Oldest Disney ship to get a redo en route to Miami

Take a cruise ship, the Disney Magic, that was a pioneer in the world of family cruising and is headed for a new assignment. Order up a rehab. Call in the Imagineers.

“The old girl looks pretty good for her age,” said Joe Lanzisero, senior creative vice president for Walt Disney Imagineering. “But we do need to do some freshening up.”

In dry dock this fall in Cadiz, Spain, the 1,760-passenger Magic, Disney Cruise Line’s oldest ship, will see its largest-ever redo, a multi-million-dollar project that includes the addition of a three-story “thrill” water slide and a Marvel’s Avengers Academy.

The Magic will debut those and other changes on cruises from Miami beginning in October.

When Disney Cruise Lines first introduced the Magic in 1998, the ship was hailed as revolutionizing family cruising, with its extensive kids’ play areas and cabins designed for families.

Now, in designing the changes, Lanzisero said the Imagineers were careful not to mess too much with a good thing.

“A lot of Disney is the emotional connection with our products,” Lanzisero said.

You can’t, for instance, make too many changes at Animator’s Palate restaurant, a customer favorite, he said. “It’s so iconic it would be like taking a castle out of a park,” he explained.

Some restaurants and bars will be redone, staterooms will be rejuvenated with a blue nautical look similar to that on the newer Disney ships, the spa will be expanded to include a teen area, and the Atrium Lobby will get a new ambience. But the biggest changes will be in the pool area.

Taking a small group of writers around the Magic in Galveston, Texas, Lanzisero led us toward the ship’s open decks. “This is the more significant of the changes we’re making,” Lanzisero enthused. “We know our families love to be together playing in the water. … We really wanted to amp up the water play.”

The upper decks will be gutted. The highlight of the additions will be AquaDunk, a fast, wet body slide. Passengers will climb a stairwell to the top of the ship’s red funnel, step into a cube, hear a countdown and then plunge feet first as the floor drops. As it twists and turns, a 20-foot section of the slide juts off the ship and out over the ocean — for views of the water some 110 feet below.

The slide’s backstory, created by the Imagineers, is that AquaDunk was an early experiment for what became AquaDuck, the popular water coaster on the newer Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

While there are other drop slides in the cruise industry, Lanzisero said the AquaDunk would feature Disney-style special effects including steam and audio. And like AquaDuck, it will be themed with Huey, Dewey and Louie — Donald Duck’s nephews.

There’s also a brand new waterslide across deck in a new AquaLab family water play area. Although mellower than AquaDunk, the Twist ’n Spout slide provides three twist and turns so you exit the opposite direction you came in. Nearby are water geysers, jets and dump buckets — including a new feature that has Donald Duck literally boiling over. A separate area will offer water play for toddlers.

The ship will lose the Mickey kiddie pool but keep its Goofy’s family pool and adults-only Quiet Cove pool.

Many of the other changes planned for Magic reflect the fact that the Disney family of characters has grown since Magic was launched 15 years ago, Lanzisero said.

That’s the case with the new Marvel’s Avengers Academy — the cruise line’s first tie-in with the comic characters since Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009. Located in the Oceaneer Club, for kids ages 3 to 12, the Academy will be decorated with Captain America’s shield, Thor’s hammer and one of Iron Man’s suits and will host participants for a multi-day super hero “training” program.

Also being added as part of a major revamp of the Oceaneer play space will be a multi-level Andy’s Room from the Toy Story movies; a dress-up area, Pixie Hollow, with a Disney fairies theme; and a Mickey Mouse Club, geared towards the youngest kids. The adjacent Oceaneer Lab, for the same age group, gets additional high-tech play areas and a pirate-themed decor.

Characters including Rapunzel from Tangled and Remy from Ratatouille will be added to the animated show at Animator’s Palate, as will a cool feature, which debuted on Disney Fantasy, where guests can create their own drawings and see them animated as part of the show.