The Disney Cruise Line is more than just another cruise line. Disney designed its ships to be innovative, offering unique facilities and programs, each with Disney’s hallmark, first-class service.
The history of the Disney Cruise Line begins in November 1985, when Premier Cruise Lines became the official cruise line of Walt Disney World Resort. 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. Disney commissioned the Fincantieri Shipyard (in Venice, Italy) to build two $350-million liners reminiscent of the grand, trans-Atlantic liners of the early 20th century. A private island was developed into the delightful Castaway Cay, a stop on most Florida-based itineraries. On July 30, 1998, the Disney Magic set sail on her maiden voyage. The magnificent new ship boasted a classic, streamlined silhouette, twin funnels, and well-appointed interiors. The Disney Magic sailed from her dedicated, art deco-inspired cruise terminal in Port Canaveral, Florida on three- and four-night cruises to the Bahamas. The Disney Wonder set sail for the first time on August 15, 1999. Seven-night itineraries to the Eastern Caribbean on the Disney Magic were added in 2000, leaving the shorter cruises to the Wonder. In 2002, seven-night Western Caribbean cruises were added. The Disney Magic sailed the Mexican Riviera in 2005 and 2008, the Mediterranean in 2007, and went back to Europe in summer 2010, with a bevy of itineraries in both the Mediterranean and the Baltics. In 2010 the Wonder added five-night itineraries, with visits to Nassau, Castaway Cay, plus either a second day at Castaway Cay or a stop in Key West, Florida. Both ships have received upgrades over the years; most recently, the Magic was “re-imagined” in late 2013 (see page 24), and the Wonder completed a major upgrade in November 2016. On April 29, 2017, the Disney Wonder made history by being the first passenger vessel to go through the expanded Panama Canal locks! And in 2020, New Orleans will become a new home port for the Disney Wonder.
The cruise line took a big leap forward in 2011–2012, with the addition of two brand-new ships built by Meyer Werft Shipyards in Papenburg, Germany. The Disney Dream entered regular service on January 26, 2011, from its home port of Port Canaveral, Florida. It took over the Wonder’s historic assignment, the three- and four-night Bahamas itineraries. The Disney Wonder then moved to Los Angeles, offering Mexican Riviera itineraries. In spring of 2011, Disney visited Alaska for the first time, with seven-night itineraries sailing from Vancouver, British Columbia during the spring and summer. In March 2012, Disney’s fourth ship—the Disney Fantasy—entered service, offering seven-night Caribbean cruises. The 2018 schedule has cruises departing from Port Canaveral, Miami, New York, San Juan, Vancouver, San Diego, Dover, and Barcelona. In 2019, cruises depart from Port Canaveral, Miami, Barcelona, Civitavecchia, Copenhagen, Dover, and Vancouver. What lies ahead? See page 37 for a discussion of the future.