Donald Duck, who turns 77 this year, has impressively gone high tech, starring in a new water ride aboard the upper reaches of the latest addition to the Disney Cruise Line fleet, the 128,000-ton, 1,250-cabin Dream. After an invitation-only Port Canaveral, Fla., christening last week with Dreamgirls Oscar winner (and former Disney Cruise Line singer) Jennifer Hudson serving as the ship's official godmother, the luxury Dream leaves on her maiden voyage with the public Wednesday.
Only don't expect to play shuffleboard. Called the AquaDuck (as in aqueduct, get it?), the ship's exhilarating poolside flume ride shoots bathing-suited bravehearts through a 765-ft.-long pneumatic tube propelled by 10,000 gallons of gushing water per minute. Think Splash Mountain, only with faster twists and turns – and with you as the cascading log. Top speed: 20 feet per second.
Actually, the ride – purportedly dreamt up by Donald Duck's nephews and broken in by Donald before it was finished – was inspired by Walt Disney World's Typhoon Lagoon water park. "AquaDuck combines a water blaster with the Lazy River," Orlando-based Disney Imagineer Peter Ricci tells PEOPLE, "and we elevated it, so it wouldn't take up too much deck space."
There's an added fear factor, too, when riders virtually fly off the ship – via a translucent "swing out" loop that sails 13 feet off the side of the Dream.
Having been the first Disney staff member ever to ride the Duck, Ricci advises seating two people per inflatable raft, rather than merely one. Reason? "You go faster."
No Way OutAs for those who might turn chicken midway through the plunge (up to 250 riders can be accommodated an hour), Ricci notes that, although there is no escape hatch until the AquaDuck reaches its smooth splashdown, "the ride is only 55 seconds."
Meanwhile, for those adults who wish to get high but not wet on the Dream – whose launch brought out Whoopi Goldberg, John Stamos, Mickey Mouse and other top Disney brass, along with Dancing with the Stars' Cheryl Burke and Lacey Schwimmer and a fleet of pirates – there's the kiddie-free District, featuring clubs and bars. Among them: the cocktail refuge Skyline, where virtual-reality screens deliver alternating vistas of Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Rio and Chicago.
The new ship, which can carry up to 4,000 passengers, is approximately 50 percent larger than the line's two others, the 83,000-ton Disney Magic (launched in 1998) and the Disney Wonder (1999) – whose godmother happens to be Tinkerbell. Make that fairy godmother.
Gary Buchanan / Disney