San Diego's popularity as a cruise port is due to an unbeatable combination of convenient location, a world-class destination and consistently warm sunny weather. The San Diego Cruise Ship Terminal is situated on beautiful San Diego Bay adjacent to downtown San Diego’s exciting urban core and within easy walking distance of numerous hotels, restaurants and museums – making even the quickest port visit a pleasure. For passengers flying into the region, the San Diego International Airport is located within minutes of downtown and just two miles from the cruise terminal. And, with average daily temperatures at 70ºF, cruise passengers are scheduling a few days before or after a cruise to explore San Diego Bay and the city’s downtown area throughout the year.
San Diego’s bay front and downtown are best explored on foot, with short city blocks and most streets running one way in a grid pattern for easy navigation. For visitors looking to give their weary feet a rest, following are alternate modes of transportation.
· Old Town Trolley Tours offers a great way to see San Diego during a fully narrated tour of the city that covers key points of interest including a designated stop at the Cruise Ship Terminal, downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter, Coronado, Old Town, the USS Midway Museum, the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park and more. Visitors can stay on board for the two-hour continuous tour or enjoy “on-and-off privileges” at each stop. www.trolleytours.com
· The San Diego Trolley light-rail system offers routes running to various points in downtown; it operates seven days a week from 5 a.m. to midnight and runs every 15 minutes. The main trolley station is located just blocks away from the cruise ship terminal. www.sdcommute.com
· Numerous pedicabs are available daily along most downtown streets, particularly in the Gaslamp Quarter and along the Embarcadero. Pedicabs are a unique alternative to taking a taxi and the next best thing to riding a bike around downtown.
· GoCar Tours offer a fleet of three-wheel mini-cars designed for guests wanting to escape tour buses. Up to two people can jump into these open, miniature vehicles and enjoy a GPS-guided audio tour highlighting 100 San Diego sites. www.gocartours.com
· Cinderella Carriage Co. offers horse-drawn carriage rides along the Embarcadero and through the Gaslamp Quarter. www.cinderella-carriage.com
· San Diego Water Taxi, operated by the San Diego Harbor Excursion, provides fun and convenient transportation to and from Seaport Village on the bay front and Coronado, directly across the bay. Similarly, the San Diego-Coronado Ferry carries pedestrians on an hourly 13-minute ride between downtown San Diego and Coronado’s Ferry Landing Marketplace. www.sdhe.com
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Popular sights and attractions along San Diego Bay and downtown allow visitors to commune with nature, relive history and experience the city’s exciting urban culture.
· The USS Midway Museum, a decommissioned aircraft carrier docked at Navy Pier on the Embarcadero, is the most visited naval ship museum in the continental U.S. The museum highlights San Diego’s rich military history and provides visitors a glimpse into life aboard an aircraft carrier with dozens of historic aircraft on display and tours both above and below decks. www.midway.org
· The Maritime Museum of San Diego consists of several historic sailing vessels docked on San Diego Bay. The ships are the Star of India, built in 1863 and today the world’s oldest merchant sailing vessel still in operation; a San Francisco steam-powered ferryboat launched in 1898; a 1904 steam yacht that served in both World Wars; the Californian, the official tall ship of the State of California; and an authentic B-39 Russian diesel submarine. www.sdmaritime.com
· The Port of San Diego has commissioned and installed a large collection of public art along the bay. These playful sculptures and somber memorials commemorate San Diego’s international ties, cultural diversity, military significance, and unique oceanfront environment. www.thebigbay.com/about/artaroundbay.asp
· San Diego’s bay front boasts 16 beautiful parks covering 250 acres along the shoreline. Park offerings vary and include features like landscaped walkways, playgrounds, bike trails and picnic facilities. San Diego's near-perfect weather allows cruise passengers to enjoy an afternoon in the park year-round. www.thebigbay.com/about/parksalongsandiegobay.asp
· The New Children’s Museum opened downtown in May 2008 in a dynamic building offering an interactive arts destination for children and families. The museum encourages children to think, play and create with innovative, hands-on art opportunities, classes and exhibitions designed by emerging and established contemporary artists. The museum is downtown San Diego’s first public ‘green’ project with environmentally friendly architecture and infrastructure practices. www.thinkplaycreate.org
· In January 2007, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) opened a downtown expansion in the ‘baggage building’ of the active Santa Fe Depot, a Nationally Registered Historic Landmark located across the street from the existing MCASD downtown galleries. The expansion provides more than 30,000 sq. ft. of Museum program space, new outdoor exhibition facilities and an artist-in-residence studio. The MCASD offers free admission to guests 25 years and under every day and free admission to the general public every Thursday evening from 5-7 p.m. www.mcasd.org
· In the 16.5 blocks of downtown San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter, grand Victorian-era buildings house more than 100 of the city's finest restaurants, 35 nightclubs and bars and 100 retail shops. Just a leisurely stroll from the Cruise Ship Terminal, it’s a perfect spot for a casual alfresco lunch, afternoon shopping spree or fascinating historical walking tour. Then, when the sun sets, the area's nightlife sizzles, attracting thousands of diners, theatergoers and nightclub patrons to the neighborhood. www.gaslamp.org
· The Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation offers a vivid re-creation of the Gaslamp Quarter’s history with a guided walking tour. Foundation guides share stories from the late 1800s when the area flourished as a red-light district. www.gaslampquarter.org
· PETCO Park, home of the San Diego Padres, offers a guided behind-the-scenes tour of its facility in downtown San Diego. Baseball fans can discover "writer's row" in the press box, learn about the historic Western Metal Supply Co. Building and explore the Padres’ dugout. Baseball fans also can catch a Padres home game April through October. www.petcopark.com
San Diego Bay offers cruise ship passengers many opportunities to get out on the water, from seasonal whale watching excursions to Sunday brunch cruises to amphibious vehicle tours.
· Narrated bay tours are offered by San Diego Harbor Excursion (ww.sdhe.com) and Hornblower Cruises & Events (www.hornblower.com). Both companies offer daily one- and two-hour narrated harbor tours, seasonal whale watching adventures, dinner-dance and Sunday brunch cruises. Cruises depart from the Broadway Street Pier.
· On the unique 90-minute Sea and Land Adventures SEAL Tour, guests can experience San Diego by land and sea in a “boat on wheels” and enjoy the magnificent views of downtown San Diego. www.historictours.com/sandiego
The city of San Diego, a world-class destination in its own right, boasts additional exciting attractions within a short cab ride from the Cruise Ship Terminal.
· Located five minutes by taxi from the Cruise Ship Terminal, Balboa Park is the cultural heart of San Diego. Visitors can easily spend an entire day exploring the park’s offerings. Encompassing 1,200 acres, Balboa Park is home to 85 cultural institutions, including 15 museums ranging from anthropology to science and from classic to contemporary art; performing arts venues like the Tony Award®-winning Old Globe Theater; lush gardens, and the San Diego Zoo. www.balboapark.org
· Cruise ship passengers can take a walk on the wild side at the San Diego Zoo, a 100-acre tropical oasis located in Balboa Park. Home to 4,000 animals of 800 rare and exotic species, the Zoo is world-renowned for it s bio-climatic exhibits like the new Monkey Trails. The Zoo is also home to the popular Giant Pandas and is one of only four facilities in the United States to house this critically endangered species. www.sandiegozoo.org
· Point Loma’s Cabrillo National Monument is named after the European discoverer of California, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. From its cliffs, guests enjoy bird’s-eye views of the bustling harbor and magnificent downtown skyline. The park’s tide pools are also one of the last and best-preserved rocky intertidal areas open to the public in Southern California. www.nps.gov/cabr
· Old Town State Historic Park marks the site of the first Spanish settlement on the U.S. West Coast and represents San Diego’s Hispanic heritage from 1821 to 1872. Easily accessible from the Cruise Ship Terminal by taxi or trolley, the six-block park features 12 acres of Mexican lore and historical sites presented in popular shops, restaurants, museums, a theater, and several carefully preserved or restored historic adobe and wooden buildings. www.parks.ca.gov
· SeaWorld San Diego, located a short drive north of downtown San Diego on Mission Bay, also offers close encounters of the animal kind, but in an aquatic setting. SeaWorld San Diego is the original SeaWorld and home to Shamu, the world-famous killer whale. The park features six major animal shows, dozens of fascinating exhibits containing marine life from around the globe and the Journey to Atlantis water coaster ride. www.seaworld.com
WHERE TO DINE
Along San Diego’s bay front, cruise ship passengers can enjoy amazing meals against a backdrop of crimson sunsets, the sparking harbor and dynamic downtown skyline. There are more than 70 restaurants located along the bay, sure to satisfy any craving.
· Roy’s at the San Diego Marriott Hotel and Marina opened in June 2008. Famous for exciting and innovative Hawaiian fusion cuisine by noted chef Roy Yamaguchi, the menu features local ingredients, European sauces, bold Asian spices and a focus on fresh seafood. www.roysrestaurant.com
· Located on the Embarcadero, The Fish Market extends over the water to offer diners unparalleled views of passing sailboats, Navy ships and Coronado. The Fish Market boasts its own oyster farm and fishing boats that supply this flagship restaurant with premium seafood found in mesquite grilled fish plates, seafood cocktails and chowders listed on its classic menu. www.thefishmarket.com
· On the Embarcadero, perched above the waters of the bay, Anthony’s Fish Grotto is a casual, family-owned restaurant famous for seafood for over 60 years. The restaurant was opened by Italian immigrant fishermen who harvested the seas and prepared their catch using old family recipes. Today, diners love to watch passing boats while sampling signature hand-battered or grilled seafood plates and delicious pasta dishes. www.gofishanthonys.com
· Located directly across from the airport on Harbor Island, Island Prime offers guests spectacular views across the blue waters of San Diego Bay toward the sparkling downtown skyline. Chef Deborah Scott’s menu of steak and seafood classics with imaginative, modern twists includes filet mignon tartare, hazelnut-crusted scallops and porcini-dusted rack of Colorado lamb. On an outdoor patio that juts out over the water, cruise passengers can grab lunch or nosh on more casual fare while enjoying incredible views. www.islandprime.com
· On the water’s edge in Coronado, Peohe’s restaurant has a soothing plant-filled tropical interior, complete with waterfalls and tiered booths that are angled toward breathtaking views across the bay of the downtown San Diego skyline. The menu features modern steak house standards and fresh fish prepared with island-style cooking techniques and flavors from Asia and the Pacific Islands. www.peohes.com
· A short distance from the cruise ship terminals, guests can experience the culinary delights of more than 100 restaurants in downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter. Cuisines to be savored include Afghan, Brazilian, Chinese, Greek, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Persian, Spanish, Thai and more.
WHERE TO SHOP
Shopping enthusiasts can find an abundance of retail shops along the bay front and downtown. Following are some of the more popular shopping spots, where cruise ship passengers can find trendy and fashionable apparel or that one-of-a-kind item.
· Seaport Village, a 14-acre waterfront shopping and dining complex, recreates a California harbor setting of a century ago. Amid cobblestone pathways, ponds, fountains and lush landscaping, Seaport Village offers themed shops, restaurants and cafes. www.spvillage.com
· Horton Plaza, a multi-level, outdoor shopping and entertainment center, opened in 1985, and offers 130 specialty shops, restaurants, a movie theatre and performing arts theatre. Well-known for its whimsical and vibrantly colored design, Horton Plaza was created to resemble a European market place and function like an amusement park with colorful pathways, bridges and staggered levels. www.westfield.com/hortonplaza
· Visitors looking to expand their wardrobe can find cutting-edge fashion in quirky
independent boutiques and retailers like Urban Outfitters, The Puma Store, Volcom and Quicksilver in the Gaslamp Quarter. Unusual shopping opportunities also abound, from the latest in skateboarding gear at Street Machine, to cigars hand-rolled on-site at the Cuban Cigar Factory, to outrageous pet fashions at Lucky Dog. www.gaslamp.org
· Across the bay on Coronado and easily accessible from the Cruise Ship Terminal via the San Diego-Coronado Ferry, Ferry Landing Marketplace is a retail complex featuring waterfront dining and one-of-a-kind shops surrounded by tree-lined walkways, swaying palms and sparkling ponds. www.sdhe.com
· Little Italy is a quaint and lively neighborhood filled with patio cafes, restaurants, pubs, art galleries, hotels and shops. On Fir Street, a block of colorful cottages house boutiques that offer ultra-stylish options including independent designers of women’s clothing, accessories and shoes. On India Street, shoppers find imported accessories of all kinds in an array of stylish boutiques. www.littleitalysd.com
SAN DIEGO NIGHTLIFE
Recognized by Conde Nast Traveler‘s concierge.com as one of the “top 10 IT places to visit in 2008,” San Diego comes alive when the sun goes down and the city’s nightlife heats up. Located both along the bay front and downtown, spectacular nightclubs, rooftop lounges and bars treat revelers to chic atmosphere paired with spectacular city and ocean views.
· The Top of the Hyatt is a "must see" for any visit to downtown San Diego. Top of the Hyatt sits on the 40th floor of the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, high above San Diego Bay with panoramic views of the city, Coronado and beyond. The location offers a fabulous setting from the tallest waterfront hotel on the West Coast and offers a prime location to view beautiful San Diego sunsets. www.manchestergrand.hyatt.com
· High atop the roof of the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter, located 22 stories above downtown’s streets, Altitude offers music and martinis with breathtaking views of downtown, San Diego Bay and the Padres’ PETCO Park. www.altitudeskybar.com
· At the W Hotel, guests can head to Beach, the hotel’s rooftop bar, with a heated sand floor, fire pit and private tented cabanas that bring a seaside vibe downtown. Downstairs, Living Room, a bustling lobby bar with high-energy music, caters to the see-and-be-seen crowd. www.whotels.com
· For those looking for a live music venue, Anthology, located in downtown’s Little Italy, is San Diego’s newest live music establishment. Embracing the spirit of classic supper clubs from the 1940s with a decidedly modern spin, Anthology draws renowned local and international musicians of jazz, classic rock, blues, Latin and world music. www.anthologysd.com
· Located throughout the bustling 16.5 blocks of the Gaslamp Quarter, 40 bars and nightclubs offer patrons an opportunity to experience San Diego’s nightlife at its finest. www.gaslamp.org
WHERE TO STAY
Waterfront hotels with a wide range of amenities, atmosphere and price options offer cruise passengers unparalleled convenience when overnighting in San Diego. Following are a few hotels located along San Diego Bay.
· Positioned directly across from the Cruise Ship Terminal, the Holiday Inn on the Bay offers casual convenience at a great price with panoramic bay views, full amenities and reasonable rates. www.holiday-inn.com/san-onthebay
· Located across the street from Seaport Village, the Embassy Suites Hotel San Diego Bay offers 337 spacious suites with desirable furnishings and plenty of room to utilize for work or play. Guests also can enjoy complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast served every morning, as well as a range of other hotel amenities including a swimming pool, fitness center and an on-site seafood restaurant. www.embassysuites1.hilton.com
· The San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina’s two curved and glass-sheathed towers lend their distinctive features to the San Diego skyline. Located on the bay front and conveniently situated adjacent to the Gaslamp Quarter, the hotel offers 1,362 cool, California costal themed rooms and awe-inspiring views of the downtown skyline and San Diego Bay. www.marriott.com/sandt
· Also located on the bay front and steps from the Gaslamp Quarter, the double-towered, 1,625-room Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego showcases two pools, fire pit, whirlpools, a full service spa and a selection of restaurants and lounges. The Top of the Hyatt on the 40th floor offers some of San Diego’s best panoramic views of San Diego Bay, the ocean and downtown. www.manchestergrand.hyatt.com
· Opened in December 2008, the new 1,190-room Hilton San Diego Bayfront offers a resort atmosphere in an urban setting. Located across from PETCO Park, the 30-story hotel features a health club and spa, upscale retail shops, food outlets and a waterfront restaurant. In addition to waterfront views from the rooms, lobby and meeting spaces, the 10.2-acre site showcases a new 4.3-acre landscaped public park. www.hilton.com
· Perched on San Diego Bay directly adjacent to the San Diego International Airport, Harbor Island is incredibly convenient for cruise ship passengers. Here, the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina (www.sheraton.com/sandiegomarina) and Hilton San Diego Airport/Harbor Island (www.sandiegoairport.hilton.com) both allow visitors to take advantage of full resort amenities within moments of arriving in San Diego.
Downtown San Diego is one of the most dynamic metropolitan areas in the country, and offers some of the finest accommodations to meet every visitor’s needs.
· After a $16-million renovation, the historic Pickwick Hotel reopened in December 2006 as the modern and stylish Sofia Hotel. Built in 1926, the 212-room hotel now features a fine dining restaurant and spa-inspired amenities, including a 24-hour fitness center and yoga studio. www.thesofiahotel.com.
· After a $52-million renovation, The US GRANT reopened in November 2006 as a member of Starwood’s prestigious Luxury Collection. The historic 270-room hotel was enhanced to reflect its 1910 origins and now features roof-top gardens, original, one-of-a-kind art by noted French artist Yves Clement and its signature 95-seat Grant Grill. www.luxurycollection.com/usgrant
· Embracing the trademark rock ‘n’ roll attitude, cutting-edge design, 24-7 service and high-octane nightlife for which Hard Rock is famous, the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego opened in November 2007 as San Diego’s first condo-hotel, with 420 luxury rooms and suites. www.hardrockhotelsandiego.com
· The Porto Vista Hotel & Suites in Little Italy opened in March 2008 with 193 rooms and suites, a top-floor restaurant and lounge with great city and harbor views, 30-person Jacuzzi, fitness center and business center. www.portovistasandiego.com