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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Disney Loyalty: What Brings Them Back?

From Apple to Ford, brand loyalty is key to corporate survival during rough economic times, but even more importantly than that, travel and entertainment are key to keeping up our spirits. And at that very intersection of corporate and social success during all seasons is Disney.

Other cruise lines have partnered up with entertainment companies and properties to boost their appeal and have done so quite well. Royal Caribbean International has teamed up with DreamWorks Animation, Norwegian Cruise Line with Nickelodeon, and Carnival Cruise Lines with Hasbro. However, only Disney Cruise Line has access to absolute synergy by blending its entirely in-house library of entertainment with popular travel destinations and an established brand following.

Disney Differentiators – what the line calls their exclusive features – include meet-and-greets with their costumed characters just like at the Disney parks on land; at-sea premieres of Disney films; Magical Portholes for the inside staterooms onboard Dream and Fantasy that feature animated Disney characters in front of a live view of the ocean; an Enchanted Art digital scavenger hunt with the Muppets onboard Fantasy; and even collaborations with Pixar to name a few.

A Magical Porthole as available on the Dream and Fantasy (Copyright © Disney Cruise Line)

Pixar Cruises

In fact, Disney Cruise Line is planning four Pixar-specific sailings on the Disney Wonder this fall from September 16th to October 14th, 2012 on the California coast in what is poised to be a sort of D23 Expo – Disney’s biennial fan convention – for Pixar at sea.

Onboard will be meet-and-greets with Pixar characters Remy, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie, Mr. Incredible, and more. The 3D version of Finding Nemo will premiere on these cruises to coincide with the shoreside release, and as a bonus, all the other famous Pixar films will be screened too. Plus, actual Pixar artists and filmmakers will present behind-the-scenes looks at the Pixar process and their latest film, Brave, along with sneak peeks at upcoming films.

And on top of all of that, there will be an onboard Art of Pixar exhibit featuring rarely seen concept art like storyboards, character sketches, environment paintings, and maquettes. Also, a commemorative lithograph created by Pixar artist and Brave co-director/screenwriter, Steve Purcell, will be given to guests onboard these special sailings.

Popular Cruising is excited to be onboard for the first September 16th cruise, and there are still bookings available for you to join these very unique seven-night voyages that will set sail in and out of Los Angeles and visit San Francisco, San Diego, and Ensenada, Mexico. For more information check out the video below and visit the Disney Cruise Line website here.

(Copyright © Disney Cruise Line)

The Loyalists

In part, it’s such a diverse approach to cruising that brings Disney Cruise Line repeaters back, but often times it’s the simple pleasures that make the biggest impression. While onboard the Disney Fantasy a few months back, I had the pleasure to interview two couples that are loyal Disney cruisers – MaryEllen & Ralph Jondle and Marsha Way & Brian DeLisle.

MaryEllen and Ralph Jondle in front of a depiction of the Disney fleet (Copyright © MaryEllen and Ralph Jondle)

Besides one other Carnival cruise that was not to their liking, MaryEllen and Ralph – retired schoolteachers – have been on 52 Disney cruises, including sailings that they have enjoyed with their four children and thirteen grandchildren.

“It’s the friendliness” that stands out, says MaryEllen. “It isn’t just the ones you know serving you that meet you and say something – it’s everybody. And even from the second time on they remember you, and you’re treated just like a family.” On their 50th cruise, Disney provided a very nice private reception for their entire family complete with hors d’oeuvres.

The lifelong Disney fans who also frequent Walt Disney World as Florida residents explain, “we like to cruise, and we wouldn’t choose any other cruise line.”

Marsha Way and Brian DeLisle with their Duffy bears (Copyright © Marsha Way and Brian DeLisle)

As I’ve mentioned, the Disney Cruise Line represents the culmination of all the best elements of international Disney properties, and Marsha and Brian agree, noting that the ship itself is enough to keep their attention: “We’ve kind of said that now too like they could just take the ship out in the ocean and we would never get off the ship.”

Marsha and Brian – who run the Disney vacation planning website, – have enjoyed seven Disney sailings, and while they don’t have children of their own, they do bring along with them their cherished Duffy bears – the official Disney-branded teddy bear. Also, as Brian points out, “yeah, we’re adults. We don’t have kids, but we’ve done all the detective agency stories on the two ships, [the Dream and the Fantasy].” So they definitely let their kids-at-heart out to play the Enchanted Art scavenger hunts.

They even educated me on Fish Extenders – an unofficial Christmas stocking-like cloth pouch you can hang outside your stateroom door from the decorative fish hook as a fun social exercise. Brian explained, “ has message boards, and for each cruise that Disney has, there’s a board for every single cruise that Disney does so you can go on there and talk with other people that are going on the cruise with you in the future. So, you can sign up for this fish extender program, and…what you do is you bring stuff and you put items in the other people’s that are on the list.”

Marsha added, “so we brought key chains, and we’ve gotten a lot of candy from other people and some made-up magnets or bookmarks. You put in a little gift, and then you come back to your room and ‘oh, somebody left us something!’”

From fish extenders to Pixar cruises, there are plenty of ways that the Disney Cruise Line and their imaginative guests keep them coming back for more. Have you been on a Disney cruise too? Share with us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Also, be sure to watch our Disney Fantasy video review here.




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