Along with Lulu of Family Affairs and Other Matters, Jenography was part of a UK media contingent attending the launch of the Disney Dream cruise ship. Our group also included journalists writing for the Independent, News of the World, The Telegraph and cruise experts shooting video and writing for sites.
The entire cruise was packed with media from North America, photographers, videographers and broadcasters, and we kept running into celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and John Stamos (sooo much dishier in real life than he looks on TV). There were tours of the fancy restaurants and gee-whiz techno advances on board. (You can see our individual blogging coverage via the links below.) (Update: I was remiss in not mentioning the host of bloggers Disney has previously worked with, who helped forged the great working relationship between the company and British bloggers. They were also avid supporters of this trip. See links below!)
Getting our picture taken with Mickey on Disney’s private island Castaway Cay (above) was pretty exciting. But getting the pictures below taken was way better than that.
The most exciting moment wasn’t the stars, the characters or the Disney hospitality – it was our one-to-one with Walt Disney Company President and CEO Bob Iger and Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. (Right: Me and Bob. I’m not copping a feel; that’s his lower arm you see between us.)
To put this in perspective, Iger runs the whole of the vast Walt Disney organisation – mention that you’re meeting him and employees swoon, journalists salivate. He wasn’t spending the day doing media rounds with one and all. We were told he was meeting bloggers only.
That’s how Lulu and I came to be seated at a table in the special “concierge” area of the ship with Bob and two American bloggers talking about how the Mouse plans to work with bloggers and up its social media game.
Dressed casually in a blue t-shirt, khakis and penny loafers, Bob described how Disney is working to engage and remain relevant to families, including sceptical, slightly jaded British ones. (The UK is “one of [Disney’s] most important markets in the world,” he said.)
“We don’t have to be edgier. We just have to be good,” Bob said, citing the examples of High School Musical and Pirates of the Caribbean as examples of Disney’s focus on quality and emotional relevancy while avoiding the sex and drugs…although rock and roll does get a look-in.
He described how Disney aims to use technology not only to entertain but to make the “Disney experience” more customisable. On the ship, for example, in the Animator’s Palate restaurant, a cartoon Crush from Nemo addresses diners by name. In the Oceaneer Club for children, a big screen on the floor features games that allow kids play in a group, using individually controlled floor panels.
After Bob said goodbye, Tom Staggs (left, with Lulu) sat down for a quick chat about how Disney cruises are tailoring the experiences to better appeal to both families as a whole and to family members individually.
That’s why you have not only a dazzling kids’ club but also a groovy no-adults-allowed teen club (with teen-only sundeck) and upscale restaurant and clubs for grown-up afterhours fun. “It’s gotta be a great fun vacation but let’s not treat the family as a single unit,” he explains.
Our session in the Concierge Lounge on Deck 12 (we passed both Whoopi and John Stamos on the way in; excuse us, guys!) was less John Humphries-style grilling, more love fest.
Naturally there are a reasons to like and admire one of America’s charismatic, most highly paid CEOs – the man who’s leading the premier family entertainment brand in the Western world and who speaks emphatically about the advantages of clean-cut amusements that “touch the heart”.
Yet it looks like Disney is also clued-up to the reasons why it should like British parent bloggers like us too.
— Jennifer Howze (Jenography.net)
Lulu and Jen were guests of Disney and Virgin Holidays
More great posts from blogger/Disney projects
Dulwich Divorcee’s Happy Ever After
Little Mummy’s 26 tips for families at DisneyWorld
Are We Nearly There Yet’s reports of the “Disney 7”
You’ve Got Your Hands Full talks about mum bloggers hitting Disney
Diary of a Desperate Exmoor Woman – reality bites after Disney
Jane Alexander’s picky parents’ guide to Walt Disney World
Have a Lovely Time’s coverage of mum bloggers hitting Disney in 2009
I’m sure we’ve missed loads more so post them below!