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Walt Disney World Ferry Boats and the STOLport

Walt Disney World Ferry Boats and the STOLport

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Ferry Boats and Steamships

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom I Ferry Boat

Only three monorails were available on Opening Day, along with the barely-functioning trams.  Operations chief Dick Nunis took anything that could float to help transport guests to the Magic Kingdom.  These included the hotel launches, rental houseboats for resort guests and even one of the Keel Boats!  Also used were the two "Osceola Class" sidewheeler steam ships with "walking beam" engines, the Ports-O-Call and the Southern Seas.  Both were originally designed for moonlight dinner cruises.  A concept drawing of one the sidewheelers could be seen in an early postcard and the Southern Seas ship was also glimpsed in the 1975 TV special Welcome to the "World" where Tommy Tune tap danced on the roof!   The ships couldn't handle the strain from all the use and one of them sunk during a refurbishment.  They were later retired and used for their parts.  

Walt Disney World Osceola Sidewheel steamer boat

 The Magic Kingdom I and Magic Kingdom II ferry boats arrived in July of 1972 and each boat could hold about 600 people.  The Kingdom Queen ferry joined the fleet in June of 1976.  All three boats were renamed in 1997.  Magic Kingdom I became the Admiral Joe Fowler, Magic Kingdom II became the Richard F. Irvine and Kingdom Queen became the General Joe Potter.  The first two ferries had names that had been originally given to Frontierland riverboats.  For more about recreational boat and water craft activities, visit the Bob-Around-Boats and Other Early Water Activities page.

Watch a Family Ride in the Front of a Monorail from Epcot and Take the Ferry to the Magic Kingdom in 1984

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Map showing Walt Disney World STOLport airport

 During the first few years of operation, Disney built a Short Take-Off and Landing airport (STOLport) near the Transportation and Ticket Center that would allow guests to fly into the major Central Florida airports and then connect via commuter airlines to fly directly to Walt Disney World.  It was known by several names, including Walt Disney World Airport, Lake Buena Vista Airport and Lake Buena Vista STOLport.  The International Air Transport Association code (IATA) for the STOLport was DWS.  

 Shawnee Airlines operated eight daily flights using Twin Otter turbo-prop planes that held nineteen passengers but the service in conjunction with Eastern Airlines for flights going into Tampa or Orlando only ran for about a year.  Shawnee Airlines survived until about 1980 but was restructured to mainly fly routes to the Bahamas.  It later was taken over by Florida Airlines and Air Miami.  Executive Airlines (not to be confused with the Puerto Rican-based airline that once operated American Eagle charters) flights only ran a few months.  It is possible that a third airline named VQ may also have made flights into the STOLport.  The map above is from an early promotional book and shows how the STOLport was located near the Transportation and Ticket Center and the unbuilt Venetian Resort.  The map below is from Contemporary Resort check in materials circa 1973 and shows the location of the STOLport.  

Hotel map showing Walt Disney World STOLport airport

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See ya real soon!