Disney Cruise History – The Big Red Boat and Premier Cruise Lines

This week we’re going to be taking a look at the origins of the Disney Cruise Line! But we’re not going to be talking about the Disney Dream or Fantasy or Wonder or Magic. No, we’re going to be talking about, that’s right, THE BIG RED BOAT.

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The Disney Cruise Line officially launched their first cruise in July of 1998, but in order to explore the full origins of these popular excursions, we first have to go back 14 years to 1984. At that point Disney was looking to get into the cruise industry. It was a market that was on the rise and it happened to be right in Disney’s backyard. With the Caribbean so close to Florida, more and more cruise ships were sailing out of Floridian ports, and rather than look at this as a competitive threat, Disney saw an opportunity to grow.

They chose to test the waters by partnering with not one, but two cruise lines. The first was a short partnership with Norwegian Caribbean Lines. Together they offered a one-week cruise in November of 1984 called “FantaSea” which sailed out of Miami on the SS Norway. It took guests to St. Thomas, Nassau, and Big Stirrup Cay. VP of Marketing for Disney at the time, James Garbar, promised that the cruise would have “all the magic that is Disney in a Magic Kingdom-sized way.” For prices ranging from $975 to $2710 per person the “FantaSea” cruise offered fireworks, a live performance of the ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, a Goofy themed Olympics, and all of the traditional cruise recreations such as pools, bars, and gambling. Embracing the all-inclusive model, the price even included round-trip airfare to and from Miami.

At the same time Disney was also partnering with Premiere Cruise Line. The two together worked with the official airline of Walt Disney World, Eastern Airlines, and offered the “Cruise and Walt Disney World Vacation Week”. The package included airfare to Florida, a 3-4 night cruise to the Bahamas on the SS Royale which sailed from Port Canaveral, and a 3-4 night stay at Walt Disney World.

Today the Disney Cruise Line is considered by many to be among the best the industry has to offer, and it is ripe with its own history that I no doubt plan to cover in a future video. I just think that it’s interesting that at a time where Disney’s MO was to dive head first into new industries to approach them the “Disney way”, it was a partnership that would eventually lead to the Disney Cruises we have today.

“Disney cruise operation could strengthen economy” – Florida Today (5/9/94)
“Disney, Premier separate” – Florida Today (11/2/93)
“Disney cruise is one Goofy voyage” – Palm Beach Daily News (11/3/92)
“Following in the wake of cruise line collapse” – The Seattle Times (10/1/00)
“Disney sets sail with cruises” – The Dispatch Sun (5/8/94)
“Royal Caribbean discusses possible deal with Disney” – The Orlando Sentinel (10/2/93)
“Disney cruise to the Caribbean” – The Orlando Sentinel (4/8/84)
“A Disney cruise in the Caribbean” – The Philadelphia Inquirer (7/15/84)
“Is Disney savior for family cruises?” – The Press Democrat (9/10/94)
“Cruise line, Disney offer vacation deal” – Florida Today (12/13/85)
“Premier shuts down, cuts cruises short” – Florida Today (9/15/00)
“Premier Cruises hoping relaunch makes waves” South Florida Sun (9/15/97)
“Cruise line now Premier” – South Florida Sun (9/10/97)


Toodle S. says:

This answered every question I had about this. ty.

philnkris says:

My first cruise was on thus ship

edvaira6891 says:

Unfortunately, the Big Red Boat was the Only Cruise I’ve actually been on in my life, a belated honeymoon in 1991…it was a…mediocre…experience, to put it politely…the Royale was a small, old ship that had seen better days….and Port Canaveral was a shockingly dumpy little place at the time

Budhizzle says:

Sweet video! I was lucky enough to have been on the Disney version of The Big Red Boat three times as a tween and they were awesome experiences. If you ever want to be really good at ping pong, practice while on a boat.

William Lindgren says:

When you show the old footage from the ads it pixilated and grainy. I assume they came from a video tape. But why is it so bad on my iPad and not as I remember on my old TV?

Works Hard 4 MK3 says:

I know someone who got married or had their honeymoon on the big red boat

Daniele Main says:

As a child we did the big red boat and Disney world. It must of been right after the contract was not renewed, but “trip packages” were already sold. We spent three days/two nights on the BRB and did the all the Disney parks and stay at a Disney hotel. I remember being very confused why on the boat Tweety Bird had tucked us in one night but gave us a Disney stuffed animal. I was old enough to know they were not the same company and think it was odd, but didn’t put much thought into it at the time.
Also remember when Disney was advertising their own cruise line, feeling like we had miss out by having the BRB instead.

t bird says:


Chris In Atlanta says:

Why does Rob not have 1 Million subs? Make this happen, people.

Mark Pascuzzi says:

We were on the very last Big Red boat criuse. They were giving all of the Looney Toons merch away. The ship was repainted and sold to MSC. Many of the crew and wait staff found new homes with Disney.

Cecilia Gramaglia says:

The Big Red Boat was my very first cruise and Disney experience. It was a trip that started my love of the Disney parks and all things Disney even though there was an almost 10 year gap before I went to the parks again.

domthecreative says:

I wonder what its like to be on a Disney cruise. only been on one cruise it was really fun.

SkyeRa89 says:

I remember the Bugs Bunny one.

J.N.J. 704 says:

Can someone tell me why they throwing trash in the ocean? I understand they celebrating sailing, but why throw trash in the ocean?

Mark Auble says:

Learned something new…again
Thanks Rob!

Ace Roane says:

this was the ORIGINAL Disney Cruise Line

Cms 10672 says:

Yes please make a video on the newer history of Disney cruise line.

Christine Crawford says:

Oh the memories! I was a travel agent from 1986 until 2001 and sold many Premier cruises. I even went on one myself in the late 80’s! Great video Rob!!

Tracey Bennett says:

I use to work as a bartender on the majestic . Very happy days !

JeffFrmJoisey says:

Awesome!! Captivating and interesting!! I knew some history behind DCL, but you showed me I still have lots to learn!! Thanks!!!

100 subscribes with no vidoe says:

Ss royal

LetrellDisney Games says:

When your to young to know what the big red boat was

zim1978 says:

Great video. My first three cruises were on Premier as a kid. Royale in ‘84, Majestic in ‘89 and Oceanic in ‘90. How cruises have changed since then! But I’ll always remember the chocolate “ship” cookies on the Big Red Boat.

Missy Barbour says:

Bright Sun Films did a great video on “Mowgli’s Island”, the destination for Premier’s Disney cruises that was like Cast Away Cay but better

RealKay says:

Once you go on one Disney Cruise you’re addicted for life bro

chlem arcelo says:

Bright sun films did a very similar Video in the past and even got to interview the former CEO of premier cruise line.

Nick Chappell says:

This video was FANTASTIC! Can’t wait to see you cover DCL more in future videos.

J.N.J. 704 says:

I was about 3 yo when me and my family went Big red Boat when they were with WB.

Ashleigh Elizabeth says:

Stupidest thing a cruise line has ever done. Had they stayed with Disney they would undoubtedly remained quite profitable, and they would have forestalled Disney’s own entry into the cruise market. They also might have avoided the merger fiasco that eventually killed the company in the early 2000s.

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