It’s a stable cruise business for the Port of San Francisco, with the Grand Princess operating year-round cruises from the Bay Area, sailing in the summer to Alaska and to Hawaii and the Mexican Riviera in the balance of the year.
“We’ll have around 80 calls and 290,000 passengers in both 2016 and 2017,” said Michael Nerney, maritime marketing manager.
In the summer, the Grand Princess sails a 10-day Alaska program, with the California-based cruise line listed as the port’s best cruise customer and booked through spring 2019. In addition, there are shoulder season calls wrapped around the Alaska market, which looks ready to take off for 2017 and beyond.
“We expect to see those ships in May, and September and October,” said Nerney. Among the added value for transit calls is the ability to stay in San Francisco overnight or late into the evening, a trend, said Nerney, that was picking up.
The port is in discussions to implement an incentive program to deliver a guarantee on calls and passengers, but plans are still on the drawing board.
California air rules may be limiting West Coast growth, with ships required to plug in to shorepower if they become frequent visitors.
That shorepower is available at the 2014-opened Pier 27.
“We have two years under our belt there, the passenger scores have been very good,” Nerney said. For busy days, Pier 35 becomes a second berthing option.
The terminals are centrally located near icons like Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. Another major draw: sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge into the port.
It’s also a destination that can handle an influx of tourists without raising an eyebrow. As for the passenger mix, Nerney estimated a 50 percent fly-in demographic.
In five years, Nerney hopes the San Francisco operation can be increased to 100 or 120 calls if the situation is right. It should be a draw to returning passengers too, who can sail to Alaska in the summer and elsewhere the rest of the year.
Passengers can look forward to a team of local volunteers that come down and meet the ships. The volunteers are armed with brochures and maps, pointing guests in the right direction.
“Little things like that can make a big difference on the guest experience,” Nerney said.
“Everyone likes to visit San Francisco,” he continued. “We’d like to see some of the lines a bit more often. We can handle ships, big and small, and are happy to do it.”
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