Will New Disney Cruise Ships Call U.K. Home?

June 24, 2009
Disney Cruise Ship Mickey Pool (2:12 p.m. EDT) -- With two new ships on order and a recent history of dabbling in Europe cruises, Disney Cruise Line is the focus of much speculation from cruise fans and industry watchers alike. The question on everyone's lips is: What is the family cruise line's next big move? (As we reported earlier this year, Alaska's not it.)

The news coming out of last week's U.K. Cruise Convention in Dover is that Disney Cruise Line might be expanding its cruise program from that British homeport.

Disney Magic is already on tap to sail a first-ever series of 12-night Baltic voyages from Dover in the summer of 2010, but according to ttglive.com, the Web site for the U.K.'s Travel Trade Gazette, the line has alluded to a future in Europe for at least one of its two upcoming ships. (Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream are due out in 2011 and 2012, respectively.)

"In the next few months we will be sharing information about what these two new ships will be doing," Peter Welch, Disney U.K. vice president, is quoted as saying. "Needless to say we are here in Dover so that gives you a clue as to what might be happening."

But wait -- not so fast. Disney Cruise Line spokesperson Jason Lasecki tells us today that, at least at the onset, Disney Fantasy and Disney Dream will be based in the U.S. He says the cruise line has already struck an agreement with Port Canaveral for both ships and that infrastructure, down to the parking garage, is being readied to accommodate them. (Lasecki wasn't sure of the duration of the agreement.)

So with the newer, larger vessels likely serving Disney's bread-and-butter Caribbean or Bahamas trips, will Disney Magic or Disney Wonder perhaps be freed up to sail more European cruises? Maybe. "Having two new ships definitely gives us a great degree of flexibility when it comes to itinerary planning. We haven't gone much further than 2010 when Magic will be in Europe ... [but] Europe as a whole is a market that we know that our guests are interested in. It's a possibility but nothing is finalized."

Lasecki tells us that like West Coasters (Disney Wonder will sail again from Los Angeles in 2011), Brits have a "high Disney affinity," having spent time at locations from Disney World in Orlando to Disneyland Paris -- and having Disney Magic in their backyard next summer will be an opportunity for them to find out what the Disney cruise experience is all about.

Though no specific numbers are available yet, the line anticipates a higher percentage of international guests on those voyages; generally, less than 10 percent of passengers on Disney cruises are sourced from outside of the U.S. "We are putting together more of a sales presence in the UK. You will see the mix skew a little bit more British." But, again, there are no official plans as yet to homeport a ship in the U.K. beyond the Dover-based sailings scheduled for next summer.

Lasecki says that the line expects to know more about new deployments through 2011 later this fall.

Stay tuned.

--by Melissa Baldwin Paloti, Managing Editor