Disney History: Precursor To The Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line first set sail on July 30, 1998 with the Disney Magic. Or did it? In 1983, Premier Cruise Line was founded with the singular goal of offering 3-4 night sailings out of Port Canaveral to the Bahamas. The Port was underutilized and its proximity to Orlando area attractions made it an ideal location for Premier to boost its business by partnering with Disney to offer land & sea vacation packages. Let's explore this precursor to Disney Cruise Line and find out how its ultimate failure paved the way for Disney's entrance into the industry.

The Oceanic Entered service with Home Lines in 1965 where she was intended to serve a dual purpose as both an ocean liner and a cruise ship that would service the Bahamas and the Caribbean from New York. Premier purchased the ship in 1985 and set about the task of placing into service the first cruise ship that specifically targeted families with young children. Premier had reached a character licensing agreement with Disney so that they could use Disney characters to lure families on board. To further add to the theme of "family fun at sea", Premier painted the Oceanic red and dubbed it "The Big Red Boat", the official cruise line of Walt Disney World.

The Premier OceanicThe Premier Oceanic

Premier continued to add to their fleet of Big Red Boats, but as the company anticipated, once other cruise lines got wind of Premier's success in the market, Port Canaveral suddenly became a lot more crowded. Simultaneously, the level of service on The Big Red Boat began to decline, an issue that caused Disney concern over their association with this company, which ultimately led to the dissolution of the partnership. In 1993, Disney began plans to create its own fleet of ships and formally terminated their agreement with Premier. Premier attempted to save the line, first by replacing Disney characters with Looney Tunes characters and then by diversifying their destinations to try to capture the European cruise market. Both efforts proved unsuccessful and by the time Premier reorganized and returned to its original concept, it was too late. Disney now had its own brand new ship sailing Premier's Bahamian itinerary.

Disney Guest Could Book Land/Sea Packages with PremierDisney Guest Could Book Land/Sea Packages with Premier

Premier went bankrupt in 2000 and the original Big Red Boat was purchased by the Pullmantur travel company in Spain where in May of 2001, after a complete refurbishment, the boat once again became known as the Oceanic and was put into service in the Mediterranean. In 2006, Pallumantar was purchased by Royal Caribbean and after some fleet maneuvering, the Oceanic was once again left out in the cold. In 2009, she was purchased by a Japanese humanitarian organization known as The Peace Boat. The 47-year-old Oceanic was scrapped in 2012, thus ending the storied history of the first "official" Walt Disney World cruise ship.

A big thanks goes out to our Regular Guest Author Holly L. for sharing a little bit of Disney History with us. If you'd like to read more about Holly's fun adventures in Disney, you can find her sharing her trip reports on our member forum.

Kristen K. wrote on Sun, 01/17/2016 - 20:28:

Kristen K.'s picture

Thanks so much for this early look at Disney's Cruises. I never got a chance to go on the big red boat, but I'm glad to have DCL.

crazycatperson wrote on Tue, 01/19/2016 - 14:26:

crazycatperson's picture

Some friends of ours cruised on the "big red boat" many years ago. It sounds as if DCL is an improvement.

Laurel wrote on Tue, 01/26/2016 - 09:22:

Laurel's picture

Thank you for this! I remember being a kid on a cruise ship with Disney characters back in '89 and all I could remember about it was Big Red. I tried searching for it to take a skip down memory lane, but I couldn't find anything about it so I was beginning to think that I had somehow managed to make up the name. This makes so much more sense now...I loved it on that boat!

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly. If you have a Gravatar account associated with the e-mail address you provide, it will be used to display your avatar.

More information about formatting options