Disney skeptics, who think that particular brand name signifies family fun only, should check out the cruise ship the Disney Wonder, which provides a startling amount of adult amusement. Yes, there are plenty of activities for the under-12 set, but a surprising amount of the ship is reserved for adult activities. There is an adults-only restaurant, an adults-only swimming pool and spa, and, best of all, there is Route 66.
Route 66 is the umbrella name for a trio of nightclubs, each of which offers a different entertainment option for cruisers. They are linked by a corridor thumbed in tribute to Route 66, the famous highway which once provided the United States with its main road link between the East and West Coasts. (Among its features is a carpet designed like a road map and a series of billboards and large postcards on the wall, depicting faux-advertising typical of America at mid-20th century.) Each club is also themed to invoke the simple pleasures of middle-class life as it was lived several decades ago.
First off is Barrel of Laughs, a comedy club given a brewery theme by David Rockwell, who assisted in the design of all three clubs. He created a retro-industrial look, with copper pipes and conveyor belts hanging from the ceiling, and a loading dock, which doubles as a stage. The banquette booth seating looks like copper beer barrels and the tables are giant bottle caps. "It's as if somebody found this gem of a space and polished it back up" for use as an entertainment venue, says Helenka Snyder, Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) Design and Production project manager for all three Route 66 clubs.
To embellish the club's theme, Snyder added lots of atmospheric touches. The cobalt-blue-colored tables are internally illuminated with fluorescent fixtures, while custom-designed pendant fixtures hung from the ceiling enhance the space's industrial look. Other fixtures project carbonated bubble patterns on the walls, vividly supporting the brewery theme. The total effect of the lighting, combined with the extensive use of copper and zinc metals, is to create a warm and inviting space, where laughter is welcome. The warm feeling is augmented by the front and back bars, which are lit in blue with cold cathode units.
The relatively small entertainment lighting rig for Barrel of Laughs includes Strand Lighting Preludes and Quartets, Altman Shakespeares, and Martin Professional moving-mirror units. The latter are used "to pick out tables, when we have guest interaction with the stage show," says Bob Tracht, who as show program manager for WDI was responsible for all the entertainment systems on both the Disney Wonder and its sister ship, the Disney Magic.
All the Route 66 clubs are used extensively during the day, for other activities such as improvisational classes, wine-tasting sessions, and games, among other things. Therefore, notes Snyder, there are five main lighting settings in Barrel of Laughs, depending on the time of day. "There's an afternoon setting, for daytime activities, and then a preshow level, which is a little more intimate than the show level, which is a bit darker." There are special effects related to the show, as well. "When the show is over, siren lights placed in the ceiling start to rotate, the bubble patterns go back on and the light level goes back up." The table lights are also turned off at certain points in the comedy show.
Cruisers looking for a more sophisticated ambiance will probably gravitate toward the Cadillac Lounge piano bar. Says Snyder, "General Motors [the maker of Cadillac automobiles] has a corporate alliance with the Walt Disney Company. We wanted to do something fun with Route 66, and one of the most famous images associated with Route 66 is of the great old cars, filled with families, driving down the road. Of course, the image of the 1959 Cadillac is very popular; when you look at a 1959 Cadillac tailfin, you know what it is, even if you're not a car enthusiast."
Thus the Cadillac Lounge is a Hollywood fantasy of a swank cocktail lounge, with gorgeous dark wood walls and lots of touches that expand on the Cadillac theme, including an authentic-looking car grille behind the bar, complete with headlights, tailfin accessories built into the pillars, and red bands of cold cathode light that add to the darkly alluring atmosphere. Snyder notes that the WDI team worked with General Motors to ensure that the car details created in larger versions in the space were accurate in their dimensions and proportions. Accent lighting is the primary design principle in this room, with the aforementioned cold cathode bands; also, the designer says, "The tailfin pilaster is internally illuminated at the top with fluorescent fixtures, and MR-16s have been placed at each base, illuminating the length of each tailfin."
As with Barrel of Laughs, there are several light settings available in the Cadillac Lounge. At night, the space is very dark, with much of the light coming from two fiber-optic murals designed and painted by WDI depicting city scenes, one behind the stage, and one placed on the opposite side of the room. Snyder adds that there are "custom chrome and alabaster headlight fixtures on the ceiling that can also throw a lot of light in the space," but the Cadillac Lounge is at its best when the lights are low.
Tracht adds that, in Barrel of Laughs and the Cadillac Lounge, the architectural and entertainment lighting is controlled by the Strand Premiere Network Manager system. "Because the rooms have multiple functions in the daytime, we designed the system so one person could go in, press a preset, and bring up a look or two or three in addition to controlling all the other entertainment system components--it's that simple." Entertainment lighting in Barrel of Laughs is controlled by an ETC Expression console.
At Barrel of Laughs and Cadillac Lounge, the guests enjoy more sedentary pleasures. In Wavebands, they are expected to dance the night away. Wavebands is a dance club with a distinctively retro look; it's like stepping inside a vintage radio. Thus custom-made microphone lights dangle over various tables, both bars in the club are defined by internally-illuminated circuit-board effects, while another wall facade resembles the face of an old-fashioned radio. Pillars in the center of the room are designed as radio towers while, in the ceilings, concentric copper rings of cold-cathode light create the impression of sound waves diffusing throughout the space. Crackle-neon lightning bolts, also in the ceiling, add to the electricity in the room.
The entertainment lighting in Wavebands includes 62 ETC Source Four units, one Lycian Super Arc 400 followspot, 15 Martin Pro 518s, 12 Martin Robocolor Pro 400s, 16 Thomas PAR-56s, eight Clay Paky automated moving-yoke pinspots, eight Coemar Versalite multi-ray effects fixtures, and four High End Systems Dataflash(R) AF-1000s. Other key pieces of equipment include LeMaitre G300 smoke machines, a BD 3200 video projector from Barco, and rigging by JR Clancy (the rigging was installed by the now-defunct Glantre Engineering).
Tracht notes that the architectural lighting in Wavebands features Strand dimming, while the entertainment rig is controlled by ETC Sensor dimmers. The Jands Hog is used to control the lighting, although there is also an ETC Expression 250 on hand. Interestingly, Tracht notes, "The ships are built in Europe and are set up for European power. But these ships [which cruise the Caribbean] exist in close proximity to our theme parks, so we wanted a standardization of equipment to allow us to share items. We chose to stay with US voltages. All of the entertainment equipment on the ship is the standard 110V, while most of the architectural lighting on the ship is 220V."
Of course, there's one other little thing, says Tracht. "There's a huge broadcast plant throughout the ship. If anyone wants to do a TV broadcast in Wavebands, there's connectivity from there to our broadcast center. There are broadcast satellites on the ship. It's easy in a theme park from venue to venue, but not so on a cruise ship. So there's fiber-optic communication lines, for audio and video, going to all the major venues onboard." Once again, Disney thinks of everything. At any rate, adult cruisers on the Disney Wonder should find plenty of fun along the byways of Route 66.