"We are driving new customers to travel agents," said Disney Cruise Line President Art Rodney. "We are finding a much broader range of agents and customers than is the norm for the cruise industry," he added, "including agents who have never booked cruises before."
"We are driving in the business because of who we are," Rodney explained. "The Disney brand will attract first-time cruisers and we will help to break down the barriers to cruising in general."
And, once they have cruised with Disney, where do these passengers go? Back to Disney, according to Rodney, who said that the Walt Disney World theme park and the ships will have so much to offer that people cannot experience everything there is to do in three or four days.
But in the long run, Disney will build more ships, Rodney conceded. "We are studying additional tonnage as well as the seven-day market," he said.
According to Rodney, Disney's entry into the cruise market is not so much a matter of money, as doing the right thing for Disney. Hence, the two ships are in the three- and four-day market for now. "If we wanted to, we could buy the entire industry," Rodney joked, referring to Disney's recent acquisition of ABC.
The Disney Magic, which sails her maiden voyage on March 12, 1998, will sail three- and four-day cruises from Port Canaveral, departing Fridays and Mondays, while the Disney Wonder, which follows later in the year, will depart on Thursdays and Sundays.
So far, bookings are mostly for seven-day land and cruise packages, according to John Severini, vice president of sales, who also said that Disney is getting brochure prices allowing only for early-bird discounts.
Helping drive sales are Disney Cruise Line's 22 field sales people who are supported by the existing Walt Disney sales force, according to Severini.
Severini explained bow the cruise line sales force is presently on the road visiting travel agents across the country.
There is also a special promotion underway whereby agents who sell four staterooms before the end of June can earn a free cruise on one of four so-called celebratory preview cruises immediately following the maiden voyage.
In addition, Disney is focusing on telling agents that a Disney cruise is not just for families but also for honeymooners, singles, senior citizens, etc. "Agents understand that we are for the entire range of passengers," Severini said.
Further underscoring that point, Disney will be releasing a new brochure, explained Howard E. Picken, vice president of marketing, that will be for the non family market. "We will be the first cruise line to have two completely distinct brochures," Picken said, "one for the non-family market and one for the generic cruise market. It also amounts to us giving travel agents twice the amount of collateral to help their sales efforts.
Pickett also said that a new television campaign breaks in June, adding to the print campaign which has been running since March. "We will be focusing on seven to eight major markets," he said.
Nothing is Left to Chance
"We are leaving nothing to chance," said Rodney, "and have spent an enormous amount of time on research. We are also spending three-fold on our hardware and software what any other cruise line is."
Rodney also said that the kids' programs have been finalized and that, if the parents so choose, they can have their children or teenagers in the program from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.
There will be some 50 counselors and the parents will be provided with a beeper in case they have to be contacted.
"It will be an unbelievable experience for the kids," Rodney said. Meanwhile, the parents will be free to enjoy their vacation.
And, the flip side is, Disney also promises to deliver a vacation experience to non-families.
"Keep in mind." Rodney said, "our ships are the first and only ships designed for the family market. All the other ships that cater to families have been retrofitted."
Disney's out-island will be completed by Nov. 1 as will the new terminal being built at Port Canaveral.
"We are developing 400 acres on the 1,000-acre island," Rodney explained, noting how there will be a beach for water sports as well as a quiet beach. Sports will also include fishing, including fishing for children, an obviously popular activity that no other cruise line seems to have tried before. There will also be nature walking paths and bicycle paths across the island.
Disney is also very self-sufficient and with the exception of the ships' beauty salon and spa, which will be run by the Steiner Group, all other on-board services will be run by Disney.
According to Rodney, 75 percent of the U.S. population have visited a Disney theme park. "If you combine that with the positive image of Disney among millions of people who never before had the opportunity to cruise, there is tremendous potential for us," he added.
In addition, Rodney expects that 10 to 15 percent of the line's passengers will come from Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Japan.
Disney Cruise Line will also piggyback onto all the attractions of Disney World, which Severini noted include world class concerts and sports events. "There is more to do at Disney World than ever before," he said.
Also benefitting Disney Cruise Line, according to Rodney, is the fact that the cruise line is clearly differentiated in the market. "While other cruise lines fight to be differentiated," he said, "consumers put us in a different quadrant altogether and separate us from the other cruise lines. We are not being confused with anybody."
Disney is presently staffing the ships and Rodney said that there wilt be about 125 Americans aboard as counselors and members of the cruise staff. But no nationalities will dominate any particular areas.