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WDW Radio # 686 – Disney Wish Concept, Design, and Tour with Former Imagineer Theron Skees

Former Imagineer, Vice President, and Portfolio Creative Executive for Disney Cruise Line Theron Skees joins me again this week to discuss the concept, design, Imagineering, and creation of the Disney Wish. From idea to execution, we look at the process of bringing the ship to life, and virtually tour the Wish, looking at the why, how, and stories of the many amazing places and spaces.

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Sit back, relax, and enjoy this week’s episode of the WDW Radio show. Thanks for listening! Be sure to tune in next week!

Thanks to Theron Skees for joining me this week. Click HERE to connect with Theron on LinkedIn and visit The Designers Creative Studio. Listen to my first interview with Theron on WDW Radio #648

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Click Here Read The Full Podcast Episode Transcript

Lou Mongello: [00:00:00] Back in 1995 Disney cruise line, when it began, literally changed the industry and with the launch of their first ship, the big red boat was actually chartered from premier cruise line. But with the launch of the Disney magic in 1998, experiences at sea would never be the same again. And 24 years later, Disney has introduced the fifth and largest ship in the Disney fleet, the Disney wish.

And while in some ways, a slight departure from previous vessels, the wish retains and enhances, or should I say in chance, what makes Disney cruise line unique and special? And I have literally just returned from the christening. And the maiden voyages on the wish. And I'm preparing to host the first of two WW radio group cruises on her, the next one in like just a few days.

And while I'm going to have a full review of the ship and experiences from stem to stern after our cruise, I wanted to bring on somebody to talk about the ship itself from concept to construction. And so I wanna welcome back former Walt Disney, imaginary THN skis, who among many roles he held in the Walt Disney company was vice president and portfolio creative executive for Disney cruise line.

You may remember THN from show 6 48. I said at that time we had a lot more to talk about. I wasn't kidding. So THN welcome back

Theron Skees: here. We are nice to be you back. Thanks for the invitation. It, uh, it

Lou Mongello: is great to see you and timing is everything. Cause I know when we talked, we sort of glossed over your time at Disney cruise line.

I said, we need to put a pin on this and, and come back to it. So talk to me a little bit just in, in sort of broad strokes, um, what the vice president portfolio [00:02:00] creative executive does in terms of overseeing the fleet of the ships and the wish and, uh, I'm sure. Cast away, et cetera.

Theron Skees: Absolutely. It's such a big title.

Uh, the business cars was like a clipboard size so, you know, it was, it was hard to carry that around, but, uh, no, the role was, was literally, um, think of it as the creative partner for the, for the cruise line, the, you know, the president of the cruise line, all those operational leaders and, um, that executive role, uh, senior executive role from engineering was literally meant to be kind of that, that creative partner that helps to bring to life.

Um, everything that's needed to really drive the business. So you're right. Uh, the first thing I did when I, uh, took the role and, and got integrated into the team was we jumped right into my very first dry dock, which was the Disney wonder. And while what a baptism by fire that was learning how a dry dock works, I had plenty of experience on of course, land based projects, hotels, attractions, parks, um, you know, all of that kind of work, our D and E, but, um, moving into the nautical world was a completely different animal.

And, um, so that was fantastic. So of course, dry docks on the whole fleet, uh, the four ships and we did one of those about every year. And as you know, from Disney and anybody that's a fan of cruising with the Disney cruise line knows that, uh, they'd really try to change up those environments frequently.

So with, with regard to the dry docks, we were quite busy.

Lou Mongello: and I will say, as a quick aside, I love each of the ships for a different reason. And it's funny that you mentioned that your, your baptism was on the wonder, which may very well, it depends your favorite ship is the one drawn. Right. But it, it may very well be my favorite of all the ships.

I love the size. I love. I love what happened with the reimagining [00:04:00] of Tiana's and that French quarter promenade lounge may be like my favorite place on board. Any of the ships.

Theron Skees: I'm so glad you said that that that was, it was such a blast. It was, you know, at that time leadership, that Disney cruise line was changing, um, uh, between Carl Holtz and, and Anthony was coming in and, and there was a, there was a genuine, uh, desire to, uh, we began thinking about the, the ships differently than they were originally conceived.

Whereas if you look at the, the classic ships, the magic and the wonder they were designed, uh, magic is art DEO. The wonder is art, new VO, and to a discerning eye, you would be able to tell the difference, but if you're just, you know, your average Disney fan, your average guest, you may not pick that up. And then the fantasy and the dream.

There are subtle differences between the design motifs, but they're very, very similar. So at that particular time in the company's history, when I first came on board, there was a desire to differentiate those experiences. Instead of having Tiana's on all the ships, you know, we said, well, what if we just did a unique dining, uh, entertainment experience?

What if we did unique, uh, design motifs? What if we did uniquenesses on each. Just like our theme parks and it would give guests more of a reason to individualize their, their cruise journey. It would be not just the, the, the destinations that a particular vessel would sail, but it could be some of the unique entertainment experiences, content, et cetera, that you could get on board.

So it was really fun to be a part of the, uh, the, the business at that time, because we were dreaming of all these unique, um, elements that would help differentiate, uh, each of the vessels.

Lou Mongello: It's interesting. You say that, you know, sort of taking a, a step back in a, a 30,000 foot view. I remember the, before I first cruise many, many, many [00:06:00] years ago, I, I was always curious as to how, and then amazed to see how they take that theme park.

Feeling there's no other way to describe it. There's sort of that feeling of the theme parks without attractions and co I mean, now there's attraction to sea, but, and bring it to sea and, and admittedly, I was almost a little, like, I'm not sure how they're gonna do this. This is now about 20 cruises ago.

So that tells you something .

Theron Skees: What's what's fascinating about from, from a, an experience creator's perspective. The, the transition that I made this is just was my journey. Others may, may have a different, uh, uh, process, a different story, but going from theme park work, where you have this massive environment and, and much of the environment is outdoors.

And much of the environment you're trying to connect. If you think of a traditional magic kingdom park, whether that's Hong Kong or, or, uh, Disneyland, you know, or, or even, uh, Disneyland Paris, those are primarily outdoor venues that have landscaping and soft scaping and all these different things that tie together that, that, that visual experience.

When you, when, and then of course, you've got the shows, you've got the attractions, you have the rides, you have everything that all comes together. and it's about seamlessly stitching all of those various elements together, but on a ship you have primarily interior experiences and you're, you're working to deliver not just in a horizontal plane.

So each deck, if you would think of that as a horizontal plane, but you have to also have to think in terms of verticality, right? Because the, the, the content that's above you on a floor is really important. It's not just randomly placed there. So that was a level of. To, to coin a, um, uh, to, to, to show my nerd status.

It's like [00:08:00] 3d chest, right? In star Trek. , you're, you're constantly thinking in all of these different dimensions because your guests are circulating in that way up and down and, and across. And, uh, and I found that a really fun challenge to invent, um, environments in and to how do you create experiences in that way?

That kind of leverage all that movement.

Lou Mongello: It's funny you say that because whenever I. Visit a park or, or see a new Disney attraction. I, I sort of, I peel back the layers of the other night and I look at it from a lot of different perspectives. One of which is, is sort of the processes that, that come together to put it.

And when I look at the ship, especially with the wish it's it's, it has to be different than doing a dry dock, for example, because now you're really probably doing this entire general arrangement with plans and sections and elevations, and you have to lay out all these deck plans for not just that, the wish, but these three new Triton class ships in the fleet, which is the wish and, and the two that are to follow.

Theron Skees: That's right. Uh, that's right. One, I, I kind of described it this way. See if this resonates with your audience, when you're doing a project on, on land, you're, you know, your standard sort of theme park project I'll use. Um, I'll use not a theme park project, a Disney Springs, for example, we had offices, uh, for, um, you know, our, all the Disney employees and Imagineers all of the contractors and it was on site.

It was actually right behind C Dulay. So all of the work that we did there, all of the, you know, the suppliers, the builders, the contractors, the cranes, everything was there. You just walk out or ride yours to the site and you were there. Um, and, and it's, it's very different. You have the land. Sometimes you have to clear the land.

You, you go through a design process. Once you're done with the design, you procure the materials and you start building right. Building a. Is really much more like [00:10:00] ordering a car, right? If you, if you get Mercedes or Tesla, you know, fill in the, your car of choice there, and you do an order, you're picking the seats, you're picking the engine, the motor type, the wheels, you know, all these different options.

And in a sense, ordering a ship is like that. Um, you, you have a window of time that the shipyard has available to construct a ship of a certain size and class and complexity. And you're basically buying that, that slot. and, and you, when you're, when you're designing, it's not exactly like sky is the limit.

Um, you're, you're working within, because it's a, it's a vehicle, it's a vessel it's moving, right. It has to be safe and it has to have engines and it has to generate its own power. It has to filter water. You know, the ship has to do that. It goes from point a to point B safely, but it's also a hotel cuz people, you know, it's got a lodging component on it.

People sleep, um, it's got dining component, a retail component, entertainment component. Um, it's got all of the elements that make it a unique Disney experience. So it it's, it's very D. Uh, then than theme park work, then, then you're, you know, I, I really realized how, and I, I stay this bashing myself, tongue in cheek, how lazy I was.

Right. Because I just, you know, I mean, of course I walked, you know, a million steps today at Disney Springs, but you just literally walk over and you see a sample or you see progress that the carpenters made that day. That's it for the ship. You have to fly nine hours, eight hours to Amsterdam land, jump in a car and drive another.

What two and three quarters hours, uh, to Poppen, um, and all of that before 8:00 AM so that you can start your meetings. I mean, it's a big deal. Uh, and then your, your design companies are all over the world. We have Sweden and Norway and the UK. So it, it adds a level of complexity that you, you kind of don't really think [00:12:00] about until you start really considering everything.

It it's

Lou Mongello: so funny because as you're talking, I, I think, and I know this is like the stupidest nerdy thing in the world, but when I, when I go into something like a new ship or a new hotel, I look at it from the, the macro and the micro, and I go, God, they had to order like 3000 toilet seats for like the silly things, or how many spoons are you to order?

Because I can't imagine from a micro level, just how many moving parts and pieces and, and puzzles there are, but I have to assume too, there's, there's, there's lots of components, right? That are all sort of. Plates are spinning all at the same time, but as is true with anything in, in Disney, right. Story is, is what drives it.

Talk to me a little bit about the, the story and the concept of enchantment. And you sort of earlier mentioned this, what the classic ships and the dream class ships have, not just in terms of design, but storytelling. And how do you also keep with that tenant of what Disney cruise line has always had, which was embracing this golden age of cruise travel.

That really was sort of the, the hallmark of the brand

Theron Skees: itself. That's a great question. You know, that was, I think one of the bigger. Um, challenges, but also the most fun working on the three new ships. And that was, you know, we, at that point, the Disney cruise line already had 20 years of successful impact on the industry.

And we spent a lot of time upfront really asking ourselves the question, how do we top ourselves, uh, how do we introduce some, some very new things to the industry and how do we deliver Disney quote unquote, in a way that maybe we, we haven't done before, you know, how do we innovate on ourselves? And, and those are fabulous questions for [00:14:00] any organization, especially one the size of the Disney company to ask because.

It keeps you from becoming stale. It keeps you from just using the same ideas that you had before. Now. I think when you get an opportunity and I'm talking to your audience now to sail on the wish or any of the new ships, um, I think you'll really immediately tell those areas that we innovated because there's some innovations, I think from the industry standpoint, then there's some innovations and this is where the fans will really catch it innovations on Disney cruise line itself.

Some of the things that we did, we improved circulation. We, we added a lot more storytelling, a lot more detail. We were very on point. Very deeply immersive spaces and, um, uh, even business partnerships that we created with different retailers and everything, it it's, it's a, we've done a lot more there. And, and I think I know that the result is a much richer, deeper, broader, more beautiful experience.

So that was that's sort of the contextual statement to dive into what you said. Uh, Lou was, it was. As I mentioned before this period of Disney cruise line, where we were really thinking let's move into much more unique experiences. Um, definitely doing that for the cruise line, uh, for the new ships, but then how do we go back and through our dry dock strategy and begin to retrofit through, through, um, uh, a dry dock strategy on the existing fleet.

And then we also began to play with that with the island of, of course, cast away. And then, um, I believe it's already been announced. Uh, lighthouse point was, uh, was purchased. And how do we drive differentiation between those two as well? So that that's kind of where we leaned into. And we'd naturally, uh, when you look at, if you remember correctly, if go back in the way back machine, it was originally announced that there was only two new ships.

So after I came board, it [00:16:00] was, uh, ding, ding, ding, tell him what he is, won Johnny. It's a third ship. And we, you know, we don't really get to change your schedule. so. So when we had the, the, the three ships, we really kind of looked at what are the big, big genres that are found within Disney storytelling and how could we represent three genres that really encapsulate, uh, the broadest possible range of stories and characters.

And, uh, and I think when all three ships are out, you'll, you'll see, uh, our approach to that. And, and, and hopefully people will love it. And it's, it

Lou Mongello: has to be interesting too, because there there's this delicate, balanced, I have to imagine that has to take place in it's very high level balancing the, the business requirements of the ship with the story requirements or, or desires as well as guest experience requirements as well.

And sometimes it might sound like they all fit together together very nicely. But I have to imagine there's also times that there may be, um, It's a challenge to integrate them all together. Seamlessly.

Theron Skees: I believe that that's a challenge, um, in our industry and I'll make a big air quotes on that. And when you're talking about the narrative, um, experience design world or themed entertainment design world, you know, whether it's retail, dining entertainment, cruise lines, adventures by Disney, a hotel experience at theme park.

It, it, it always is this, this balance on one end of the scale, it's a business, right? And. Uh, especially us creatives. Uh, I'll raise my hand. We creatives. We have to remember we're what we're doing is for a business. We, we can't get confused by the fact that, oh, it's an attraction. It's 200 million, whoa, this is my private art fund.

You know, we, we can't, we can't move into that because that doesn't move the business [00:18:00] needle forward. So I, I think that it's very important to be creative. Innovative groundbreaking, you know, driving story, um, you know, as experienced designers, we're constantly thinking about the guests. Uh, we're thinking about taking our guests on an emotional journey.

Uh we're we're thinking about we're, we're creating a product and that product is an experience. And we're, that experience has a lot to do with the brand in this case, it's of course the Disney brand and, and I'm always thinking, well, how do I connect these audience members to this brand in an emotionally story driven way?

And that's different than, um, Um, you know, a designer who designs automobiles or, or appliances, right? You don't have to make an emotional connection necessarily with that. The new model of toaster you, you don't, you know, you design it so that it's affordable. It, it breaks at a certain time. So you buy more that, that's what you think about as an experienced designer, I'm making that connection.

We are making that connection so that those guests will come back over and over and over again. And it has to be functional if it's a beautiful space, but you can't get your food on time because the kitchen was undersized or there's, uh, only one weight station in the restaurant and it's piled up with dishes because they just can't get to it.

You know, those things begin to diminish the experience and diminish the brand. It, it is truly a, a, we always seek for, for that balance to the best ability we can.

Lou Mongello: Well, and Disney's look Disney is, is, is built on not just creating, um, emotional experiences and memories, but wow. Moments and, and on the wish, there are many, especially if you have cruised before and you alluded to the fact that Disney is, is a company that is always innovating and.

You had 10 years, right? Nearly a decade since the launch of the last ship, which was the fantasy. [00:20:00] You not only must have learned a great deal in that time, but you also were given the gift or challenge of about 14,000 extra gross TGE to work with over the dream class. Talk to me a bit, little bit about taking some of those lessons, having that additional space, and also the, the thought process of how do you approach copying sort of replicating that same general layout of the other ships.

Which are are very beloved. You know, if you wanna make Disney fans go crazy on Twitter, change something versus integrating some of those things that you think will enhance that guest experience and storytelling.

Theron Skees: Yes. Yes. Well, um, let me, uh, ask you before I answer about some ground rules, because I, I don't, some people love spoilers and some people really hate spoilers.

So I, I don't wanna mention anything that, that might drive somebody, uh, one of your audience members nuts. Oh, I wish you didn't tell me that. So let me ask you that first. What, what's your thought or rules on that?

Lou Mongello: You know, it's funny cuz I'm, I, I am the, and I different it's it's, it's so hard. You can't answer everybody.

Like, so I'm the kind of person like, I don't tell me anything. I wanna see with my own eyes. I wanna walk in the door and experience it for myself. For me that works other people. And look, we as Disney fans for years have been programmed, like, all right, 10 years ago, you sat down with your spreadsheet, you mapped it all out.

We need to know where we want to eat and what we're gonna eat like six months in advance. So we'll give a little bit of a spoil or alert. I don't think it, you probably won't give. Too much. I won't get some specific. Yeah, nothing too spoily away. Um, because listen, no matter how much you think, you know about the wish, if you've cruised before, part of the fun is walking in there and not knowing where anything is and spending some time finding

Theron Skees: your way.

That's right. Okay. Well, I'll, I'll thanks for that. I just, I wanted to be respectful of your audience members and didn't want to get a bunch of hate mail [00:22:00] myself. So, um, uh, with regards to, I'll give you a couple of examples. So, you know, when it's really, I, I think what's difficult about one of the difficult things about being in imaginary specifically, or in some kind of creative product, um, generation new product generation portion of the Disney company, is that typically they do it really, really well.

Typically most all those divisions, film, division, you know, publishing, et cetera. They're, they're, they're killing it every time they're releasing new things and they're they're, they. Kind of genre, busting, creating new things and innovating. And it's the, it's the same with the, with Disney cruise line. I mean, fantasy really, uh, set the bar high in the industry.

And, and after then you saw lots and lots of different vessels for different companies that, that took learnings from fantasy and then applied it. So, uh, improving on yourself is a challenge sometimes. So here here's a couple of examples of quote improvements that we made that, um, that were specific to our Disney cruise line guests.

And one of those is when you start thinking about. um, the, the type of experience that you have with the cruise line, for example, when you book your cruise, you get, you know, uh, your early dinner time, right. For example, and Disney does rotational dining, no other cruise line does it, they tried it, they failed, you know, Disney cruise line does it, and they pioneered it and they manage it.

Fantastic. So if you have that early seating, you go to dinner. Um, and then after that time, what do you do? You go to the show? Um, and then of course there, the rest of the ship does the opposite where they're going to the show, the first seating, and they're going to a quote later dinner and this.

Established for us, uh, op the operations team and the design team, this established a pattern, right? So you, we knew what guests, uh, liked to do. Um, they like to eat as families. So families come [00:24:00] together. Um, sometimes those families like to go to shows together, but after the shows, typically the families would split up.

The kids are like, turn me loose. I wanna go back and be a Marvel superhero. And parents are like, great. We wanna, we wanna go have a drink in the lounge. We wanna go, you know, play a game. We, you know, and that's kind of what happens. So thinking about the normal habits and behaviors of the guests, based on the operational cycle that we've already put together, we realize we need to make dining, uh, the, um, theater.

And the children's zones very, very, very easy to get to. So that's why you you'll see that we, where we place the children's zone is in a very, very different place on any of all the four ships you can get to it very rapidly. Um, kids can check themselves in with their, with their little bracelets. There's really fun ways to access it.

And then, um, the deck above that is where all of the adult sort of content is. And in a sense, it's kind of like. Our D and E. So just outside the theater on both levels, um, you can come out your kids, boo, write it down to programming. And right there is all of the things that the adults would pretty much be interested in.

So that that's just one simple example of how to take normal patterns that we know our guests love to do and make it easier, remove even more friction.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. And it's, it's funny because if you come from the other ships again, we're used to things being where quote, unquote, they are supposed to be you're right.

And you come in here and you're like, wait a minute. There's no district, there is no sort of, and this is the wrong word, but there is no sort of like this invisible barrier between where the adults go at. And where kids and families go, it very much blends and, and flows. And I think that's sort of the word that kept on coming into my mind was the flow is very different.

And I understand the logic behind creating, [00:26:00] putting the Bayou where it is putting Luna, right word is sort of bleeding out into Kegan compass and Tritons where adults can go. Families can go depending on the flow of the day and the evening.

Theron Skees: yes. And, and the what I, one thing that I really, really love that that, that we did was that the, the kids' zone is actually attached to the only, the two elevators.

Right. Um, so anywhere on the ship, you could be on deck 14 with your kids, uh, and you just finished up. In the, um, uh, the, the VIP section or whatever, or you're swimming by the pool. Everybody can pop in the elevator and you could head straight down to the kid's zone right there. If you're on the AFT elevator, you can do the exact same thing.

So I think that level of convenience and really considering circulation super, super, super important, you know, you mentioned the adult areas. And one of the things that we came to realize is that doesn't necessarily have to be centralized as you see in the other ships and to the point, even on, on the magic and the, uh, I'm sorry, on the fantasy and the dream on that forward area, you've got an.

You've got the, that, that forward elevator where families can come out on that deck. And you've got children and whole families walking through the adult only area. And not that a lot of people complain, but some guests were kind of like, Hey, look, this is, it's kind of like our time. So we, we took that to heart and we put the adult zone, um, a completely different place all the way AF and all the way up.

So they had amazing views. They felt very, very special. And in a sense, they kind of felt like I'm behind two or three doors. So I'm, you know, I'm, I'm, I've got my time now.

Lou Mongello: yeah. And it's and gosh, I mean, there's so much, let's quickly go back to the kids because my kids are unfor fortunately. And unfortunately they, I think it's actually, unfortunately too old to enjoy the kids' clubs.

They, we [00:28:00] had a chance to go through on the christening and, and again, during some of the open houses and this. I think brilliant design to not only consolidate the areas on deck two, but have these multiple storytelling themed areas that I think will appeal to anyone of any age, actually Marvel star wars, fairytale hall, the Mickey and minis captain deck, the small world nursery and the imaginary lab.

Like every adult wants to be in there to play in these labs. And what, what I found was so smart about the spaces is that they are smart spaces, meaning it's not just a place to come in, play, play a video game and consume, but also places that they can use their imagination that they can learn. They can create, they can be inspired as.

Theron Skees: absolutely. I'm really glad that you pointed that, uh, the, the, the kids space out, uh, because one of the things, feedback that we got from not just the cruise line, but verbatim from guests, by the way, as a, as a design team, we went through pages and pages of guest verbatim's feedback. Um, that was consolidated cuz the guest feedback is what provides our greatest, um, design criteria as Imagineers.

Right? We did the same thing for Disney Springs. And one of the things that the guest said was, Hey, look, I'm a parent, but I'm kind of a big kid at heart. And I'm like, I got to see the fact that you've got millennium Falcon and you've got the star wars, rebel bass. And I only get, get to see it on the, on the first day.

And then I have to bug my kid about what it was like, I, I wanna play too. So we took that to heart and we said in that kid space, uh, if you could imagine it, we basically provided. two doors, right? One door on the inside. So it's controlled programming, safety programming kids come in, they're protected.

They can access it. [00:30:00] The door to the outside is, is completely locked and, and, and, and safe. But then we said, you know, there might be times when the cruise line wants to run special program. Maybe they want to do a family play hour in the star wars area or the Marvel area. Well, in our design, we provided a way to lock off that room from the rest of the controlled programming and open the room to, to guests who want to come and play.

So it was really cool to be able to design those spaces, uh, for the duality of that. So everybody who wants to be a kid at heart has the opportunity to, to play.

Lou Mongello: Yeah, it's brilliant. And I may or may not have had an opportunity to feed a loft cat on my last, uh, trip down but you made a great point there in that.

The kids wanna be, you know, in the, in the past, kids wanted to be doing what the adults were doing and the adults were like, no, no, no, I wish I was down there. And you found a way, just, he found a way to sort of blend a little bit of those. They've given kids, younger kids. Some of the more, when I say adult, I mean sort of mature experiences where you are learning and creating and, and building virtual reality experiences in the imaginary lab and doing things differently.

And again, not to spoil, but doing things differently in the Marvel section here than maybe you might be doing on other ships, but you also brought. Some of those to quote Mary Poppins elements of fun into the adult side as well. Not just in terms of, look, I love the themeing of, of places like Kegan compass and that, you know, seafaring map of the world.

But let's talk about, you know, the 800 pound woo in the room, the hyperspace lounge, you wanna talk about such a smart inclusion of a space that has been incredibly popular will continue to be popular because it gives kid like adults, that feeling like this is our special space [00:32:00] that is unlike something in Galaxy's edge.

I, you obviously made a very clear choice to sort of theme it to, you know, that, that, that the dried and Vos ship in solo it's like polished metals and the leather and the gold furnishings. It's a very upscale, very elegant, but fun star wars experience. Usually for adults only like in the evening,

Theron Skees: absolutely.

Now you, you called out the star wars reference perfectly. I don't know if, if you got that on your own or if, if, if somebody told you that, but that's exactly, uh, uh, Dryden boss is exactly what we folded off of and, and, uh, you're right. We, you know, that's, that's the, a key component of, um, adults who love Disney, especially adults who love Disney cruised line is that they like to escape and play just as much as the kids.

Do you know, when you, when you think about a theme park, nobody travels to Walt Disney world, for example, and stays in space mountain for seven days. , you know, they don't do that. And, and the attraction it's richly themed, you know, you think of haunted mansion, big thunder mountain, et cetera, richly themed.

Awesome. You could ride it again and again, and pick up new things, but nobody stays in those attractions. or, or even in those parks for that matter, nobody lives in that for seven days, not so on a ship you're in that thing for, for seven days, three days, four days, if, uh, in the future you're taking a crossing or something, it could be 12 days, 14 days.

The, the level of scrutiny that those individual environments get is intense, especially because we know that the Disney fans that, that cruise they're they're our fans, they really are, uh, knowledgeable about the Disney story about the Disney product. And they are the, the deep divers, right? They're not just floaters, they're not just swimmers.

They like to deep dive into story. So we really took that into consideration when thinking of all the levels of finish the [00:34:00] levels of story interactivity, uh, art program, everything so that there was enough. For people to really discover, explore, and, and, and play while they're there multiple days.

Lou Mongello: And going back to sort of what we were mentioning earlier, that the allocation and sort of redistribution of space too, uh, not space in terms of a hyperspace, but space onboard the ship.

You know, we talk about not having the district and, and the flow of guests changing, which you've also done too. Is while there's not that dedicated nighttime space for adults, there is more space for adults to, for lack of a better word, play senses spa, for example, much larger the concierge, lounge and level.

Now two levels with an inside and outside more concierge level rooms. So there, there was sort of a, a, you know, talk to the, the, the conscious choice to allocate more space inside and outside for adults.

Theron Skees: Uh, no question that that was, uh, a hundred percent, um, our direction. It was a business direction, uh, by the cruise line, but it was also an experiential direction that we wanted.

We, we knew that, um, that we, that, that as the cruise line business, they were receiving more, um, luxury focused guests, um, who were looking for more out of their experiences within the existing fleet Disney cruise line over time had offered. Um, all kinds of really interesting things, you know, um, uh, Wagu beef, uh, black truffles, you know, there were, there were add-ons that were luxury add-ons you didn't have to have, then there were still fantastic meals without them.

But if, if you, if you wanted a shot of Remy Martin for $1,500, you could get it right. And, and again, that's not every guest, but catering in a way to a broader demographic of guests was really, really important. And to be [00:36:00] much more thematically on point with all of the spaces. So, um, we oftentimes said, you know, look, adults, uh, like to be immersed in, uh, Disney story.

There's a nostalgic part of that. There's a, you know, an escapism kind of part of that, but sometimes they just wanna be in a really cool luxurious space. And it doesn't want to be in the foreground. So I, I think of several different spaces that are like that. They're really cool. Um, they're very comfortable and there's subtle themeing in there.

Subtle story hints that if, again, if you're a deep diver, you're one of those story, people that you hunt down every, you know, hidden Mickey and, and Ooh, it's black, it's yellow. It's red. It's, it's gotta be Mickey. Um, you know, if you're, if you're one of those types of fans, you know, the, the team provided that for, for you to find.

And, uh, that, that's what I found the most enjoyable was dialing up and dialing back all of those spaces and teams always have the most fun hiding those details in plain sight. And in ways that, that, that, you know, they know will absolutely surprise and delight guests. And, uh, and sometimes when you have, um, it's, I have another little functional story here that made a huge difference, but it took a little while, cuz it was so different and that was the decision to remove the mid.

Elevator. Um, one of the, the, the challenges that the cruise line gave us when we started designing was we've got a lot of congestion within the ship and within the center part of the ship. And, um, and, and we'd like to try to solve that. So our collab collaborative team, um, really kind of got together and, or I should say interconnected team.

So with the ops people, industrial engineering, and we really started looking at that. And the recommendation we came back with was we really think you should remove that bank of elevators. And you could imagine how that went, right? We've, we've lived, [00:38:00] we'd lived with that for 20 years. What, what are you talking about crazy?

And we really studied it. We did a lot of modeling of that, how people would move and the decision was made to do that. And I've, I've gotten feedback now from friends who've gone and. It was the right move because now people know which way to go to programming, how to circulate it, gets them out of that middle area.

So decisions like that have a maybe rooted in practicality, but then we take advantage of that and build something really great like that, um, atrium stage mm-hmm in its place. You know, it's funny

Lou Mongello: a couple of things as you're talking, you know, again, you take out the midship elevators, watch Disney fans who cruise.

Like they, I literally saw people walking behind and like turning their heads. Like where's, there's supposed to be an elevator here and there's exactly. Um, but once like you're there for a couple of years, like, oh, it makes sense. I get it. I see why there's more elevators in the, for the forward and, and AF.

And then I was laughing to myself. When you talked about the $1,500 shot of Remy Martin and people in Disney, probably saying nobody's ever gonna order that nobody's gonna order a $5,000. Kiry drink. They sold seven on the crystal on the, on the maiden they did of the cruise. They, um, quick aside, I actually happened to be there for the very first one that was sold and Becky Mankin, our, our, my travel partner and was there for the third one, uh, to, to see that and actually put a, we put a blog post up, um, covering.

Really something. It it's really amazing to see what it all entails. Again, creating experiences for adults that want to do something that is, um, not only fun and is unique, not just to the ship, but really something that, that you can't do anywhere else. Um, even some of the smallest spaces there and like having hooks barbershop, right?

So now you not only have an untangled salon, but you have a hooks barbershop, which is not [00:40:00] just a place to get, you know, a, a hot shave or, you know, but there's like a little bar in there too. So this it is, there is this interesting use of a small space for adults that just wasn't on other ships

Theron Skees: prior.

Yes. Yeah. We, we made a lot of decisions and, and I think. I, I, you know, I really kudos to the, um, Disney cruise line operations and leadership team, because a lot of those decisions were, were, I, I would consider very edgy, right? It was, Hey, let's take the pools of the upper deck pools and let's divide them.

Let's, don't do one pool, two pools, let's do seven pools or whatever it ended up being. And, and, you know, that's kind of a radical idea. Let's remove the midship elevators, you know, , or let's take the Buena Vista theater and split it in half. Let's do two theaters. Right? So some of that was really bold thinking very, very different than, than, uh, where they were before, but it gave the design team, the creative team, the ability to really push into those spaces.

And I think do more with smaller spaces and create more intimate moments. Uh, let's be honest, sitting at the top, uh, row in the Buena Vista theater, any adult of any size at all. That's the most uncomfortable seat on this ship. You have, your knees are obliterated by the end of the movie. So we said, well, that's silly.

That's really not usable space. If we took the seats and we divided it into two smaller, very high end, like you went to some millionaire's house and got to sit in their theater and the coolest themed theater of all with THX and all that stuff, that would be a way better movie going experience. And you can double up on the movies.

Now you're playing two different movies at the same time. So I think decisions like that were super smart. It. Really fun to be, uh, to think of innovating in those ways. Um, [00:42:00] and my hope is, is once it's been out there and thousands and thousands of people have gone that I hope the reviews are

Lou Mongello: through the roof.

And that's what people are, are going to initially see. And maybe if you've cruised before you almost have to sort of get used to, because it is a, a number of smaller spaces and places by design, um, that are, that do have a more intimate feeling to them. Uh, but I think it's also, I have to imagine there that, that the idea was how do we maximize the utilization of these spaces when there's not something going on?

Like what, what else can we use Triton for? What can we use some of these other locations for, and by not having it be these cavernous spaces, like, you know, a, a tube, for example, and breaking that out, it does allow for a little bit more flexibility in the programming. I have to imagine.

Theron Skees: Such a great observation, Lou honestly, and the, the reason that we could get a, I should say, get away with, or the reason that the quote smaller spaces work is that we made all of the spaces much more flexible.

Um, like you mentioned the tube, right? That, that sort of nightclub environment wasn't really used much during the day. So if you, if you would think of yourself as a property owner and you've got property that you're charging rent for, or, uh, you know, you're leasing these particular spaces, you kind of want every single space to be working hard for you almost every hour that you possibly can.

So we kind of. Approach the Disney cruise line in that way too. And, and the, the discussion was how do we make these spaces work harder for us? We have all this programming, all these things that we do instead of designing a nightclub space. That's so specifically nightclub that it can't be used for anything else.

Why don't we design it? So it's a cool nightclub. It's a cool gaming room. It's a cool meeting room. It's, you know, it, it has all of these different functions and, uh, and, and that's why. Um, that, that also drove the decision [00:44:00] to, um, move the, the sports court indoors and do that as two levels, um, to really drive a lot more functionality of that space and to have it us more usable.

I mean, you're, you've been in that, on that sports court, on the other ships in The Bahamas. And it's, you're about to pass out out at there 110 degrees or something. So moving all that content and, and activity indoors, um, means that it never has to really close it can, you can play there all the time.

Lou Mongello: And it's a great flex space.

I mean, I, you know, the, the, the, the space is used, not just so kids can go in and play basketball, but, you know, bringing in something like the in credit games where families again can do, look, it goes back to Walt, a place for families to have fun together. And I think still there, and it's still sort of the heart of this ship too.

Going back to the spaces. I love, love, love the Bayou. I love the lights and the colors and this open environment that's created with this canopy of Magnolia blossoms and the Moss and the Lily pads and the light. Is gorgeous and you can use it. And I've seen it used for different functions, whether it's having, you know, a small arts and crafts type thing where I saw, you know, families building, you know, little ship models or something together.

And then at night, it turning a little bit more into a lounge and having a three piece band, maybe playing some jazz, having some benets in there. Um, same thing like with Luna, you know, you've sort of taken Delo and you've made it not only two stories, but I, you know, the, the, the, if you haven't been on the wish yet, I, and please correct me if I'm wrong.

You know, the idea is that you're sort of stepping into this castle at sea. And I sort of imagined Luna being, you know, behind the castle, you know, proper, it's almost like the town square where everybody sort of gathers together for whatever, whether it's bingo, whether it's a comedian or a magician.

Theron Skees: A perfect description.

Absolutely. Um, how, how [00:46:00] you overlay the theme and everything is, is, uh, that's the fun part. That's the story. That's what people emotionally connect with, but the functional part of having a two level, um, multi flexible space, um, that, that people that you can close off, um, or that you can leave all the way open.

The, the possibilities of, uh, from an operations standpoint are almost endless. It could be a comedian, it could be the newlywed game. It could be super bowl party. It could be, the Olympics are on. And, and we, you know, we wanna play, I mean, there's so many almost infinite, uh, uses for the space. And, um, and, and so that was, that's a great example of kind of what I'm talking about is, is examining how our guests move on a ship, what their interests are, um, understanding the business of the cruise line.

How do we innovate on our, on, on, on ourselves? How do we innovate with regards to the, uh, did the entire industry and create spaces that. Are functional for a much longer period of time. I mean, even the work that we did on the, we haven't even talked about this, but on the, um, all the passenger decks where all the cabins are, right.

The different overlays and, and thematic feeling that you can get from, from these different decks is really, really cool. And you can, you can book multiple times on the ship and be in different places and have different themes. Um, and we like the idea of creating those unique environments so that it drives people to want to come back over and over and over to see, you know, one ship, not just for the great content of course for that, but to see things that you didn't see last time.

Lou Mongello: And I think the state room is a great example of, of how I sort of define and describe the ship as a whole. It is it's wonderfully. Comfortably elegant, right? There's a little bit more of like an elegant upscale Fe feeling to the state room. [00:48:00] That's a slightly refined layout. Certain things are changed.

You know, there's no drawers, but the, the hint of Disney in terms of the different, the beautiful artwork over the headboard is that sort of like this, this wide kind of cinematic establishing shot to the other little piece of artwork over the couch. And even just on, I, I noticed that the second night that I was there on the, the, the lamps on the side of the.

The subtle little Mickeys that are in there too. Um, even in the design of, of the, the carpets in the hallways, which for Disney cruise fans are so important because , they're not only attractive, but they help you navigate the ship as well. Right.

Theron Skees: exactly. Can't forget about that. I, I think it's those, uh, small details that attention to detail is what that is a key differentiator for the Disney brand.

Um, one of the things that when we were going through that design process as a team, um, I can't believe it was, gosh, you know, four or five years ago, what was happening in the world in the cruise industry? You know, if you sail on vessels, like, um, uh, Oasis of the sea, you know, these massive 6,000 people, uh, cruise lines, uh, capacity.

What I realized when we benchmarked all these different cruises is those things are, are like giant malls and the trend was going away from. Um, AB actually recognizing the fact that you're on the sea. There was no nautical motif there wasn't nautical colors. There wasn't wave forms, fish. It, they, they completely abandoned that.

And the general sentiment, I don't know why was to, to kind of abandon that and Disney wasn't about that, right? I mean the entire ship brand is this golden age of, of sea travel. So we wanted to do nautical references, nautical, you know, nods to the fact that you're on a [00:50:00] seafaring vessel throughout everything that we did.

Some very elegant, some on point some Disney, you know, focused with Disney sea animals or see characters. And so hopefully we, uh, um, created the right balance and that we absolutely remind guests that this is a Disney cruise line experience, not a theme park experience.

Lou Mongello: It is, but it isn't right, because there are theme park-like experiences in terms of the activities and the entertainment.

Right. We haven't even talked about things like the Walt Disney theater and, and the incredible beautiful themeing in this, but, but then we're burying the lead and we need to get to arguably in my world, the most important part of a Disney cruise line voyage, and I will quote a, a very famous and, and wise man, who said, if you are what you eat, I only want to eat the good stuff.

And that wise man of course, was Remy the, we, we use the word dining experience sort of very loosely, but that's absolutely what you have here. Again, following not just the rotational dining concept, but in terms of execution of theme, 1923 is very dif different than worlds of Marvel, worlds of Marvel, which is very different from Aaron Dale and the festival of foods and a Shante and, and Marcine market talked to me a little bit about the, the thought process going in in terms of dining.

Theron Skees: I, I think I, I know. Um, really important factor of any of our guests, uh, vacation is dining. Um, it is, it is this important thing. And I, I think that nobody does dining like Disney does on the sea. I mean, having sailed with lots and lots and lots of other cruise lines all over the world, um, even international cruise lines, Italian cruise lines, German cruise lines.

Um, nobody [00:52:00] does it as well as Disney. And we, you know, when you think of dining experiences, when you're by the pool, for example, playing, you don't wanna have to stop. You don't wanna have to find a jacket and a dress and go sit down with a white tablecloth. I mean, you, you want that later, but by the pool you wanna find good food fast.

You want to be reminded, uh, that you're in a Disney, um, experience. So you, you can do that. You want to go to the right buffet. And be in this environment, you want fine dining. You want a Michel and star dining. So creating all of these different levels and experiences of dining, of, of, uh, lounge experiences that you can get.

If you go in just for a nice drink, uh, you know, cocktail, that kind of thing. Um, it's, it's, you're there for, you know, four days, seven days having that variety is really, really important. And, um, we not only wanted to provide a, a really good variety in the rotational dining restaurants, but we also wanted to provide, um, options for, uh, guests to opt into.

Right. So you have several of those options that, you know, I'm, I'm not gonna eat in the restaurant tonight. I'm we're gonna go up and, and have this, you know, amazing experience at, on, on Shante, for example.

Lou Mongello: Yeah. And one of the things that I found fascinating was. How different each of the experiences was and, and, and on different levels there too.

So for example, 1923, is this elevated, elegant, the warm woods and the metal grill work spoil alert for my review. 1923 is the best dining experience I've had on Disney cruise line period, hands down. Wow. Like, again, going back to the spaces, you took a large dining venue and made intimate spaces out of it.

You [00:54:00] almost feel like you're eating in this very warm, comfortable, Exclusive yet comfortable restaurant with exceptional food, by the way. Um, I love the fact that it embraces Walton Roy, right? That that's not lost at all. It is. In fact it is right off the grand hall. So it is literally mm-hmm front and center.

but it is this wonderfully, again, this comfortable, elegant, refined dining experience. That's part of the rotational dining. That's not an additional charge restaurant.

Theron Skees: I I'm, you're picking up on, on all of the, the, the areas that I, I really hoped that you would, we, we looked at the, uh, the main dining sort of on that main, uh, atrium level.

And we thought to ourselves, there are occasions where it feels too big, uh, on some of the other ships now, not always, but, but. You know, it feels like how, how could we bring more intimate moments there? So this was one of those really massive paradigm shifts. When you start thinking about the GA and how this works, and, and in a sense, it was a bit of a heresy.

When you put that restaurant on deck three, right there by the, at atrium, we literally cut the restaurant completely in half with a corridor that goes back to the AFT elevators. And in a sense are creating two sides of, of a restaurant and, uh, of a single restaurant that offers an immense amount of flexibility for the operator.

But it also provides what you just said, and that is more intimate spaces. It feels like you're in a higher end, smaller. Kind of restaurant. It doesn't feel like a factory. It doesn't feel not, not that our other ones do, but you know, it just doesn't feel that now when you go to, um, Erindale and you're on the AFT end of the ship and this beautiful large, um, entertainment based experience, you'd want it to be big.

You want it to, to, to, to be this experience where performers come through the [00:56:00] aisles and everything. So we tried to look at each space, every space, not just dining and design it in that way, so that it delivered the best experience for the type of dining that, that, or, or lounge that we were going after.

Lou Mongello: And, and I think Erindale is a great example and, and exception to what we've been talking about, right. In terms of these small intimate spaces, because here the, the dining, it, it truly is an a dining experience, right? Because there is a show that takes place, but the dining is. Supported by the entertainment and not the other way around, like the, the, the entertainment does not overwhelm the dining experiences, but it was a brilliant choice to take the server stations out from the center areas and corridors that are not only obstructing to flow, but to line of sight.

So there is no bad seat in the house for this right. Central square stage that you feel like you're almost in this sort of like outdoor environment, sort of in a town square. Watching this very, very, very well performed and very funny show by the way, um, that doesn't feel like a cavernous space at all.

Even when there's 700 whatever plus guests in the same

Theron Skees: time. Right. Uh, I'm, I'm so glad, uh, that you had that experience because, you know, in collaboration with the cruise lines, we really caught our teeth on that idea. Um, uh, with, um, the wonder. When we brought Tiana's place to life, that was really us experimenting and playing with this idea of an entertainment based dining experience.

And, and how could we do that? Now? We, we had, we couldn't do a lot in that space, cuz it was already designed. We couldn't knock down walls and all that stuff, obviously [00:58:00] a big challenge on a ship. Um, but we made it work within that space. And I think when that restaurant launched, um, I think it was portal magazine or, or CLE.

I don't remember somebody came back and ranked it the best restaurant at sea at sea. That, that that's amazing. I mean, how many high end, you know, restaurants are there? So that gave Disney cruise line, you know, my imaginary team, it gave us the ability to say this is gonna work. So that really became a standard on the ships as an entertaining.

An entertainment based dining show. And, uh, and then when we got the chance to do it on the wish we purpose built and designed the whole space to really support that idea. So,

Lou Mongello: yeah, and even worlds of Marvel and again, not to spoil anything, I was very intentional in my coverage, not to sort of show a lot of video of what happens, not just on screen, but around you in the theater.

And while there are a lot of guests in that space, you do feel immersed, but you don't feel overwhelmed again because of the design and the layout. It does feel like a relatively intimate experience, not just with you and your server, but with some of the action that that takes place around you to support the dining experience and not the other way around.

Theron Skees: Yes. Fantastic. I mean, these are, these are, um, intellectual properties that our guests love so much. And I think when you, when you look at shows, um, like drawn to animation, um, on the dream and the fantasy, you have a lot of. Entertainment, you have a lot of experience going on. Um, and that proved to, uh, the cruise line and to imaginary that you could really structure a show around the timing of dining and it doesn't interrupt the dining experience, you know, cuz you, last thing you'd want is crush sitting there, Hey kid, [01:00:00] Hey kid.

You know, and the kid's like, I'm just trying to eat, you know, so, so, you know, figuring that right timing and the right level of interaction and that flow taking all of that information and pouring it into worlds of Marvel. So that, and, and also, um, Erindale right. It it's this perfect balance of entertainment and dining and family time.

You still get to enjoy. You're not, you're not screaming at each other over some loud music or something. It's all bounced

Lou Mongello: sit there. And, and I said multiple times to myself and, and out loud, I said, this is. An incredibly well choreographed ballet between the show that is going on, that is sort of programmed and, and sort of being performed live in, in both locations, as well as coordinating with the kitchen that has to get out fresh food to X number of guests, relatively speaking all at the same time, is this wonderful?

It is, it was sort of like a ballet and just watching it all. Ha I can imagine what that kitchen must look like. It was like being amazing to see, but what was happening on stage and off stage? I, I, it, I appreciate the choreography that really must take and, and the strategy to make that all happen.

Theron Skees: Disney cruise line crew, I have to say are just absolutely the best, just the, the very best of the best.

And you know, when you, when you create a space, like, we'll just say Erindale, for example, um, you have so many different things going on. As you said, you have food service, you have drink service, you've got entertainment, personnel moving in and out. You've got guests, uh, you, you know, you have a guest that their, their son or daughter has to go to the bathroom.

So you get up in the middle and you have to consider all of these things when you're designing. How do you put all of that together? Um, how do, uh, crew, uh, go in and out of the, the galley in a way that's that, that that's the most seamless for them? Um, where do you put those wait stations so that it works for them and, and where [01:02:00] do you put the POS stations?

And I mean, there's so much of that that's integrated and, and I hope your audience. Um, thinks and considers that too. It's not just, you've got this great space. Let's plop this really cool show in here. I mean, months were spent on arranging the tables and this table should be square and we have to make this table round because, and this only gets this many seats and well, what if we elevate the floor slightly here?

So these people can see months and months of, of really painstaking detail to, to deliver that kind of, of experience. Yeah.

Lou Mongello: I, I am very hyper aware of and hope that other guests are too. Not only that everything speaks, but that there is a, uh, sometimes method to the madness. There's a reason why things are the way they are and, and placed where they are.

And quickly, just to, I think bears mentioning, you know, you talked about having the casual dining experience, the family dining experience, the entertainment dining experience, but there, there is this level of dining experience, which is an addon as it has been in the past with Apollo and Remy. But now with Apollo steakhouse, an on Shante, two venues that I promise you for research purposes only I, I did

I did have occasion to dine in both. You forget that you are on a Disney ship, not just because of the appointments at a accouts and the food, but the overall experience is very, very different.

Theron Skees: Well, one of the, I I'm, I'm glad that it, it came together that way, uh, because that was our, that was our goal in our direction.

How can some spaces just be amazing spaces? Disney creates amazing spaces. How could there be very subtle hints of Disney character disease story? Um, but that was very purposeful. Uh, at the time again, leadership was [01:04:00] thinking very much along the lines of look, we, we definitely get families. We have multi-generational families that come through, um, Disney cruise line, I think really owns, uh, the family cruise space, uh, that niche within the.

But there was a, a pretty big effort to say we wanna attract, uh, adults without kids, whether it's older adults or whether it's, um, just, you know, um, adults that, that don't have any children of their own. And how can we attract, uh, these individuals in a way that they won't be put off by quote unquote for, um, uh, you know, fan, uh, people who are not maybe like Uber fans of Disney, how, how would they, uh, still come and.

The level of service, the attention to detail the, um, the great, uh, performances, you know, how could we create a space that, that would draw that particular segment of the population in? So some, a lot of those choices you'll see were, were based on that. How can we do that? We absolutely have to meet the needs of our fans, of our, of our, you know, Disney guests, but how can we bring in potentially new guests that maybe never cruise with Disney before and, and maybe they're cruising without kids.

And they look at it as it's still a cut above, uh, what everybody else can

Lou Mongello: do. And, you know, one thing I think we, that bear's mentioning to Darren is part of what I think initially draws us to the Disney parks. And maybe even to Disney cruise is the, is the fact that it is a theme park at sea it's entertainment, it's attractions, and.

You, you mentioned some of the smaller venues and spaces and things that go on. I think it also bears mentioning two quick things. One, the Walt Disney need theater, um, which is beautiful. Again, thematically it's different. It's um, it's very warm. It's very woodsy. Like I I'm, I'm sort of imagining like the forests of Fantasia.

Um, but again, very elegant with [01:06:00] these gilded columns and dimensional flowers and trees and the technology that's integrated into that theater. My daughter, my daughter's a stage management major and she just sort of lost her mind watching shows in that theater and the Aqua mouse, right. That first attraction at sea, going from the Aqua duck to the Aqua dunk, to some of the other things and then taking it and sort of dialing it up a little bit more.

Talk to me a little bit about those faces and really. Sort of two sort of hallmark attractions at

Theron Skees: sea. Absolutely. Yeah. The Wal Disney theater. I mean, you have to deliver over the top. Um, with that theater, we, we realized that a lot of our guests, um, maybe they never had an opportunity to go to Broadway and see a Broadway show, uh, or, or the west end, uh, you know, in London or something, maybe, maybe they're maybe they just never had that opportunity.

And this gives, uh, those guests the opportunity to sit in this beautiful, as you described it, guilded sort of over the top, you know, traditional looking theater, this, this beautiful theater, but then we, we really overwhelmed them. with, uh, Disney storytelling, Disney, theatrical, um, all of these new technologies that are in that space and.

You know, the goal is to surprise and delight these guests in a way that they just did not expect. Um, and even more important is to, and, and more difficult is to deliver on Disney cruise line fans. If you've been sailing with Disney for 20 years, you know, the wish you want to come out and wow, those fans who are like, I've seen it all, I've done it all.

I love it all. I dare you to blow me away. And, and, and hopefully, you know, the collective team that works so hard to, to, to, you know, get this ship launched, hopefully, uh, that that's guess will feel that way. And then as far as this attraction at sea, you know, when you start to look at the Aqua [01:08:00] dunk, uh, or the Aqua duck, for example, either one of those, it's brilliant.

It's just, it's amazing. And it's, it's hard to improve on something that's so incredible. And, uh, I know the team in early days, we thought through so many different iterations of that. It was unbelievable, but how to really up our game and really make that much more of an attraction, much more interactive.

And, um, from the little bit of Fe little bit of feedback that I've read and I've seen, it feels like, uh, the team has done that really delivered something that is, is completely unique. It's really gonna be hard to, uh, outdo that on the next

Lou Mongello: two shows. Yeah, I was gonna say, well, and I was gonna say the, the.

Um, the Aqua mouse is, is a very multi-sensory experience. And again, I won't spoil too much for anybody who hasn't had a chance to write. Well, even the Wal Disney a theater is, is, is at times a, a multi-sensory experience. Quick aside, spoiler sees the adventure. Like I've been on cruises before I've seen the welcome show.

I'm like, okay, fine. I absolutely loved it. Like I love, love, love. the Aqua mouse is it made me think of Mickey and mini's runaway railway. It's like being dropped into a Mickey animated short. That is a ride that has visual and sort of mm-hmm 4d

Theron Skees: effects. absolutely. And I think that was one way that, that we all thought would really, uh, go over the top is, you know, it's, what do you do on the deck of a ship?

Right. It's all about sea, sun, fun being with families, swimming, you know, getting wet, having a good time and trying not to get burnt. Um, so how do you take that up a notch and how do you really, um, lean into even more Disney storytelling? And we kind of felt like on the, on the deck, that's a place where you could really do that and, and, and actually get kind of wacky with high jinx and all [01:10:00] that stuff.

So, yeah, I'm, I'm super proud with, uh, with what was done there. Um, how we thought about that. I really loved, uh, the playground as well, uh, for the younger swimmers, you know, you have to separate that. You don't have all the big, big kids that are running and playing, you know, running, uh, through all the toddlers.

So creating a toddler area and trying to do that in a way that was really, um, appropriate for the age, but also, um, supported mom and dad, uh, in that space and, and, um, and delivered something another really, really cool thing. So I don't know, I don't wanna spoil their alert on that one, but that we, that was awesome.

Really cool. No, I loved

Lou Mongello: it too. I walked by again, my kids are a little, a lot too old for it, but I loved sort of the design and this is just spoiler, cuz little kids probably aren't listening or will remember anyway, but even just sort of the design of some of the little slides they're almost sort of made to look like they were inflatables.

Like they look like they're soft and squishy, but they're really meant for, for little kids. I thought was really very, very smart. Um, Again, look, Darren, we could talk as we have been in the past, we could talk four hours just about the wish itself. Um, I think what this does is whether you are a first time cruiser and, and I think, I think the, the wish is actually a, an ideal choice for first time cruisers, especially Disney cruisers.

If you have young kids or older kids, families, as well as those looking for an upscale cruising experience on Disney cruise line, I think some guests will be very, very surprised that if that is the type of experience you are looking for, it is very, very much available. And if you want it to be, can be sort of separate from maybe things that maybe you don't want to experience on board, um, right for you is, do you have a favorite part of either this ship or [01:12:00] cruise line in general, or maybe I can't miss unique, innovative experience.

Theron Skees: Oh, gosh, it's, it's like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. I know, but deep down

Lou Mongello: your, we have, you just don't say it out loud.

Theron Skees: um, I, I, I don't know. There's so we've, we've kind of hit on all of them actually. Um, I love, especially in the, the, what I'm doing now, I've run my own company and, and working with clients and, and I love solving problems. I love bringing, um, innovative breakthroughs that actually drive business that, uh, create this connection with the brand and.

And when you realize that you had, I had the opportunity to do that for the Disney company for, you know, 23 plus years. And, um, and you're, that's the brass ring, right? I got no better training in the industry than there. And, and I look at all of those spaces, you know, dividing up the pools, you know, that was awesome.

That occurred in a day and in my sketch pad. And I just drew out all these different pools and cuz if a little guy has an accident in the pool, it's closed for like four hours. Right. And, and I, you know, you're on a cruise line and you're sitting there. And Disney's cleaning the pool and doing the best job that they can.

And all these people are disappointed because the pool is

Lou Mongello: closed. That seems when body shack is playing in my head right now, but then

Theron Skees: baby rude. But anyways, keep going. Uh, and, and by, by dividing that up, it's a functional solution, but it's really super creative because then those pools you, you cover over at night and you've got great viewing area for the spectacular, it's just stuff like that.

I, I just love, uh, dividing the, the BU Vista theater into two smaller ones. I love that. I love the, um, I really loved, uh, the aaronel doing that on the back of the ship and having, uh, windows that you can see during the day, you can see out of the sea. We imagined, you know, wedding ceremonies there and everything, the beautiful view [01:14:00] AFT, um, I don't know there's I don't, I can't really say I have a favorite.

Oh, converting the funnel into a suite. Hello. I mean, that was, that was so fun. So I, I don't know. I, I, it was probably one of my funnest, most fun projects. Um, with my time with Disney, um, I learned so much, uh, having never done nautical design or anything before starting the project. It was a very steep learning curve, uh, in the beginning.

Uh, but extremely rewarding. And as always, you know, my hope is like every imagin year's hope is that the guests that we designed it for are blown away, that they love it, that it's, it delivers in every way that we hope that it would well.

Lou Mongello: And, and I know it's, it's, you know, you can design and create a build the most wonderful place in the world takes people to make a dream reality.

I cannot imagine the countless number of people and the enumerable number of hours, especially. Through a pandemic and all those things that, that made this all come, excuse me, made this all come together. Um, so beautifully and, and I'm sure I am not the only person who walked on board the ship and saw some of these things the same way we sometimes walk into.

New attractions and say things there I'm like, how does Disney do that? Like, how are they able to do it? If only there was someone who would maybe put together a book that would help make us understand how Disney does that? What a

Theron Skees: great idea. You're hinting at my newest project. it's, uh, I, I think that's something that guests really love.

How do they do that? So, uh, a guy that I met, uh, uh, an author, uh, we were actually partnering to create a book called how does Disney do that? And it's, uh, basically the guest, uh, the voice of the guests that says, I wonder how that happens. And, and the response of an experienced designer that says, here's, here's how [01:16:00] we create these things.

Here's how we create this magic and why. So, uh, that's a really fun culmination of, of my time with Disney and, and I, I hope when we get it all together, that, uh, that guests will love that as

Lou Mongello: well. Absolutely. And we'll, uh, we'll certainly keep in touch and, and we'll share that when it comes out in the meantime, Darren, where can people find you if they want to connect with you or sort of follow you or adventures.

Theron Skees: Fantastic. Well, I'm on all of the standard socials. Uh, probably one of the easiest places to find me is on LinkedIn. Uh, but I also have Instagram, uh, don't do much on Twitter anymore, but, uh, YouTube channel, um, I offer quite a lot of videos that help people understand how to do what we do, uh, at imaginary.

Um, I have a, I run a business it's called the designers' creative studio. I currently have clients all over the world. I do quite a lot of consulting there. And then through my website, which is also called, uh, the designers' creative studio, um, I offer quite a lot of, um, uh, different things, classes, courses, um, and I do quite believe it or not quite a lot of mentoring, uh, through my site, scheduling a lot of people, um, surprising to me.

I've had company CEOs come through and ask me. Um, about different aspects of the industry, how to structure things all the way through to students and, uh, new professionals that are looking to structure their portfolio. So I, I try to stay busy and, and stay connected to, um, this group of new professionals that are moving into this industry.

I, I really enjoy that.

Lou Mongello: Well, it don't, that makes sense because, uh, as always nobody does it like Disney and the Disney wish is a perfect example of that. Uh, there, thank you again so much, not just for your time again today, but for everything. And, uh, I'm sure the blood, sweat, and tears that probably went into creating something that that is truly spectacular.

Theron Skees: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Incredible teamwork. It, hopefully I try to weave that through everything. Incredible partnership, incredible teamwork, nothing gets done by, uh, individuals. It's all, uh, about making it work with the [01:18:00] team. So I hope your audience members tell lots of people. They go enjoy it and, and I hope they have the time of their lives.