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3 cruise ships dock in San Diego

SAN DIEGO — Three cruise ships called on San Diego Tuesday, between them bringing nearly 5,000 passengers to town for a day of sight-seeing, shopping and eating at local restaurants.

Holland America’s Zuiderdam docked around dawn at the B Street Pier. The two other ships came to San Diego for the first time.

The Celebrity Solstice stopped on the other side of the B Street Pier. At 1,041 feet, it is the longest cruise ship to ever call on San Diego, port officials said.

The Oceania Regatta arrived at the Broadway Pier late in the morning.

“We saw a lot of the city,” said Bill White, Solstice Passenger.  “We went to the Midway, we went to a padre game, there’s so much to do here.”

“Each arrival and departure is an estimated $2 million for San Diego,” said Joe Terzi, President/CEO of San Diego Tourism Authority.

This day long prosperity arrives with a new ad campaign for San Diego.

“Our first commercial started running in LA, Phoenix and San Francisco this week,” said Terzi.  “So, actually for the first time since January we have a commercial spot in marketing in destinations we need to talk to,  to get people here for the summer.”

The $3.2 million joint campaign with SeaWorld will run over the next two month.  For the first part of the year, San Diego was dark in many markets as Mayor Bob Filner and the Tourism District battled over marketing funds.

“‘We don’t think it will have a long term impact.  We think we’re still going to have a strong summer,” said Terzi.

As the passengers leave San Diego, some are already making plans to come back.

“This is the friendliest city I’ve been in,” said George Mason.  “We’ll definitely come back.”

While the cruise business has boomed globally, it has sagged in San Diego in recent years because of the economy and concerns about violent crime in Mexico.

This year, the port expects 77 calls by cruise ships, compared to 87 last year. The 2013 total is about one-third the number of port calls in San Diego in 2008.

The port expects the local cruise industry to recover by 2015 or 2016.