For the first time ever, San Diego will homeport a cruise ship in winter, spring, summer and fall: Carnival Cruise Lines has announced that beginning June 2, 2007, its Elation will be stationed in the Southern California city year-round, where it will sail four- and five- night voyages to Baja Mexico.
Beyond being good news for San Diego, the announcement also reflects the growing popularity of shorter cruises. In fact, Elation will offer the only four- and five-night program on the entire West Coast -- the first of its kind according to a spokeswoman for the port. Carnival's move also points to the continued success of the drive-to homeport market cruise lines honed in on after September 11, 2001 (when travelers became reluctant to fly).
However, this same trend is not holding water elsewhere on the West Coast; further north, Princess and Celebrity are actually pulling ships out of San Francisco in 2008. The key word here is likely "north": It generally takes ships longer than a week to sail roundtrip Mexican Riviera cruises from San Francisco -- and, again, "short and sweet" is where it's at right now.
Elation's four-night cruises will call at Cabo San Lucas; five-night voyages add a stop in Ensenada. Prior to the launch of the year-round program, the ship will sail one special six-night cruise on May 27, 2007, that visits three ports: Cabo, La Paz and Ensenada.
Elation, which currently sails four- and five-night Bahamas cruises from Port Canaveral, will reposition to sunny SoCal on May 12, 2007, on a special 15-night Panama Canal transit -- Carnival's first since 2004.
According to a Carnival spokesman, no decision has been made at this point as to whether another ship will replace Elation in Port Canaveral. Guests who had already booked cruises on Elation next summer will be contacted by a cruise line representative with an opportunity to sail on another ship (there are similar four- and five-night options from Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and Jacksonville) -- or cancel for a full refund or future cruise credit.
Carnival will now offer three perennial ships in Southern California (Paradise and Carnival Pride offer three- to seven-night voyages year-round from Long Beach). Other lines with seasonal turnarounds in San Diego (generally fall, winter or spring) include Holland America and Celebrity; also, Carnival Spirit has operated seasonally out of San Diego since 2004, and will continue to do so alongside Elation.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor
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San Diego Nets First Year-Round Ship
November 2, 2006