ImagiNERDing: Walt Disney World Eastern Winds

Written by George Taylor. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Features, Imaginerding, Walt Disney World

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Published on April 08, 2013 at 3:00 am with 14 Comments

I’m obsessed with 1970s Walt Disney World. I think a lot of it boils down to the simple fact that people didn’t document their vacations the same way they did at Disneyland in the 1950s (due to the bad economy of the 1970s and the poor cameras) or today. The great thing about writing for MiceChat is the massive audience that we reach. It’s opened up many doors and provided lot of contacts.

Walt Disney World Boat – the Eastern Winds

I got this set of three amazing photos from a secret source. Similar to the Fantasy Faire photos from earlier, they’re a great look back at a Walt Disney World that no longer exists. The Eastern Winds was at Walt Disney World from 1971-1978,

These photos were taken in January 1977 from one of the Water Sprites/Aqua Cats. The Eastern Winds, a former 65′ party boat which suffered various problems and was retired from service, was moored off the Polynesian for atmosphere purposes before being sold. The painted eyes are part of the design of Chinese junks so that the boat can see where it’s navigating.

[The] Eastern Winds, the Polynesian’s very own floating cocktail lounge that came in the form of a 65-foot long Chinese junk. While it was normally tethered dockside at the hotel’s marina, it was a real boat. It included deck and cabin lounge areas, staterooms and “lovely serving hostesses.” If Jack Lord and Nancy Kwan had ever conceived a love child, it would have been on this boat. Sadly, the Eastern Winds didn’t manage to float its way into the 1980s. Widen Your World.

I ran across this great postcard at Big Brian’s Walt Disney World, a History Through Postcards site. He’s got some fantastic images and one of the most complete collections of Walt Disney World postcards.

“East Wind” Chinese Junk
Peter Pan and crew prepare to cast off aboard the East Wind, an authentic Chinese junk moored at the Polynesian Village marina. (http://www.bigbrian-nc.com/wdw-pc19.htm)

Enjoy cocktails in authentic Oriental atmosphere — aboard Walt Disney World’s Eastern Winds junk.

When you’re doing original research with primary sources, you never know what you’re going to find. I’ve scanned over a decade of Eyes & Ears and Walt Disney World News to find very little information about this Walt Disney World ephemera. So, when I ran across the following ad in a WDW News, I knew I had struck gold!

Relax on your own “Oriental Adventure” aboard the Eastern Winds, an authentic 65-foot Chinese junk (imported from Hong Kong) departing the Polynesian Village marina three times every evening.

Each cruise, approximately an hour and a half, is a separate adventure in itself, with complimentary cocktails and exciting entertainment.

Glimpse our Water Ski Show at 6:00, slide by serpents of the deep in our Electrical Water Pageant at 8:30, or thrill to the Fantasy in the Sky fireworks at 10:00, all from the deck of our most unique floating lounge. It’s a front row seat to adventure.

Chart your Oriental odyssey tonight. Couples, $8 (singles, $4). Or the entire family, $10.

I can only imagine what the exciting entertainment was!

From a 1972 Eyes & Ears is an article on the Walt Disney World Sign Shop. I’m assuming this poster was displayed in the lobby of the Polynesian Village!

3 – “A steady hand is something I’ve got to keep,” says John Barnett who must carefully paint English letters — with a Chinese flair no less! John’s sign is a gold leaf display whose center portion is 23 Kt. gold. Lettering takes nearly four hours and if a mistake is made, this is one sign that can’t be thrown out! (1972 Eyes & Ears)

As a postscript, the Eastern Winds was sold by Disney after being moored in the middle of Seven Seas Lagoon for several years. It was relocated to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands where it was used for recreational cruises.

Did you ever get to experience the Eastern Winds? Do you have any amazing photos from 1970s Walt Disney World that would make an interesting MiceChat post?


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ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

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About George Taylor

George has been obsessed with Disney theme parks since the first time he saw a photo of the Haunted Mansion in the early 70s. He started writing about Disney in 2007 and has amassed one of the world's largest Disney-related libraries.

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14 Comments

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  1. This is great stuff George. I have only vague memories of 1970′s WDW, but like you, it holds a special spot in my heart.

    A floating lounge?! Sounds wonderful.

    • The cost of the cruise in 1971 was $8.00 for a couple. In 2013 dollars, that’s close to $45.00. Currently a semi-similar cruise is well over $300.00 for a group of 10. That’s more than double the price from 1971!

  2. Oh to have something so themed and unique floating in the lagoon today! Can you imagine sailing on this and seeing the water ski show or electrical pageant while enjoying a cocktail? How fun and magical. Exactly the sort of thing WDW needs today!

    Thanks for the research George. Great article. I’m adding this to my list of attractions to visit in my time machine someday, along with the Swan boats.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      It seems like the more I dig and research, the more strange things I find about early Walt Disney World. I love it!

  3. I’d be interested in hearing more about the water ski show too!

    • Ask an ye shall receive!

  4. What a sweet little memory! Would have been a great place to host Mulan’s Character Cocktail Party…

    • I wish I had an award to give you. Mulan’s Character Cocktail Party . . . Classic!

    • Now that’s an interesting idea!

  5. I have wonder if this ship was intended as a holdover for the Asian Hotel that was coming in later to the Seven Seas Lagoon in two or three years? Wonderful article nonetheless.

    Timekeeper

  6. I disagree that people didn’t photograph WDW in its early years due to the
    economy. I have a reel of super 8 from the magic kingdom’s first June. Boring.
    I had just visited Disneyland in Dec 1971 for the first time since third grade
    in 63. Pirates, Mansion, and new Tomorrowland were all incredible.
    Then I visited MK.
    No Matterhorn, pirates, mine train through natures wilderness, Alice,
    Adventures through inner space. And so much more.
    So big with so little to do. All the wide, non intimate walkways.
    The eastern resort theming of Main Street was too lavish to mimic the
    midwestern roots of Disneyland, so the magic didn’t quite translate.
    To anyone who had ever visited Disneyland, it was a snoozer. And to anyone
    who had heard all the buzz about Disneyland and had hoped to become
    in the know and save the money on a cross country trip, I bet they thought they had
    saved big bucks for not bothering.
    If you were very young it was probably your only chance to enjoy it for what it was.
    It was many years later at MKafter splash that I got the feel like a kid again sensation
    like classic Disneyland, and am looking forward to visiting again
    when the Potter expansion and that darn 7 dwarves mine train
    opens, whichever comes first;-)
    On my last trip to DLR, I never felt like a kid like I always have
    before, and that always meant a lot to me.

    • Whichever comes LAST!

  7. Awesome! Thought I knew everything about WDW history… But never even heard of this.

    Keep the 70s gems coming. Another interesting article might be about the calliope that used to be featured in the WDW televised parades… It’s now on permanent display in the Fort Wilderness. Seems a shame it’s “trapped” over there and no longer used… Not even for special events. Can you find out why?

  8. I’m so glad I discovered this site.

    I really enjoyed the Polynesian page from the ’1970′s.

    Although born in 1965, I didn’t visit Disney until I was in my late 20′s. But I, of course, remember the 70′s as it was the decade of my youth. So the Poly decor and overall theming hits home for me. It reminds me of a trip I took in 1972 with my family to Nassau, The Bahamas. Very similar feel. It was a memorable trip: We stayed in a bungalow. I feel on a piece of coral. Stepped on a sea urchin. And cried when I saw my sister’s friend in a bra. All but one could still happen today.

    The early Polynesian also reminds me of the present-day Kowloon restaurant in Saugus Mass. that I always hit up on my way back to Maine from Red Sox games. The Kowloon has NOT changed since the 1970′s.

    Great site. Thank you.