(6:45 p.m. EDT) --Princess Cruises announced today that it will homeport Grand Princess in San Francisco year-round beginning in May 2013. Not only is a year-round ship in SF a first for Princess, but it'll be the only line with a ship based permanently at the port and the first modern cruise line ever to do so.
Grand Princess received a major refurbishment last year, adding a pizzeria, the Crown Grill, a martini lounge and a tea café, among other enhancements. It will offer the following itineraries out of SF:
10-night Alaska sailings, departing between May 10 and September 7, 2013
10-night Mexico sailings, departing on September 17, 2013, and March 5, 2014, and featuring two new ports for Princess -- Loreto and La Paz
7-night California Coastal sailings, departing on September 27 and October 19, 2013, and March 15 and April 6, 2014
15-night Hawaii sailings, departing between October 4, 2013, and April 28, 2014
"We've confirmed with the Port of San Francisco that we're the first line to ever have one ship dedicated to San Francisco cruising year round," Princess spokeswoman Karen Candy told Cruise Critic in an e-mail. Other lines choose to homeport seasonally or visit only on repositioning cruises to/from Alaska or round-the-world ventures. San Francisco's challenge is that it cannot offer many seven-night or shorter itinerary options due to regulations that require foreign-flagged ships sailing from U.S. ports to call in at least one non-U.S. port (the closest ones being Vancouver or Ensenada).
San Francisco does, however, provide plenty of options for passengers looking to add on pre- or post-cruise stays to visit city highlights (Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz) or surrounding scenic areas (Muir Woods, Napa and Sonoma wine country, even Lake Tahoe or Yosemite National Park).
--by Erica Silverstein, Features Editor