In the 1970's, the Hollywood MGM studio's wanted to try out a new thing and ordered a series of eight cruiseships that were to be built partially in Denmark and partially in Italy. During the first buildingstages, the company lost interest and the contract for the first two ships was taken over by Cunard Line. The ships were built as Cunard Countess and Cunard Princess and sailed for Cunard untill the mid 1990's. So it wasn't new that other kinds of business started to enter the lucrative cruisemarket, when the Walt Disney Company announced the building of two cruiseliners for the Caribbean cruisetrade in 1995. But other then the MGM studio's, Disney carried on and entered the Caribbean in full force.
The Disney funnel of Disney Magic shown below sporting The Famous Mouse.
The ships, of over 80.000-tons, were truly built to 'wow' the public, as you can expect from Disney. Totally built to the profile of the old oceanliners, with long foredecks, stepped down aftdecks and topped by two massive funnels sporting the face of Disney's most well-known character, Mickey Mouse. The reason I made the connection to Cunard Line earlier is not a co-incidence, as Disney also used the profile of the first Queen Elizabeth of 1940 as a basis for their design. Of course, the ships are modern day cruiseliners, with sides filled with balcony-cabins, but the resemblance is there. Under the bridge, the foreward superstructure is rounded, like on the great Cunard liner. The funnels even are done in red and black and with some imagination have similarities to those aboard QE. Disney sais that this is a co-incidence, because the funnels are painted in the same colours as the famous mouse. Last but not least, Disney had built their own departureterminal at Port Canaveral as almost an exact replica to the old Ocean terminal at Southampton, that was the departereterminal for the great Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary between the 1930's and 1960's. To really impact the Caribbean, the Walt Disney Company also bought its own island, named it Castaway Quay and started to devellop it for the use of its cruiseliners. Disney only develloped half of the island, so the other half could be kept in its natural state. Several other cruiselines also use their own private islands, but none of them really owns them, they are all leased.
Disney's first ship Disney Magic entering the port of Alesund in Norway on her first Norwegian cruise in june 2015.
So what is Disney's connection to the sea? Well, Disney already offered cruises as compliment to a stay at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida from the 1980's onwards and for this, they had a connection to Premier Cruise Line Aboard the ships, during the Disney sailings, were costumed characters from the world of Disney. In 1995, of course, everything changed. The partnership had already ended in 1993 and in 1997, Premier Cruise Line was declared bankrupt.
The first ship for Disney was named Disney Magic and set sail at the 30th of july of 1998, followed by a direct sister named Disney Wonder in august of 1999. Because of the success created by the ships, an order was placed for two even larger ships in 2009 and those entered service as Disney Dream in 2011 and Disney Fantasy in 2012. Built to the same profile and imidiately recognizable, with 129.600 tons they are significantly bigger. When the new ships came in service, Disney expanded their horizon and the Disney Magic set sail for Europe, sailing from Barcelona in 2014. From 2015 onwards, she was also seen in more northern waters, sailing her first Norwegian cruise in june of that year. As Disney of course is marketed as a company especially sailing for families and of course children, the ships do not have casino's aboard and the style is very informal ad filled with fun for children of all ages. And don't we all love Disney?
Just nog sporting a true figurehead, the ships of the line do have the classic touch of the old sailingclippers, with a decorated bow. As the company is originally registered as Magical Cruise Company Limited (Disney Cruiseline just being the trading name) of course there is Mickey again in his magical outfit.