(12:40 p.m. EDT) -- The Mouse's great European vacation is over -- for now. In 2012, Disney Cruise Line's four-ship fleet will be stationed at five points around the United States, including the new homeports of New York, Seattle and, as reported yesterday, Galveston. The line is also rolling out a series of new itineraries, including its first-ever Hawaii and Pacific Coastal cruises, two-night teasers out of NYC and cruises to Canada.
Until somewhat recently, Disney sailed mostly from Port Canaveral and Los Angeles with its original two ships, understandable given the proximity to Disney World and Disneyland, respectively. But the expansion to three ships this year (the 4,000-bed Disney Dream debuted in January) and four the next (Dream's sister Disney Fantasy will launch in March 2012), allows for significant diversification, and the line will offer cruises to the four quarters of the continent -- Alaska, Mexico, Caribbean and Canada -- in 2012.
But what about Europe: Did the rising airfares, driven by skyrocketing fuel costs, send the Mouse paddling back to more hospitable waters? Not so, said Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz in a conversation with Cruise Critic this morning. "There are a lot of factors you could look at, but frankly, from a pure planning perspective, it just made much more sense to keep our operations domestically in 2012." Holz was clear that Disney is not abandoning Europe -- and that the cruise line is certainly not ruling out 2013 for a return to the region.
Here's a look at Disney's 2012 all-American deployments.
New York Cruises: Appetizer, Entree and Full-Course Meal
Beginning May 25, 2012, Disney Magic will sail 20 cruises from New York City, including eight-night cruises to the Bahamas (full-course meal), five-night sailings to Canada (entree) and two-night weekend sampler cruises (appetizer).
The Bahamas itinerary will include stops at Castaway Cay, Disney's private island; Nassau, Bahamas; and Port Canaveral, where passengers will receive one-day Walt Disney World Park Hopper tickets and round-trip transportation.
The five-night Canada cruises, the first-ever for the line, will call at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick. But why Canada, a region known for drawing a more "mature" passenger base? Holz insists it's the unique Disney experience that'll make it work: "Disney is not only a cruise experience, it's an entertainment experience." Regardless of where the line goes, that's how it positions the product. Additionally, Disney is in the process of exploring and developing unique family-friendly shore tours in Canada, as it's done in the Baltic, Mediterranean and Alaska. (For a look at the special shore excursions Disney created for its Alaska sailings, check out our behind-the-scenes slideshow.)
The three two-night samplers will sail in June, July and August. All take place over the weekend. "We were really surprised by how well the teaser cruises out of Los Angeles did," noted Holz. Introducing a similar offering out of New York was a no-brainer, something that will give millions of Tri-Staters the chance to sample the line.
Seattle: Back in Alaska -- but With a New Home
Disney Wonder is heading back to Alaska next year, but it'll sail from Seattle instead of Vancouver (the inaugural season of Alaska offerings begins this May). The seven-night cruises, which run from the end of May through early September 2012, include calls in Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska, as well as Victoria, British Columbia. Holz called the homeport switch a test. "By no means are we discounting going back to Vancouver, but we're comparing the ports -- foreign vs. domestic, new call in Victoria -- to see what matters."
More Firsts: Hawaii and Pacific Coastal Cruises
For the first time, Disney Wonder will offer a special 15-night voyage to Hawaii from Los Angeles. The cruise will call in Hilo, Maui, Honolulu and Kauai, as well as Mexico's Ensenada. Holz was excited about the Hawaii offering, and said he expects the line to return in the future.
Additionally, Disney Wonder will sail four seven-night Pacific Coast cruises from Los Angeles, calling on San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada.
Port Canaveral and Los Angeles: The Staples
The line's brand new ships, Disney Dream, which launched this past January, and Disney Fantasy, which will debut in March 2012, will continue to offer the bread-and-butter Caribbean and Bahamas cruises out of Port Canaveral. Disney Wonder will be based almost year-round in Los Angeles (except for summers when it sails Alaska from Seattle). Apart from the four Pacific Coast cruises, it'll sail the Mexican Riviera.
--by Dan Askin, News Editor
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