The Disney Cruise Line History

Previously on Rob Plays: It was 1984 and Disney
wanted to get into the cruise industry. Unfortunately cruise ships are really expensive. So they partnered with Premier Cruise Line
who offered Disney Cruises on The Big Red Boat. Things were great. In 1994 the partnership ended. Premier decided to partner with Warner Bros
instead. It worked out well for them… until it didn’t. Disney tried to partner with the Royal Caribbean
Cruise Line. It didn’t work out. Disney tried to partner with the Carnival
Cruise line. It also didn’t work out. So Disney decided it was finally time for
them to just spend the money and start their own cruise line, the Disney Cruise Line. In the late 1980s and 90s, when it came to
entertainment and vacation ventures, Disney’s philosophy was that the best approach was
to take a crash course in the industry in question and take a try at it themselves. They believed that their methodology to entertainment
was unique, and that applying it to these new ventures allowed them to do it “the
Disney way.” For reasons mentioned in the last video, which
you should check out before watching this one, Disney simply couldn’t do that with
cruises. But as their partnership options ran dry in
1994, Disney was in a much better financial situation compared to a decade prior when
they first wanted to get into the industry. So they decided that it was finally time to
do what they always did best, which was approach the venture “the Disney way.” Disney Cruise Vacations, as it was referred
to at the time, was announced in May of 1994, but it would over four years before any ships
would set sail. Disney decided that instead of buying second-hand
ships which cruise lines would sometimes do to build a fleet, they would have two brand
new ships built from scratch. Disney was prepared to pay four-hundred million
dollars per ship, and they wanted to get off on the right foot so they hired industry veteran
Arthur Rodney to lead the venture. Just six years earlier Rodney had successfully
led the launch of Crystal Cruises, which is still around today. Similar to the structure of their old partnership
with Premier, Disney initially planned to offer cruises to the Bahamas that sailed out
of Port Canaveral and that were packaged with short stays at Walt Disney World. It made the most sense. While Miami was the larger port in Florida
for cruises, Port Canaveral was just about 60 miles east of Walt Disney World, and if
Disney loved one thing, it was synergy. The company would hire Italian shipbuilders
Fincantieri to build the two ships while the design would be completed in Norway with the
help of Walt Disney Imagineering. The 85,000 ton ships, later named the Disney
Magic and the Disney Wonder, would be able to hold up to 2,500 passengers each. Disney didn’t just want their famous magic
to be apparent through the entertainment and crew on the ships, they wanted the ships themselves
to feel like they had that special Disney touch. You see, at that time the family cruise market
was still just a small part of the overall industry. It had certainly grown thanks to Disney’s
involvement with Premier, but it wasn’t what it is today. Disney wanted to design a ship that would
not only appeal to families with children, but to adults without children as well. At a time where many cruise lines were catering
towards one group or the other, Disney was aiming to win over both. One way of doing that was by designing the
two ships to offer staterooms that were 25% larger than the industry standard at the time
in order to better accommodate families with children. They also wanted to make sure there was enough
for kids to do while on the ship, and so an unprecedented 15,000 square feet, almost an
entire ship deck, was exclusively set aside as space for children’s activities. That said, it wasn’t enough to just have
entertainment options for kids. In order to truly appeal to both audiences,
it was important that the ship also had options for those who wanted to avoid the more family-centric
offerings. For instance, the ship would have three separate
pools. One for adults only, one for kids only, and
one for everyone. This tactic would also be used with dining,
as the ship offered, among others, an upscale adult-only restaurant. Even the island the ships docked at would
have both a general beach area for everybody as well as a quiet adults-only beach area. Meanwhile, once Disney made their pick of
Port Canaveral official, the Canaveral Port Authority got to work at building a $27 million
dollar terminal for the two ships. Disney would pay to lease the terminal and
operate it themselves. The Port Authority was more than happy to
pick up the tab on building the terminal. They estimated that the introduction of Disney
cruise ships would have a positive economic impact of up to one-hundred million dollars
annually between the lease, the port fees, and the jobs created. They even hoped that Disney picking the port
as it’s home would entice other cruise lines to choose Port Canaveral in the future. In fact, if there was one word to describe
the general reaction to Disney’s decision to move into the cruise industry, it was hopeful. Even competing cruise lines felt that Disney’s
arrival would help them more than it would hurt. They believed that the Disney name would attract
many first-time cruise passengers who might then be willing to explore other cruise options
down the line. Disney themselves even believed that as many
as 90% of their initial passengers might potentially be first timers. On top of that, while Disney was promising
to offer a top of the line experience with the Magic and Wonder, it would also come with
a top of the line price. So other cruise lines felt safe in knowing
that the Disney Cruise Line wouldn’t eat into the market of passengers looking for
a more economical vacation. Now if at this point anyone still doubted
Disney’s dedication to diving head first into the cruise industry, those doubts would
be put to rest when Disney purchased a 99 year lease on their own private island in
the Bahamas, called Gorda Cay. Later renamed Castaway Cay before opening,
it would be a stop along the way for the two ships. I originally planned to go more into the island,
but there’s enough of an interesting history behind this place that I’ve decided to dedicate
an entire video just to Castaway Cay in the future. So keep an eye out for that. By all accounts it appeared that Disney was
committed to making sure that their entrance into the cruise industry would be grand and
smooth, and for a while that’s how it was going. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be the case for
long. In October of 1997 Disney was just six months
away from their planned launch of the first cruise of the Disney Magic. Many families were likely getting excited
for their upcoming Disney cruise, but unfortunately they would learn that the maiden voyage of
the Disney Magic was to be delayed to April of 1998. Disney cited construction issues in Italy
as the reason for the delay. It was disappointing, no doubt, but what could
you do? One positive result of the delay was that
with an April 1998 launch date, Disney could plan one grand celebration to mark not only
the start of the Disney Cruises, but also the opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom,
which was slated to open its gates that same month. Four months later those same families were
once again growing excited for their upcoming Disney cruise, and were once again disappointed
when they were informed that the ships were once again delayed. This time the delay was over two months and
the maiden voyage was pushed back to July 30th This delay was especially painful for Disney. For one, they had to scrap their joint Animal
Kingdom/Disney Cruise launch celebration, but more importantly, it began to hurt their
credibility. For years the hype of Disney’s cruise line
was building, and one constant question being asked was whether or not they could pull off
the famous Disney magic when it came to a cruise. Now, at a time where the press coverage should
have been all about the excitement for the upcoming voyage, the media story was instead
about the string of setbacks. It raised the question of whether or not Disney
knew what they were doing. Once more construction issues were cited as
the cause of the delay. Officially, both Disney and Fincantieri pointed
to a shortage in supplies and persistent weather problems as the two main issues. The cruise industry was growing at a faster
rate at that point, and so Europe saw a spike in ships being built during that time. Fincantieri was busy building eleven cruise
ships at that point, and Disney wouldn’t ultimately be the only cruise line to be hit
with delays. That said, there are others both within Disney
and within Fincantieri who put part of the blame on Disney, claiming that their perfectionism,
constantly revised plans, and unique designs for the custom ships played a large part in
the two delays. In any case the setbacks would effect a total
of 26 voyages, and Disney tried to placate the understandably disappointed passengers
by offering 25% off of the vacation for those families impacted by one delay, and 50% off
of the vacation for those impacted by both. It worked, too, because cancellations were
kept to a minimum and the vast majority of families ended up rescheduling. Commercial Man: Presenting the most long awaited cruise ship ever, The Disney Magic! Commercial Man: From Disney Cruise Line. Now sailing. With no other delays in sight, The Disney
Magic made its way to Port Canaveral that July and it was reported that up to 10,000
people showed up to the port to watch the arrival. Like most ventures into something new, there
were some logistical and service hiccups during the first few cruises, but nothing disastrous. Disney would quickly iron out the wrinkles
and go on to show everyone who was still asking that, yes, they could bring that famous Disney
magic to the cruise industry. Within a matter of years the cruise line was
not only growing in popularity, but winning awards and accolades from all manner of publications
for their level of quality and service. A couple of years later in 2000 Disney would
expand their offerings to a 7-night cruise in the Bahamas, and the following year in
2001 Disney would begin hinting that more ships were planned for the future. After that the word to best describe the Disney
Cruise Line was growth. They began to sail to more locations, including
Europe in 2006. In 2007 they announced that two new ships,
The Disney Dream and The Disney Fantasy would be joining the fleet in 2011 and 2012. Just recently in 2016 it was announced that
two more ships, yet to be named, would be joining the fleet in the future, and as if
that wasn’t enough a 3rd upcoming ship was announced last year. The three new ships are expected to set sail
in 2021, 2022, and 2023. Today the Disney Cruise Line covers it all. They offer cruises that are as short as two
nights to as long as two weeks. Destinations that range from the Bahamas to
Europe to Alaska and Mexico and more. Thanks to the wonderful cast members they
continue to win awards for their fantastic service and with three more ships on the way
it seems they have no intention of slowing down. The Disney Cruise Line serves as yet another
example of Disney’s ability to bring that famous Disney magic somewhere new.

David Anderson

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