Disney Cruises may dock in L.A.

Company spent two summers testing market

The Disney Cruise Line could soon start shipping out of Los Angeles.

The Mouse House is close to inking an initial two-year deal that would have its Disney Wonder ship making trips from the Port of Los Angeles beginning in 2011. An option could extend the pact for up to five years.

Deal would give Disney its first major port on the West Coast since launching its cruise line in 1998. Port Canaveral, Fla., currently serves as the cruise line’s home port.

The company has spent two summers testing the West Coast market, with the Disney Magic sailing to the Mexican Riviera from the Port of Los Angeles in 2005 and 2008.

Disney has long been looking at ways to boost its cruise biz, which essentially extends its family-focused theme park operation, including Broadway style productions such as “Toy Story: The Musical,” to the high seas. But the company had few options, considering it has only two ships in its fleet.

However, a pair of new ships, the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy, are expected to set sail in 2011 and 2012; that will more than double Disney Cruise Line’s passenger capacity. The two new ships will each have 1,250 staterooms, while the older ships have 875 staterooms.

“We are looking forward to returning to the Port of Los Angeles and offering our special brand of family cruises on the West Coast,” said Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Jay Rasulo. “Having a Disney Cruise Line ship based in this region is something families on the West Coast have wanted for a long time.”

With the Disney Wonder moving to San Pedro, the Port of Los Angeles is expected to see an increase of more than 250,000 people over a five-year period.

Royal Caribbean, Princess and Norwegian cruise lines already sail from the Port of Los Angeles.

The increased traffic and resulting financial addition to the city’s bottom line are expected to help motivate the port’s board of harbor commissioners to approve the contract April 2.

“Having Disney Cruise Line operating out of the Port of Los Angeles will provide a great boost to the local economy by generating business and tourism revenue in San Pedro and throughout the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area,” said Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Company has yet to disclose the destinations to which the Disney Wonder will sail.

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