With three berths, San Diego is rebuilding its cruise traffic, with a small rise coming this year before a major uptick in 2017. Once one of the bigger homeports in North America, the port served one million passengers in 2008, but after the recession and Mexican violence, the ships moved on, but now the business is coming back.
205,000 passengers are predicted this year, with 260,000 forecast for 2017 as the situation in Mexico improves.
“The piece that is attributing to the steady growth is pent up demand for the Mexican Riviera just because there haven’t been a lot of offerings for several years,” said Joel Valenzuela, director of maritime.
Disney Cruise Line visited 10 times in 2015 and will be back with a limited program this year, with a drydocking eating into the company’s shoulder season. The port is working hard on 2017 and beyond with Disney, welcoming Disney’s recommendations on terminal updates with open arms, including the funding of an additional escalator to improve passenger flow. Disney’s industrial engineers reviewed the terminal and presented the port with a list of improvements, which San Diego has been checking off one by one.
Coming to San Diego later this year for a Mexican Riviera season is Holland America’s Westerdam.
“Things have stabilized down there (Mexico), tourism is coming back,” said Adam Deaton, senior trade account representative.
A recent $31.1 million upgrade to the North Embarcadero will be the first thing cruise passengers see when they disembark. In February, a new premium hotel will open across the street from the port.
Deaton said San Diego’s geographic position gives it a leg up on the West Coast.
“There is cost savings for the cruise lines with us being so far south,” he said. “The lines are closer to the Mexican Riviera, which will save on time and fuel.”