Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The History of Disney's Cruise Line

By Kevin Faux

The Disney Cruise Line is more than just another cruise company. Disney designed its ships to be innovative, offering unique facilities and programs, each with Disney's hallmark, first class service. People were surprised when the Disney company announced the launch of a cruise line. Would the Disney company find success on the high seas? Could the company famous for inventing modern theme parks reinvent the cruise line business? Disney decided to find out, and so will we in today's new article on the history of the Disney Cruise Line by Kevin Faux...

When Disney decided to break into the cruise industry the ships had to be the largest in the business, the design had to make them stand out, the workmanship had to be top notch and the experience had to live up to the expectations of the Disney name.

The history of the Disney Cruise Line began in November 1985 when Premier Cruise Lines became the official cruise line of Walt Disney World. Premier's 'Big Red Boat' offered Disney characters and packages that included stays at the Walt Disney World Resort. When the ten year contract with Premier was up, Disney set off on its own with an ambitious goal: to become the best cruise line in the world.

Back in 1992 the Disney Cruise Line was just an idea and the blue sky phase was in full force. Some of the ideas for the design of the first ship were tropical, some futuristic, one even planned for a floating theme park, but after awhile it was back to the drawing board and time to get serious. Michael Eisner wanted a ship with a classic look but with modern style. The architects puzzled over the request until one design caught the attention of the Disney CEO. The design was one of a cruise liner from the early 20th century with distinct modern touches. The design of the ship brought back round port holes, horizontal rails and multiple funnels. Eventually, after plans were hashed out, Disney entered into a contract with Fincantieri, an Italian shipbuilder to construct their very first ships...

After months of construction, the two halves of the ship were joined together perfectly and the Disney Magic finally became whole. After several more weeks of construction the Disney Magic was floated out to sea for the first time on May 13, 1998.

After years of planning and months of intense construction the Disney Magic finally arrived at its home port in Port Canaveral, Florida. The Magic was christened on July 30 1998 and its godmother is Patty Disney, wife of the late Roy E. Disney.

Soon enough, the Disney Magic set sail on her maiden voyage becoming an ocean going cruise liner and the flag ship of the Disney Cruise Line. The Disney Wonder soon followed and set sail for the first time on August 15, 1999. The ships each contain 875 staterooms and are not identical in their design, with a lot of variations in interior design, restaurants and entertainment venues. Both contain areas designed exclusively for various age groups, including children, teenagers, and adults. Also, both ships have received upgrades over the years; most recently the Magic was 're-imagined' in late 2013.

The two original ships are the first in the industry to be designed and built from the keel up as family cruise liners, with the goal of accommodating parents and children. Unlike most ships of their type, they do not include casinos. Disney ships also feature ship's horns which play the opening seven-note theme When You Wish Upon a Star from Disney's Pinocchio, in addition to the traditional horn.

The Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy entered service in January 2011 and March 2012, respectively. These new 129,690-ton ships are 1,114 ft long and 121 ft wide. They are also 2 decks taller than Disney Magic and Disney Wonder and have 1,250 staterooms each.

The funnel of the Dream being built in Germany.

Construction of the Disney Fantasy

Disney Dream arrives in Port Canaveral.

Disney Fantasy Inaugural ceremony.

It really is true that the Disney Cruise Line is more than just another cruise company. If you've ever been lucky enough to sail on one of these gorgeous ships you know exactly what I mean. Enjoy some more beautiful shots of Disney's stunning fleet...

And now, let's go on a voyage of discovery and witness the birth of Disney's very first ship, the Disney Magic. Below you will find a wonderful feature of the actual In-Room Ship TV Channel that are available only on the Disney Cruise Line. This program shows us how Disney and the Imagineers dreamed up the Disney Magic Ship. I hope you enjoy...


Kevin Faux is a Canadian Disney fan all the way from Nova Scotia. Kevin has been on countless trips to Walt Disney World and loves to collect Disney music. He looks forward to sharing his love of Walt Disney World history with the readers of Disney Avenue.

You can find Kevin's articles here.