CruiseMates newsletter

Cruising San Diego
by Paul Motter

San Diego has become cruising's hottest new homeport. 103 cruises will leave from there between today and June 1st, 2008, including regular departures by Carnival, Princess and Holland America. The destination is Mexico, usually, but there are also 15-night cruises to Hawaii and back up.

Not all of the Mexico cruises are the same. There are very affordable four-day Carnival cruises directly to Cabo San Lucas, or five day voyages that include Ensenada as well. The 4-day cruises start at just $199 and the 5-day from $279. Be sure to be date-flexible, however, as the cost of these cruises will vary by saildate.

The best value of all, however, is the seven day itinerary offered on the Holland America's Vista-class Oosterdam. This beautiful, premium cruise ship will take you from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta at prices starting as low as $419 per person (once again, date sensitive). Or you can try the older and smaller, but no less charming, Holland America Ryndam 7-day cruises to the same ports of call.

Another premium cruise line offering astounding Mexico bargains from San Diego is Princess Cruises' Dawn Princess. This smaller ship (77,00-tons) is offering seven day cruises as low as $337 per person!

Be Sure to Check Out CruiseMates' Royal Caribbean Bargains Just for you!

But for more unusual itineraries to lesser-known but more interesting interesting Mexican ports, try Holland America's Ryndam. The basic eight-day cruise adds La Paz, a starkly beautiful desert city isolated on the Baja Peninsula's east coast, deep in the Sea of Cortez.

But for a real taste of Mexico, take the 10-day Ryndam "Riviera and Sea of Cortez" cruise which (after the beach towns of Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta) visits Topolobampo on the east coast (mainland side) of the Sea of Cortez and offers a ride on the famous Copper Canyon train. This is known as Mexico's Grand Canyon, and the train ride is known to railroad enthusiasts as one of the most challenging and picturesque train journeys in the world. Next, cruise to Loreto, Mexico, the first European settlement in the "California's" (of the 1600's) for horseback riding, snorkeling or a traditonal clambake. This 10-day itinerary sails from February 5th through April and starts as low as $684 per person.

It is easy to see these San Diego-based cruises are curently bargains, but don't expect them to stay that way as this city becomes more well-known as a cruise homeport. One of the jewels of your vacation will be San Diego itself. We recommend allocating at least two full days to even begin an experience of the city.

One of the "must do" attractions is the world famous San Diego Zoo. This is undoubtedly one of the best zoos in the world, and the selection of animals and the care taken in designing their habitats is like taking a trip around the world. The only thing separating you from an 800 pound gorilla is a sheet of very thick glass. You can walk right up and look him in the eyes, if he chooses to sit up close, as they often do, even though the entire gorilla habitat is hundreds of square feet.

Human San Diego wildlife abounds with the Gaslamp district, adjacent to downtown and the Embarcadero shopping area, all within walking distance of the cruise terminal. During the summer months enjoy the city's teeming beaches, Coronado island and the natural tide pools on Point Loma.

There are many hotels that offer "park and cruise" options, or there are plenty of parking areas near the pier. If you fly in, the pier and the downtown hotels are just a five-minute cab ride. The downtown area has excellent public transportation in trolleys and an Amtrak that will take you up the coast to Del Mar and beyond for just a few dollars. The views of the coast alone from this train are enough to justify the trip.

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