In the face of slumping travel and tourism spending, Disney Cruise Lines and Los Angeles city officials announced plans Monday to base a Disney cruise ship in the Port of Los Angeles beginning in 2011, which could create an estimated 2,600 jobs in the region.
The 964-foot-long Disney Wonder, currently based in Port Canaveral, Fla., will move to San Pedro to make room for two new cruise ships that will begin operating out of Florida in 2011 and 2012.
Although U.S. travel and tourism in the fourth quarter saw the steepest decline since the terrorist attacks of 2001, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Jay Rasulo said he remained optimistic about Disney's plan.
He would not rule out the possibility of bringing more ships to Los Angeles in the future.
"Disney Cruise Lines have created a successful niche line," he said during a news conference in Hollywood attended by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Knatz.
"2011 can't come soon enough for me," Villaraigosa added.
Disney Cruise Lines tested the waters in Los Angeles by launching the Disney Magic cruise ship for a limited time from the Los Angeles port in summer 2005 and again in summer 2008.
Under an agreement that is expected to be approved Thursday by the city's Board of Harbor Commissioners, the Disney Wonder would operate out of the port for two years with a three-year extension option.
Rasulo declined to discuss an itinerary for the 83,000-ton Disney Wonder except to say that the Mexican Riviera was a likely destination.
If the Disney Wonder remains at the Port of Los Angeles for five years, Knatz estimates, the cruise line could create as many as 2,600 jobs, mostly in the hospitality businesses around the port, and generate as much as $7 million in state and local taxes. During that five-year period, Rasulo estimates, the cruise line could serve as many as 250,000 passengers.
The Disney line would become the fourth cruise line to launch from the Port of Los Angeles, joining the Royal Caribbean, Princess and Norwegian cruise lines. The Disney Wonder can hold as many as 2,700 passengers and 1,000 crew members. In the future, Rasulo said, Disney might offer cruise package deals that include admission to Disneyland.
But the real winner in the deal is Port Canaveral, which will debut Disney's newest and biggest ships, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.
The ships were ordered from a German manufacturer in 2007, when the cruise industry was hot. Each is 1,114 feet long and can serve about 4,000 passengers.