After exploring the Hidden Magic of Disney World I decided to start a new recurring column: uncovering secrets of the Disney Parks. Today focuses on a special ride at Disneyland: the Mark Twain Riverboat.
The ship sidles its way for twelve minutes around the Rivers of America attraction, taking guests for a short scenic cruise. Horns and bells are used to signify the arrival and departure of the Riverboat, and also to communicate specific messages to other crafts also sluicing through the waters, the Rafts to Pirate’s Lair and Davy Crockett’s Explorer canoes.
What’s so special about the Mark Twain Riverboat? Well, its bonus is perhaps a poorly kept secret, as I found mentions of it across the web on sites like The Disney Blog and the Hidden Mickeys of Disney. But as the tidbit I’m about to disclose is not on the Disneyland website for the Riverboat or always mentioned when guests are on the ship itself, I think it still counts as a secret.
If you’re lucky, you just might be allowed to pilot the Mark Twain Riverboat for a few moments. There’s no age limit specified for the option; I know adults have done it, but I’m not positive whether children will be allowed to as well. To do so follow these instructions, which were posted on The Disney Blog by a lucky Mickey Mouse fan who has had the experience herself.
While waiting dockside to climb aboard the ship, tell one of the Cast Members of your interest in piloting the Mark Twain. Large parties might not all be allowed in the wheelhouse, and if other guests have already asked for the privilege you might have to wait for another sailing.
If you’re allowed, however, board the ship as normal. A Cast Member will come fetch you when the time comes. Once in the wheelhouse but before you take control, you’ll learn that it was a favorite spot of Walt Disney’s. Once you take the wheel it will be your job to make sure the ship doesn’t steer aground and be in charge of signaling the Mark Twain’s presence to the other boats on the river.
Be sure to ask the Cast Members in the wheelhouse with you about other secrets of the river, such as pointing out yet another Mickey hidden in the rapids. Don’t just sign the guestbook of others who have steered the ship before you, take a peek in it as you might see some famous names. As you leave you’ll be presented with a riverboat’s license bearing your name.
All right, so maybe you’re not really piloting the ship or earning a real riverboat license, but the experience is still fun, right? It’s also a neat way for Disney buffs to connect with Disneyland history. Disney secrets website Hidden Mickeys of Disney asserts that Walt Disney himself commissioned the riverboat, and when its corporate budget ran out he covered the rest of the costs himself so it would open on time. The official Mark Twain Riverboat site mentions that Mark Twain was a personal hero of Walt Disney’s, so it makes sense he’d be that invested in the project.
If you’re an aspiring nautical captain or even just want to do something unique, next time you find yourself in Anaheim take a shot at piloting the Mark Twain Riverboat.
*(This image by HarshLight is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.)