By Paul Motter
Last Sunday Royal Caribbean oficially named Allure of the Seas. Serving as the Godmother was the first 3-D animated character in history, but not the first animated character. Tinkerbell was the first animated character to name a ship on the Disney Wonder in 1999.
Have you ever misjudged someone's personality based upon what you vaguely remember hearing about them?
I just went to Germany see the brand new Disney Dream cruise ship - their first to debut since 1999, scheduled to begin sailing in the U.S. in January 2011. Three weeks later I was on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, with its new affiliation with DreamWorks Animation - a direct competitor to Disney.
Let's not underestimate what is going on with Royal Caribbean. The line is competitive, and it does what it does very well. This affiliation with DreamWorks is a far bigger deal than I ever expected.
On the Allure's first sailing was the CEO and founder of DreamWorks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg. He is a short and spindly man with an oversized and oddly shaped head which the "Flowbie on full" haircut does nothing to hide. It is easy to look at Jeffrey and decide you are not impressed - but that would be a mistake. The more I read about the man the more likable I find him to be. I actually started thinking - "I could work for someone like this," and I can barely work with anybody.
Katzenberg has had his share of Hollywood battles, especially the Disney Company. When in 1994 the CEO of Disney, Frank Wells, died in a helicopter accident Katzenberg expected to replace him. Instead, his mentor and fellow board member Michael Eisner plotted to have Katzenberg eliminated from the payroll completely. First Jeffrey was offered and turned down a $60 million severance offer, and then a $90 million one. He ended up suing Disney and received a quarter-billion dollar settlement.
Ironically, Katzenberg was nearly broke at the time, desperately seeking $30 million to start DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and music mogul David Geffen. His windfall was the result of an airtight contract with Disney that promised him a severance bonus of 2% of the profit from every Disney film he produced - and Katzenberg to Katzenberg's credit, while with Disney he reinvented the animated movie business which was all but dead. He found new CGI technology innovators such as the Pixar and incorporated them. He also ignored the critics, and chose to judge his success on the box office instead.
He bears no ill will, still talking about Walt Disney in the most glowing terms; "He left breadcrumbs the size of elephants" on the art of creating animated movies. When asked by the British paper, The Independent, how he sees his own life, Katzenberg quoted a favorite line from his own movie "Kung Fu Panda."
"There's this wonderful saying that this very wise character, a 1,000-year-old turtle, the wisest being in all of China, says: 'Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why it's called the present.' I don't think I'd ever heard what I think, or how I try to live my life, said better."
During the press conference onboard Allure Jeffrey was asked one question, "Now that you've made a success of animated movies followed up by live characters just as Disney has done - do you see theme parks as the next logical step?"
"Well, aren't we on one right now?" Katzenberg replied. Interesting answer. Many cruisers object to the comparison of cruise ships to theme parks, but in this case no one flinched - except maybe CEO Fain who had expressed some surprised that one of the Madagascar penguins, "True Ache - aka the Skipper," had usurped the mic during the that morning's captain's announcement from the bridge.
The rivalry between Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean is just beginning - but the rivalry between Katzenberg and Disney goes back almost two decades. Does Disney Cruise Line is just two months from the launch its first new ship in over 10 years. Is the timing of the DreamWorks and Royal Caribbean alliance a mere coincidence, or is it Katzenberg at his best?
Royal Caribbean has moved Freedom of the Seas, one of its most popular ships after Oasis and Allure, to Port Canaveral. It will have DreamWorks characters onboard by next March. Disney typically commands cruise fares more than double the cost of sailing on the newest and most spectacular Royal Caribbean ships; Oasis and Allure. A one week cruise in a standard balcony cabin even on the older Disney ships can be over $3000 per person. That is almost four times higher than a seven day cruise on Carnival or NCL.
Port Canaveral is also the official home port for Disney Cruise Lines based in Orlando with Disney World. So, from now on people looking to cruise out of Canaveral will have a choice of cartoon characters; Disney or DreamWorks (which includes the Shrek series, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon and the new MegaMind.) Most people who cruise on Disney ships arrive after a visit to Disney World, but isn't it just possible that many kids will think "Okay, we saw Micky and Nemo at Disney World, now let's see Shrek and Fiona on the cruise ship." Especially after mom and dad compare prices.
Royal Caribbean plans on introducing as many as 25 different DreamWorks characters onto four ships within the next four months, all four ships permanently sailing out of Florida. Now, while the financial details of the deal between Katzenberg and Royal Caribbean have not been announced, it does seem that Royal Caribbean wouldn't mind giving Disney a run for its money.
Discuss the Allure of the Seas here: Seeing Allure of the Seas