As homeports go for cruise travel, it doesn’t get much better than San Diego, and I’m not just saying that because I’m partial as a native resident of America’s Finest City. The sheer convenience and otherwise attractiveness of cruising from the Southern California port is simply undeniable.
Although San Pedro and Long Beach near Los Angeles are more heavily frequented by cruise ships, San Diego is a wonderful destination for cruises departing for Mexico, Hawaii or the California coast, as well as a port-of-call. With a decline in Mexican Riviera cruises, San Diego has seen fewer ships over the last several years, but Holland America Line still homeports here and Princess Cruises still visits. Also, many other companies like Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line (as pictured above) and Norwegian Cruise Line make stops in between seasonal runs to and from Alaska and the Caribbean.
The cruise terminal of San Diego consists of two facilities right in the heart of downtown, the original B Street Pier and newer Broadway Pier, adjacent and parallel to each other and capable of berthing three ships at a time. The San Diego International Airport is all of a 5 minute, 2.5 mile drive away from the piers, as planes can be seen landing and taking off just across the bay from the ships, and the port is also only 1.5 blocks west of the city’s central train depot and trolley station. Plus, cars, pedicabs and pedestrians can easily access the piers from the Harbor Drive frontage road.
Directly across the street is the convenient Wyndham San Diego Bayside hotel for pre- and post-cruise stays as well as attended parking starting at $12 per day. The north embarcadero lining the bay has been recently improved and expanded to create the world-class Broadway Plaza park with fresh pavers and landscaping and featuring a number of arbors, public artwork and San Diego staple restaurants like Anthony’s Fish Grotto for tasty seafood and scenic bay views.
Other attractions immediately beside the piers include two great museums. To the south is the USS Midway Museum to visit the historic naval aircraft carrier, and to the north is the Maritime Museum of San Diego, home to a fleet of timeless vessels, from a former soviet submarine and steam ferry to several fascinating clipper ships. The Star of India here has been a fixture of the San Diego waterfront for decades, and the HMS Surprise is recognizable as the frigate replica used in the filming of “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.”
Of course, the world famous San Diego Zoo, Safari Park and SeaWorld are none too far away, and the architecturally magnificent Balboa Park, built as an exposition celebrating the opening of the Panama Canal, is less than three miles east and immediately adjacent to the zoo. Within closer reach under a mile south for more shopping and dining is Seaport Village, a quaint relaxed setting under the shadow of dramatic downtown high-rises.
Alternatively, for those looking just for California beaches, the closest are the south-facing shores of Coronado Island, seen directly across the bay and accessible via ferry or the San Diego–Coronado Bridge. Soon you’ll be humming the tune of The Beach Boys’ “California Girls.”