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THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Disney Magic's Stop In Old San Juan May Bring Wave Of Business To Island
By Matthew Hay Brown | Sentinel Staff Writer
August 10, 2004
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Tourism officials here hope the inaugural scheduled visit of the Disney Magic cruise ship this week will mark the start of an ongoing relationship between the island and the entertainment giant.
News that the 2,600-passenger ship will call on Old San Juan on Wednesday for the first of three daytime visits this month and next has made front-page headlines in this Caribbean U.S. territory. The visits follow years of effort by the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.
"Absolutely, it's great for a destination to have a cruise line with the prestige of Disney visit," said José Suárez, executive director of the government agency. "It helps us to continue to establish ourselves as a premiere cruise ship port in the Caribbean."
The Disney Magic has made unscheduled stops in San Juan at least once to avoid bad weather along its regular itinerary. A spokeswoman for Disney Cruise Lines said these first planned visits -- Wednesday, Aug. 21 and Sept. 8 -- were to add variety to the standard itineraries for repeat customers.
"I'm not going to speculate on the future," Rena Langley said. "The purpose of this for now is to give our guests a different experience. . . . Certainly, anytime we come to a new port, it gives us a good chance to get a look and see what our guests enjoy."
The Puerto Rico Tourism Co. will welcome the ship with a ceremony, including local music and dance, plus special activities pitched to the large number of children expected to be on board.
Among the excursions offered by Disney: Passengers may tour Old San Juan, go to a local beach, visit the Bacardí rum distillery, ride bicycles through a marshland reserve, scuba dive, snorkel, golf, go kayaking, ride horses or sail.
Attracting the Disney Magic is a second cruise-related coup this year for the local industry. Earlier, the Queen Mary 2 visited San Juan on its maiden Caribbean voyage. Suárez says the world's largest cruise ship will return to the island.
Between the nine vessels based in San Juan and the 44 expected to visit, Puerto Rico is expected to receive 555 ship calls this year, according to the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. The industry is projected to bring more than 1 million visitors, pumping an estimated $310 million into the local economy.
That does not include revenues from travelers who fly to the island to take a cruise, traffic that accounts for an estimated 11 percent of air-passenger volume in and out of San Juan, or the value of the global publicity Puerto Rico gains through cruise line advertising and tourist visits.
The Disney Magic, which sails out of Port Canaveral, ordinarily alternates between a Western Caribbean route with stops in Key West, Cozumel and Grand Cayman and an Eastern Caribbean itinerary with stops in St. Maarten and St. Thomas. Both itineraries include a stop at Castaway Cay, the Disney-owned island in the Bahamas.