Images by ©IBIT/G. Gross. All rights reserved.
“America’s Finest City” is both cruise port and destination in one.
As you can see, our traffic jams are not like your traffic jams. Especially down along the Embarcadero, San Diego’s waterfront on San Diego Bay.
I was reminded of that recently when three cruise ships — the Zuiderdam from Holland America, the Celebrity Solstice and the Oceania Regatta — all tied up here on the same morning.
The pier can handle as many as four at a time. I haven’t seen that yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
By today’s standards, both the Zuiderdam and Celebrity Solstice would be considered mid-sized cruise ships, but these are two big, hulking mothers when viewed up close, especially 2,850-passenger Solstice, which looks as if it could swallow Regatta and her 600 passengers whole…and ask for seconds.
But what Regatta lacks in size, she more than makes up in 5-star luxury. A cruise on this baby, even in one of her cheapest inside cabins, will set you back thousands of dollars.
Where other debarking cruise tourists have to make their way past industrial-grunge docks and warehouses, when you leave the ship in San Diego, you get to stroll by hotels, a couple of high-end restaurants…and the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
This museum isn’t overlooking the water; it’s on the water, a collection of historic and replica vessels from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, everything from sailing ships to submarines.
But it’s not about novelty as much as it is about convenience. Cruise ships dock at the Broadway Pier, so named because it’s at the foot of Broadway, downtown San Diego’s main drag.
In other cities that welcome cruise ships, you may need a taxi or shuttle bus to take you from the pier to your hotel. Here, you can just cross the street.
Like its airport, Lindbergh Field, San Diego’s cruise ship terminal is practically downtown. The moment you arrive, you’ve arrived.
The Santa Fe train station, from which Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train takes passengers between San Diego and Los Angeles, is a one-block walk from the pier. You could fly into LAX, take a comfortable, scenic two-hour train ride down to SAN, then hop on your cruise ship.
It’s all good for cruise travelers in a place like San Diego, which is not only a major jump-off point for cruise vacations, but a destination in its own right.
It means that, if you time and plan it right, you can enjoy two vacations more or less for the price of one. Arrive a day or two before your San Diego cruise departs, or stay a day or two after it returns. The ocean. The mountains. The desert. Sea World, Seaport Village, the Gaslamp Quarter, Horton Plaza. Catch a baseball game at Petco Park.
When you add it all up, San Diego is really value-added vacationing at its best.