Disney Cruise Line has never competed among lines vying to sail the largest cruise ships. But it's about to enter the running.
The line this month acquired the Global Dream, a massive, partially built ship abandoned in bankruptcy when Genting Hong Kong's MV Werften shipyard ceased operations in Germany early this year. The ship had been slated to sail for Genting's Dream Cruises brand.
At 208,000 gross tons and 6,000 passengers, the ship is one of the world's biggest. By comparison, the new Disney Wish is 144,000 gross tons and carries 4,000 guests.
Disney declined to reveal how much it spent on the ship but said it paid a "favorable price."
With the Global Dream, Disney will be one of just three cruise lines with a ship of more than 200,000 gross tons: Royal Caribbean International and MSC Cruises are the others. The ship will give Disney a huge capacity bump at a time when the line is already growing: Two ships are on order and slated to enter service by 2025, the same year Disney expects the renamed Global Dream to debut. Disney said the additional ship will not impact its delivery plans.
Travel advisors who specialize in Disney called the purchase a good move and are confident that there is enough demand to justify a swift growth of the Disney fleet, including with the gigantic ship.
"I can tell you that there will be a huge demand for it," said Greg Antonelle, co-owner of MickeyTravels in Windermere, Fla. "Whether it's the Dream or the Magic, or even the Wish now, you have people who have been on those cruise ships literally dozens of times. They love Disney Cruise Line and what they have to offer."
Where will Disney deploy the ship?
Disney's announcement about the ship left much to the imagination. The line gave no clues about where the ship will be based except to say that it will be outside the U.S.
The Dream was built for the Asian market, and agents who sell Disney predict the ship would do well there given that the region already supports several Disney theme parks.
"It's just an area of the world that loves Disney," said Jennifer Kellum, owner of Neverland & Main Travel in Jacksonville, N.C. "I don't think you could put it anywhere else and fill it."
On Travel Weekly's new "Selling the Mouse" podcast, Beci Mahnken of MEI-Travel, Mouse Fan Travel and Universal Travel, told host Jamie Biesiada that regardless of where it is based, the ship will "100%" attract visitors from the U.S.
"If it goes out of Japan for example, how amazing would that be to be able to go to Tokyo DisneySea and Disneyland and then hop on a ship, or vice versa?" she said. "Or out of the China market, being able to visit one of Hong Kong Disneyland or Shanghai and then go on a Disney cruise."
Another question is how Disney will inject its brand personality onto a vessel that was 75% completed for a different cruise line.
The vessel will be finished at what was the MV Werften shipyard but overseen by Meyer Werft, the German shipbuilding company that built the Disney Dream, Fantasy and the Wish.
The ship will be powered by green methanol, one of the lowest-emission fuels available.
While Disney said that certain features of the ship will be reimagined, a few agents expressed hope that the line will keep the casino already onboard, which would make it the only Disney ship with a place to gamble.
"I want to play blackjack on a Disney ship," said Adam Duckworth, president of Travelmation in Fort Lauderdale, adding that he'd love for the cards to have Disney characters as the king, queen and jack. "I would eat it up."
New homes for Genting ships
The Global Dream is the latest ship snatched up this year from companies connected to Genting Hong Kong's bankruptcy. The other ships belonged to the now-defunct Crystal Cruises.
Crystal's oceangoing Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony were bought by Abercrombie & Kent Travel Group, which also acquired the brand name and passenger list, and plans to relaunch the ships in summer 2023, likely in the Mediterranean.
Silversea Cruises nabbed the Crystal Endeavor, the barely year-old Polar Class 6 expedition ship. The vessel has since been renamed the Silver Endeavour and was christened Nov. 19 in Antarctica's Lemaire Channel.
Crystal’s 48-passenger yacht, the Crystal Esprit, was acquired by Lindblad Expeditions, refurbished and put into service in the Galapagos this summer.
Riverside Luxury Cruises, a river cruise brand that launched in September, quietly acquired the Crystal Mozart in June and will rename it the Riverside Mozart when it debuts on the Danube River in April. The line is considering buying more of the four other Crystal river ships not yet reported sold.
Jamie Biesiada contributed to this report.