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Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts
Boat Transportation

(This is taken from the guide book Walt Disney World with Disabilities by Stephen Ashley). 

One of our Disney sources tell us that Disney is said to have the ninth largest boat fleet in the world. We’re not certain if this is legend or fact, but I do believe it’s possible! Several of the resorts and parks have boat transportation services. There are a wide variety of routes and most boats area accessible, but not all of them. If you’re in a location where the boat is not wheelchair accessible there may be an option. We’ve been told by a boat captain that if it's not too busy at the time, a boat driver can call for a wheelchair accessible boat to be brought in from a different area. This could take quite a while though, so we recommend that you use an alternative form of transportation in those cases.

Keep in mind that for the boat routes that normally have accessible boats, occasionally there may be a replacement boat that is not accessible. However there usually will be another boat coming that is accessible.  Just ask the boat captain of the replacement boat if there will be an accessible boat following his/hers. Here are the boat routes and details:

  • Blue Flag: Runs between the Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge and Contemporary Resorts.  These are usually not ECV accessible.  Wheelchairs can be taken if they’re folded.  Passengers must step down into the boat and sit in a regular boat seat.

  • Green Flag: Runs between Fort Wilderness and the Magic Kingdom and should be wheelchair and ECV accessible.  However if water levels are low they may not be able to board.

  • Gold Flag: Runs between the Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. These are usually not ECV accessible.  Wheelchairs can be taken if they’re folded.  Passengers must step down into the boat and sit in a regular boat seat.

  • Red Flag:  Runs between Magic Kingdom and Wilderness Lodge and should be wheelchair and ECV accessible. However if water levels are low they may not be able to board.

  • DVC Ferry: This is the Disney Vacation Club Ferry that runs between Downtown Disney and the Old Key West and Saratoga Springs resorts. These boats should be wheelchair and ECV accessible. Manual wheelchairs may need to be folded.

  • Ferry Boat: Runs between the Ticket and Transportation Center and Magic Kingdom. It should be wheelchair and ECV accessible.

  • Sassagoula River Cruise: Runs between Downtown Disney, Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter. These boats should be wheelchair and ECV accessible. Manual wheelchairs may need to be folded.

  • Friendship Boats: These boats run between MGM, Epcot and the Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, Dolphin and Swan Resorts. These boats should be wheelchair and ECV accessible.

  • Water Shuttle: Runs between the Marketplace and Downtown Disney and should be wheelchair and ECV accessible. Manual wheelchairs may need to be folded.

  • Friendship Launches: These boats run on Crescent Lake in the Epcot World Showcase. Though they are wheelchair and ECV accessible, we’ve been told that the ECVs that you rent from Disney are unable to board some of the boats in the parks because of their design. Apparently these vehicles are lower to the ground for the sake of stability.   

 

Some of the boats are open-sided, and we really enjoy riding those. Whenever possible, we choose them over buses. The boats are a pleasant way to enjoy the nature of Disney and some great views while getting to your destination. 

 

Some boats are enclosed with a large seating area inside and a small outside seating area in the back.  We find these boats uncomfortable and only take them if necessary.  Unless it’s a very cool day, the outdoor seating area in the back of the boat can be uncomfortably hot.  Depending on the sun’s position, it can beat down on you for your entire trip.  We also find that there are heavy gas fumes in this outside area.  The indoor area is usually not well cooled and there is no hope of a breeze.  Frankly it’s miserable in warmer weather, but hey—you’re in Florida!

 

In any case, you may find yourself onboard one of these boats at some point during your visit to Disney. Once aboard, you may be asked to navigate into the indoor area, or you may be asked to park in the outdoor section in the back of the boat.  If we have to park outside in the back, we leave the chair and try to find seats in the indoor section.  Although it’s not well cooled inside, it’s cooler than outdoors in the full sun, with fewer gas fumes as you move further toward the front of the boat.  Those who are sensitive may wish to bring a cloth to breathe through.

 

To board, we usually try to get in front of the crowd so the boat driver can see us.  This is not always possible with the boat queue lines, but when it is, it allows the driver to board us first.  Boarding is accomplished with the boat driver placing a ramp from the dock to the boat.  On some boats you will just drive right in and go straight to your spot.  Others require some maneuvering.  The boat cast member will direct you. 

 

Tip: Several times we’ve had a boat driver tell us we did not need the ramp, even as the boat was bobbing and the dock was several inches higher or lower than the boat!  Sarah was very adamant that the ramp was necessary, and they always gave in.  I suspect they were tired of carrying the heavy ramp.  It’s a good idea to insist on the ramp for safety and to avoid jolts. 

 

At times Sarah has had trouble backing the chair out of the boat, as she was unable to turn her head to see behind her.  Usually I do it for her.  If you must do it yourself and find it difficult, remember to take your time and ask the cast member for assistance.  They can coach you on how to steer.  Don’t get stressed.  The other guests will wait.

 

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