Does Disney really have the world's third/fourth/fifth/sixth/seventh largest "navy"? I've often seen this claim being bandied about on trivia sites and the like. But there are never any credible sources backing it up.
By most standards, the answer is no.
A navy, strictly defined, is an armed force for prosecuting warfare on bodies of water. The Walt Disney Company has no known ships that would meet this definition. For the sake of discussion, of course, we'll take navy as a jocular synonym for fleet, giving them a foot in the door.
A second consideration is that a navy (or civilian fleet) may operate all manner of vessels, but will not include all of these in their fleet count. The U.S. Navy, for example, has not traditionally included mine sweepers or coastal patrol boats as combatant vessels (is reconsidering definitions in light of developments in warfare). Certainly, vessels under a certain displacement are generally excluded from consideration regardless of role, although there is no universally accepted cutoff. Mounting a machine gun at the bow of a dinghy will not likely satisfy maritime spotters.
But let us count the vessels operated by the various branches of the Walt Disney Company that would meet a fairly broad definition of "ship":
- Disney Cruise Line, a wholly owned subsidiary, currently operates four cruise ships: the Disney Magic, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream, and Disney Fantasy.
- For actual guest transport, Walt Disney World is served by three "ferryboats", two "motor cruisers", eight "friendship cruisers", seven River Cruise ships, six water taxies ("launches"), and two Vacation Club ferries. According to www.wcdept478.com, not a single one of these boats displaces more than 200 tonnes. No other Disney parks appear to operate water transport vessels.
- Tokyo DisneySea has a "Transit Steamer Line" with 13 vessels
- As attractions/rides, the various Disney parks together operate five riverboats, eight "submarines," plus the Sailing Ship Columbia.
I exclude DisneySea's SS Columbia, which I don't believe actually floats, and small craft like the "Venetian gondolas" and Davy Crockett/Beaver Brothers canoes that would never be counted in any trade accounting of a fleet's size. I count 61 total.
Wikipedia's more strictly defined list gives these totals for navies:
- United States 431
- PR China 425
- Russia 283
- The Philippines 155
- Japan 109
- India 103
- United Kingdom 100
- North Korea 98
- Turkey 85
- France 72
(Note that the above listing includes coastal patrol boats and anti-mine ships but excludes support craft such as tenders and oilers). Disney would tie with the Republic of Singapore, certainly nowhere near the top ten.
What about private fleets? Numbers are harder to come by, as ships are swapped with greater frequency. According to Dow Jones Statista at least, Disney would enter the top ten behind Hapag-Lloyd, but again only by granting them a much more generous standard for inclusion than the others:
- Maersk 234
- Mediterranean 194
- COSCO 101
- PIL 97
- CSCL 90
- Evergreen Line 88
- CMA CGM Group 88
- Hapag-Lloyd 60
- NYK 54
- Yang Ming 46
Unlike their claim to operate one of the largest monorail fleets in the world, which is verifiably true, the various figures that Disney operates the third-largest, fourth-largest, etc. ship fleets depend upon exceptionally loose definitions of "ship" in the same way their past claims to have operated the world's largest peacetime submarine fleet depend on rather broad definitions of "submarine"— if I recall correctly, their submarines never even actually submerged.