One of the most innovative and exciting attractions on the Disney Dream cruise ship has returned with enhancements on the Disney Fantasy, offering even more high-flying fun at sea. In writing about the new Disney Fantasy since sailing on the Inaugural preview cruise two weekends ago, I’ve tried to focus on what’s new and different in comparison to her sister ship. But today we take a closer look at my personal favorite element of both: the AquaDuck.
The first-of-its-kind water coaster at-sea, the AquaDuck takes passengers on a roughly 1-minute twisting and turning ride high above (and out over) the ocean. It’s easily the source of the most fun to be had while sailing on a Disney cruise. And since my first few slides on the Disney Dream Christening Cruise last year, some enhancements have been made and more merchandise has been designed to offer fans like me a chance to further enjoy everything that is AquaDuck.
Let’s begin with the most important aspect of the AquaDuck: the ride itself. The new first-person POV (point of view) video below offers a great view of Castaway Cay surrounding the Disney Fantasy while soaring across its decks.
Video: AquaDuck POV on the Disney Fantasy at Castaway Cay
It’s an incredibly fun attraction, not only for its over-the-ocean turns and water-jet-powered hills, but more so because of the wonderful panoramic views it offers of the ship and the ocean around it. It may look like it moves at a slow pace in the video, but soaring through enclosed transparent tubes that high above the deck and water is a thrill unto itself, with the faster and open-air portions heightening the experience.
(I unfortunately don’t have a video to share showing me riding the AquaDuck on the Fantasy as I did on the Dream, not because such a video doesn’t exist, but rather because the angle from which Disney shot it on the media preview cruise turned out to be, well, something I just can’t post here. I’ll let your imagination decide why.)
Like any Disney attraction, the AquaDuck begins with a story, told via comic strip panels located in its stairwell. Riders must first climb 69 stairs to reach the top and the 6-panel comic offers some entertainment while waiting. And like any successful Disney attraction, Disney has developed a variety of merchandise for the AquaDuck since it debuted on the Disney Dream in January 2011. Though I’ll explore these items more below, one of them ties in with the story here. A postcard offers a reproduction of the mini comic strip telling the water coaster’s story, scanned for your enjoyment below. (Click to enlarge.)
As the story of the AquaDuck goes: “Donald’s nephews built this slide… And uncle wanted the first ride. They were worried he’d get stuck… But he sailed… like an AQUADUCK.”
It’s a simple, but amusing story that continues on the smoke stack opposite the AquaDuck:
Passengers not riding the AquaDuck may wonder why Donald’s rear end is hanging out of the smoke stack, but those who “duck in” and “fly out” get it.
The story continues inside the new AquaLab on the Disney Fantasy, the place in which Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, constructed and control the AquaDuck:
(Take a tour around the new AquaLab here.)
In riding the AquaDuck literally countless times on my Disney Fantasy 3-night voyage (I lost track at around 10), I spotted a couple enhancements to the attraction since my previous time through on the Disney Dream last year.
It seems Disney Cruise Line is preparing to offer on-ride photos from the AquaDuck, though the technology wasn’t entirely up and running while I was on board. Just after the second big dip, a pair of cameras can be seen mounted on top of the open-air portion of the tube:
One of these cameras appears to be one of several monitors the ride’s operators use to watch passengers as they slide along and determine when it’s safe for the next rider to enter. But the other offers a quick flash as riders fly through. And just before stepping into an AquaDuck tube at the top of the ride, I noticed a screen with a key card scanner, not functional while I was there, but presumably to match up guests with their onboard photo accounts for later purchase. It seems to be a “coming soon” feature on the Disney Fantasy.
The other enhancement I noticed was in the darkest portion of the ride, where a Space Mountain-style star field of sorts illuminates the tube in a variety of passing colors:
It’s a fantastic feature that wasn’t yet working when the AquaDuck first debuted on the Dream, but has since been added there and on the Fantasy. I saw it for the first time on my recent cruise and found it to be a thrilling “addition” to the attraction. It’s visible in the POV video above. For comparison, below is my first-person ride on the AquaDuck from the Dream, in which you can see the colorless dark portion of the ride at around 30 seconds into the video.
Video: AquaDuck POV on the Disney Dream at sea
The new-to-me effect and the future addition of on-ride photos enhance what is already an amazing attraction.
Though the videos above show the AquaDuck ride itself, watching two-person tubes slide around decks 11 and 12 of the Disney Fantasy is a highly entertaining pastime, particularly when spotting friends and family on the ride. Here’s a photo trip around the AquaDuck, from the outside:
When I sailed on the Disney Dream Christening Cruise last year, only a small amount of AquaDuck merchandise was available. Since then, Disney Cruise Line has developed a whole line of fun items available for purchase in the “Whozits & Whatzits” retail shop on deck 11.
As a huge AquaDuck fan, I naturally had to purchase just about everything they had. I’d already bought the “Duck In – Fly Out” shirt on the Dream:
Now I’ve added the “Ride the AquaDuck” shirt too, showing Donald from the other side as he crashed through the smoke stack:
Pins, keychains, magnets, curvy pencils, and the above-mentioned postcards are all inexpensive ways to take a bit of AquaDuck fun home:
One of my favorite new items is the AquaDuck snow globe, less than $40:
AquaDuck Vinylmation figures are available too. A general version was on Disney Store’s web site and quickly sold out, but on board, these read “Disney Fantasy” on the bottom:
And most valuable of all is a framed AquaDuck giclee, limited edition of 95 (plus 5 artist proofs), painted by Disney artist Greg McCullough:
Though it’s $350, it’s a large colorful piece that now looks wonderful hanging in my house near my pool. While I can’t ride the AquaDuck every day (or even any time again soon), I can at least be reminded of the good times I had doing so by the expression on Donald’s face in this artwork.
In a water park on land, the AquaDuck slide might seem a bit tame, with only a handful of turns, a couple quick drops, and long, slow-paced stretches. But when placed high atop a Disney cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, a relatively ordinary water coaster is turned into an incredible experience matched by no other, on land or at sea. Even the tallest water park attractions can’t boast panoramic views of miles of open waters or seemingly endless beaches when docked.
And looking straight down at waves crashing against the side of the Disney Fantasy or Disney Dream at the very beginning of the ride perfectly sets the stage for an exciting adventure aboard the AquaDuck. It’s enough of a reason alone to book a trip on the Disney Cruise Line.
More photos of the AquaDuck on the Disney Fantasy: