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Disney Cruise Line History: How DCL Began and Where They're Going

Marissa Wright

Last updated
Feb 15, 2023

Read time
3 min read

Disney Cruise Line is a subsidiary of Walt Disney World, which was originally incorporated in 1996 as Magical Cruise Company Limited and headquartered in Celebration, Florida.

Walt Disney World chartered Premier Cruise Line, a subsidiary of Premier Cruises, from 1985 to 1993, which it ran as "The Big Red Boat."

Disney cruise ships now bring the magic of Disney to the seas to delight both children and adults alike.

Disney Cruise Line Fleet: Current Disney Cruise Ships

The Disney Cruise Line fleet includes the following cruise ships: Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, Disney Fantasy, Disney Wish and Disney Treasure (coming in 2024).

Disney Cruise Ships and Their Inspiration

The modern iteration of Disney Cruise Line (DCL) began with Disney Magic in 1998 and Disney Wonder in 1999. These two sister ships carry 1,754 passengers in 875 staterooms, Magic with art deco and Wonder with art nouveau themes. Both ships were custom-built by Fincantieri at a shipyard in Italy.

When Disney execs decided to enter the cruise business, they looked back to the 1920s for inspiration. The result: both Disney Magic and Disney Wonder resembling luxurious ocean liners of a bygone era that just happen to have all the modern bells and whistles.

Since the line's inception, Disney ships can be identified in port by their elongated dark blue hulls, matching red funnels and elaborate yellow insignia.

Disney Cruise Line: Cruise Ship Innovation

Chief among the innovations Disney introduced to the cruise industry are its cabins with one-and-a-half baths and a rotating dining room schedule in which passengers eat at three different restaurants, but with the same tablemates and wait staff.

Disney was also the first cruise line to launch the "soda card" concept, an idea that has been picked up by competitors. In response, the line went further, offering soda gratis in restaurants and at the self-service beverage stations.

Unique Experiences on Disney Cruises

While the Disney cruise line fleet isn’t as large as its competitors, they make up for it with its special Disney magic and features unique to Disney cruises.

On a Disney cruise, passengers can enjoy character experiences and spellbinding Broadway-style theater. Restaurants, bars and other spaces are immersive experiences from Disney. Sip on drinks at the Star Wars: Hyperspace Lounge or shop at the Enchanted Castle Jewels.

Sailing on a Disney cruise is unique because they offer high-quality services alongside the enchanting Disney magic.

Disney Cruise Line Fleet Characteristics

Disney Cruise Line operated a two-ship fleet for nearly a decade then finally built two new vessels: Disney Dream (2011) and Disney Fantasy (2012). These two new additions to the fleet are significantly larger than Magic and Wonder -- two decks higher and at 128,690 tons (compared to Magic and Wonder's 83,000 tons).

Disney announced two new 135,000-ton ships will be built by the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany, one launched in 2022 and another launching in 2024. Each ship will have 1,250 cabins. This signals a boost in Disney cruise ship size, and the new ships have more cabins than Disney Dream, Fantasy, Wonder and Magic.

With new Disney cruise ships come new experiences and innovations for cruisers. Disney Wish is one of the new Disney cruise ships that launched in February 2022. The ship features immersive Disney spaces such as Arendelle: A Frozen Dining Adventure, The Rose and Toy Story Splash Zone.

Children ages three to 12 can join the Oceaneer Club and the multiple immersive, hands-on experiences, including Fairytale Hall, Star Wars Cargo Bay and Marvel Super Hero Academy.


New Disney Cruise Ships: Looking to the Future

Disney Treasure is the newest Disney cruise ship and will make its grand debut in 2024. This newest Disney cruise ship is designed around adventure, and it draws its inspiration from Asia and Africa for most of its designs.

Another Wish-class ship is expected in 2025, but this particular newest Disney cruise ship is being kept under wraps. Announcements are expected in 2024.

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