Wednesday, September 26, 2018

If I Were Disney CEO Part 23 - Disney Cruise Line

The Disney Cruise Line represents one of Disney's most successful recent ventures.  Currently a fleet of four ships, the Cruise Line has current itineraries to the Caribbean, Europe, Canada and Alaska, the Pacific coast, and transatlantic voyages.  Anchored by a dedicated Terminal 8 at Cape Canaveral in Florida, and with its own private island in Castaway Cay, Disney has year round sailings and consistently high reviews from guests of all ages.

Over the next several years, Disney will nearly double its fleet size to seven ships, with a new vessel expected each year from 2021 through 2023Further, Disney is working with Port Canaveral to redesign and upgrade Terminal 8 as well as use Terminal 10 for another full-time ship, in order to handle the increased volume of Disney trafficFinally, Disney is exploring an additional dedicated location in the Caribbean for private beach access, looking this time to Lighthouse Point in Eleuthera, Bahamas for a possible purchaseThis would be interesting as it would not be a stand-alone island like Castaway CayDisney had previously looked at Egg Island for a second private island, but had backed off this location following environmental evaluations.

Even with all of this current planned expansion, there is still room for additional development with this offering.  The Disney Cruise Line grew out of an entirely different nautical idea, the S.S. Disney.  The S.S. Disney was to be a floating theme park; an oil tanker that could house several different Disney rides and experiences on top of and within the ship.  The S.S. Disney could sail into port for a couple of month and then move onto the next location.  A continually moving theme park.  And while the process got fairly in depth in initial development, the board wanted to go in a more traditional cruise line direction, leading to the creation of the Disney Magic.

The idea of the S.S. Disney plays into what the cruise line represents.  It's a wholly contained Disney vacation provided at the level of quality of service that Disney used to provide in its hotels and theme parks.  The Adventures by Disney guided vacations and excursions have proven an expansion of this idea. And like the Disney hotels, vacation club offerings, and regional entertainment options explored the past few weeks, I want to take the Disney Cruise Line in a similar direction.

Of the planned expansions, the additional "private" beach at Lighthouse Point is the most intriguing, but I fear it does not go far enough.  Disney's current plan is for a setup similar to Castaway Cay.  Beaches, jogging trails, and recreation, with dining and merchandise, but not more.  Castaway Cay remains a day activities only option, as bugs and a lack of infrastructure pose a problem for any overnight stay or activities. I would push, given the existing settlement and development on Eleuthera, for Disney to develop a resort on the island.  The resort would be a vital component of a land/sea package and would allow for nighttime campfires, for night runs, for a greater chance to explore the Bahamas as part of the cruise package.

Lighthouse Point Development Plans (C) Disney
Behind further developing in the Caribbean, I would push the cruise line to explore river cruises.  Disney is currently partnering with AmaWaterways for river cruises in Europe with Adventures by Disney.  And while I would explore European vessels, I would love to start with a Disney cruise on the Mississippi on a paddlewheel steamer.  Something like the American Queen Steamboat company.  This would provide Disney an opportunity to do what it does very well, themed entertainment and vacations.  Disney has strong ties to Americana and has strong ties to the river and the river boat.  From Walt's heritage in Missouri and plans for St. Louis, to the steamboats in Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and the fascination with New Orleans, American river cruises would allow Disney to bring touches of their classic entertainment to the American rivers.  Imagine a Golden Horseshoe performed in the Grand Saloon.  Touches of the Blue Bayou's menu on board.  Character dining and entertainment with Tiana and Louis from the Princess and the Frog.  This seems squarely in Disney's DNA and would allow for advertisement of cruises on the Rivers of America.

As a side note, and not cruise related, but for a similar reason, if our rail system was in better condition, I would love for Disney to get into luxury rail travel across the United States.  It again plays into Disney's Americana, historic, and entertainment strengths, while providing a completely unique vacation for America that would have symbiotic ties to Adventures by Disney and scattered Disney Vacation club and regional entertainment properties.  Something like the Blue Train, but themed to an 1800s grand age of rail vacation.

One benefit to these river cruises is that it would necessarily lead to ships with American flags of state.  The four Disney Cruise Line vessels have Bahamian flags of state.  This has multiple benefits, but requires international ports of call or destinations and precludes something like a cruise around the Hawaiian islands. Disney can further expand with an American flagged ship for a Hawaiian island cruise tied to a vacation at Aulani.  This would compete with Norwegian's Pride of America.  Like the riverboat, the cruise vessel would necessarily be smaller, but could still provide the

As the Cruise Line has proven to be a valuable asset in the Disney company, I would push to make sure it is presented and maintained in a way that values Disney storytelling and magic.


As always, thank you for reading.  Next in the series will jump company divisions and start focusing on the film side, with an overview of my thoughts on the needs of the film division.

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