Recent structural reorganization at the Walt Disney Co. has created a new umbrella for Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club and Adventures by Disney along with a new president.
Jeff Vahle has been named president of the new entity, Disney Signature Experiences, which oversees the cruise line, the vacation time-share operation, the travel guide company as well as Disney’s Hawaii resort Aulani.
Vahle takes over for Anthony Connelly, who was President, New Vacation Operations and Disney Cruise Line, since last fall when he took over the role long held by Karl Holz after Holz’s retirement. Disney didn’t announce the reason for Connelly’s departure and now Vahle, a 28-year veteran of the company takes on the role that will see the cruise line grow from four to seven ships in the next six years.
“There is tremendous opportunity to deliver magical Disney vacation experiences in new and exciting ways,” said Bob Chapek, chairman, Disney Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products in a press release. “Jeff is a talented leader with a strong track record of success and I’m excited to see what he and the team will accomplish together.”
Disney Cruise Line currently sails four ships: the smaller 2,713-passenger sister ships Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, which debuted in 1998 and 1999, and the larger 4,000-passenger vessels Dream and Fantasy, which began sailing in 2011 and 2012.
The cruise line’s forthcoming ships are due in 2021, 2022 and 2023. They will be the largest in the fleet at 140,000 gross tons, slightly larger than the 130,000 gross tons of Dream and Fantasy, but will have the same number of staterooms: 1,250. The new ships will also be powered by liquefied natural gas, which is the cleanest fuel the cruise industry has begun to embrace as more stringent maritime emission laws begin to take effect.
Vahle also heads up Disney Vacation Club, the vacation-ownership program that had 14 resorts including several at Walt Disney World and Aulani in Hawaii. A proposed 15th property, Disney’s Riviera Resort adjacent the Caribbean Beach Resort at Walt Disney World would open in fall 2019.
Adventures by Disney is Disney’s guided travel company that includes the popular river cruise offerings in Europe among close to 40 itineraries across 30 countries. Vahle’s role also puts him over sales at Golden Oak, a luxury home community at Walt Disney World Resort.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to be part of an incredible team that makes magic for millions of guests every day at Disney destinations around the world,” said Vahle in a press release. “I look forward to leading this creative, dedicated and hardworking team as we build on the success of these businesses during this unprecedented era of growth and innovation.”
Vahle, a graduate of Auburn University and Rollins College started at Disney in 1990 and will maintain his current role overseeing the Global Facilities Operations and Sourcing and Procurement teams. He also serves as chairman of the board of directors for Give Kids the World in Central Florida.
By Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel
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