Sadly, Premier Cruise Lines is no longer with us, but this popular cruise line had a good run that lasted nearly twenty years. Premier Cruise Line was founded in 1983. Conflicting reports state that the company was formed by two cruise veterans and later bought by Dial Corporation — who also owned the Greyhound Bus Company.
Premier Cruise Lines was named the “Official Cruise Line of Walt Disney World,” and it offered 3-day and 4-day Bahamas trips out of Port Canaveral, Florida. With the trademark “The Big Red Boat,” Premier Cruise Line became the most popular cruise line for families. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Premier Cruise Line was earning more than $20 million a year, on a gross revenue of $100 million. Led by former Royal Cruise Line President Jim Naik, the company remained successful throughout most of the early 1990s. It didn’t hurt that Premier Cruise Lines was practically backed by Universal Studios.
Premier Cruise Lines started with a 25-year old vessel that was redesigned and named StarShip Royale. Within two years, Premier Cruise Lines added another older ship – the 20-year-old StarShip Oceanic. After several years of service, the Starship Royals was sold and two much younger ships were brought in including the six-year-old StarShip Atlantic and the 16-year-old StarShip Majestic. The StarShip Royale was eventually reincarnated as the SeaBreeze.
During this time the cruise industry began to see changes and the competition for customers was pretty fierce among the cruise lines, especially those designed with families in mind. Disney had already started its own cruise line business, leaving Premier Cruise Lines out in the cold. Premier quickly affiliated itself with the Looney Tunes characters to keep up the family image. But, cruise Lines such as Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise lines, and Princess Cruises began building 100,000 gross ton ships and with lots of attractive extras such as mini-golf courses, 24-hour pizzerias, and even ice skating rinks! By this time Premier Cruise Lines was down to one ship, the StarShip Oceanic. The year was 1997.
Premier Cruise Lines attempted to reinvent itself by forming a new cruise company and taking a more dignified approach to cruising. The plan was to promote the classic cruise ship experience. The company, now named Cruise Holdings, bought the more “traditional” vessels of Premier Cruise Line, Dolphin Cruise Line, and Seawind Cruises.
The pluses and perks promoted by the new and improved premier included: budget prices, unique itineraries, comfortably sized ships, personalized service, and even free resort programs. By this time the competition was so intense, it was already too late for Cruise Holdings (or Premier). In September 2000 the former Premier Cruise Line ship SeaBreeze sank — under disputed circumstances. On September 14, 2000, Premier Cruises was forced to cease operations.