Living with Technology: Impressed by wave of technology aboard Disney ship
Published 7:17 am, Wednesday, January 7, 2015
I recently returned from a week-long Disney cruise with my family. It was my first time on a major cruise ship and was both a pleasant and eye-opening experience.
The Disney Magic is on the "small" side of large cruise ships, carrying about 2,800 passengers and a crew of 1,000. Hard to call that small.
As with all things Disney, they do a remarkable job of providing passengers with a wonderful experience in all ways. There are too many items to describe here, so let me list just a few:
First, Disney is known for the details. When they want to make an announcement over their public address system, they start it with chimes like many venues do. However, Disney plays the first seven notes from the song, "When You Wish Upon a Star." They even carry this theme to the ship's horns that announce a departure from port. There's no mistaking which cruise line you're on.
Second, above one of the ship's four swimming pools, they have a huge video screen they call the "Funnelvision." It's visible in bright sun and is superb at night for evening entertainment.
Third, one of the ship's four major restaurants is called the Animator's Palette. The obvious theme is Disney animators. Surrounding the room are easily 30 flat-screen televisions upon which Disney delivers some incredible entertainment. Not only are the flat screens part of the story, but the room itself transforms in a number of ways that are hugely entertaining. I won't spoil the story by telling you what happens, but suffice it to say that it impressed me and was my favorite restaurant.
Fourth, the theaters on board the Disney Magic include just about every theatrical feature you could imagine. The Walt Disney Theater, the larger of the two, includes 3D projection, sets that rise from the floor, animated characters, laser lighting and more. Generally, there were live performances every night, but they also included first-run movies. A second theater on board ran solely first-run Disney movies and was beautifully appointed.
Fifth, passenger identification was done with credit-card sized cards. Every time you went on or off the ship or wanted to buy something, you simply presented the card and their computer systems knew who you were. This was not magnetic stripe technology as is typical of credit cards. This was RFID (radio frequency identification) -- there's a chip in the card that presents a unique ID when in close proximity of a card reader.
Note that Disney has recently moved to wrist bands at its theme parks -- at least in Florida -- but indicated that they will be moving to the cruise ships soon.
Of interesting note, there were a couple of areas that were technical challenges onboard.
First, Internet and mobile phone service is costly and slow, if available at all. With Internet bandwidth costing about $90 per gigabyte (most mobile phone plans include 2 gigabytes per month), it's very expensive. This also meant that I didn't use my email at all during our time at away. It was fascinating to see families actually spending time together instead of staring at their mobile phones.
Second, in lieu of mobile phones, Disney provided two "Wave phones" in each cabin. This was a wireless handset that allowed people-to-phone and text each other while on the ship. I personally found the phones remarkably difficult to use and cumbersome, so didn't use them after trying them out. A system for texting or even allowing onboard WiFi through an app to communicate with others would be far better.
Overall, the cruise experience was fantastic, far exceeding my expectations. Given the amount of food we had available, I doubt I'll be hungry for at least a week. That's good, because I have close to 2,000 emails I have to plow through.
Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org