San Diego Cruise Terminal: Things You Need to Know

Things you need to know about your San Diego cruise terminal with locations and details of the B Street Pier and the Broadway Pier.

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San Diego Cruise Terminals are kept busy handling cruises all year round, thanks to the balmy winter climate and excellent connections by road and air. In fact, San Diego is the third busiest cruise port in California after LA and San Francisco.

In 2019, San Diego cruise terminals handled over 200,000 passengers on 93 ships. The port is one of the busiest in the USA for container cargo. The U.S. Navy also uses the harbor as a home base and has three shipyards for building and maintaining its fleet of support vessels.

San Diego Port has two dedicated cruise ship terminals located on the Embarcadero waterfront in the heart of downtown. It operates a state-of-the-art, shore-to-ship power connection, reducing pollution while the cruise ships are in port. The two-mile stretch of downtown real estate offers waterfront restaurants, boutique shopping, hotels, museums and attractions as well as the busy port.

As California’s second largest city, San Diego has many attractions, museums, beaches, boat trips and theme parks as well as beautiful Balboa Park, the world-famous Zoo, Horton Plaza Shopping Mall and the historic Gaslamp Quarter.

As well as a marina, the waterfront offers shopping, dining and entertainment. Not surprisingly, many cruisers stay a few days in San Diego either before or after their luxury cruise. Getting around is easy on foot, by taxi or light rail.

Where better than San Diego Cruise Terminals to embark on your next luxury cruise? Here’s everything you need to know:

Where is San Diego Cruise Port Located?

San Diego Cruise Terminal is located in the historic downtown district, just a short walk from many popular attractions. San Diego Airport (SAN) is just 2.4 miles from the cruise port and the journey takes about 10 minutes by taxi. Known as “The Port of Land and See”, San Diego Port has two cruise terminals:

The main San Diego Cruise Terminal is located at B Street Pier, 1140 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA92101. The second cruise terminal, known as Port Pavilion, is located on Broadway Pier at 1000 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA92101.

San Diego Cruise Terminal at B Street Pier

The B Street Pier is San Diego’s largest cruise terminal and handles the majority of cruises arriving and departing from the port. It can accommodate two cruise ships simultaneously.

Port Pavilion

Port Pavilion is located on Broadway Pier, just south of B Street Pier. It is the second cruise terminal at San Diego Port. It was redeveloped to accommodate cruise ships in 2010 and is used when a third cruise ship is in port. 

As well as handling cruise arrivals and departures, Port Pavilion also hosts many waterfront events, weddings and festivals. It provides public access to the waterfront and includes a Visitor Center, restaurant and a public plaza.

Port Pavilion has a modern 52,000 sq.ft. terminal and events building “Tidal Radiance” on the 1000-feet-long Broadway Pier. It was the first green building at the port. It features a wall of artistic glass and metal sculptures and projected colored lights.

Broadway Pier/Port Pavilion Cruise Terminal
Broadway Pier/Port Pavilion Cruise Terminal (Photo Credit: dcwcreations / Shutterstock)

The Pavilion received LEED Gold Certification for its environmentally friendly features including solar panels, shore power, water efficient fixtures and clever use of glass to reduce the need for indoor lighting.

Broadway Pier is the perfect place for sitting in the sunshine watching ships and boats coming and going against the stunning backdrop at sunset.

Getting to San Diego Cruise Terminals

By car

From Los Angeles and the north

Follow Interstate 5 South (tolls) to Exit 17 (Front Street) San Diego. Head south and turn right on Broadway. Turn right into N. Harbor Drive and follow the signs to San Diego cruise terminals at B Street Pier and Port Pavilion.

From the south

Follow the I-5 north to Exit 17 (Front Street). Stay in the right hand lane and follow the signs to Harbor Drive. The cruise terminals will be on the right.

Cruise Ship in San Diego
Cruise Ship in San Diego (Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock)

By air

Getting to San Diego Cruise Terminal by air is very easy and convenient as the airport is 2.4 miles from the port. Just outside Baggage Claim at either of the airport’s terminals there is a taxi rank managed by a coordinator. Allow 10 minutes for the short drive from the airport to San Diego Cruise Port. Cost is around $20 for the trip.

Alternatively, book a seat with SuperShuttle in a shared van. The cost is around $6 per person, so it may work out cheaper to take a taxi or Uber if there are 3 or more in your group.

Uber and Lyft also offer a pre-booked private car service between the airport and San Diego Cruise Terminals.

Airport-Cruise Port Baggage Transfer Service

Another benefit of arriving by air is the new baggage transfer system operated by the airport. Cruise line staff collect guests’ checked luggage and deliver it directly to the ship. It avoids any delay in waiting for bags to be unloaded from the aircraft and allows cruisers to head straight to the port without having to struggle with heavy luggage. Cruisers should pre-arrange this service through their cruise line or travel agent.

Parking at San Diego Cruise Terminal

There are plenty of options for parking near the cruise terminals on the Embarcadero. Long-term cruise parking is offered by several companies, some within walking distance of San Diego cruise terminals. Full details are available in our article San Diego Cruise Parking: All You Need to Know

San Diego Cruise Parking
Photo Credit: CK Foto / Shutterstock

Tips for Luggage and Passenger Drop-off

Both San Diego cruise terminals have drop-off points close to the ship and there are wheelchair accessible elevators and a passenger gangway. Customer service staff are available to help with any special needs.

Most car rental companies have offices just a short walk from B Street Pier. Most companies offer free transfers to and from the cruise terminals.

Cruise Check-in

However you choose to arrive at the cruise terminals, you can drop off your heavy luggage at the drop-off point and join the line for security and check-in. Porters wearing red caps are available to assist with heavy luggage at the entrance to the terminal; tips are appreciated.

Keep your hand luggage, passport and paperwork with you. You might also want to pack shorts and casual clothing, medication and other essentials and carry them on-board yourself. Your checked-in baggage will be screened and then delivered to your stateroom, but it can take several hours to process the thousands of bags, hence the need to keep some items with you.

San Diego Cruise Terminal
San Diego Cruise Terminal (Photo Credit: Eleni Mavrandoni / Shutterstock)

After proceeding through security, cruise passengers proceed to the line of check-in desks where passports, tickets and any necessary visas are checked. Photographs and credit card details are taken and stateroom keys are issued to each passenger.

These plastic “Sail and sign” cards provide keyless access to your stateroom. They are also used to charge any additional fees to your account so you should carry them with you at all times. You will need them for drinks, specialty dining, shopping, booking shore excursions, and more.

These charges will be added to your onboard account along with a daily amount for tips. The total is usually charged to your credit card at the end of your voyage.

San Diego Cruise Terminal Amenities

B Street Cruise Terminal

This busy cruise terminal has ample seating for passengers waiting to board the ship. Porters are available to assist with heavy luggage at the entrance to the terminal. There are restrooms inside the terminal building but no cafes.

B Street Cruise Terminal
B Street Cruise Terminal (Photo Credit: Sherry V Smith / Shutterstock)

The nearest place for food and drinks is on N. Harbor Drive about two blocks away. The terminal has free Wi-Fi (up to 4 hours) and the option for faster bandwidth at $5 per day.

Port Pavilion Cruise Terminal

Port Pavilion cruise terminal has a flexible pavilion that is used for passengers when cruise ships are berthed at the pier. It includes a forecourt with food and drinks stands, escalators and restrooms as well as a waiting area. Free Wi-Fi is available in the Foyer and Broadway View Room.

Disabled Service for Wheelchair Users

Elevators and gangways are wheelchair friendly making it easy to get through the check-in and security process. However, the port does not provide wheelchairs for those with limited mobility.

Passengers are required to provide their own mobility scooters or wheelchairs, or rent one from a specialist company for the duration of the cruise. Staff are always available to assist and you should request this through the cruise company before your arrival at the cruise terminal.

Cruise Lines Operating from San Diego Cruise Terminals

Holland America operates many cruises out of San Diego from October to April. Other cruise lines that home port from San Diego include Disney Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), Celebrity and Windstar.

In addition, the port serves visiting cruise ships from Oceania Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Hurtigruten, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Silversea, MSC and Viking Cruises. Destinations include Hawaii and the South Pacific, Mexico, South America, Panama Canal and the Pacific Coast

Cruise Ships at Port of San Diego
Cruise Ships at Port of San Diego (Photo Credit: meunierd / Shutterstock)

Attractions and Things to do at San Diego Port

There are so many amazing things to see and do just a short walk from San Diego cruise terminals.

San Diego Tours

Join a hop-on, hop-off tour of this waterfront city to get acquainted with the historic neighborhoods. Harbor cruises are ideal for spotting birds, seals and dolphins. You can rent paddleboards, kayaks and surf boards and enjoy one of the beautiful sandy beaches. 

San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo is one of the city’s oldest and best loved attractions. Located within Balboa Park, it’s less than four miles from San Diego Cruise Terminals. It has an emphasis on conservation and education.

San Diego Zoo
San Diego Zoo (Photo Credit: HannaTor / Shutterstock)

Get up close to wildlife on one of the behind-the-scenes experiences or hop aboard the exciting trolley cart, mini trail or open-topped bus tours with an onboard guide. See polar bears, cute koalas and other exotic wildlife from around the world. Rest weary feet and enjoy the specialist talks and keeper presentations.

San Diego Safari Park

San Diego Safari Park is much larger than the downtown zoo. Located 33 miles northeast of the city near Escondido, this drive-through safari provides a thrilling experience among Africa’s wildlife. Drive through the Savannah in an open-air safari truck or join a safari cart guided tour.

Ride the zipline and keep your eyes open for giraffes, antelope, ostriches, rhinos, storks, cheetahs, coatis, camels, kangaroos, gorillas and many cute babies. Tour Elephant Valley with its herd of elephants and learn how this remarkable herd of giants lives. It’s a day you’ll never forget!

Balboa Park

Balboa Park is a green urban space just two miles from the cruise port. It frequently hosts events, free concerts and family-friendly activities. The 1,200-acre park has walking trails, natural vegetation zones, shops and cafes within its boundaries. Created in 1868, it has hosted several national expositions and the surviving buildings are now a National Historic Landmark.

Balboa Park in San Diego
Balboa Park in San Diego (Photo Credit: Vlad G / Shutterstock)

There are no less than 16 museums in the park, including the San Diego Air and Space Museum, San Diego History Center, the Art Institute and the Timken Museum of Art. There is a beautiful Botanical Building, Lily Pond, Desert Garden, Palm Canyon and many other arid themed gardens.

Activities in Balboa Park include archery, bowling, golf, disc golf, a dog park, gym, Old Globe Theatre and the awesome Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Further afield…

If you’re staying a few days in San Diego, it’s well worth taking a trip along the coast to some of the charming neighborhoods and mission towns north of the city. These include Little Italy, Encinitas, Mission Hills and La Jolla.

As well as providing a pleasant promenade for walking and skating, there are many neighborhood cafes and restaurants serving tasty food and fruity shakes with scenic views.

FAQs on San Diego Cruise Terminal

How far is it from San Diego airport to the cruise ship terminal?

San Diego Airport is just 2.4 miles from the cruise ship terminal on B Street Pier. Allow 10 minutes by taxi to make the short journey along N. Harbor Drive.

How far from San Diego cruise terminal to Safari Park?

San Diego Safari Park is 33 miles north of downtown San Diego in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido. The journey takes about 30 minutes by car.

San Diego Cruise Terminal

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