Something that always surprises me about the Disney parks is how the cast of characters that does meet-and-greets has grown, and how much kids love it - especially little girls and the princesses. It struck me again on my just-completed cruise on the Disney Fantasy. There were characters everywhere on the cruise, 25 or 30 of them, both in scheduled appearances and surprise pop-ups. They gave dance lessons,
One day I was standing at a balcony rail overlooking the atrium, when six princesses came sweeping down the grand staircase, lined up at the foot of the stairs, and waited, twirling their full skirts and waving at the little girls. Not having children of my own, I haven’t kept up with Disney characters, and I had no idea who some of the princesses were, so I asked a girl standing nearby to name them.
“That’s Cinderella, and that’s Snow White,” she said, and paused, eyeing me as if to see just how ignorant I really was. “I know those two,” I said. She seemed relieved, until I added, “and that’s Sleeping Beauty.”
“That’s Aurora,” she corrected me. Oh, right. Sleeping Beauty isn’t her real name.
“That’s Belle from Beauty and the Beast,” she continued, “Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, and Ariel, from The Little Mermaid.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “If she’s a mermaid, where’s her tail?”
The girl just gave one of those “adults are so dumb” looks.
Something new on this ship is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a beauty salon and princess accessories store that appeared first in the theme parks. By the last night of the cruise, it was evident a number of girls had dragged mom or dad, or more likely, a grandparent, to the boutique, because they were wearing their princess dresses, upswept hair, and glitter on their cheeks.
Disney had scheduled a last, mass appearance of characters in the atrium, and the little girls were out in force in their finery. Boys were there too, for Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Pluto and other characters were there too.
There was an orgy of picture-taking. Finally, the princesses and the other characters swept back up the stairs, waving good night, as a shower of gold confetti, shaped like tiny mouse ears, showered down on us. Girls and boys grabbed for the confetti and picked up handfuls from the floor, the stardust of childhood.