By announcing the addition of its next cruise ship five years in advance, Disney proved it is patient — and really good at building anticipation.
Disney Cruise Line will add two ships to its small fleet in 2021 and 2023 — nearly a decade after its last new addition.
“Yes, it takes a long time to build these big ships,” said Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, during Disney’s annual shareholders meeting Thursday. “Our Disney imagineers are already hard at work dreaming up ways to make them our most spectacular yet.”
The ships will be 135,000 gross tons, slightly larger than the line’s last two vessels, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. Those launched in 2011 and 2012. Like both of those ships, the new builds will each include 1,250 passenger staterooms.
Details about the names, itineraries, onboard features and just about everything else have not yet been announced. Disney Cruise Line will have a total of six ships once the new orders are delivered.
While the cruise announcement was the biggest piece of news from the meeting, Iger also revealed some tidbits about what’s ahead for the company’s theme parks across the world. Here are some takeaways:
Disney is Super Hyped About Its Upcoming Shanghai Park
“To say that we’re excited about the June 16 grand opening may be the understatement of the year,” Iger said. “I’ve been involved in this project for 17 years, and it’s been thrilling to watch it come to life.”
He said he visited last week while ride testing was underway and tried some of the attractions. The resort will include six themed lands within Shanghai Disneyland; the largest castle in a Disney park; two hotels; an adjacent shopping, dining and entertainment area; and a nature park.
“It’s going to be one of the proudest and most exciting moments in the history of The Walt Disney Company, as well as a very, very important part of our future,” Iger said.
The Company Is Pondering What Comes Next for Epcot
In response to a question about future plans at Epcot — especially given the recent growth of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom and expansions in progress at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom — Iger said minds are at work.
“We met at Imagineering not that long ago and looked at long-range plans for Epcot. You know we don’t like to just stand on our laurels or maintain the status quo,” he said. “We too believe that there are all kinds of opportunities, particularly given the size of Epcot, to take advantage of the property and expand our offerings and our attractions. There’s a lot of great work going into that thinking.”
Disney Hopes Its New Pricing Model Will Reduce Crowds
Iger said the company’s recently enacted strategy of charging different admission prices on different days will give guests in Florida and California options they didn’t have previously.
“And we hope that one of the byproducts of this pricing strategy is to spread out our visitation, shall we say, and to perhaps reduce crowds during what is our most popular or the peak periods of time,” he said. “We actually feel pretty good about what we have just announced because again, it provides so many different variables for the guests and it may end up providing a slightly better guest experience in the most popular days.”
Marvel Characters Will Probably Never Appear at Its Florida Parks
A shareholder wanted to know when, if ever, Marvel characters might appear at Disney’s Florida theme parks. The company bought Marvel in 2009, but competitor Universal holds the rights to have characters from the brand in its own Orlando parks..
“The rights that we do not have to Marvel east of the Mississippi that prevent us from doing certain things in Orlando with the Marvel characters and franchises are, I believe, in perpetuity,” Iger said. “So there’s nothing imminent and there isn’t an expiration date, to my knowledge. We have from time to time talked about whether there’s a negotiation to be had that would expand our rights to do that, but there’s nothing active at the moment.”
MagicBands Seem Headed for Obsolescence
Disney is pleased with its MyMagic+ technology, which allows guests to better plan their visits while delivering mounds of data on customer behavior. But the wristbands that are used in Orlando to enter parks and hotel rooms, make purchases, and access FastPasses seem likely to go the way of paper tickets. The company has already said that it will not use the bands at the Shanghai park.
“Because technology keeps moving onward and improving, we’re looking at all different ways to expand the program both in Orlando and in our other parks around the world,” Iger said. “It won’t necessarily be through physical MagicBands since mobile technology and personal mobile devices can offer a lot of the functionality that the bands that we created offer. There may be some very, very different but equally great opportunities for us to use technology to improve experience.”
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Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line celebrates with guests on the Disney Magic following the announcement that The Walt Disney Company will add two more ships. Chloe Rice / Disney Cruise Line