San Diego cruise ship season begins

SAN DIEGO -- The Port of San Diego's 2016-17 cruise season began Friday with the arrival of Disney Wonder at the B Street Cruise Ship Terminal.

Currently, 90 passenger liners are scheduled to come to San Diego during the season, up 30 percent from last year, port officials said.

The port's cruise business has made a steady climb the last two years. The uptick came after several years of struggle for San Diego's cruise industry, which stemmed from the effects of the recession, worries about violence in Mexico and strong overseas competition.

"The Port of San Diego's cruise business is coming back in a big way,'' said Marshall Merrifield, chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners.

"We are making improvements to our B Street facility, including adding an escalator, to meet the growing demand,'' Merrifield said. "We've been working with our cruise partners over the last couple of years, making improvements to port security and enhancing itineraries. That, combined with an improved U.S. economy, has contributed to this resurgence.''

The 2,700-passenger Disney Wonder will board guests for a 14-night voyage through the Panama Canal to Port Canaveral, Florida, with stops in Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Cartagena, Colombia; and Cozumel, Mexico.

Other cruises from San Diego this year are scheduled to make stops in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; the Mexican Riviera; Hawaii; and the California coast.

Along with Disney Cruise Line, others that will sail to and from San Diego are Norwegian Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises.

An economic impact study covering the port's cruise business for the 2015 calendar year found that each home-ported cruise generated an average of nearly $2 million in economic impact to the region.

"It's also tremendous for the international presence of San Diego,'' Merrifield told CBS8. "We have visitors from near and far who come to our town and say `hey, what a great place.' How many folks went on vacation here and ended up living here?''

The study also found that the port's cruise business contributed $82 million in overall economic impact to the San Diego region, with about $46.8 million spent at local businesses resulting in $22.3 million in employment earnings.