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San Diego Loses Carnival Cruise Ship To Australia

Audio

Aired 1/14/11

The cruise business has been losing ground in San Diego and the bad news just got worse. Carnival Cruise Lines now says the Carnival Spirit, which can carry 2,600 passengers, will no longer be based in San Diego starting next year.

— The cruise business has been losing ground in San Diego and the bad news just got worse. Carnival Cruise Lines now says the Carnival Spirit, which can carry 2,600 passengers, will no longer be based in San Diego starting next year. It's new port of call will be Sydney, Australia.

The decline in the local cruise ship industry has been dramatic. Last year, the number of cruise ship passengers sailing out of the port declined by one third, compared to the year before. A spokesperson for the Port of San Diego says they expect business to be cut in half this year. That’s to say nothing of the ultimate effect of losing the Carnival Spirit.

Carnival Cruise Lines declined to do an interview and they were vague as to the reasons why the Carnival Sprit was leaving San Diego, saying only it was due to the “weaker financial performance.” But the softness in the cruise market in California is no secret. Veteran travel writer Alison DaRosa said one problem is the dependence of the California cruise industry on Mexican destinations.

“I mean I’ve done three or four Mexico cruises. Am I going to do another one? They’re going to the same ports,” she said.

Rita Vandergaw, the marketing director for the Port of San Diego, said that’s not all.

“We’ve been hit by a double whammy,” she said, “because of the economy and the situation in Mexico, which is not only the fact that it’s an older itinerary that hasn’t had much change in the product… there’s also the violence issue going on in Mexico.”

The Port of San Diego last year lost its other Carnival cruise ship, the Elation, causing San Diego to lose a third of its business. Vandergaw says the loss of the Carnival Spirit will mean the loss of another 20 percent. The Spirit has been making 27 port calls in San Diego every year. The port estimates each call has a local economic impact of 2 million dollars. This happens soon after the San Diego Port Authority invested $28 million in improving the Broadway Avenue pier.

But Vandergaw says she’s optimistic. She says the cruise industry is cyclical and she expects some of that business to return. And what about that big investment in the cruise ship terminal? She says the Port will market it as a site for special events.

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