Thrifty Thursday: Travel on the Walt Disney World Ferry Boat

Photo courtesy of www.disneyshawn.blogspot.com

Disney’s ferry boat system is one of the great, FREE ways to travel during your visit to Walt Disney World. The ferries are similar to any you would find in any city in America; with an upper and a lower deck connected by two interior stairways. There are three different ferryboats that run from the Transportation & Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom park and back. Although not as much a part of the Disney transportation system that they once were, but I am hoping to encourage you to try this treasure as part of your next WDW trip.

One of the special things I really enjoy during our annual trip is riding the ferry on the way to the Magic Kingdom on our first day in the park. While many people flood to the front of the boat, I like to head upstairs to grab a great spot from which to see the beautiful scenery. The ride reminds me of when I was a little girl growing up in Galveston, Texas. My grandfather was a Ferryboat Captain with the Galveston Island-Port Bolivar Ferry and I spent many hours through the years on journeys across Galveston Bay. My grandpa used to let me into the wheelhouse to sit upon his lap and “drive” the ferry. As the Disney Ferryboat glides through the water toward our most anticipated destination, I reminisce of many special memories and revel in every second of it. For those of you who don’t have special childhood memories of ferry rides, I would like to try to convince you to give the ferry system a try.

When the Transportation and Ticket Center served as the major hub for Disney’s transportation system, everyone traveled either by monorail or ferry to the Magic Kingdom. Now, it is an adventure you will have to purposely work into your itinerary. You might ask why you would want to go out of your way for this, so I am hoping to appeal to your “magical” side.

Wonder

I love the beautiful scenery as we head across Seven Seas Lagoon on our way to the Magic Kingdom. I truly enjoy seeing the Magic Kingdom resorts from this point of view: the enchanting Tahitian beauty of the Polynesian Resort, the gleaming white majesty of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and the familiar and iconic A-frame of the Contemporary Resort. As I watch it all from the upper deck, I am amazed at how on earth General Potter, the namesake of one of these vessels, developed the previous swamp land so creatively while protecting the visible wildlife to create such a breathtaking man made landscape.

As we curve toward the castle, I am filled with the emotions of waiting all year for this day. Growing nearer and nearer to the castle and the train station, and seeing the monorail circling the lake, I feel like I am home. I am camera-ready and overcome with joy at that moment.

Nostalgia

As I said previously, there are three different ferryboats that run from the TTC to the Magic Kingdom and back. The three ferries are trimmed in different colors and are named after very important Disney Legends.

  • Green: The Admiral Joe Fowler: This ferry is named after retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Joe Fowler. Walt Disney hired this Disney Legend in 1954 to serve as construction boss for the entire Disneyland project. After it was completed, Admiral Fowler stayed on as General Manager of Disneyland for the first 10 years of operation, and also assisted with the construction of Walt Disney World. He retired from The Walt Disney Company in 1978 but continued on as a consultant. Admiral Fowler passed on December 6, 1993.
  • Red: The Richard F. Irvine: This single-stack vessel was named after Academy Award winning art director and Disney Legend, Richard Irvine. Walt Disney chose him in 1952 to help construct Disneyland. He became a senior figure at Walt Disney Imagineering and became executive vice president and chief operations officer for that enterprise in 1967.  Until his retirement in 1973, he headed design and planning for all Disneyland attractions, ranging from the Haunted Mansion to Pirates of the Caribbean. Mr. Irvine passed on March 30, 1976.
  • Blue: The General Joe Potter: The only ferry with two smoke stacks, this ferry was named after Army Major General William E. “Joe” Potter, who was known as an engineering and logistical planning genius. Walt Disney hired him in 1965 to serve as Vice President of Florida Planning. His job was to oversee the early construction phases of Walt Disney World in Florida, and many say that without him there would be no Walt Disney World today. General Potter was responsible for transforming 300 acres of Florida land into the Magic Kingdom, while preserving the area’s ecology and beauty. When he retired in 1974, General Potter was serving as vice president for EPCOT Planning and senior vice president of Walt Disney World Company. This Disney Legend died on December 5, 1988.

Fun

If your children are anything like I was, most of them will find a ferry boat ride to be a lot of fun. This probably will not be as true for those of you who actually use ferries as a method of transportation back home, but for children who have not been on any or many boat rides before, it is another new and enjoyable experience to be had while at Walt Disney World.

How might you work the trip into your itinerary?

Well, it will not likely be part of your normal Disney travel due to the changes years ago in transporting guests from the resorts in the most efficient fashion.

If you are staying at a monorail resort, you will likely take the monorail to the Magic Kingdom. If you are having a slower-paced morning or just want to add a new experience to your trip, you might exit the monorail at the TTC and hop on the ferry for the rest of your journey.

If you are staying at any other on-site resort, your transportation (bus or boat) will bypass this treasure altogether. In that case, it would be a wonderful idea to make a lunch or dinner reservation at a monorail resort during a day you visit the Magic Kingdom. Simply take the ferry to the TTC and then ride the monorail for the rest of the way.

If you are staying at an off-site resort, you will either park or be dropped off at the Transportation and Ticket Center. From the TTC, you can either board the monorail or the ferry. A great idea is to go to the Magic Kingdom via ferry, then return to the TTC via monorail.

The WDW ferryboats typically run from 8:30am to 45 minutes after the Magic Kingdom closes. Each ferryboat has a maximum capacity of 600 persons and they are wheelchair- and stroller-accessible on the lower deck. I hope you will experience this boat ride during your next visit. It is a picturesque way to arrive at the Magic Kingdom and a fun and relaxing way to enjoy a trip to a special meal at a monorail resort.

Brenda is a native Texan born and raised on the Gulf Coast. She visited Disney World twice as a teenager and always dreamed of growing her family Disney. She took her first-timer husband and their three children to Disney World in 2000 and they now spend every Thanksgiving there. Brenda writes with a comedic twist on various Disney topics. She will be sharing tips she has learned during her travels and also hopes to enlighten people on little-known freebies that Disney has to offer. She wishes she could have met Walt Disney and considers herself to be a student of Walt. In parallel to his dream it is her wish that everyone would take at least one trip to Disney World in order to share in its magic with their families.

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5 Responses to Thrifty Thursday: Travel on the Walt Disney World Ferry Boat

  1. Kelly says:

    Great post!! We love it too! Normally we use it to go from MK to ‘Ohana…so fun.

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  3. Brenda says:

    We must be soul sisters, Kelly! We both love the ferry and we both love ‘Ohana!!! :)

  4. Greg Chin says:

    Brenda,
    Hey, glad you enjoyed riding the WDW Ferryboats so much! I use to pilot those 3 ferryboats when I worked at Walt Disney World’s Watercraft Dept, which operated them, and the other Watercraft vessels. That was during 1978 thru 1984. Yes, the ferryboats are awesome vessels, and add so much to the guest transportation experience. I hear that WDW Transportation is considering building a 4th ferryboat, to the ferryboat fleet. The EPCOT Resorts watertaxis are operated by a separate dept., but the first two watertaxis were tested in Bay lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon during 1981 to 1982, right before EPCOT and the World Showcase Lagoon were ready for them in Sept. of 1982. I was also one of the test pilots of the Watertaxis. See my website http://www.wcdept478.com for more info. That’s the WDW Dept. number, Dept. 478 for Watercraft. Later!

  5. Greg Chin says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention, they are considering a 4th ferryboat, since the Fantasyland Expansion will no doubt bring a lot of guests back to the Magic Kingdom, during the Summer of 2012, if everything goes as planned.

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