Cruise Ship Season Begins in San Diego

The first cruise ship of the season, the Disney Wonder, departs from San Diego's waterfront at 4 p.m. Friday, headed for the Panama Canal

With luggage in hand, excited travelers gathered along San Diego’s waterfront Friday as cruise ship season began.

Cruise season officially kicks off Friday around 4 p.m. with the departure of the Disney Wonder cruise ship from San Diego’s Embarcadero. The 2,700-passenger, 14-night cruise will travel through the Panama Canal with stops in Columbia and Mexico. The large ship arrived in San Diego around 5:30 a.m. Friday to prepare for its voyage.

Approximately 90 cruise ships are expected to stop at the Port of San Diego throughout the season, which lasts from September through May. That figure is an increase in the number of cruises in San Diego last year.

Marshall Merrifield, chairman of the Port of San Diego, said half of those ships will be home-ported in San Diego, meaning those cruises will start and end at the Embarcadero.

With each ship that comes in, San Diego sees a boost to the economy as travelers stop to eat at local restaurants, shop at local shops, visit attractions and lodge at hotels. The Port of San Diego said a study found that each home-ported cruise brings an average of $2 million to the city.

To keep up with the number of ships coming in and out of the Embarcadero, many improvements have been made to the waterfront, including the addition of an escalator at the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal.

Since November 2014, the Port of San Diego has completed a project to improve North Embarcadero near the area where cruise ships dock. New hotels were added this past spring across the street from the Broadway Pier to passengers staying overnight.

This season, passengers will travel via cruise ships out of San Diego to destinations like Argentina, Chile, the Mexican Riviera, Hawaii and the California Coast.

NBC 7 spoke with a few cruise ship passengers Friday who said they couldn’t wait to start their adventure at sea. Many said they had a great time in San Diego as a precursor to their vacation.

Travelers June Collins and Judy Fejes said the atmosphere aboard cruises is lively and fun, and described it as “a party on board.”

Others said the best part of a cruise is unplugging and relaxing.

“For me, not having my phone work [is the best part] because my phone is part of what I do,” Tammy Rhine, a traveler embarking on the Disney Wonder cruise with her husband and kids told NBC 7. “Being out at sea and being somewhere that I can just turn off my phone is my favorite part.”

Mike and Linda Henry told NBC 7 they were looking forward to unwinding at sea.

“It’s relaxing and we can do what we want to do, pretty much. We like the sea days the best. The ports are great, but we’ve been to most of them, so we like to stay on the ship,” Mike said.

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