Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Disney Cruise Line’s enviable kid clout

Disney Cruise Line’s enviable kid clout

By Tom Stieghorst
Almost without exception, you can tell which cruise lines are serious about attracting families by whether there are animated characters prowling the pool deck.

Whether it is Smurfs, Cinderella, Kung-Fu Panda or SpongeBob SquarePants, they generally signify which lines have a year-round business attracting kids and which don’t.

Some lines make no claim to providing characters or attracting children, including Oceania Cruises, Azamara Club Cruises and, soon, Viking Ocean Cruises.  Others don’t do a lot of family business during the school year, often because of longer itineraries.

Of the lines that do provide characters, one stands above the rest. Disney Cruise Line’s advantage is almost unfair, its roster of characters so deep and historic, that if characters are a primary consideration, it has to be tops on the list.

And the line isn’t content to rest on its laurels. Its animation factory just keeps turning out the hits.

On Sunday night, Disney took home an Oscar for its movie “Big Hero 6,” featuring Marvel Comics superheroes, who are also present on Disney Cruise Line ships. That comes on top of last year’s Oscar for “Frozen,” the top-grossing animated movie of all time.

“Big Hero 6” topped DreamWorks Studios’ entrant in the Oscars derby, “How To Train Your Dragon 2.” DreamWorks characters such as Shrek are exclusive to Royal Caribbean International ships.

Of course, popular films emerge from other studios besides Disney. The DreamWorks stable includes notable franchises such as Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar. 

But Disney’s four ships have so many characters to pick from. This summer it will feature characters from “Frozen” on cruises to Norway and Iceland. Next year it will have “Star Wars Day at Sea” on eight selected sailings, featuring characters from the Star Wars movies.

The ownership of Disney Cruise Line by entertainment powerhouse Walt Disney Co., of course, gives it access to these properties. And it kind of puts the success of the cruise industry in perspective. When you ask which cruise company has the biggest investor value, it isn’t Carnival Corp, valued at $34 billion. It is Walt Disney, valued at $178 billion.