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Breathless at Walt Disney World

“Oh, Lou… since you love Disney so much, you MUST be talking about the sultry ‘Breathless Mahoney’, one of the characters in Disney’s 1990 Dick Tracy feature film.” I guess you’re right… sort of.

I’m not talking specifically about the character, played by Madonna opposite Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy title role. The film is an adaptation of the Chester Gould comic strip. It won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup and Best Music, Original Song (Stephen Sondheim) for “Sooner or Later”, and was nominated for others, and took in over $100 million. Although it wasn’t really as much of a success with fans as Disney would have liked, it still made its way into Walt Disney World.

The first way was via the Dick Tracy Diamond Double-Cross show at the Disney-MGM Studios. This 28-minute show ran in the old Theater of the Stars near the Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant from May 21, 1990 until February 21, 1991. When the world’s largest diamond is stolen right in front of the crowd, Dick Tracy gets on the case and tracks it to Big Boy’s hideout at the Ritz. And who else is there, but Breathless Mahoney.

Well, that show lasted less than a year, but that wasn’t the last we heard of Breathless. In fact, there is a Breathless Experience still at Walt Disney World that will leave you… yeah – Breathless!

Unbeknownst to many Guests, at the Bayside Marina at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts is home to an experience unlike any other at WDW.

The marina, accessible and available to all Guests, not just those staying at the Yacht or Beach Club Resorts, is located directly across from Disney’s Boardwalk, and has a variety of watercraft available for rent. My favorite, and one unlike any other in the fleet, is the Breathless. This topless runabout affords Guests a truly unparalleled excursion.

There are two basic types of Breathless cruises you can take. The first is the “Breathless Experience.” Here, up to 7 passengers can take a trip around Crescent Lake for as little as 10 minutes, or in half-hour increments. A 10-minute “Burst” trip is just $30.00, while ½ hour rides are $85.00. The “piece de resitance” is the ultimate “Breathless Specialty Cruise”, where, for a minimum of one hour, you and Breathless will ply the waters of Crescent Lake, past the Swan and Dolphin, and around the lagoon at the gates of the Disney-MGM Studios. The best part is when your boat stops under the International Gateway bridge in Epcot’s World Showcase, where you a vantage point for watching Illuminations that is truly unrivaled anywhere else in the park.

I had the opportunity to experience Breathless first hand this past January, thanks to my friend “Captain Mike”, and let me say, it was unlike anything else I’ve enjoyed at Walt Disney World. Boarding at the Marina, where there are individual watercraft you can drive on your own (Sea Raycers), to fishing boats, Boston Whalers and pontoons, the views alone across the lake of Disney’s Boardwalk are spectacular.

My wife, daughter (age 2) and son (just 6 months old) donned our lifejackets, boarded late in the afternoon, and listened as Captain Mike started her up. The sound emanating from the boat was smooth yet powerful, and we knew this trip was going to be something special.

Before we got underway, Mike took some time and talked to us about the boat itself. There is only one Breathless at Walt Disney World, and it is a reproduction of a 1930 Model 103 Cris-Craft runabout. Had he not told me it was built in 1990, I would have sworn the boat was 75 years old – not because it looked aged, but because of the rich, dark mahogany woods, the hand-stitched red leather, the Deco-style gauges and incredible attention to detail. The boat has two “cockpits”, or rows in which Guests can sit (up to three per row), as well as seat right up front next to the driver.

While a reproduction can never be good as an original, this may be an exception to the rule. The Model 103 reproductions were officially sanctioned by legendary boat manufacturer Cris-Craft. They are equipped as original, with epoxy bottoms, but are powered by modern OMC/Ford 351 cubic-inch inboard motors. (The original engine for Disney’s Breathless has been replaced twice. Currently, it is a 5.7L 320HP Mercruiser, which was installed in January, 2006). The sleek, 24-foot boats are built from Honduras mahogany and weigh 3700 pounds. For all you boating fans, they feature 3/41, triple-planked bottoms, 1/21 double-planked sides, a 37-gallon fuel tank and 7 coats of finish.

Now while Breathless is one of a kind at Walt Disney World, it is one of only 24 of the 1930 reproductions that were ever built. Inevitably, these boats, valued originally at more than $75,000, sold out immediately. However, I have been unable to locate the whereabouts of any of the others that were built.

So, who will enjoy a ride with Breathless? Families? Boat enthusiasts? Couples looking for a romantic getaway? Guests looking for a little something extra special to do on their vacation? Illuminations fans? Yes. Any and all of them will enjoy Breathless. Want to impress your lady? Try a sundown cruise followed by a glass of bubbly on the Boardwalk. You’ll thank me later. The ride can be anything from a slow, leisurely trip around the lake to view the sights, or a white-knuckle, hold-on-to-your-seats, blast doing 360 degree turns at full throttle. We opted for both. The Boardwalk at dusk was a sight unlike any I had experienced previously, and jumping our own wake in the MGM lagoon was exhilarating to say the least. My smile was from ear to ear at all times.

If you’re interested in experiencing a truly remarkable experience at Walt Disney World, I highly recommend taking a ride, even a brief one, aboard Breathless. Remember that you can enjoy a ride as short as 10 minutes and just cruise around the lake. In fact, you can often just walk up to the marina and book a ride on the spot between [1:30] and 5:30 p.m. If you’d like a specific date and time, I highly recommend calling ahead (additional times may be available when prior arrangements are made). You can call 407-WDW-PLAY 90 days in advance to make a reservation. Calling ahead holds true especially if you would like an Illuminations cruise, as they understandably book up rather quickly.

I want to give special thanks to my friend, “Captain Mike”, who is one of about half a dozen well-trained drivers of the boats at the marina. He provided a wealth of information about the boat, and afforded me and my family an experience we will cherish and remember forever. If you go, please be sure to ask for Mike, and tell him I said Hi!

And remember – She may have been named for a comic book character, but her moniker is appropriate, as a ride aboard her will surely leave you… Breathless .