SF merchants happy to see cruises 

Thousands of visitors descending on San Francisco this week from cruise ships may buoy The City’s tourism industry, which is sailing stormy seas.

Three cruise ships that arrived Monday are part of a wave of five that will dock this week. Another will arrive in The City next Monday.

An estimated 8,800 guests from the three ships grabbed coffees and meals Monday morning as they huddled beneath awnings along The Embarcadero in new pullovers emblazoned with the words “San Francisco.”

The visitors spend a day in The City before clambering back aboard to continue cruising north or south, or they end or begin a cruise in San Francisco.

The City’s cruise ship visits are down this year, with drug cartel woes in Mexico and a backlash by cruise industry leaders against Alaskan taxes being blamed in part for the decline. A recovery is expected next year.

The ship visits are a boon to The City’s economy, which is supported more heavily by the visitor and tourism industry than by any other sector. For each ship, the average tourism spending by passengers is $275,000.

Hospitality workers and companies made money from the ship guests Monday.

Fleets of pedicabs were deployed to The Embarcadero at 7 a.m. to whisk customers along the waterfront to tourism destinations, where they dined and shopped.

Business was brisk for the strong-legged operators until afternoon downpours dampened the day, according to Golden Gate Pedicab spokesman Justin Bruce.

“Before the rain, it was extremely busy,” Bruce said.

Unsold seats on ferries to Alcatraz were snapped up by cruise ship visitors, leading to a surprisingly busy day for the ferry company and its employees, according to Hornblower Cruises and Events spokeswoman Tegan Firth.

“For a rainy Monday in early May, it’s amazing,” Firth said.

But the convergence of ships illuminated San Francisco’s inadequate cruise ship docking amenities.

Two vessels docked near Fisherman’s Wharf, but the third docked further from the action at South Beach.

Dieter Hagel visited Fisherman’s Wharf with his wife, but wasn’t sure how to get back to the vessel in South Beach without getting soaking wet, although a shuttle service was provided.

“They only have one bus,” Hagel said. “Everybody was trying to get on; it’s crazy.”

Port of San Francisco Maritime Director Peter Dailey said construction of a modern terminal at Battery Street, where a limo company is currently based, will help The City meet cruise ships’ needs by mid-2014.

“We want San Francisco to have a better welcome mat,” Dailey said.


Rough seas

Cruise ship visits are down for the year, though they are expected to increase next year

2009 cruise ship visits

62 Calls

173,000 Passengers

2010 cruise ship visits and bookings

42 Calls

150,000 Passengers

2011 cruise ship bookings

50 Calls

190,000 Passengers

Source: Port of San Francisco

Money sails in

Each cruise ship visit has a positive impact on the Bay Area economy.

$275,000 Tourism spending

$61,000 Spending by crew

$504,000 Ship company purchases and employment

$25,000 State and local taxes

Source: Port of San Francisco

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