Client: Walt Disney Attractions
PR Team: In-house team and The Red Consultancy
Campaign: Launch of the Disney Wonder Cruise Liner
Timescale: July 1999
The port of Southampton has a rich maritime history and has seen such
ships as the Queen Mary and the QE2 grace its docks. It was therefore
quite fitting that Disney’s 83,000 ton cruise liner spent three days in
July at the port before making her maiden voyage.
Disney’s second cruise liner, the Disney Wonder, was over three months
behind schedule and cost pounds 250 million. The ship was built in an
Italian shipyard and made its first official appearance at Southampton,
which was her only European port of call before sailing across the
Walt Disney Attractions’ in-house team and the Red Consultancy joined
forces to make the most of the ship’s brief appearance in
To generate national and regional media coverage. To raise awareness
among UK travel agents of Disney’s cruise liners. To update the image of
cruise holidays as a family holiday for all ages.
Strategy and Plan
This was the first time a Disney attraction had visited the UK. The fact
that the UK is Disney’s biggest overseas market, growing at a rate of 20
per cent a year, was a deciding factor in choosing Southampton for the
With just a six-week lead-up to the arrival of the ship in Southampton,
the PR teams started by targeting probably the most important audience -
the kids. Competitions were organised involving key children’s TV
programmes such as Fully Booked, SMTV and BBC Newsround, offering
winners the chance to take part in activities on board the ship while it
was in port.
They also contacted London radio station Capital FM and two Southampton
stations two weeks before the ship’s arrival to arrange promotion of the
The Daily Mail ran a page devoted to a VIP ticket promotion and six
regional newspapers were approached to run children’s competitions with
the prize of a party onboard. The team also worked closely with local
papers in the south of England.
The quayside terminal was transformed, with 400 tons of sand and 100
palm trees to resemble Disney’s private Caribbean island, Castaway Cay,
where the Disney Wonder sails to. This created a photo opportunity for
the national and regional media who were invited to cover the arrival of
the ship with the Mayor of Southampton and Mickey Mouse in the
Press access to the Disney Wonder was limited due to the fact that over
2,000 travel agents and tour operators had been invited on board.
A celebrity party was held on board on the first night of the ship’s
stay and an exclusive party coverage feature with OK! was secured.
Measurement and Evaluation
On the day of the arrival of the Disney Wonder, Channel 5, ITN, Radio 5
Live and CNN Worldwide all ran live news items. Around 12,000 people
turned up to watch the firework display and to wave the ship off when it
left three days later. Several local news programmes also covered the
ship’s arrival along with national coverage in the Independent, the Sun,
OK! and on TV. Photos of the ship arriving also ran in six major
regional newspapers, including the Evening Standard and the
The campaign was an overall success. Tour operators gave positive
feedback and bookings for Disney cruises increased. Further coverage is
still expected in the Sunday Times kids’ section and several travel
supplements, as well as a forthcoming TV programme for next spring.