Weekly Wednesday – Magical Cruises

Port Canaveral Cruise Terminal – Photo: Wikipedia.org

We can all use some magic in our lives! It should come as no surprise that there’s one company out there who thinks they’ve got every nook and cranny covered when it comes to family entertainment. So, let’s dive into one of the newer companies to sail the seas among the big players and see how they stack up and uncover what sets them apart from the competition.

Devonson Cruise Company, Limited

Have you heard of the Devonson Cruise Company, Limited, of the United Kingdom? It’s ok if not. Devonson was incorporated in February 1996 and had a short-lived identity crisis changing their name to Magical Cruise Company Limited on October 1st of that same year. With two ships being built and scheduled to launch in 1998, Magical Cruise Company Limited also laid down an investment of twenty-five million dollars to build up a private island for their ships to stopover at a place called Gorda Cay.

That’s where the stranger departs us and makes way for a third, and final name change:

Disney Cruise Line Logo, courtesy Disney

Disney Cruise Line

The branding geniuses at Disney created both a cruise line and private island destination. In the Weekly Wednesday – Feeling Blue? blog post, I outlined various private island destinations operated by the major cruise lines. One of the featured locations was Gorda Cay, more commonly known as Castaway Cay.

Castaway Cay – Private Island

When Castaway Cay opened, it was the first private island to feature a pier for cruise liners to dock at. Up until that point, ships would drop anchor a few miles off the coast and would use a water shuttle system to transport guests ashore. To create this pier, it required the dredging of 50,000 truckloads of sand from the Atlantic Ocean. The island houses 60 Disney Cruise Line permanent residents who maintain operations of the island.

Disney Fantasy at Castaway Cay – Photo: flickr.com

Activities on the island are aplenty! Of course, Disney put their spin on everything including Olaf’s Summertime Freeze where you can sip on specialty frozen drinks in fun souvenir cups. The kids play areas are separated by age group similar to how they are on the ship: Spring-a-Leak, Teen Hideout, and Scuttle’s Cove. And if you’re traveling without the young-ones (or just want a break), there’s even an adults-only area where you can slip away for some tasty beverages, BBQ and spa services.

What’s so Special?

Taking hints from their previous partnership with Premier Cruise Lines (read: Weekly Wednesday – Premier Cruise Lines), this newly formed Disney Cruise Line, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, offers many takeaways including the diversified kids’ programs and character dining. When they designed their ships, however, they left one major activity out that’s common among most cruise ships – the casino. You can walk stern to bow, port to starboard and won’t find any gambling on board their ships. The family-friendly atmosphere is everywhere!

There are three theaters on their ships, with the Walt Disney Theatre (forward theater) functioning as a place for musical theater shows, direct from the Disney on Broadway lineup. The midship theater, Buena Vista Theatre, shows Disney classic movies on the big screen. They also do smaller stage shows and host live entertainers in this more intimate theater setting. The third is promotions and evening movies being presented on the big screen up on the top-most deck of the ships. It’s called Funnel Vision! Disney will feature first-run movies on the ships, including opening night premiers on select sailings. Usually they’ll only show Disney branded films, but on the longer sailings, there might be other options mixed in.

There are deck parties galore. From Pirate Night to Pixar Pals Party and Character Greetings, there are activities for all ages. Various sailings will offer specialty cruises, too. You can join the fun on Marvel Day at Sea to celebrate your favorite Marvel Characters, Star Wars Day at Sea for all things Star Wars, Very Merrytime Cruises during the Christmas holiday season, New Year’s Eve sailings to ring in the new year and Halloween on the High Seas to spook-ify your sailing experience. Many sailings also include a front-seat to the fireworks show at sea. Not outdone by their theme park presentations, families are sure to enjoy the pyrotechnic show that will create lasting memories.

Fireworks display on a Disney ship at sea – Photo: Pinterest.com

In planning for family travel, the cruise line has larger-than-most staterooms. Most feature 1.5 bathrooms with separate shower and toilet from the sink area. They also feature high-end linens and room furnishings to make you feel like you are staying at a world-class resort, only this one is at sea. There are still plenty of things for adults to do while traveling so it won’t feel like a vacation just for the kids.

Disney Cruise Line also introduced the very first Rotational Dining program. When you board the ship on embarkation day, you receive your dining schedule. Over the course of your sailing, your party, table-mates, and dining staff will move with you so you can experience all three of the main dining rooms and their unique themes.

The Ships

Looking closer at the four ships the line currently operates, we step back to 1998 with the introduction of the first Disney Cruise Line ship, the Disney Magic. The designing process began in 1994 and a year later the order was placed for the Magic and her stepsister, the Wonder. The paint schemes used on Disney’s fleet of ships included White, Red, Yellow and Black, famously the same colors of Mickey Mouse. Disney also took a waiver for international maritime rules to have yellow lifeboats rather than the regulated orange color. The ships were the first in the industry to be designed and built from the keel up as family cruise liners. Another unique quality that was built into their ships is the unique “Mikey Horn” that plays some popular Disney songs. There is also a traditional sounding horn for real communication purposes.

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes – Disney Magic “Mickey Horn”

The Disney Magic was constructed in two halves with the bow built in Fincantieri’s Ancona shipyard and the stern was built in their Marghera shipyard. The bow was eventually towed to the Marghera shipyard where they were pieced together.

Disney Magic Goofy –
Photo: disneyparks.disney.go.com

After several months of delays, the 84,000 gross ton ship, the Disney Magic finally set sail in July of 1998 out of Port Canaveral with her first passengers on board. The Godmother of the ship is Patricia Disney, former wife of Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy E. Disney. The interior Art Deco designed ship is capable of carrying up to 2,713 passengers. Goofy hangs off the back of the ship with his paint brush and supplies in tow. Disney Magic was introduced into the Southern California market for the 2005 sailing season, in celebration of Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary celebrations and was an instant hit! The cruise ship sold out of rooms quicker than expected which led to a Disney ship being positioned on the California coast ever since.

Disney Wonder Donald Duck and Huey – Photo: disneyparks.disney.go.com

The stepsister, Disney Wonder, made its debut in 1999. Her interior was inspired by the Art Nouveau style and though she was similar to Disney Magic, there were still differences throughout her interior. She experienced significant delays during construction due to work on other ships that proceeded her. When she finally launched with passengers, she had the godmother of Tinkerbell (who only spoke with bell sounds), and Mickey Mouse who gave the ship’s blessing in English. This was the first time that a non-human was dedicated as the godmother of a cruise ship. The stern of the Wonder has Donald Duck suspended while he’s trying to paint the ship’s name. His nephew, Huey, is attempting to cut Donald from his hanging seat.

Disney Dream Sorcerer Mickey Mouse – Photo: disneyparks.disney.go.com

In 2007, Disney announced that they were beginning work on their next class of ship. Construction began at Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany in 2009 on the first ship in the Dream-class, with the Disney Dream. With a 40% increase in size (almost 130,000 gross tons) and an additional two decks taller, compared to the Magic-class, Disney Dream was capable of carrying up to 4,000 passengers. She launched in early 2011 and was christened by Jennifer Hudson, who began her career as an entertainer on the Disney Wonder. Adorned with Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey Mouse and the magical dancing broomsticks on her stern, Disney Dream was the first cruise ship to feature a water coaster, the AquaDuck.

Disney Fantasy Dumbo –
Photo: pinterest.com

The second ship in the Dream-class, Disney Fantasy, was launched in 2012 with the godmother of Mariah Carey. The inaugural sailing featured a performance onboard hosted by Neil Patrick Harris with Jerry Seinfeld performing comedy. Hanging from the stern of Disney Fantasy is Dumbo, the Flying Elephant. This ship has a line up of 11 “Mickey Horn” songs that she can play, from Disney Classics to New York New York by Frank Sinatra when she sails out of New York City.

The Fututre

Looking forward into the future of Disney Cruise Line, they are poised to add an additional three ships to their fleet over the next several years, beginning with the Disney Wish in 2022 as part of the new Triton-class. These new ships will be a little larger than the previous Dream-class at 140,000 gross tons and will be LNG-powered.

Artist rendering of Disney Wish Rapunzel –
Photo: disneyparks.disney.go.com

A new private island destination is also being worked on in the Bahamas called Lighthouse Point. This exclusive getaway is on the south end of Eleuthera, not far from Princess Cays. Disney is expected to develop the 700-acre property at a cost between $250 million and $400 million. It is being designed by Joe Rohde, the mastermind behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Hawaiian Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa.

Disney Cruise Line, though small in terms of number of fleet, is a well-known leisure cruise company. They take their time to perfect their ship designs and have come up with new ways to change the cruising industry. While a voyage on one of their ships will set you back a pretty penny, the experience that they offer is truly unique.

It’s no Wonder that it’s not just a Fantasy to believe in the Magic that Disney Cruise Line has to offer, you just need to Wish upon a star and your Dreams will come true.

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