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Port of San Diego Celebrates Start of Cruise Season

Contact: John Gilmore (619) 686-7206 on .

Cruise ShipsThe Port of San Diego is welcoming the arrival of three cruise ships on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011, as it officially kicks off the new cruise season.

Port Commissioner Bob Nelson will take part in an informal welcome and media event planned for Thursday morning at 10 a.m., when Holland America ships, the Westerdam and Statendam, and the Sapphire Princess, will be in port. The media event will take place in the 900 block of North Harbor Drive between the Broadway Pier and Navy Pier.

The Jackstraws band will serenade arriving and departing passengers. There also will be a welcome-back presentation to representatives of the three ships.

Traffic on North Harbor Drive - near the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal, the Port Pavilion on Broadway Pier and nearby streets - is expected to be heaviest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. That is the period when passengers arrive or disembark from the ships for shopping and sightseeing. Traffic officers with the port and city will be on hand to direct traffic.

About 6,300 passengers will be aboard the three ships. Ships from Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruise depart from San Diego throughout the cruise season. Another three ships will be in port at the same time on Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

The start of the cruise season is welcome news for the port and the City of San Diego. When a ship begins and ends a cruise in San Diego, it brings in an estimated $2 million for the region's economy.

A ship that is visiting for a day has an economic impact of about $1 million, which includes the money cruise passengers spend in restaurants, shops, at SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and other attractions, along with the revenue generated by companies providing supplies to the ships.

"That economic impact is worth celebrating," said Board of Port Commissioners Chairman Scott Peters.

More than 80 cruise ships are scheduled to call on the Port of San Diego this cruise season, although it could top 100 when new ship calls are added early next year. The cruise season began on Monday, Sept. 19 with the arrival of the Celebrity Millennium. The season ends in mid June. In 2010, there were 209 cruise ship calls with nearly 780,000 passengers.

Ship calls this season are expected to generate about $150 million for the region's economy. The industry is responsible for about 2,000 jobs regionally, ranging from truck drivers bringing provisions to the ships to shuttle and taxi drivers.

The economic downturn and concern about crime in Mexico are the major reasons for the drop in the number of cruise calls.

An assessment of the cruise industry presented recently to the Board of Port Commissioners forecast a recovery in 2015-2016. The economic analysis was commissioned by the port's Business Development & Marketing Department to help develop a strategy for the cruise business recovery.

The department already is involved in that effort. Port representatives are in discussions with Mexican government and tourism officials, along with the cruise lines and others. One solution is for Mexico to offer a greater variety of shoreside activities for cruise passengers.

San Diego is the second largest cruise port in California and among the top 15 nationally.

Ships from Holland America Line, Celebrity Cruises and Carnival Cruise depart from San Diego throughout the cruise season. Another three ships will be in port at the same time on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. For details on cruises, please visit thebigbay.com.

Given the port's popularity for a cruise destination, Peters expressed confidence in a recovery.

"We have had downturns before," Peters said. "San Diego is a significant player in the cruise industry and it's a very attractive destination. Business will return."

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