Disney Cruise Line, now a regular presence on San Diego’s bayfront, has released its latest schedule for next fall, which will bring even more sailings here, although for all of 2020, the number of cruises will be down from 2019.
Starting next September and going through November, the cruise line has scheduled 12 calls here, from a two-night Ensenada sailing to a 14-night voyage through the Panama Canal. That’s four more than this fall and three more than in the fall months of 2018, according to the San Diego Unified Port District District.
Where Disney is pulling back, though, is in early 2020, which marks the second half of San Diego’s 2019-20 cruise season. Where Disney had 16 cruises out of San Diego this year between March and May, it is scheduling half that for the first half of 2020.
The fewer cruises, though, are not a sign of waning interest in San Diego, says Adam Deaton of the Port of San Diego. Disney is preparing to add three new ships to its current fleet of four over the next several years, starting in 2021. Deaton said that Disney had previously told him that in advance of the rollout of its new ships, it will be deploying existing liners in new locations to build interest for added itineraries.
“That accounts for why we’re down by those calls, but we will be going right back,” Deaton said. “Based on the fact that they’re up to 12 calls next fall, it’s obvious that they are still bullish on San Diego. So it’s just a blip. They’re saying they’re getting ready for the growth in their fleet.”
Disney’s presence within San Diego’s cruise ship industry also has grown relatively quickly in the years since it opted to test out the local market. Just four years ago, it had only 10 stops in San Diego, compared to 24 by the end of this year.
Disney itineraries out of San Diego are dominated by trips to Baja California and the Mexican Riviera, although there is an occasional Pacific Coast cruise and a sailing through the Panama Canal. Next year, for the first time, Disney will sail out of New Orleans, and one of those cruises — next March — will pass through the Panama Canal, ending in San Diego.
Some of the fall cruises will be celebratory in nature — “Halloween on the High Seas” in October and “Very Merrytime” voyages in November and December.
Disney is one of several lines that sail out of San Diego between September and May. Although cruise calls and passenger volumes are still far off the 2008 peak, business has been gradually growing over the last several years, with an estimated 120 cruise calls next year compared to 97 this year, Deaton said.
“So we are moving in the right direction,” he said.