After Pandemic Pause, Cruise Ship Sailings Return to Port of San Diego

On Oct. 1, the Disney Wonder and Grand Princess will be the first sailings out of San Diego’s B Street Cruise Terminal since the pandemic forced shutdowns in spring 2020

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After a lengthy pandemic-related pause, cruise ships – with passengers on board – will once again start sailing in and out of the Port of San Diego Friday, which hopefully brings a boost to local tourism.

On Oct. 1, the Port of San Diego said the Disney Wonder and Grand Princess will be the first sailing out of downtown San Diego’s B Street Cruise Terminal since the pandemic forced industry shutdowns in spring 2020.

The Disney Wonder will set sail on a 4-day cruise from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and back. The Grand Princess began sailing in Los Angeles on Thursday and will make a port stop in San Diego on Friday. The cruise ship will then head to Ensenada and back to Los Angeles, the Port of San Diego said.

These first sailings will be among more than 100 cruise calls that the Port of San Diego anticipates will happen through May 2022. The cruise liners expected to sail in and out of San Diego’s Embarcadero include Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and the Disney Cruise Line.

While these sailings are critical to the cruise line industry’s ongoing recovery from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, getting these ships sailing again is also good for the local economy and tourism.

According to the Port, when a ship like the Disney Wonder home ports in San Diego – meaning it starts and ends along the Embarcadero – it has the potential to bring about $2 million into the local economy. And when a cruise stops into San Diego even for the day, like the Grand Princess, the passengers coming off that ship can bring about $600,000 to the local economy.

“They get off the ship and they do everything we love them to do,” said Julie Coker, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority. “They eat in our restaurants, they shop at our local retailers, they support all of the small businesses here in San Diego.”

“But then it also gives them an opportunity to see San Diego on that one day stop and, oftentimes, they will then book future trips to come back to San Diego and spend more time here,” Coker added.

After a long pandemic pause, cruise ships will sail once again from the Port of San Diego beginning Oct. 1, 2021. NBC 7's Audra Stafford reports.

According to the Port, San Diego is California’s third busiest port, just behind Long Beach and Los Angeles. It’s also the gateway to the Mexican Riviera, plus the path for major cruising destinations like Hawaii, the Panama Canal, and the Pacific Coast. Since the start of the pandemic, the Port if San Diego said 173 local passenger cruises have been canceled.

Over the past year and a half, cruise liners have sometimes docked at the Port of San Diego, but not for actual cruises. Holland America’s Koningsdam, for instance, has docked to refuel and restock supplies.

COVID-19 Safety for Cruises in San Diego

As the pandemic continues, the Port said safety while resuming cruising is top of mind. The Port of San Diego said it is working with cruise lines, plus local, state and federal agencies on COVID safety measures to minimize community spread and exposure to the virus on cruise ships.

Some of those safety protocols include that all crew members and travelers age 12+ must be fully vaccinated. In some cases, medical exemptions could be allowed, but the Port said Celebrity Cruises, Holland America and Princess “must maintain that at least 95% of all guests are vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, Disney Cruise Line plans on testing all guests for COVID-19 on embarkation days, the Port said.

All unvaccinated guests must show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test between three days and 24 hours before embarking on a cruise.

Some other safety measures, according to the Port of San Diego:

  • All persons must complete a health screening form in which they declare their vaccination status, negative COVID test result and attest that they’re not feeling ill or showing symptoms of COVID-19
  • Face masks must be worn by all while inside the cruise ship terminal
  • Whenever possible inside cruise ship terminals, passengers should keep social distance from other travelers who are not part of their party
  • The cruise lines are staggering passenger screenings and check-ins, to prevent crowds
  • The Port will fully clean and disinfect the terminals after each embarkation and disembarkation, and other things like Plexiglass barriers and hand sanitizer stations have been installed in high-traffic areas

Before traveling on a cruise, passengers should also read up on their cruise liner’s COVID-19 safety protocols.

NBC 7 reached out to Grand Princess about the cruise stopping in San Diego Friday. A representative for the cruise line said capacity is reduced on this sailing, at between 60 and 75%. After this sailing, the company plans to add “5 points or so with each voyage.”

NBC 7 also reached out to Disney Cruise Line about Oct. 1 Disney Wonder trip out of San Diego.

A rep said the cruise line is resuming sailing on a “gradual, phased approach,” which may also mean some modifications to itineraries from time to time.

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