Sunday, May 20 , 2018, 11:05 pm | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Santa Barbara in Uncharted Waters with 22 Cruise Ship Visits on Horizon

City officials see benefits of cruise tourism as planned port calls double in 2013

The number of cruise ships expected to visit Santa Barbara in 2013 is double last year’s total — an opportunity local business and waterfront officials hope to capitalize on.

Eleven cruise ships will drop anchor just offshore between April 2 and May 12, with another 11 tentatively scheduled to stop over this fall.

In addition, the Santa Barbara Navy League has announced that the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its 4,000-member crew will likely be returning to Santa Barbara in early May. The port call will be the ship’s third here, the last being in 2008.

Apparently, the secret about Santa Barbara’s beautiful weather, wineries and world-class shopping is out, said Georgette Friedman, operations and sales manager with Santa Barbara Downtown Organization.

All passengers aboard three different cruise lines — Celebrity Century & Solstice (4,600 passengers), Crystal Symphony (1,400) and Sapphire Princess (3,700)  — will disembark at Sea Landing in the harbor and stream into downtown shops and restaurants from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the visits.

Most will arrive on a Tuesday or a Sunday.

Part of the influx is a result of Santa Barbara’s inclusion as an official stop in the Sapphire Princess’ seven-day California Coastal cruise, a roundtrip from Los Angeles that also includes stops at San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico.

“It’s kind of exciting to be officially a part of a cruise route,” Friedman said. “We are prepared for this. It will be great for the city for quite a few reasons.”

Friedman said the cruises are planned outside the city’s peak summer tourism season, so shuttles can be dedicated to taking passengers to three main destinations based on the most popular questions: the Santa Barbara Mission, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse and State Street shopping.

“Shopping is probably the No. 1 question,” she said. “Certain businesses do better.”

City of Santa Barbara Harbor operations manager Mick Kronman said the growth in cruise ship visits began a few years ago when many were redirected from Mexico because of an outbreak of swine flu.

Regional cruises are also becoming more popular, he said.

“The increase was somewhat expected due to curtailment from Mexico,” Kronman said. “They found out people love Santa Barbara. Who doesn’t? The cruise ship estimates each couple spends about $200 per visit.

“We’re going to see how it goes this spring and fall,” he continued. “We think we can accommodate it. It’s good for the waterfront, local businesses, and it’s good for trolleys.”

Brian Slagle, waterfront administrative analyst, said the visits aren’t expected to have a big impact on residents’ routines, since passengers will be arriving in the early morning and leaving before most locals are off work.

A number of planning meetings are held with the cruise lines and ship representatives, said Slagle, adding that cruise ship itineraries are available on Santa Barbara’s waterfront website six months in advance. The 11 autumn ship visits will likely be posted in June.

Friedman said the city is looking for volunteers to welcome arriving passengers for a couple of hours. The Downtown Organization has been reaching out to its partners at the Waterfront Department, Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Barbara Conference & Visitors Bureau and Film Commission.

“They can come down and share how great our town is,” she said of the volunteers. “We hope they have a great time while they’re here so they come back.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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