Disney Dream arriving in Florida.Disney Cruise Line created the blue print for family cruising, according to Karl Holz, president of the cruise brand. He said the product is based on the story-telling legacy of Walt Disney and world-class entertainment.

“Since its launch in 1998, the cruise line has continued to evolve, driven by its focus on innovation and leveraging technology to deliver a “fantastic experience,” Holz noted.

While Disney Cruise Line claims to have invented family cruising, others take a different view, although admitting that the cruise line has added a “seal of universal approval.”

Bruce Nierenberg, founder and part-owner of Premier Cruises, The Big Red Boat, said that 30 years ago Premier was the first cruise line to offer year-round children’s programs, children’s activities by age groups, baby-sitting, children’s menus, shore tours and entertainment, in addition to id and security systems.

“More importantly,” he said, “Premier also created a Disney cruise with characters onboard, as the official cruise line for the Walt Disney Company, 15 years before Disney launched its own cruise brand.”

Thus, it may be said that Disney Cruise Line originally existed as a branding agreement with Premier Cruises, but when that company was sold, the complaints started to flood in, according to sources familiar with the situation. So the Walt Disney Company decided that if they were perceived to be responsible for the Big Red Boat and received all the complaints, they might as well build their own cruise line with their own name on it.

The challenges were many, however, according to Art Rodney, who was hired as president to launch the new brand, including translating the Disney culture and quality of product delivery to the ships, “We did not just want to create another park experience,” he explained, “yet we had to incorporate what Disney was all about into the product. We worked our way through it one step at a time. Every detail from the time the passengers arrived in Orlando to the time they left was carefully orchestrated.”

Today, the cruise line is supporting the parent company’s parks while also functioning as a self-standing, separate business, according to Holz. The three- and four-day cruises are often booked in combination with stays at the Orlando area parks.

Next year, Disney will add New York and Galveston to its homeports, sailing the Magic on five-day cruises to Canada and New England and eight days to the Bahamas during the summer months, and seven days to Grand Cayman and Mexico during the winter.

The Wonder, meanwhile, continues her seven-day West Coast programs, alternating the between Mexican Riviera and Alaska cruises.

The Dream is sailing three-, four- and five-day cruises from Port Canaveral and will be joined by the Fantasy, which will sail alternating seven-day cruises from Port Canaveral to the Eastern and Western Caribbean, starting March 31.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2011