Last Sunday, Disney revealed it newest ship, Disney Dream, with a “float out” ceremony in Papenburg Germany. 

The ship, which has been under construction for the last two years, emerged from undercover when the shipyard filled the dry dock and tugged the ship into the River Ems where it is now independently afloat for the first time. There is still plenty of work to be done on the ship before the official debut sailing this Jan 26, 2011.

Disney Dream is only the third ship built by Disney, while a fourth ship, Disney Fantasy is scheduled to debut in April 2012. For the last 11 years the cruise line has only sailed the same two smaller ships it started with in 1999, a pretty small fleet compared to the 23 ships of Royal Caribbean or the same number by Carnival Cruise Lines.

Even with the financial muscle to dominate the cruise market, Disney chose to move deliberately and only build ships that exemplify the Disney name for quality and innovation.

Donning a hardhat and sturdy shoes, I was given a tour of the new ship last Monday, led by several members of the Disney “imagineering” team. I saw the many technical innovations that will make these ships among the most immersive cruise experiences possible, especially for children, but also for adults.

Disney Dream will have the largest Polarized 3D and Dolby sound movie theater at sea. Then there is the “AquaDuck” water raft ride where one or two people can skim through an enclosed transparent tube for 765 feet, propelled by water, from the top of the forward smokestack (which is the faux one), over the side of the ship (where the view below is a 180-foot drop).

The Enchanted Restaurant features a Versailles garden greenhouse theme. During the meal, the windows--which are actually video screens sized and mounted to look like panes of glass in the greenhouse framework--will magically change from a daytime to a nighttime tableau as the evening meal progresses.

Another restaurant, Animator’s Palate, takes the same idea a step further. The diners enter what appears to be an old-style animator’s sketch studio, but it magically transforms into an undersea coral reef aquarium with “windows” to the undersea world.  Toward the end of the meal, Crush, the most favorite turtle “dude” from the movie “Finding Nemo” swims up to every table and engages the diners in real-time conversations. Crush will address someone sitting at each table and will have real, unscripted conversations with the diners.

Disney Dream Cruises

Disney Dream sails into service this Jan.26, 2011. Dream's sister ship, Disney Fantasy, will debut in April 2012. The first cruises on Dream are nearly sold out, but there are still staterooms available.

One very interesting aspect of these ships is that the inside cabins are selling out first – not the verandah cabins, which are usually most popular on other cruise lines. 

People are flocking to the inside cabins for there unique, over-sized “porthole” that is actually (once again) a video screen. This virtual porthole shows a real-time, point-of-view image of the scenery outside captured by cameras corresponding to the stateroom location.

But every few minutes, a surprise will pop up on the screen, such as the coquettish starfish “Peach” from “Finding Nemo” who may decide to get “stuck on you” for a few minutes of flirting.

You can still get a deck six deluxe verandah stateroom (247-square feet including the verandah) on the Disney Dream Jan. 26 cruise, sailing four nights roundtrip from Port Canaveral to Nassau and the Disney private island, Castaway Cay, for as low as $3,277 per person.

All of the available staterooms on this cruise sleep three or four people, with one queen-size bed, a convertible sofa and a pull-down bed. Disney uses Port Canaveral for all of its Florida cruises because it is the closest port to Orlando. Many people combine a Disney Cruise with a visit to Disney World.

One of the tricks of Disney stateroom pricing is that nearly identical staterooms cost more as the decks go higher. The same sized stateroom as above on deck nine or ten is $3437 per person. I recommend staying with the lower decks and saving money. You get the same amount of space and the ride (if you happen to hit rough seas) will be smoother.

Or you can jump up to the 299-square foot deluxe verandah stateroom on deck six for $,3677. The same stateroom will cost you $3,817 on decks nine or ten.

If you can hold out until the second cruise, sailing Jan. 30, 2011, you can still get one of the coveted inside cabins for just $1,777 per person. These cabins also sleep three or four people but they are smaller – just 169 square feet.

Just so you know, for the best price on a Disney cruise I recommend booking as far out as possible, up to 18 months in advance.

Go to the Disney Cruise Lines Web site for more information.

All cruise prices are for balcony staterooms except where stated, per person double occupancy and do not include government taxes.

If you would like more cruise information we urge you to consult our Cruising101 FAQ. 

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I started writing about stock market investing for Motley Fool in 1995, but previously I worked aboard cruise ships. I co-founded, the first cruise travel guide on the Internet in New York City in 1999. CruiseMates, one the Web’s top cruise travel guides was acquired by Internet Brands (NASD: INET) in 2006. Once CEO, I am now the editor of CruiseMates – Paul Motter.