TO THE POINT: Cruise industry continues to face stormy skies ahead
by Johnny McDonald
Dec 13, 2012 | 4472 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Recently, three cruise ships were in San Diego’s port, which, under present travel conditions, had to be a rarity.

Coupled with a poor economy and Mexico’s cartel crime wave, the cruise ship business here hasn’t been that good of late. The business has dropped off 75 percent since the plush days in 2008. That year, 255 ships sailed into the bay.

“The Unified Port of San Diego will have 85 cruises for the 2012-13 season,” said Marguerite Elicone, manager of media relations. “However, more than 270,000 passengers are scheduled for the calendar year.”

There is hope of a turnaround, but that may not occur until between 2015 and 2017, according to projections.

As an indicator of how important these vessels are to the local economy, Port District officials said each brings in about $1 million worth of business. Total passengers from those three ships in port a few weeks ago were 8,200.

A recent feasibility study performed by the firm of Bermello Ajamil & Partners maintains that the cruise industry is still the fastest-growing tourism sector in the world and that the San Diego region can look forward to seeing more frequent cruise line calls beginning in late 2015 or beyond.

The fleets have moved to ports in Galveston, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and even New York in search of business.

Holland America, which carried

60 percent of San Diego’s market share by passenger berths sold, pulled the Oosterdam ship from the West Coast and sent it to Australia. The 2,500-passenger Carnival Spirit, which has used both San Diego and Los Angeles as homeports, also went to Australia, while Carnival’s Splendor is moving to New York next year.  

Elicone said cruise lines are looking to come back to the West Coast because the European market is getting too expensive and the Australian market is becoming saturated.

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Golfing with a view     

Historic Sail Ho Golf Club’s tree-lined par-three course at Liberty Station treats golfers to panoramic views of San Diego’s skyline and harbor. Its well-placed bunkers can offer a stiff challenge.

This course was built in the 1920s by A.G. Spalding of the Spalding Sports company.

Historically, golf great Sam Snead served as head golf pro while in the service during World War II and Phil Mickelson and Craig Stadler played in many junior golf tournaments there.

With the new Liberty Station Development by the Corky McMillin Companies, Sail Ho went through a major refurbishment and redesign by golf course architect Cary Bickler.

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Improving quality of life 

The Point Loma Association is a formation of residents and businesses committed to improving the quality of the Peninsula through beautification, education, charitable  activities and civic affairs.

It was organized in 1961 and originally called Point Loma Village Beautiful, primarily concerned with aesthetics.    

The PLA is directly involved  with federal, state and local government agencies, the Port District, San Diego Unified School District and the Peninsula Community Planning Board. Annual membership fee is $30.

— Johnny McDonald is a longtime writer and columnist for the San Diego Community Newspaper Group.
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