SAN PEDRO, Calif. — March 1, 2010 —  Vacationers passing through the World Cruise Center at the Port of Los Angeles are enjoying the first of a series of upgrades to improve their cruise experience, including new state-of-the art gangways for travel between terminal buildings and cruise ships. Passengers aboard Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas over the weekend were the first to use the new, glass-enclosed gangways.

 In the coming weeks the four electric-powered hydraulic gangways will be installed at all berths at the World Cruise Center, a homeport for four major cruise lines. Replacing the facility’s’ older, open-air ramps, the new gangways will expedite the passenger embarkation process and they are flexible enough to reach any ship at any tide condition.

The $9.4 million gangway upgrade is part of more than $42 million recently committed to long-term improvements at the Port’s Inner Harbor World Cruise Center.

“The improvements we’re making now will benefit the millions of tourists who will make their way through the facility in the coming years,” said Port Executive Director Dr. Geraldine Knatz, Ph.D. “The high-tech gangways are just one piece of a 21st Century upgrade at the Cruise Center, an operation that provides more than 2,500 direct and indirect jobs and generates hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism and related revenue.”

Other World Cruise Center upgrades include solar paneling, wharf fenders, painting, lighting and audio/video upgrades. Alternative Marine Power™ (AMP™) — shoreside electrical power — for cruise ships will also be unveiled soon.

A leading cruise port on the West Coast, the Port of Los Angeles hosted 162 cruise ship calls and approximately 800,000 passengers in 2009. Princess Cruise passengers worldwide awarded the Port of Los Angeles the “Port of the Year 2008” based on customer satisfaction ratings. The Port of Los Angeles is a home port for Princess Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line and, beginning in 2011, Disney Cruise Line.

Last fall, the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners approved the San Pedro Waterfront Project, which includes the expansion of cruise ship operations with a new outer harbor terminal that will provide more berth space and accommodate the largest ships that will call at the Port in the coming decades.

The Port of Los Angeles is America’s premier port and has a strong commitment to developing innovative strategic and sustainable operations that benefit the economy as well as the quality of life for the region and the nation it serves.  As the leading seaport in North America in terms of shipping container volume and cargo value, the Port generates 919,000 regional jobs and $39.1 billion in annual wages and tax revenues.  A proprietary department of the City of Los Angeles, the Port is self-supporting and does not receive taxpayer dollars. The Port of Los Angeles – A cleaner port.  A brighter future.