Carnival announces the first ship based on US west coast in 20 years

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Carnival Cruise Line is to deploy a new ship on the US west coast for the first time in 20 years.

Carnival Panorama will be based in Long Beach, California, from December 2019.

The 3,960-passenger Carnival Panorama, the third Vista-class ship in the fleet, will run seven-day Mexican Riviera itineraries with bookings due to open next month.

New features unique to the new ship will be announced in the near future, according to the cruise line.

The planned deployment followed the company revamping its 146,000-square-foot Long Beach Cruise Terminal and plans for a multi-million dollar port development in Ensenada, Mexico with shops, restaurants and attractions.

The renovation of the terminal at Long Beach more than doubles the size while enhancing the overall passenger experience and operational flow.

It also includes the expansion of portside shore power to enable larger ships to plug into the local electric grid, reducing exhaust emissions while docked.

Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy said: “This is a momentous occasion for both Carnival and the City of Long Beach – not only are we celebrating the grand re-opening of this magnificent cruise terminal, but also demonstrating our commitment to the west coast with the deployment of the spectacular new Carnival Panorama in 2019 and the announcement of an exciting new port development project in Ensenada.

“The west coast is an important market with vast growth potential and these initiatives further demonstrate the confidence in our future success in Long Beach.

“We are very much looking forward to having Carnival Panorama homeported here beginning next year.”

What could have been: Disney’s Long Beach port

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Carnival Cruise Line opened its expanded terminal over the weekend in the Spruce Goose Dome in Long Beach, cementing its status as the leading cruise line in the Southern California market. But the terminal was nearly a hub for Disney Cruise Line instead.

In 1990, the Walt Disney Co. announced plans for a Port Disney in Long Beach. The plan called for a marine-themed amusement park, a marina, a speciality retail and entertainment area and hotel accommodations.

Crucially, a cruise port was part of the 443-acre plan. And this was four years before Disney announced it was getting into the cruise business.

Disney had acquired the site, which included the Queen Mary cruise ship and the Howard Hughes-built Spruce Goose, the plane with the largest wingspan ever to fly, in an acquisition of the Wrather Corp. in 1989.

The cruise port would have had five berths with ships going to Mexico, Seattle and San Diego, among other destinations.

Five resort hotels would have been built as part of the development, along with a monorail connecting Queensway with downtown Long Beach. The centrepiece of the plan was DisneySea, an aquatic-themed amusement park and education centre, which would have picked up where the recently-closed Marineland of the Pacific, in Palos Verdes, left off.

Long Beach had a history as an amusement centre. A waterfront area known as the Pike was the site of the Cyclone Racer, the largest seaside wooden roller coaster in the country until it was torn down in 1968.

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As part of the Wrather Corp. deal, Disney had also acquired a hotel across the street from Disneyland, which could now be expanded. Disney set up a competition between Anaheim and Long Beach to see which was more enthusiastic about gaining a new Disney park.

Concerns arose in Long Beach about environmental issues, traffic, local hiring and other factors. In late 1991, Port Disney was cancelled in favour of WestCOT, a Disneyland version of Disney World’s EPCOT centre.

WestCOT was never built. The land would eventually become Disney’s California Adventure. Disney sold its leases on the Queen Mary and the Spruce Goose Dome. Ten years later, in 2001, the new leaseholder arranged for Carnival to use part of the dome as a terminal starting in 2003.

By that time, Disney Cruise Line was up and running out of Port Canaveral in Florida, an hour from Disney World. But it was a decade too late for Disney’s chance to sail from a custom-built home in Long Beach.

When Disney Cruise Line moved the Disney Magic ship to California in 2005 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Disneyland, it had to sail for the summer out of the Port of Los Angeles.

It’s fascinating to think what the possibilities would have been if only Disney had been a little more persistent in Long Beach.