Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The depressed economy and Mexico's violent drug war have taken a huge toll on the cruise-ship industry in San Diego. And last week's tragic sinking of the Costa Concordia in the Mediterranean, which claimed at least 12 lives, was more bad news for the industry.
Another Costa ship, the Deliziosa, sailed from San Diego last night amid a 100 day, around the world tour. While the ship carried 2,400 people, most of the passengers were Italian or German; only two were American.
The Port of San Diego's Rita Vandergraw was aboard when the Deliziosa docked here. She said a main focus of the captain and crew while she was aboard was on safety.
“Safety is the paramount concern of the cruise industry and the ports," she said.
Vandergraw said the cruise business in San Diego and L.A. has declined 50 percent since the economy tanked. It's expected to decline even further this year.
The lagging southern California economy and violence in Mexico aren’t the only problems. Stagnant ports of call in Mexico are also a factor, she said.
“The cruise lines have asked Mexico to do some new tours, so customers will get off the ship and enjoy themselves. Cabo San Lucas is a very desirable destination and there’s a variety of things for customers to do when they get off the ship. Ensenada, frankly, hasn’t changed in 30 years, ” Vadergraw said.
As a result, ships are leaving southern California for more lucrative ports in Hawaii, Europe and Australia.
San Diego has lost its three-, four- and five-day cruises. And there’s more to come. It’s expected to drop the seven- and eight-day cruises to Mexico by the end of the year.
Still, Vandergraw remains optimistic.
"This is a port city. San Diego is a natural deep water harbor and it definitely should be part of what can be offered by this city for generations to come," she said.
Longer cruises, to Hawaii, and to Europe via the Panama Canal, continue to be popular out of San Diego, she said.