Disney, Kent Phillips, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Singer Mariah Carey helped christen the new Disney cruise ship Fantasy at a Hudson River pier in Manhattan on Thursday night and promised to bring her twins back to enjoy some Disney hospitality.
"I christen thee Disney Fantasy. May God bless this ship and all who sail on it," said Carey as she stood with Disney's CEO Bob Iger, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs, and of course Mickey Mouse.
The ceremony was held inside the ship's atrium with a fake larger-than-life bottle of Champagne that sprayed the room with shiny confetti while Carey's husband Nick Cannon stood on deck with a real bottle in the company of Minnie Mouse.
Earlier Carey got a cheer from the crowd as she sang the line "I'm a native New Yorker," adding, "I'm going to love bringing my new babies here." Her twins were born less than a year ago.
The 4,000-passenger, 14-deck ship with its distinctive mouse ears logo arrived in New York on Tuesday after traveling nearly 3,800 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from Bremerhaven, Germany. The ship, which was built in Papenburg, Germany, will sail on seven-night Caribbean cruises starting March 31 from Port Canaveral, Fla.
The ship is a near-twin to Disney Dream, which launched a year ago. Both ships offer a water coaster ride called AquaDuck that consists of a flume wrapped around the vessel, virtual portholes that stream footage from exterior video cameras to inside staterooms, and pictures in hallways that become animated as guests walk by. In addition to pools, water play areas, gigantic screens, sports, a theater and other activities for the whole family, age-specific amenities range from a nursery to clubs for tweens and teens and adult-only dining and bars.
Motifs from Disney stories and characters turn up all over the ship, from a French restaurant inspired by the movie "Ratatouille," to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, named for the song from "Cinderella," where little girls can get princess makeovers. The ship's Europa area offers five adult nightspots themed on different European countries, including a Champagne bar, Ooh La La, and an Irish pub, O'Gills.
Fantasy is the first of several major Disney projects to launch in 2012. The first phase of an expanded Fantasyland opens at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom theme park near Orlando this spring. Cars Land, based on the Disney-Pixar movie "Cars," opens at Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif., this summer.
The ship and theme park additions are also the latest in a series of major investments in Disney parks and resorts that will reach a Matterhorn-like peak in the fiscal year through this coming September, expected to top $3 billion for the first time in the company's history.
Other recent projects include last year's opening of the Aulani resort in Hawaii and an expansion at Hong Kong Disneyland based on the movie "Toy Story." Disney is also building a new theme park in Shanghai.
In an interview Thursday onboard Fantasy, Iger said the decision to fund each project was made separately, but all were part of a plan to invest in the company's long-term future that began when he became CEO in October 2005. "It wasn't an overall decision of 'Let's put X billions of dollars into the parks and resorts business,'" Iger said. "But I think you're right that there has been a balloon of sorts in terms of capital infusion into this business, all because we saw specific opportunities."
Disney makes more profits from its television business including ESPN and The Disney Channel, but Iger said creating tangible worlds for fans to explore is what sets Disney apart from its competitors. "You could go see the movie 'Tangled' and download the 'Tangled' app on your iPad, or interact with a 'Tangled' walk-around character, Rapunzel" in the parks, he said. "I think the value of Disney is in the connection that both we make and that our guests make across all of these businesses."
As the economy has improved, so has business for Disney's parks and resorts. Division revenue in the quarter through December grew 10 percent to $3.2 billion, accounting for nearly a third of total of Disney's overall revenue. During the recession, the company used discounts and promotions to keep people coming to the parks but those have been pared back in the last 15 to 18 months "because we felt there was strength in the environment ... and our volumes have actually gone up a little bit. We're feeling quite good about how that bodes for both the travel business and for ours in particular," said Staggs, who was also interviewed Thursday onboard Fantasy.
AP Writer Ryan Nakashima in Los Angeles contributed to this story.
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