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Visit San Diego for a Pre-Cruise SoCal Adventure

San Diego is calling! With inviting year-round temperatures and a vast assortment of attractions, it’s no wonder San Diego is a go-to destination for sun-seekers. Whether you’re looking for a weekend waterfront getaway or have a few days to explore prior to embarking on a cruise, you’ll find plenty of sunshine and happiness in this vibrant SoCal city.

Home to the famous Gaslamp Quarter and a family-focused Old Town, San Diego’s neighborhoods are full of unique shopping, great dining, and cultural attractions. Plus, with a Holland America cruise port offering vacations to Mexico and beyond, the adventure continues well past the waterfront.  Prior to embarking on a recent Panama Canal cruise, I enjoyed a few days in sunny San Diego and am thrilled to share some of my top recommendations for making the most of your pre-cruise exploration.

If you’re setting sail on a cruise—or simply looking for the perfect location for a weekend getaway—you’ll no doubt want to find accommodations along the waterfront. My stay at SpringHill Suites San Diego Downtown/Bayfront proved to be an ideal locale for easy cruise port access. The hotel is located directly across from B Street Pier Terminal, and a pedestrian crosswalk makes getting from A to B super easy. Plus, from my waterfront facing suite, I loved watching Holland America’s Westerdam arrive in port in the wee hours of the morning. 

SpringHill Suites San Diego Downtown/Bayfront offers more than cruise port convenience. Business travelers, weekend wanderers, and family fun-seekers alike will enjoy spacious suites and thoughtful amenities during a stay. From Paul Mitchell toiletries to a bountiful breakfast buffet, guests are treated to an assortment of perks. Whatever your needs—on-site laundry, meeting rooms, or access to a fitness center and rooftop pool—you’ll find it here. Plus, with in-room coffee and tea, an on-site market, and a fabulous little coffee shop—Ryan Bros. Coffee—right next door, you’ll quickly see how all the little details add up for a perfectly cozy stay.

In addition to luxurious accommodations, SpringHill Suites San Diego Downtown/Bayfront is in an ideal location for taking a stroll to San Diego’s Little Italy. Here you’ll find attractions like the Firehouse Museum, cute boutiques along the Fir Street Cottage Shops, and a great assortment of cafes. I’m a dedicated visitor to Caffe Italia in Little Italy—a quaint little coffee and espresso shop with sidewalk seating.

When hunger strikes, Little Italy offers an incredible assortment of casual and fine dining options. You’ll find False Idol, a speakeasy tiki bar, and Herb & Wood, home of Top Chef star Brian Malarkey. Then there’s The Crack Shack, where chef Richard Blais serves up SoCal fried chicken. Or if you’re up for a full feast, head to Born & Raised to see tableside prep of an authentic Caesar Salad and peruse the butcher counter prior to ordering a mouthwatering steak. I loved the old world atmosphere combined with an ultra-modern pizzazz at Born & Raised. I found this venue to have all the ingredients of a classic steakhouse with the perks of a creative, contemporary menu. 

While visiting San Diego, be sure to allot time to visit some of the many attractions around the waterfront.  The USS Midway is the most visited ship museum in the world. The Maritime Museum of San Diego is an exciting place to take the family for a stroll down history. And, if you can spare just a little extra time to explore the area, I highly recommend visiting Balboa Park, America’s largest urban cultural park with fifteen museums and access to San Diego Zoo. Balboa Park is fondly known as the “Smithsonian of the West” and will captivate visitors of all ages for a wonderful variety of art, culture, and history.

Whether you focus exclusively on the waterfront or have enough time to explore a few neighborhoods in San Diego, SpringHill Suites San Diego Downtown/Bayfront is a great location for creating a luxurious home away from home. You’ll have across-the-street access to the cruise port and waterfront path leading you downtown and to the Gaslamp Quarter. When it comes to location, amenities, and service, SpringHill Suites San Diego has it all.

For more travel planning tips, explore the San Diego Tourism Authority website. Learn more about Port of San Diego cruises and services, or book your dream cruise directly with Holland America.

Lori A. May is a Seattle-based travel writer.
Photos © CT Shier.

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