who have been on the Disney Wonder 5 times I was interested in seeing some of the changes that Disney had made with the Dream.
As I walked on the ship for the first time I couldn't get a number of things out of my head. As an adult, it's hard for me to admit that I wanted to see the kids room probably more than anything else. During the cruise I had some time to wander about and see all of the many thing the ship had to offer.
Let me preface by saying that gone are the age groups that used to split the kids into different areas depending on their age. Disney has decided to blend the area for all kids aged 3 to 10. I would imagine that this came from them listening to feedback from parents with multiple children who may not want to be separated. I know that my younger daughter has some separation issues so we always had a problem dropping her off at the kids club unless they would allow her to go with her older sister. That's no longer an issue. I was also advised that this is the case on the Disney Wonder and Magic now.
The first place I would go to is the Oceaneers Lab. Located on Deck 5 midship, this area is for kids on the older side of the 3 to 10 range and has a lot to offer including video games that allow kids to interact with each other and flat surfaced tables with touch sensitive games. There's even a place where they can make their own hand drawn or computer animation.
Upon entering you are greeted with smiling faces of cast members in yellow shirts. After signing your child in, the first assignment is to wash your hands. Now we aren't talking about handing out a washcloth or pumping some hand sanitizer into your hands here. This is an experience all itself. Disney has new hand washing machines that automatically do the deed for you.
Before you is a box with two holes in it. You stick your arms in and wait a second for the process to automatically start. Before you know it, warm water jets start spinning around your hands. After about a minute or so it stops and you then take your hands out and dry them with a paper towel. I'm told there is also hand sanitizer mixed in with the water so you can rest assured your hands are really clean. My only confusion is that you dry your hands with paper towels. I would have expected to see a machine that did that for you too and wouldn't be surprised if we saw that coming soon. The best part of this is that it was fun and easy. So much so that kids actually comeback to use the machines again throughout their time in the area. Can I take one home with me?
Then when entering you walk into a colorfully themed area with lots of activities to keep even the oldest child busy for hours. (Yes me included!) The first thing I saw was bean bag chairs! I remember having one of those when i was a kid. Wow they were big and looked super comfy! Too bad all were taken by kids watching a movie on the 103 inch plasma or I would have had to try one on for size. (Errr make that take one home with me.)
In the center of the room there is a lit up dance floor but not with just ordinary lights, there are televisions in the floor making it possible for animations beneath your feet.
Then there is the wheelhouse. Here kids of all ages can drive any vehicle type they want including a ship (yes a Disney Ship!!) submarine, an airplane and more. Not sure how interested my kids would be here as the wait seemed long and there weren't that many terminals so I saw a lot of kids run off to do something else. Graphics were wonderful though and the game play sure seemed to satisfy.
In the Animator's studio I saw kids making their own comic books and character story scenes similar to a sticker book but here you drag and drop items onto your scene. I also saw a child working on his own comic book story which allows him to drag characters and items into each cell and also decide what text will go in the bubbles. Very cool!
What really caught my eye was the fact that you could also sit at the table and draw on this circular disc of paper similar in size to a cd or DVD. In each of the cells on this pallet you would draw a similar items but make slight changes to each drawing to create your own animation. Then you would put the paper into a device like a a classic ViewMaster but with a wheel that spins with mirrors in it. When you look through the viewfinder you see your animation right before your eyes. Again, the room was full or I would have taken a turn at making something.
Outside of the animation room I saw several table top games but there were no moving parts or pieces to lose. Here these games used touch kinda like big touch sensitive tv screens built into a table. I was told that the games can change and there are many to choose from.
One of the most interesting parts of this area was a place where kids can play games against each other in real time. Here you have a number of computer terminals with a stool and in front there are several large screen televisions. I'm told that there are games here based on the movie Pirates of the Caribbean where they split the players into two different ships and they battle against each other. The social aspect of these games is anther wonderful way that kids can make friends here.
I did confirm that there are no places in the kids area where internet access is available so parents can rest assured knowing that the games they play are safe and for certain supervised.
There were also areas where kids can make music of their own and an arts and crafts area where kids can go back to simple craft and creation. There were lots of supplies from what I could see and the room was filled with children and one cast member. Mind you, most of the kids in their are young girls so I'm certain my kids would love this. This is a great place if the technology and video games are not for you. There is literally something for everyone to do. I even saw a mom getting in on the action.
I should note that parents are allowed to participate with their children. I can also say that security is taken very seriously. Cast members advise you that you should not be taking pictures of other children that aren't your own and technically no adults are allowed in the kids area unless they have their one children in there.
One other point to add is that there are also activities that are held outside of the kids area and around various parts of the ship. One game is done in D-Lounge and it's called Mirror Mirror and is controlled by a game host, and they also do a Kim Possible style game.
Right about now I am walking through a interactive classroom style area that leads to the younger kids portion of the kids club. Here kids make things like flubber and do other scientific experiments. Then right next door there is a cooking class style area where kids make and decorate their own cookies and cupcakes. Fear not parents, there are no ovens to be found here. When it's time to bake, the items are taken to another part of the ship to be baked then returned to the kids area when completed. That's when the decorating part comes into play and the kids love it. (I didn't notice anyone saving their cookies and cupcakes for parents. Shucks.) This is another fun activity area that I am sure would be enjoyable for my own kids.
As I venture into the next area I am greeted by what looks like a submarine and inside there are banks of computers with colorful keyboards. On the screens there are games like Disney's Dumbo, Daisy's Fireworks, Disney racers, Air hockey, Smoothy sailing, and lots more. The keyboards are color coordinated which I think makes it easier for kids to learn how to interact with the computers. I found out the colors stand for different areas of the keyboard. Numbers are red, vowels are orange, consonants are yellow, and all computer function keys like enter and space bar are green.
Moving into the pixie hollow area there are more games and appear to be targeted towards girls. There are games to dress your own princess and adventure and roaming games. The area is very well themed with leaves coming out of the ceiling and seats that look like mushrooms growing out of the ground. There are also arts and crafts being done in this area including coloring and painting.
In the monster academy there is a jungle Jim style play area for those kids that want to run around a bit but there are also more computer terminals here with games. The area is themed from the Monsters Incorporated movie and again looks amazing in detail.
Lastly there is a room devoted to Toy Story where your child can go into Andy's room and be toy size. Everything here is life sized and makes you feel like you are the same size as the other toys from the movies. You can sit on Rex and go through Slinky Dog like a tunnel. There are a few toy boxes with lots of toys to play with and even a large drawing pad attached to the wall in case you feel like coloring and drawing. This area appeared to be very popular.
Lunch and dinner is served in the lab as are snacks and beverages throughout the day.
Overall I feel that Disney has done it again. Taken a great idea and plussed it up while providing educational experiences along with the vast amounts of fun that are to be had. You wouldn't believe how much space they devoted to the kids area. It's really big! You can run, sit, play, watch TV, create, and pretend. I certainly can't wait for the day that I bring my own kids aboard and let them have it at. As I said, there is something for everyone to do from ages from 3 to 10. Heck, my wife may have a hard time getting me out too!
Fred Block never went to Disney World until his honeymoon in 1998. Since then, he's been there countless times and has sailed on the Disney Wonder over 5 times and most recently on the Disney Dream. He's best known for being the man behind the plan for MagicMeets Disney Fan Gatherings but is also a technology geek through and through. He and his family live in New Jersey.
The previous post in this blog was Disney Dream - Kids' Activity Centers Overview.
The next post in this blog is Theme Park Snapshot - May 4, 2011.