Last week, we were traveling on the Disney Cruise Line’s newest ship (the Disney Dream) and then stopped by Walt Disney World for a few days. While we were there, we noticed some beer related changes.
First of all, the Disney Dream is much bigger than DCL’s previous ships (the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder). And Disney seems to have learned that bars and lounges are a great way to make money on cruise ships. Everywhere you turned, there was a bar or location selling alcohol. There was even one in the buffet-style restaurant “Cabanas.”
While it was nice to see that many of these bars and lounges had one or two taps, the selection was less than exciting. The offerings generally stayed in the Bud Light or Michelob Amber Bock range, though one bar featured Guinness on draft. On both the Magic and the Wonder, the sports bar on board offered the most draft options so we were surprised to see only one tap handle in the Dream’s sports bar “687.”
This bar is named after the number assigned to the Dream at the shipyard. It’s considered bad luck to refer to a ship by its name as it’s being built so they referred to it by its number. The only tap in 687 has, what we were originally told, was a beer brewed just for that location. As we sat at the bar talking to the bartender, we asked who brewed it for them. “A small microbrewery in the Pacific Northwest” was the answer. We, of course, asked which one. Knowing Disney’s previous associations with breweries and distributors, we guessed Red Hook. No, that wasn’t it. Was it Widmer? Yep, that’s the one.
Twice while we were in the bar, the keg blew. The second time, Carla leaned over the bar to check out the keg tag before it was placed in the cooler. It was indeed a Widmer keg. But, it wasn’t something brewed just for 687. It was Widmer’s Drifter Pale Ale.
Now, we love Drifter. There’s a sixth barrel of it on our kegerator downstairs right now. Tom even calls it his “happy place beer.” What’s unclear is why Disney felt that they needed or wanted to pass it off as something brewed just for 687. Perhaps it was just a misunderstanding on the part of the cast members. Many of the cast members we spoke to readily admitted that they didn’t know much about beer. Tom struck up a conversation with a young ship’s officer who appeared to be in some sort of management position over the bars in that section of the ship. They quickly established that he was a home brewer with a penchant for brewing lagers. Tom commented on the relative lack of draft taps at the bars compared to the older Disney ships. The officer said it was intentional given that draft beer sales were slow on the other ships. He mentioned that the Stella Artois currently on the Dream was actually excess inventory from the Magic. What Tom wanted to say was they’d probably sell more beer if what they sold was any good, but he didn’t. It would also probably help if the bartenders who didn’t like beer would be trained not to announce that fact at every opportunity.
Disney undoubtedly employs herds of MBAs from very good schools who have reams of data to show that this is exactly how they should be handling beer sales. They’ll be paying off their student loans for a long time and when they’re finally done with that and contemplate what they’ve done with their lives, they’ll still be wrong. Folks who come on the ships and want better beer aren’t going to buy what AB-InBev-SAB-MillerCoors is selling. Those folks who usually like what AB-InBev-SAB-MillerCoors sells aren’t going to be buying beer. There are far too many fluorescent drinks with bland, culturally-insensitive names (and umbrellas!) available. It’s not like Disney to leave money sitting on the table, but somehow they’ve missed the fact that better beer sells better than the mass-marketed stuff.
Disney has become justifiably well-known for the quality of their wine offerings at all of their properties (except the Magic Kingdom, of course). If the Disney ships did beer even half as well as they do wine, they’d truly become the happiest places on Earth.