By Michael Akana at Aug. 8. 2007.

      San Francisco needs a modern cruise terminal if it is to attract newer and larger ships.  Plans to build a new terminal have fallen apart.  The developer of a multi-staged construction project bailed out before getting to the building a new cruise terminal.  At a Cruise Line Industry Association conference in Fort Lauderdale this March, a representative of the San Francisco port suggested that participation by more cruise lines would help lead to development of better cruise facilities.  Meanwhile an employee of a major cruise line pointed out that cruise lines are not attracted to the current facility at pier 35.

      The San Francisco Port Authority is currently reviewing new proposals for a new cruise terminal. Current locations being considered include “Pier 30-32, Pier 35, and Piers 27-31.”  Current places for office space at Piers 27 to 31 are being revised to accommodate a modern terminal at Pier 27.

      You may recall Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 coming to San Francisco in February of 2007.  Large ships do come to San Francisco as a port of call, but the current cruise facilities are not equipped to handle such large ships as a point of embarkation.

      San Francisco has been home to the Dawn Princess all last year.  September 2006 through mid-May 2007 the ship sailed to Mexico returning home to Pier 35 every 11 days.  The Dawn Princess was in great shape during a June 10th ship inspection following a scheduled renovation in wet dock mid-May.  The Dawn Princess returned to service, calling on Alaska via the Inside Passage on a 10 day itinerary from Pier 35 through mid-September.

      San Francisco round trip voyages have been a convenient travel choice for Bay Area residents, saving time and money without the bother of air travel. After the 2007 Alaska season ends, the Dawn Princess leaves San Francisco and will be based out of San Diego, for a winter of 7 day round trip voyages to Mexico.

      So what will become of the San Francisco port? There is no clear plan for new construction.  Cruise lines continue to demand new port facilities.  Newer and larger ships may call at pier 27 as a port of call as did the Queen Mary II in February, but we won’t see larger ships calling San Francisco home until a new facility is built.

      We are without a ship in winter 2007, but look for more variety in 2008.

      The Dawn Princess returns May 2008 to repeat a summer of 10 day Alaska Inner Passage Voyages. She will leave California in September for Australia,  but Princess Cruise Lines has just announced six Mexican Riviera voyages departing San Francisco from October 11 2008 and April 27, 2009. The six voyages will by made by the Star Princess.  Planned ports of call are Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas.  Departure dates for the limited release of San Francisco voyages of the Star Princess are Saturday, October 11, 2008; Tuesday, October 21, 2008; Friday, October 31, 2008; Monday, November 10, 2008; Friday, April 17, 2009; and Monday, April 27, 2009.

      In addition to the longer 10 and 11 day itineraries, Princess continues to offer short 2-day cruises between San Francisco and Vancouver. There is one northbound voyage scheduled in September 2007 and a southbound voyage in May 2008 aboard the Coral Princess.

      Meanwhile, other cruise lines, which for the most part ignored San Francisco in 2006 and 2007 except as a port of call, are getting a foot hold in the San Francisco round trip market. Norwegian Cruiselines will offer several 10 Day Mexican Riviera voyages with departures from October 2nd 2008 to November 4th.

      Celebrity will offer itineraries aboard the Mercury, Millennium and Infinity departing from San Francisco next spring.  There are 14 day Inner Passage to Alaska itineraries round trip from San Francisco and 11 day one way cruises beginning in San Francisco and ending in Vancouver. Seven and 8 night Pacific Coastal Cruises in March and April of 2008 are rich in Northwest ports south of Alaska including Victoria, Vancouver, Astoria, Seattle and Monterey.

      For those looking for impressive view of ocean liners in 2009, the new Queen Victoria January 30th and the massive Queen Mary 2 on February 8th.  Queen Elizabeth had been scheduled to call on San Francisco January 28, 2009 but is not being sold off to Dubai, where she will act as a permanent hotel and tourist attraction, similar to the Queen Mary in Long Beach.

      While San Francisco will not soon have a ship calling Pier 35 home year round, after the lull in activity this coming winter there will soon be a variety of convenient cruise vacation choices for San Francisco Bay Area residents.

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