You may have heard of the Mark Twain Riverboat, or probably the Haunted Mansion, but how about The Phantom Boats? No? Oh, you are in for a treat.

The Phantom Boat Cruise

The Phantom Boat Cruise was a water-based attraction in Tomorrowland. You could find it in the same spot that now houses the Finding Nemo Submarines attraction. The Phantom Boats are not to be confused with the nearby Fantasyland Motor Boat Cruise, which sat in the waterway near It’s A Small World and the Matterhorn. Many have described the attraction as being just like Autopia but with boats instead of cars. Basically, guests could drive their own motorboat around that large body of water and have a blast.

Upon the opening of Disneyland in 1955, Walt Disney found himself displeased with Tomorrowland. As the great scientist Isaac Newton once said, “Tomorrowland” always becomes “Todayland” (Okay, fine. He never said that. But somebody else really smart did, and we don’t know who that was to give them credit). Anyway, the theming of Tomorrowland was already feeling outdated. Walt hated this. So Imagineers went to work on developing new and exciting attractions that would really wow guests. One of the new additions to the land was The Tomorrowland Boats.

The Tomorrowland Boats

On this new ride, guests of all ages had almost full control of their own motorboat around the lagoon. The boats were constantly breaking down though, which meant the attraction was often closed for maintenance. Only a few short months after its debut, The Tomorrowland Boats attraction shut down for an extended period of time. Imagineers spent that time trying to figure out how to fix the overheating and mechanical issues. When the ride finally reopened, it had a new name. That name was The Phantom Boat Cruise (or The Phantom Boats). This is the name that most guests would remember in years to come.

The New Phantom Boats

To help ensure the safety of riders and other guests, each boat was accompanied by a cast member. That way, nobody was bumping into other boats, speeding, or otherwise breaking any rules. Unfortunately, though, most guests aren’t too keen on riding two-to-one on a motorboat with a cast member. Many felt that the attraction was not as fun as it used to be before this new update. You could no longer feel like you could have a private conversation on the ride with your buddy, and rebels were deterred because they could no longer rough house and push the limits.

Fantasyland Motor Boat Cruise

Once the new Submarine Voyage took over the large lagoon in Tomorrowland where the Phantom Boats resided, a new motorboat ride emerged nearby. As we mentioned above, the Fantasyland Motor Boat Cruise was positioned on the water in between It’s A Small World and the Matterhorn Bobsleds attractions.

This instalment of the attraction was easily the best of them all. The boats did not break down or overheat as much. There was a track installed under the water so guests had to follow that path, which lessened any rule-breaking or “bumper boat” games. However, the boats did sometimes get stuck. Actually, maybe using the word “sometimes” is an understatement. The boats got stuck a lot! After cast members repeatedly had to jump in the water to get the boats unstuck, Disneyland eventually just stationed some cast members in the water in problem areas. This was such an issue that eventually guests could only control the speed of the boat and nothing else. There was no steering wheel function at all, which some may say is when all the fun was lost.

Why It Closed

Eventually, the cost of paying so many cast members to ride in each boat (or get the boats unstuck) and the costs of maintenance were not balanced out by any popularity of the attraction. Not to mention the fact that the attraction was not very entertaining, to begin with. Especially once a cast member had to ride in each boat or had to follow a track, people were less interested. Once guests got over the fact that they were driving their own boats, the thrill was gone. There was not much to look at or do. So, the motorboats closed for good.