Exciting developments are in the works for the Port of Los Angeles’ cruise facilities.
“Now, post-pandemic, Princess Cruises [is coming] back with the best crew, great guests and incredible ships, so we're totally prepared to grow into the future and partner with [Los Angeles],” said John Padgett, president of Princess Cruises.
In fact, during a recent conference call, Gene Seroka, the port’s executive director, was joined by Padgett to discuss future plans. While no exact timeline was locked in, the Port of L.A. has issued a request for proposal (RFP) to build out an additional cruise facility located at the outer harbor, as well as to redevelop the existing World Cruise Center located at Berths 91 to 93.
“Our brands go a long way back from that iconic 1970s television show ‘The Love Boat’ — which was filmed right here at our port on the Pacific Princess — to the millions of cruisers who launch their getaways out of Los Angeles today,” Seroka said.
Currently, the main cruise terminal is an aging facility dating back to those ‘Love Boat’ days. It consists of two permanent buildings perpendicular to one other, each with their own cruise ship dock, and a baggage-handling facility housed in a makeshift Quonset hut-style tent. This is where the bulk of embarkation and disembarkation turnarounds are facilitated. Meanwhile, Berth 46 at the outer harbor, closest to the Pacific Ocean, is a mostly structureless pier for occasionally docking a third cruise ship as needed.
“We still have ‘The Love Boat’ in our DNA, and most certainly being a hometown cruise line to L.A., we are passionate about the Port of L.A.,” Padgett added, noting that he is acutely aware of why the port should offer a greater experience to passengers.
For Princess specifically, the line has half of its fleet homeporting in L.A. for half the year, as its gateway for the Mexican Riviera, South America, Hawaii and even Antarctica and other exotic Pacific routes, as well as repositioning sailings up to Alaska in the summer.
He recalled how the line’s latest vessel — Discovery Princess — was first launched and embarked from the underwhelming outer harbor.
“Unfortunately, we did it from tents,” he said. “It was like having a yacht without the house. We have amazing assets. There's an amazing location. It should be an epic experience for our guests. And I think the vision for what it can be … we are certainly looking to partner with [the port] to bring that to fruition.”
What’s more, according to Seroka, the port expects to cross the 1 million cruise passenger mark by the end of this fiscal year (June 30), tallying L.A.’s best numbers in years. And further into 2023, the port anticipates about 250 total cruise ship calls, up from 229 last year. So, any improvements to its cruise facilities will benefit not only Princess, but many more brands and ships.
“There is no doubt that the Port of Los Angeles needs a new terminal on these locations, and I think the collaboration between the city, the port and Princess Cruises working together — as well as the other brands of Carnival Corporation — will be a wonderful thing,” Padgett said. “To me, it can't come soon enough.”
As to when that might be exactly, cruise travelers will have to wait and see. But from Padgett’s perspective, more demand out of L.A. will only lead to more Princess assets based there.