San Fran cruising gets lift from Princess move, new terminal

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Grand PrincessPrincess Cruises' year-round deployment of its Grand Princess at the Port of San Francisco next year, coupled with the opening of the port's new cruise terminal in 2014, could signal an expansion of cruise operations for the city, a port official said.

"This single ship, the Grand Princess, means approximately 130,000 cruise guests for San Francisco in 2013," said port spokeswoman Renee Dunn Martin.

Between 60 and 80 ships typically visit San Francisco each year, bringing about 200,000 total cruise visitors. The 2,600-passenger Grand Princess will be the first ship homeported there year-round, operating Alaska cruises during the summer and a schedule of Hawaiian Islands, Mexico and California coastal sailings during fall 2013 and spring 2014.

Princess in recent years has had two ships on seasonal deployments from San Francisco, including the Regal Princess, operating spring and summer cruises to Alaska, and the Dawn Princess, offering Mexico sailings in the fall and winter.

Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises' executive vice president, said that Bay Area passengers and travel agents "have long been asking for more cruise options" from San Francisco.

'A nice upgrade'

William Dea, who with his wife, Diana, operates San Francisco-based All About Cruisin' Travel, predicted the Grand Princess would be well received by clients living in the area.

"We sell a lot of Princess, and I think that the Grand Princess is a more elegant ship than some of the others [the line] has deployed here seasonally," he said. "It's also bigger, so it's a nice upgrade."

He added that many clients no longer want to fly to a port or pay airfare for an entire family that's cruising together.

Monique Moyer, executive director of the Port of San Francisco, noted that Princess ships have called at the city for more than 40 years.

"We greatly appreciate the company's long-standing partnership with our city," she said, adding, "We are delighted to now have our first year-round ship based here, and it is a natural fit that the vessel is the caliber of Grand Princess."

The Grand Princess last year underwent a drydock renovation that added a nightclub and dining and lounge venues and remodeled the casino.

New port facility

According to port documents, the cruise industry in 2010 generated nearly $40 million in economic benefits to the region.

Martin suggested that the new cruise terminal, which will be completed in 2014 at Pier 27, also could entice more cruise lines to call or homeport at San Francisco.

The San Francisco Port Commission last year voted to move ahead with an $86 million waterfront development that includes the construction of the new terminal.

The Pier 27 terminal, which would replace an existing one at nearby Pier 35, would be able to berth vessels up to 1,300 feet long and house ticketing, baggage and Customs and Border Protection areas and security operations.

Pier 35, which will function as a backup facility once the new terminal is finished, is able to accommodate ships up to 1,000 feet long.

The development of the new pier will include a shoreside power infrastructure that enables ships to turn off their engines while in port, decreasing emissions.

For cruise news and updates, follow Donna Tunney on Twitter @dttravelweekly.

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