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Sue Holland

Boating at WDW - Transportation and Recreation

Friday, June 14, 2002
by Sue Holland, MousePlanet staff writer

Water mice are available for rental at many of the marinas around WDW
Water mice are available for rental at many of the marinas around WDW

Boating at WDW - Transportation and Recreation

Walt Disney World is home to one of the largest fleets of pleasure boats in the world, with a variety of options available for both transportation and recreation.


One of the smaller Magic Kingdom resort boats

Dating back to 1971 when the Magic Kingdom first opened, one of the two modes of transportation available to bring visitors into the park was a large ferry boat.

While lines formed quickly at the nearby monorail station, people could often walk right onto a waiting ferry for a leisurely five-minute trip to the Magic Kingdom. It is a standing-only ride, since this boat does not have many seats, but it does not seem to be a problem for such a short trip. Both ends of the ship have ramps that lower to the dock, allowing people to board at one end and exit from the other, eliminating the need for the boat to turn around.

The Magic Kingdom resorts--Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, and Ft. Wilderness Campground--also have boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom. Since the monorail as not an option for the campground and Wilderness Lodge, the boats serving these locations tend to be larger than the ones coming from the other resorts.

One of the larger launches that run between Wilderness Lodge and the Magic Kingdom
One of the larger launches that run between
 Wilderness Lodge and the Magic Kingdom

These boats, which generally run every 20 minutes, are enclosed and air-conditioned, protecting passengers from foul weather. Seating is provided inside, in the form of bench seating, and outside, both in the front and rear of the boat. The boats that travel between Epcot, MGM Studios, and the Epcot Resorts are very similar (if not identical), although they seem to travel more slowly in that area.

One of the smaller Magic Kingdom resort boats
One of the smaller Magic Kingdom resort boats

The smaller boats can be a lot of fun, because you ride closer to the water. They are the closest you can get to a recreational type of boating experience without having to rent a private watercraft. These are not fun places to be when the weather is cold or when it is raining, however!

Animal Kingdom is the one park that cannot be accessed by boat from any location. Downtown Disney is connected to a few resorts by water, and those resorts have boats as an option during certain hours of the day. Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside share a fairly large boat to serve their 3000 rooms of visitors.

The Sassagoula Steamboat company runs between Port Orleans Resort and Downtown Disney
The Sassagoula Steamboat company runs between Port Orleans Resort and Downtown Disney

The boats dock near the Rainforest Café at the Marketplace end of Downtown Disney, and although they are a nice alternative to the bus, the seats are not very comfortable, the boat is ugly (in my opinion), and if there are a lot of people waiting, it would be wise to count them to see if you will make it on the next boat. The capacity is listed at the dock, and they do not make exceptions to this safety rule because they are limited by the number of lifejackets on board. One of these boats used to shuttle people between the Marketplace and the West Side after 4 p.m. or 6 p.m., but that service has been discontinued..

The Trumbo Ferry that runs between Old Key West Resort and Downtown Disney
The Trumbo Ferry that runs between Old Key West Resort and Downtown Disney

People staying at Old Key West have a much more comfortable boat to ride to Downtown Disney. The Trumbo Ferry, a pontoon boat, holds the driver and 10 to 12 passengers, who sit on cushioned seats. Children are required to wear a life jackets on this boat. Conversations often get started with such a small group.

When the Disney Institute was open, at times they had a pontoon boat that operated in the evening to bring guests to the Marketplace.

Disney assumes that these transportation options are not enough to satisfy the urge of visitors to spend time on the water, so most Disney resorts offer a wide variety of rental water craft. People staying at the All-Star Resorts to travel to a different resort, however. To rent any boat, persons need only to show either their Disney resort identification card or a driver's license. Certain boats have age restrictions for the driver, and cast members patrol the waterways to make sure people are operating the boats in a safe manner. If your boat breaks down for any reason, those are the people who come to your rescue.

The largest selection of rentals can are at the Magic Kingdom Resorts, and the combined Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon is easily the best area for boating. Rentals from the moderate resorts and Epcot resorts are more limited, and the speed boats are idled down to a slower speed, which is something to consider when deciding where to get your boat.

A close up view of a water mouse (this one is at the Contemporary Resort marina)
A close up view of a water mouse (this one is at the Contemporary Resort marina)

Without a doubt, the most popular rental is the two-passenger Water Mouse. A small speedboat, these are a lot of fun and feel like they go faster than they actually do. Drivers must be at least 12 years old and be at least five feet tall, and there is a weight limit (which I believe is 250 or 300 pounds). They will not allow an adult and 2 small children - each boat is allowed either one person or two people, without exception. The higher the weight, the slower the boat, so I would recommend two adults or teens each get their own Water Mouse if they want to have the most fun.. These rent for $22 (including tax) for 30 minutes, and everyone must wear a life jacket.

Pontoon boats docked at the Downtown Disney marina
Pontoon boats docked at the Downtown Disney marina

People preferring a more leisurely ride, or who have a larger family might prefer the pontoon boats. In addition to being available at the Magic Kingdom Resorts, they can be rented at Old Key West for a ride down the river to Downtown Disney (and rented at the Marketplace as well). Each boat holds up to 10 passengers, and while it does not go very fast, it can be a very nice way to spend part of an afternoon. These boats cost $35 (including tax) per 30 minutes. The pontoons can be rented with a driver, and generally start at $120.

A canopy boat plying the waters of the Trumbo Canal at Old Key West Resort
A canopy boat plying the waters of the Trumbo Canal at Old Key West Resort

In between the speed boat and the pontoon is a Canopy Boat. These seem to go faster than the pontoons, and accommodate a family of four without any problem. They are also a little less expensive than the pontoons, at $26.50 (including tax) for 30 minutes.

A pair of sailboats pulled up on the beach at the Contemporary Resort
A pair of sailboats pulled up on the beach at the Contemporary Resort

The Contemporary Resort has a couple of sailboats available, with enough instruction to get you out onto the water. These boats rent for $20-25 per 30 minutes, depending on which boat you select. The Polynesian Resort may still have long canoes available, and Coronado Springs has kayaks. If you are looking for a particular type of boat, the cast members working at any marina should be able to call to check availability for you.

A pedal boat at the Old Key West Resort Marina
A pedal boat at the Old Key West Resort Marina

Several of the resorts have pedal boats available, and I have seen a couple of the boats that look like bicycles mounted on pontoons. While I find the pedal boats to be too much work to be fun, the bicycle-style boats are reported to be much easier. There is no room for a second passenger on the bike boats, though.

The fanciest and most expensive rental boat at WDW is the Breathless, located at the Yacht Club marina. It is very expensive to rent, and guests are not allowed to drive — a captain comes with the rental price. For current prices and availability, contact the Yacht Club.

No personal boats are permitted on any Disney waterway, and during busy summer afternoons you may have to wait for the type of boat you want to rent. The prices are high enough that most people stick with just a 30-minute rental instead of keeping the boat for hours, though.

So whether you have images of transportation or recreation when you think of a boat, Disney most likely has one that will meet your needs.


Contact Sue at sue.holland@mouseplanet.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.

After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.

She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.

Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.

You can contact Sue here.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”

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