By Jack Sauter
Purists among our membership might carp that the Ocean Liner Museum concerns itself at all with cruise ships. It is a recurring dilemma that has often haunted your Editor who, nevertheless, feels that the means justify that end. For younger members, cruising has established the entire parameters of their shipboard experience. And truth to tell, twice each year, cruise ships respositioning from winter to summer markets or the reverse, assume the temporary mantle, if you will, of ocean liners, embarking lucky passengers for if not quite a line voyage, at least a line cruise.
Then again, the world's newest cruise ship, pictured opposite, has evinced a very real (corporate) thrust to return to the look, at least, of a two-funneled ocean liner.
Some years ago, representatives from the Disney organization asked your Editor what form he felt their projected cruise ships should take. The gist of my response was that Disney had two choices: Either they could create a maritime extension of Disney world, suiting the proclivities of the bulk of their passengers who would be extending their Orlando theme park visit with a cruise.
Or, I urged, they could blaze a bolder trail by recreating a traditional vessel from the past. In other words, eschew the towering white wedding cakes of too many of their contemporary rivals by designing and launching instead a retro-liner.
This they have done. By the time you read these words, the first of their two vessels, Disney Magic, will have arrived from Fincantieri, the Italian shipyard that built it, to enter 3- and 4-day service out of Port Canaveral. However, the fitting out, handing over and delivery of the vessel has been plagued by a series of embarrassing delays, embarassing both for Fincantieri and Disney alike.
Not surprisingly, the press has had a field day, as they always seem to with every cruise ship misfortune. In a long article, The Wall Street Journal suggested that wags at the shipyard had rechristened Disney Magic and Disney Wonder "Disney Tragic" and "Disney Blunder." During the final hectic months before delivery, the incomplete vessel was swarming with Disney engineers, intent on not only hastening the work but also ensuring that Fincantieri shipfitters adhered to every letter of their company's specifications. "Scamping"--a time-honored Royal Navy term for inadequate or shoddy shipyard construction--is as old as the first keel; it will be with us forever. But the Italians felt harrassed just as naturally as the Americans felt duped.
Far be it from your Editor to apportion blame. Suffice to say that any new and unconventional naval architectural design often suffers birthing pangs.
Even though overseen by experienced corporate and techonological midwives recruited from the industry, creation of twin, 85,000-ton vessels from scratch by a company with no previous newbuilding experience was a daunting challenge.
Although no-one has yet experienced Disney Magic's on-board ambience, every ocean liner enthusiast is at liberty to judge how well the Disney people have achieved their ocean liner look. The end result is boldly unconventional, with a long, length of black hull--the first since QE2 of 1969--adorned at either end with painted, decorative scrollwork. A series of glass-topped appendages ranged high above the water seem to ape the ancient placement of lifboats, even though there is a perfectly good collection of boats further down nearer the water. Superstructure just behind the twin funnels swells into an unfortunate camel's hump; however, it was to be expected that Disney's 1990's tween-deck logistical requirements far exceed those, for instance, that Cunard permitted Arthur Davis back in 1912 aboard Aquitania.
But it is the emergence of Disney
Magic's twin funnels that most betrays their owners. Traditional ocean liner funnels always served unqestionably as the ship's summit; however long or prestigious the hull, one's eye always returned amidships to the funnels. Magic's forward one is fully bogus, containing an elevated public room; only the after one is a working stack.
But although masquerading as conventional paint pot funnels, the illusion works only when spied from directly abeam. Seen from a three-quarter's perspective, those bright red fixtures lose all credibility, rather as though we had inadvertantly stumbled backstage and seen cutout, second-story facades cobbled together in Hollywood for western films. A glance at any one of the aerial views of ocean liners elsewhere in this issue tells us that paint pot funnels must survive scrutiny from every direction and elevation.
The upper photograph opposite, released and distributed by Disney's public relations department, reveals a woefully inadeqauate and distorted funnel profile. Moreover, the cluster of silver exhaust stalks sprouting from the number 2 stack indicates that the owners have had to cope with serious problems of sooty fallout. One sound reason that cruise ship funnels were shunted aft in the early 1950's was specifically to reduce soot fouling upper decks dedicated largely to outdoor pursuits. Indeed, the proliferation of vessels sporting sampan funnel tops--America, United States, Michelangelo among them--reveals an early preoccupation with exactly the same problem.
In sum, high marks to Disney's "imagineers" for trying, even though their finished image remains flawed.