Walt Disney Co. cruising into new business area

Maybe Donald Duck should press his dress blues.

The sailor suit could come in handy as Walt Disney Co. considers business ventures across the Pacific and on the Atlantic, including a Florida-based cruise ship line.

Disney has some experience with cruise ships. Its costumed characters have entertained crowds aboard Premier Cruise Lines’ Big Red Boats for about eight years but its agreement with Premier expires March 31.

The Disney cruise line would be targeted at vacationers who combine a few days at Disney World with some time relaxing aboard a ship, said Peter Rummell, president of Disney Development Co.

Disney also has dispatched senior VP Ken Wong to research sites for new theme parks in Asia.

“It’s not one (Asian) market — it’s 15 markets he’s looking at,” Rummell said. “He’s going to go all the way from Seoul to Sydney.”

The varied ventures showed how Disney is pressing ahead in multiple arenas despite a rare but glaring failure — Euro Disney near Paris, which lost more than $ 900 million last year. Disney chairman Michael Eisner said the park deserves a D grade on the corporate report card.

Disney discussed the cruise ship and Asian park studies after word of them leaked out in Travel Weekly magazine. The report said Disney was talking with shipyards about building two vessels, each capable of carrying 2,000 passengers.

Rummell said Disney is planning no more European theme parks until the Euro Disney mess is sorted out.

The company also announced plans Wednesday to sell $ 400 million in bonds with interest rates pegged to the box office success of its movies.

Disney is searching European sites for locations for its time-share club, Rummell said.

Unlike traditional time-share plans, which tied vacationers to specific places and time of the year, Disney’s operation sells yearly credits that can be turned in for time at various resorts.

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