Year-Round Cruising from San Diego

Seattle announces cruise growth for 2004 Alaska season; Vancouver hots its first-ever christening

By: Theresa Norton Masek

The Port of San Diego has finally secured a year-round cruise ship.

Starting Oct. 12, Royal Caribbean International’s Legend of the Seas will homeport for one year in San Diego, said Rita Vandergaw, the port’s senior director of marketing and communications.

“We’ve been working on this forever, and I still want to pursue it more,” she said. “Royal Caribbean has a one-year commitment, but we’ll do everything we can to extend it beyond one year.”

The Legend will operate a variety of cruises from San Diego, she said, including longer Panama Canal and Hawaii itineraries and seven-day Mexico voyages.

San Diego has been a busy port in recent years, but primarily with seasonal ships in the winter.

Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises operate regularly out of San Diego between September and May.

The Legend’s Mexico cruises will operate during the summer months, Vandergaw said.

“Their only consistent operation will be the seven-day cruises in the summer, and that fills a void,” she said. “We did not have year-round cruise operations out of San Diego, and the Legend gives us that.”

The Legend of the Seas began sailing in 1995. A 70,000-ton ship, it accommodates 2,076 passengers.

Among the Legend’s itineraries are 14-day Panama Canal cruises from San Diego to Miami with stops at Cabo San Lucas and Acapulco, Mexico; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; and Oranjestad, Aruba.

The seven-night Mexico cruises will visit Cabo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

The Legend will also operate 12-day Hawaii cruises starting in Ensenada, Mexico, just south of San Diego. That port is used to comply with the federal law that requires foreign-flagged ships to call at a foreign port.

In its efforts to attract more cruise business, the Port of San Diego has also improved its facilities.

Work to improve the terminal’s interior was completed about three months ago, she said. The project removed walls that divided the space into sections; plus a restaurant and shop was moved to the back to help improve pedestrian flow and add seating.

The port also erected a white tent for check-in.

In other Western port news, the Port of Seattle said its homeport business is expected to increase by 40 percent next year.

“We’ll have three cruise ships on the waterfront every Saturday and every Sunday during the 2004 season, and one cruise ship every Friday,” said Port Commission Chairwoman Patricia Davis.

The number of weekly departures will increase from 100 this year to about 140 in 2004, the port reported. Passenger volume is expected to exceed 500,000, up from the nearly 400,000 expected this year.

Additional ships that will homeport in Seattle next year include the Sapphire Princess and an as-yet-unnamed Holland America Line vessel. The two will depart on Sundays from the new Terminal 30, which opened last May.

In addition, Celebrity Cruises will offer a Friday departure from the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal.

Meanwhile, the July 11 christening of the Island Princess was the first time Vancouver had been host to such an event.

“This is a historic event and a great honor for both Vancouver and Canada,” said Kevin Little of the port authority.