Today in Disney History, 1999: The Disney Wonder Has Its Maiden Voyage

by | Aug 15, 2023 | Disney Cruise Line, Disney History, Disney Wonder

Today in Disney history in 1999, we’re taking a look back at the maiden voyage of Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder ship.

After a long design (and re-design) process, plus lengthy construction at Italy’s renowned Fincantieri shipyards, the Disney Wonder was finally ready to take to the seas in 1999. Just over one year after the launch of the Disney Magic, the Wonder set off on its maiden voyage. The ship welcomed guests on its first sailing with streamers, champagne, music, and even actors in period costumes. 

The Start of the Disney Cruise Line

Plans for Disney vacations at sea had been in the works for several years prior to the official launch of Disney Cruise Line in 1998 with the Disney Magic. The company first took to the seas via a partnership with Premier Cruise Lines that began in 1985 in which special sailings would be offered on Premier’s Big Red Boat that featured Disney characters. 

Disney’s partnership with Premier was comprised of a 10-year contract that ended. In 1994, the company announced that it would be launching its own cruise line, and the first official Disney ship, the Disney Magic, then debuted in 1998. 

The Disney Magic, and the other Disney Cruise Line ships that followed, have continued to set themselves apart from others in the industry. This has been due to their focus on family activities and experiences, Disney’s renowned guest service, and of course, iconic characters and storytelling. 

Building the Disney Wonder

Both the Disney Magic and the Disney Wonder were commissioned and built in the Fincantieri in Italy. The Disney Wonder, the sister shop to the line’s original Disney Magic, was similar in its design save for some subtle differences in dining areas, decor, and details like the ship’s stern character. Every Disney Cruise Line ship has a Disney character that guests can see on the stern that is unique to each vessel. For the Disney Wonder, this character is Donald Duck, accompanied by his nephews.

Characters on other Disney Cruise Line ships include Goofy on the Magic, Dumbo on the Fantasy, Sorcerer Mickey from Fantasia on the Dream, and Rapunzel from Tangled on the Wish. Once construction was finished, the Wonder set sail from Venice on July 14th and arrived in Port Canaveral, Florida on August 2nd, 1999. There, she set out on her maiden voyage on August 15th.

The final outcome is a vessel that’s meticulously designed to bring the golden age of ocean liners to life. So it was appropriate that the festivities to celebrate the maiden voyage on this day in 1999 took passengers back to the days of the grand vessels of the past. This was complete with musicians and actors in period costumes, a sea of streamers, water-spraying tug boats, and thousands of guests with raised champagne flutes.

The Disney Wonder Maiden Voyage

One major difference between each of Disney Cruise Line’s ships and its competitors is the overall style of the vessels. Where most other cruise lines are consistently designing ships with a more modern appearance, Disney’s ships are much more inspired by the golden age of grand ocean liners. As such, the ships are largely painted black, just as they would have been in the early 20th century, and they come complete with multiple smokestacks even though only one is required to operate the ships; the others are just facades used to house everything from bars to guest suites. Of course, the color scheme is also inspired by Mickey Mouse. 

Disney Wonder

Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

The Wonder’s maiden voyage and additional sails for the years following her launch included three and four-night itineraries to the Bahamas with stops at Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s first private island. (The line is currently at work preparing to open another private island destination in the Bahamas with Lighthouse Point.)

Newer Updates to the Disney Wonder

Later itineraries to the Disney Wonder included cruises that called on Hawaii, Eastern, and Western Caribbean locales, Alaska, the Panama Canal, and the Mexican Riviera, to name a few. The ship itself debuted major updates in 2019, particularly focused on new family entertainment like the Tiana’s Place dining experience, where guests can enjoy cuisine inspired by the New Orleans flavors showcased in The Princess and the Frog, along with live music. 

Posts by Brittany DiCologero

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Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
epcot-clothing_creations-shop_chiu

Authored by
Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
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