Who's The Leader Of The Band?

team was formed in the early 1990s, its mission from day one was clear: Create a "modern classic" cruise ship. While simple in statement, the challenge was compounded by a variety of factors.

First, and perhaps most challenging, was the need to design, develop and deliver a product that would exceed the stratospheric expectations of Disney, a company famous for its demands of quality. Second, it was necessary to produce a ship worthy of holding its own among a slew of technologically advanced, increasingly sophisticated cruise ship newbuildings which have become the hallmark of the 1990s.

So began the journey to deliver what will prove to be the cruise industry's most significant ships of the year β€” Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.

The course plotted to develop these two ships β€” in terms of cruise industry norms β€” was familiar in many ways, pioneering in others. In terms of personnel, Disney ensured that the foremost talent β€” both traditional maritime and non-maritime expertise β€” was tapped to deliver a product which from design through construction was uniquely Disney. It is, perhaps, this integration of such a diversity of personnel and organizations including Disney's own Imagineers β€” and the resultant shipboard features which will help define the development of these ships as a watershed event for cruise ship outfitting. A perfect example of the integration of such talent is seen in the creation of the ship's unique exterior. Disney tapped Norwegian Njal Eide, one of the world's most recognized ship designers, to research and design the ship's outward appearance. Mr. Eide, in turn, consulted with an industrial engineer from frogdesign, a firm known predominantly for its package design for such clients as Acer and Macintosh. "This is how we brought non-ship insights into the equation," said Mike Reininger, vice president, product development, Disney Cruise Line.

In terms of cruising itinerary, Disney chose to ignore the obvious choice of stopping at islands shared by other cruise companies, opting instead to purchase and develop its own Caribbean island a parcel of land now dubbed Castaway Cay (see picture page 42). "Most of our competitors don't own their own islands; they have contracts ... which are used by several cruise lines," noted Bob Shinn, senior vice president and general manager, WDI-FL. "Ours is Disney-designed, owned and operated." The significance of this development is relevant to this article in that it had a hand in determining some of the eventual technical specifications and machinery requirements written into the vessels' final plans. Purchasing islands and creative on-board environments notwithstanding, the focus of this article will center on the development, building, outfitting and operation of the 85,000-gt Disney Magic.

It is worthy to note that β€” despite the glitz and glamour surrounding the Disney name and properties β€” the end product is, after all, still a ship.

While Disney is always perched at the top of the cliff in terms of creativity, the company is noted for its sound technical approach to delivering its goods: i.e. while its shoreside and seagoing attractions are sure to inspire awe and wonder, it's a safe bet that the technology employed β€” which makes the creativity a reality β€” is tried and true. Hence, Disney Magic adheres to the same rules and regulations of other cruise ships, which consequently help define some of their inside and outside design and specifications. The roster of designers and suppliers employed to make the ships a reality include industry stalwarts such as Njal Eide, Deltamarin, Wartsila NSD, Carrier, Litton Sperry, Hopeman Brothers, General Electric, Thordon and Lloyd's Register, to name just a few. These, and many more individuals and organizations have collaborated to deliver a ship that is designed to be a safe, seaworthy vessel for several decades.

The shipbuilder, Italy's Fincantieri, has become synonymous with the construction of top quality cruise ships, and has enjoyed the lion's share of new cruise ship orders of late.

However, the selection of the shipyard to build the Disney ships entailed a broad search for a company that could not only build the highest quality vessel β€” which there are many, particularly Kvaerner Masa-Yards, Meyer Werft and Chantiers de l'Atlantique β€” but locating the facility which offered the precise "window of opportunity" to accept the order and build the ships in Disney's timeline.

While the Disney "story" could fill bound volumes, following is a walk-through of the creation of a ship fit to carry the Disney name. From The Beginning Disney began the active study of becoming a cruise ship owner/operator in the early 1990s, according to Jon Rusten, Disney Cruise Lines' (DCL) director of development and newbuilding. At that time, the company offered a cruise element to its land based operation via a teaming with Premier Cruises, which offered the "Big Red Boat" cruises. But Disney holds itself to the highest stan-strategy. To start, the company held a design competition which tasked three renowned ship designers with providing a concept of the new ship, a concept to be presented to company CEO Michael Eisner. Following the selection of the "best relevant direction" for the design to proceed, the same three designers went back to work, from which the first tangible example of the Disney fleet emerged, (time frame: seven months, April to October 1994). Simultaneously, a series of other critical interior and exterior design decisions were being made. Design resources from inside and outside from around the world. Designers were given a space and the instructions to "create a fantasy space," said Mr. Rusten.

Internally, Mr. Rusten and his team started to define the elements that were inherent in the classic cruise ships of previous decades, elements that would be critical to set Disney Magic and Disney Wonder apart from the crowd. While creative freedom was granted to all, the final designs were taken to Deltamarin, Finland-based naval architect/marine engineering firm to ensure that the concepts were achievable on a ship.

While this design work proceeded, towards the Autumn of 1994 Disney realized that a precious window of opportunity would be opening at several of the world's premiere cruise ship building shipyards in the Spring of 1995. This ignited a push to fast-track the technical and conceptual design of the vessel by approximately three to four months to ensure that this opportunity was not lost. It is again relevant to note Disney's adherence to its own quality standards here. It would have been a quicker and cheaper for Disney to accept one of the shipyard's cruise ship designs β€” adding its own embellishments β€”to ensure that the ships go to market on time. "Our design work was done far in advance of the shipbuilding contract," said Arthur Rodney, DCL president. All of the preparatory work on behalf of Disney was crucial to making the ships a reality, (buise L i n e as "we went out and pre-designed the ship with all of the architectural and technical elements defined...the shipyard was actually an extension of this process," said Mr. Rusten.

The coordination of shipowner with shipyard, consultants, designers and naval architects from all four corners of the world was another large logistical challenge in Mr. Rusten's estimation, a challenge which was only met with a detailed and successful communications process.

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