Ship in water

Sailing Ship Columbia Ride Review

Last updated:
4.5

The Sailing Ship Columbia is a delightful nautical adventure located in Frontierland at Disneyland Park. This replica of an 18th-century merchant sailing ship takes guests on a scenic 12-minute cruise around the Rivers of America, transporting them back in time to experience a taste of life at sea centuries ago. With a fascinating history and beautiful design, the Sailing Ship Columbia is a classic Disneyland attraction that should not be missed.

Back and side of ship

Ride Details

Average Wait Times: On average, guests can expect to wait anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, making it a relatively accessible experience for those looking to immerse themselves in a maritime voyage.
Height Requirements: This is a family-friendly ride with no height requirement.
Single Rider: There is no Single Rider line for this attraction.
Ride Duration: About 12 minutes
Genie+ and Lightning Lane: Genie+ and Lightning Lane are not available for this attraction.
Rider Switch: For families with young children who may not be able to or wish to experience the Sailing Ship Columbia, Disneyland provides the Rider Switch service. This enables one parent to enjoy the attraction while the other stays with the non-riding child, and then they can switch without waiting in the regular queue.
Disability Access Services (DAS): Guests with disabilities can utilize the Disneyland Disability Access Service, offering accommodations such as alternative queues to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience aboard the Sailing Ship Columbia.
Best Time to Ride: Choosing the optimal time to embark on the Sailing Ship Columbia adventure can enhance the overall experience. Mornings and early afternoons typically see shorter wait times, allowing guests to board more swiftly. Additionally, weekdays tend to be less crowded than weekends, providing an opportunity for a more leisurely and contemplative journey. Check out our crowd calender for easier planning.

Ship in water

History and Design

The Sailing Ship Columbia is a full-scale replica of the Columbia Rediviva, the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe. After examining maritime museums across the country, Walt Disney and Admiral Joe Fowler chose the Columbia as inspiration for a new attraction to join the Mark Twain Riverboat on the Rivers of America. Construction on the Columbia began in 1957 at Todd Shipyards in San Pedro, California. The ship’s design was based on the only known image in existence of the original 18th-century sailing vessel.

Walt Disney himself placed commemorative silver dollars under each of the ship’s three masts during construction, in keeping with maritime tradition. The majestic three-masted ship was christened on June 14, 1958, with a bottle of champagne broken across her bow. Measuring 110 feet long and 76 feet tall, the Columbia is an exact re-creation of a late 18th-century merchant sailing ship, from the ship’s wheel to the wooden decks and rigging. With a capacity of 300 passengers, she remains the only three-masted sailing ship attraction in any Disney park worldwide.

The Queue

The entrance to the Sailing Ship Columbia queue is located directly across from the exit of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland. Guests climb a set of stairs up to the second-level dock to board the ship. The queue is uncovered and can get quite crowded on busy days. There are some benches, but most of the queue is standing only. The theming includes barrels, crates, and shipping supplies to make it look like an old sailing port. Cast Members at the front of the line may ask how many are in your party to fill the ship efficiently. Have your entire group together before boarding to allow seating together.

Boarding the Ship

Once allowed to board, guests must climb another steep set of steps up onto the ship’s main deck. This can be challenging for those with mobility issues, but crew members are ready to assist. There is also a wheelchair lift if needed. Take care when stepping onto the ship, as the gap between the dock and deck can shift with the motion of the water. Crew members warn to “watch your step” when boarding.

Ship with ferry boats

The Main Deck

After boarding, you’ll emerge onto the main deck of the ship. The Columbia’s deck is open air and offers incredible views of Frontierland and the Rivers of America. There are rails around the entire deck, but no seats up here. Guests are free to wander and explore during the voyage. Walk up to the front bow or back stern for unique vantage points. The ship’s wheelhouse sits at the rear of the main deck, complete with ship’s wheel and various nautical instruments. Crew members in period costumes operate the ship from here. Climbing up to the top deck is not permitted, but you can see the towering masts and elaborate rigging up close from the main deck. Look for the American flag flying high on the rear mast.

Below Deck

About mid-ship, stairs lead down to the lower decks where you can explore below board. Here you’ll find a “museum” of sorts showcasing what life was like for 18th-century sailors at sea. The captain’s quarters contain navigation equipment and maps. The surgeon’s quarters display medical instruments and techniques of the time period. Don’t miss the crew’s quarters where rows of bunks show where sailors slept on long voyages. The dark galley kitchen brings the harsh realities of cooking at sea to life. Many of the items below deck are antiques from private collections, making this an authentic look into maritime history. Take time to appreciate the amazing detail throughout.

Disneyland Columbia Poster

The Voyage

As the ship pulls away from the dock, recorded nautical background music plays along with narration about the Columbia’s history. The 12-minute journey takes you counter-clockwise around the Rivers of America, circling Tom Sawyer Island. View wilderness scenes along the waterfront, complete with mines, waterfalls, and Indian encampments. The narration highlights sights along the way, such as a settler’s cabin or trapper’s camp. Listen for the creaking sound effects of the ship’s boards and rigging that make it feel like you’re truly on the open sea. The ship’s cannons fire a salute when passing Fort Wilderness on Tom Sawyer Island, startling unsuspecting guests!

Disembarking

Following the voyage, the ship returns to dock where guests disembark down the same steep steps. Use caution again as the gap between the ship and the dock may cause an uneven transition. Be sure to take a moment when exiting to appreciate the full scale and beauty of the ship from the outside. It’s a stunning recreation of a historic seafaring vessel.

Ship launching

Tips for Riding

  • Try to ride on less crowded days for shorter wait times. The lower crowds also allow more freedom to roam the decks.
  • Board just before a scheduled Fantasmic! show to avoid long lines. The ship won’t depart during the show.
  • Climb to the top deck level while waiting in the queue for the best view of the ship.
  • Bring a camera for great photo opportunities of the scenic Rivers of America.
  • Take the stairs down to the lower deck immediately after boarding for the most time below board.
  • Dress appropriately on windy or rainy days, as the queue and main deck are uncovered.
  • Keep small children away from railings for safety, as the ship and dock move. Hold their hands securely.
  • Wheelchair Access: Proceed to the access gate to the right of the turnstile or through the attraction exit.

Rear of Ship

Conclusion

The Sailing Ship Columbia brings Disneyland’s rich history to life through an unforgettable ocean voyage back in time. From her remarkable recreation of an 18th-century merchant ship to scenic views of Frontierland, this signature Disneyland attraction is a must for any visit. Just be sure to watch your step and hold on tight!

Location

Location Map

Nearby Attractions

  1. Mark Twain Riverboat
  2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  3. Pirates of the Caribbean
  4. Adventureland Treehouse
Ship in water
Sailing Ship Columbia Ride Review
The Final Word
Whether one is a maritime history enthusiast, a Disney aficionado, or simply seeking a moment of respite amid the bustling park, the Sailing Ship Columbia delivers an experience that transcends the ordinary.
4.5