Guide to Planning Your Cruise From San Diego

Navigate the cruise port like a pro with our complete guide to everything to do and see around the Port of San Diego in the Harborview area of Embarcadero.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Guide to Cruises From San Diego
Planning a Cruise
Cruise Destinations
Nearby Accommodations
Bundle & Save
Free & Paid Attractions
Restaurants & More
Getting There

Highlights

Guide to Cruises From San Diego
Things to Do
Getting There
Tips
Guide to Cruises From San Diego
Things to Do
Getting There
Tips

Planning a Cruise From San Diego

Port of San Diego Main TerminalCoffee and Gelato next to Miguels Cocina at the Port of San Diego on a Sunny Day

Cruises from San Diego begin at the Port of San Diego, which is located just south of Harborview in the Embarcadero, just a over a mile west of the Gaslamp Quarter. These trips are fun for all ages, and each cruise line offers a unique way to experience picturesque destinations as you travel to and from Southern California.

Cruise Ship in Port at the Port of San Diego
Cruise Ship in Port at the Port of San Diego

San Diego is a Popular Port

Many ships enter and leave this port year-round from popular cruise lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, MSC Cruises and the Holland America Line. Travel is possible on large luxury ships like the Koningsdam of Holland America, or ride in style on the family-friendly Disney Wonder.

Going on an amazing cruise can be the adventure of a lifetime, but if you’ve never taken a cruise from the San Diego terminal before, you may not know where to start. Check out our comprehensive guide that will assist with planning your trip, finding fun things to do nearby, and locating comfortable accommodations close to the cruise port.

Seeking a 4-star hotel near the bay? Tour the InterContinental San Diego with Todd and learn about its family-friendly features, plus breathtaking views of the San Diego Marina including the Cruise Port and the USS Midway from private balconies and the pool.

Stay at the InterContinental San Diego

Cruise Destinations From San Diego

Norwegian Jewel in San Diego
Norwegian Jewel in San Diego

Cruises depart from San Diego for destinations all across the world! Choose from top destinations departing every day.

Mexico

Mexico is one of the most popular cruise destinations from San Diego ports. Visit the Mexican Riviera, Baja Mexico, Cabo San Lucas and more. Popular cruise lines running this route include Carnival, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Disney Cruise Line.

Panama Canal

Traverse the Panama Canal and other areas of Central America. Guests can consider a luxurious Celebrity cruise from the Pacific coast to the Fort Lauderdale during one of the lines repositioning voyages and add on a Caribbean cruise or possibly a cruise all the way to Europe!

Alaska

Cruises for Alaska leave seasonally in the spring from the Port of San Diego to head north for the Alaska cruise season that generally runs from about late April until September.

Pacific Coast

You don’t have to travel far to have an incredible cruise experience. Hop aboard the Holland America Line or Princess Cruises to San Francisco, or visit Seattle on the Norwegian Cruise Line as these lines and many more offer voyages often of 7 days or less along the west coast of California.

Find Cheap Cruises Out of San Diego

Cruises have a reputation for being expensive, but they don’t have to be!

Booking at the last minute can reduce ticket costs, but this is a risky strategy. Another strategy is to try cruising during the off-season for cheaper rates.

Local Tips
San Diego Cruise Season
There are no bad times to cruise the coast thanks to San Diego’s incredible weather! However, the cooler months are often considered peak cruise season, as temperatures stay warm throughout the fall and winter.

Featured Hotel
InterContinental San Diego
InterContinental San Diego
Bayfront
Bayfront
Boardwalk
Boardwalk
Families
Families
4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars
Watch the boats come and go from the comfort of InterContinental San Diego, an impressive hotel located near the Embarcadero. It’s perfect for business and vacation.
Prices Starting at $264
Check Availability

Accommodations Around the Cruise Port

Booking a hotel near the cruise port helps cut down on travel time and stress.

Consider staying at one of our favorite hotels when you’re cruising in or out of the port of San Diego, or check out our list of the best places to stay near the cruise port.

InterContinental San Diego, an IHG Hotel

InterContinental San Diego is a waterfront hotel with great views of the bay from high rise rooms. Rooms are decorated in a thoughtful, sleek style with WiFi, on-demand movies, coffee makers, and an in-room mini-bar.

Each booking comes with access to the lounge, which includes daily breakfast and complimentary drinks.

SpringHill Suites by Marriott San Diego Downtown/Bayfront

Enjoy the conveniences of complimentary breakfast, a rooftop bar and lounge, and an on-site convenience store at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott. Take in a breathtaking view of the ocean from the rooftop pool, or use the hotel’s fitness center.

SpringHill Suites has on-site parking and rooms are pet-friendly for an additional fee.

The US Grant, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego

Nestled between the Gaslamp Quarter and the bay, The US Grant is a hotel that radiates sophistication. Treat yourself at the bar or the hotel spa, have a gourmet deal at the Art Deco-inspired restaurant, and enjoy valet parking.

Additional amenities include meeting rooms, a fitness center, in-room coffee makers, and high-speed WiFi.

The Guild Hotel, San Diego, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel

The Guild Hotel dates all the way back to 1924 and combines modern comforts with historic charm. This hotel features artfully decorated rooms with forward-thinking amenities like rain showers, integrated Bluetooth, and smart TVs.

Drink at the Prohibition-era-style hotel bar, or simply lounge in comfort in this immersive piece of history.

Carte Hotel San Diego Downtown, Curio Collection by Hilton

Just a few minutes away from top attractions, Carte Hotel is a relaxed, comfortable place to stay with convenient amenities like a fitness room, WiFi, meeting rooms, an outdoor rooftop pool, and a boutique.

Rooms are pet-friendly and offer great views of both the bay and the Downtown San Diego area.

Bundle and SAVE!
USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum
Explore the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum with your All-Inclusive Go City pass! Check out the hangar deck and flight deck, plus over 60 exhibits, displays and interactive experiences. Enjoy an authentic tour narrated by Midway sailors!
Buy Now
Local Tips
What attractions are included with a Go City San Diego pass?

Attractions that you can visit with a Go City San Diego pass include:

The San Diego Zoo, Birch Aquarium, SeaWorld, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, Harbor Cruise, USS Midway Museum, the NAT Museum, Whaley House, PETCO Park Tour, iFLY San Diego and many, many more!

Want to save more? Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

The Best Attractions & Free Things to Do near the Cruise Port

The Best Attractions in the Area

You can get discounted admission to many of the attractions around the cruise port with advanced purchase of a Go City San Diego Pass. For even more savings, use our discount code (GVSD5OFF), or buy the All-inclusive version of the pass which allows you to skip the lines at entry and bundle the maximum discounts!

The following fun activities are all eligible for discounted admission through the Go City San Diego Pass. Read on to learn more!

San Diego Zoo

The world-famous San Diego Zoo is one of the most fun things to do in San Diego and a can’t-miss attraction for wildlife lovers. See hundreds of species of animals from all across the world at one of the country’s largest and most famous zoos in Balboa Park.

USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum

Learn about San Diego’s military history aboard the USS Midway Museum. Step back in time to experience naval battles and hear war stories at this hands-on, family-friendly museum.

One Hour San Diego Harbor Cruise by Hornblower Cruises

See the historic sights of the harbor in style and comfort on a Hornblower Cruises Harbor Cruise. This guided tour of the San Diego Bay includes live narration so you can learn while you sightsee.

Whale Watching by Hornblower Cruises

A Hornblower cruise is a great way to see gray and blue whales as they migrate in the harbor on a Whale Watching Tour. Other species you may spot include humpback whales, dolphins, and sea birds.

San Diego Speed Boat Adventures

Take a thrill ride through the bay on a San Diego Speed Boat Adventure. Cruise past historic naval vessels and coastal landmarks, all while feeling the wind in your hair.

PETCO Park Tours - Home of the San Diego Padres

Take a tour of PETCO Park, a massive baseball stadium, home of the San Diego Padres in the Gaslamp Quarter. During the tour, you’ll walk out onto the field and also catch the stunning view from the top of the stands.

San Diego Pier Fishing

Fishing enthusiasts can embark on a San Diego Pier Fishing excursion, complete with gear rentals. Commonly caught fish include mackerel, halibut, perch, bass, and more.

The New Children’s Museum

The family-friendly New Children’s Museum is a hands-on art gallery designed with kids in mind. The specially curated exhibits are exciting for all ages and help encourage a love of the arts in younger children.

GoCar San Diego Tours: 30-Minute Navigational Tour

Explore San Diego’s vibrant streets on a narrated GoCar San Diego Tour. This is a fun and family-friendly way to get around town and learn about local landmarks.

San Diego City Tour

Explore all the best spots in the city on a San Diego City Tour. This comprehensive tour is ideal for familiarizing yourself with popular destinations and attractions while taking in the view.

The Best Free Things to Do in the Area

In addition to saving money on attractions with the Go City San Diego pass, there are plenty of free things to do around the cruise port.

Check out local beaches, go for a walk, and explore the city, all without spending a dime!

Walk Along the Embarcadero

The coastal Embarcadero is the perfect spot for a midday stroll. Enjoy the sun and light sea breeze, watch the ships in the harbor, and stretch your legs with a light workout.

The view of the San Diego Bay is especially stunning during sunset.

Go to Balboa Park

Home to dozens of museums and other popular attractions, you can have fun in Balboa Park just by walking through the 17 gorgeous gardens. Stroll around and enjoy the beautiful San Diego weather and scenery.

People Watch in the Gaslamp Quarter

The gorgeous architecture of the Gaslamp Quarter provides the perfect atmosphere for people watching. Relax on a bench in Horton Plaza Park and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Walk Around Coronado Island

To reach Coronado Island, you’ll need to take the ferry over from the bay, which does cost money. However, once you’re there, walking around Coronado Ferry Landing Park is totally free and full of beautiful views and people watching opportunities.

Coronado Central Beach

Coronado Central Beach is totally free and well-known for its excellent swimming conditions. Lounge and sunbathe, enjoy a picnic lunch on the sand, or walk along the shoreline at this pristine, popular beach.

Visit the Famous Hotel del Coronado

You don’t have to book a night at Hotel del Coronado, a.k.a. The Del, to admire the stunning architecture and laid-back charm of this famous beach resort. The iconic hotel has existed for over 130 years, and was named a National Historic Landmark in 1977.

Visit Old Town San Diego

As the location of San Diego’s first European settlements, Old Town is brimming with history and culture. Check out Victorian-era architecture and visit local historic landmarks as you walk through the neighborhood.

Visit La Jolla

La Jolla is the surfing capital of San Diego, but the incredible beaches are only part of the appeal. There are also plenty of great restaurants, and you can window shop local wares at boutique stores.

More Things to Explore

Coronado Bay & Beach Walking Tour
Coronado Bay & Beach Walking Tour
$55 per person
Buy Now
The San Diego Maritime Museum
The San Diego Maritime Museum
Discounts Available
Learn More

The Best Restaurants, Breweries, and More Around the Cruise Port

There’s food and drink to suit just about any palette near the harbor, for picky eaters and more adventurous foodies alike. Just a 3-minute walk from the cruise port, you’ll find Portside Pier, which has a wide variety of restaurants and bars right along San Diego Bay.

Here are some top picks for places to eat nearby.

Brigantine Seafood and Oyster Bar at Night next to the Cruise Port
Brigantine Seafood and Oyster Bar at Night next to the Cruise Port

Brigantine Seafood and Oyster Bar

Located on Portside Pier, Brigantine Seafood and Oyster Bar serves up only the freshest seafood. Enjoy locally-caught fish, lobster, and oysters, as well as imported specialties.

King and Queen Cantina

The hip and trendy King and Queen Cantina is between the cruise port and Little Italy. This cantina has a fun atmosphere and great food, including authentic Mexican dishes and cocktails.

Stone Brewing Tap Room - Kettner

Grab a beer just steps away from the cruise port at Stone Brewing Tap Room. This brewery serves a rotating, seasonal selection of beers in the pet-friendly tasting room.

Puesto At The Headquarters

Right along the Embarcadero, you’ll find Puesto At The Headquarters. This Mexican restaurant serves both individual and family-style meals made with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

Miguels Cocina at Portside Pier next to the Cruise Port
Miguels Cocina at Portside Pier next to the Cruise Port

Miguel’s Cocina

Located along Portside Pier, Miguel’s Cocina cooks up fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, and more. Dine on hand-made tortillas, mouth-watering Mexican food, and hand-shaken margaritas.

Barleymash

Heading toward the Gaslamp Quarter from the cruise port, you’ll find Barleymash, an energetic sports bar. Watch the big game and enjoy a selection of pub favorites.

Topsail

Topsail on the Portside Pier serves tasty seafood paired with cocktails and wine. This classy eatery has its own rooftop terrace complete with fire pits and waterfront views.

The Boardwalk in Front of the Ketch Grill at the Port of San Diego
The Boardwalk in Front of the Ketch Grill at the Port of San Diego

Ketch Grill & Taps

Ketch Grill & Taps, located on Portside Pier, is a trendy modern tavern with a wide selection of craft beers, wines, and cocktails paired with locally-sourced American fare.

Getting to the Cruise Port

If you’re flying into San Diego, the cruise port is only about 2 miles from the San Diego International Airport (SAN). You won’t have to worry about renting a car, as rideshares such as Uber or Lyft are readily available to get you, your family and your baggage to the port or your nearby hotel. However, you can also make use of public transportation like the coaster, which stops right outside the cruise port.

If you’re driving in, the cruise port doesn’t have its own lot, but there are a few garages in the area. Wyndham San Diego Bayside Garage and BRIC North Garage are both right across the street from the terminal, though you can find cheaper options a little further away.

Tips for Navigating the Cruise Port and Planning Your Trip

Old Town Trolley Tours and Seal Tours Main Office at the Port of San Diego
Old Town Trolley Tours and Seal Tours Main Office at the Port of San Diego

Keep costs low and navigate the cruise terminal with confidence using these helpful tips!

Visitor Center

Get your bearings by heading to the visitor center, where the helpful front desk staff can answer any questions you may have. The visitor center is open 10am-4pm, but double check the hours before you go.

Vacation Packages for Cruises From San Diego

If you’re looking to save, check out vacation packages. This is a great way to save and enjoy an all-inclusive vacation, especially when paired with the Go City San Diego pass.

San Diego Cruise Season

There are no bad times to cruise the coast thanks to San Diego’s incredible weather!

However, the cooler months are often considered peak cruise season, as temperatures stay warm throughout the fall and winter.

Looking to Save on Tickets?
Save on Tickets
Explore all that San Diego has to offer & save up to 55% on attractions
This Month's Forecast
63°F / 73°F
Partly Cloudy in June
Jul
67°F / 77°F
Sunny in July
Aug
69°F / 79°F
Sunny in August
Sep
67°F / 79°F
Sunny in September
Tours & Adventures
Coronado Bay & Beach Walking Tour
Coronado Bay & Beach Walking Tour
$55 per person
Buy Now
The San Diego Maritime Museum
The San Diego Maritime Museum
Discounts Available
Learn More

Stay Nearby

Carte Hotel San Diego Downtown
Family Friendly
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
Carte Hotel San Diego Downtown
from $162 / night
View Hotel
The Guild Hotel
Romantic
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
The Guild Hotel
from $169 / night
View Hotel
Wyndham San Diego Bayside
Family Friendly
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Wyndham San Diego Bayside
from $135 / night
View Hotel
InterContinental San Diego
Bayfront
4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating4 Star Rating
InterContinental San Diego
from $264 / night
View Hotel
Show more San Diego Hotels >>
Looking for Something Different?
More Beyond San Diego