What's New in San Diego for Cruise Guests in 2023?

What's new in San Diego for cruise passengers in 2023? Here's a peek at some of the port developments, attractions, dining and hotel updates.  

Port Area Updates

As West Coast cruising expands, San Diego has invested $4.6 million to introduce greater availability of “shore power” for cruise ships to "plug in" while docked. That's enhanced eco-protection. For the first time in January 2023, two cruise ships – Disney Cruise Lines’ Disney Wonder and Oceania Cruises’ Insignia – tapped the land-based electrical grid rather than running their engines in port. Previously, only one cruise vessel had the ability to "plug in" to San Diego's electrical grid. 

Having two shore power outlets at San Diego's cruise terminals is expected to result in at least a 90 percent overall reduction of harmful pollutants while the ships are docked. That includes reductions in Nitrous Oxides (NOx) and Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

Foodie Draws

As part of the Port of San Diego's ongoing revitalization, Seaport Village, San Diego's harbor-side hub, is gaining several new dining options. Those include: L.A. restaurant chain Gladstone’s; Cork & Batter, a baseball-themed restaurant and sports bar; Zytoun, featuring authentic Mediterranean and Greek cuisine; Malibu Farm, a southern California-inspired dining destination: and Old Harbor Distilling Co.’s first satellite tasting room. Many new eateries are opening elsewhere in the area too. 

Worth noting for fine dining enthusiasts? In December, Addison, which is located in San Diego’s Fairmont Grand Del Mar, earned its third Michelin star, becoming San Diego’s first three-star Michelin restaurant and one of only 142 with three stars worldwide. The Michelin inspector's comments focused on the chef’s “Californian sentimentality,” especially in the restaurant’s sesame-seasoned Koshihikari rice with aplewood-smoked sabayon and Regiis Ova reserve caviar.

As for food festival fans, it’s good to know that SeaWorld San Diego will bring back international flavors, beverage tastings and live music performances with the return of its “Seven Seas Food Festival” on select dates between March 3 and April 30. In addition to tasty bites and drinks, guests can enjoy live music and habitats with dolphins, sea lions, bat rays, flamingos and sea otters.

New Exhibitions, Activities

Scenic Eclipse is shown at the Broadway Pier in San Diego in fall 2022.
Cruisers arriving or departing from the Port of San Diego have plenty of new attractions, dining options, exhibitions and other fun draws to explore ashore. Scenic Eclipse is shown above at Broadway Pier in fall 2022. (Photo by Susan J. Young)

For those cruising from San Diego now through March 26, 2023, “Beyond King Tut: The Immersive Experience” is a new temporary exhibition now open at the Wyland Center. Created in partnership with the National Geographic Society, its nine galleries tell the tales of ancient Egyptian culture and heritage. 

Opening this spring at SeaWorld San Diego is a new family-friendly coaster, Arctic Rescue. Park goers will board “a snowmobile” and launch at up to 40 mph on a chilly adventure. The story line is that they'll journey through an unpredictable Arctic climate to help animals in danger. The coaster will be the West Coast’s longest, fastest straddle coaster.

Also opening this spring is LEGOLAND California Resort’s newest addition to “Miniland U.S.A.” It’s the world’s first LEGO version of San Diego, which will feature mini-displays of famous city scenes, settings and themes. The section will join the park's mini-versions of New York, Washington D.C., Las Vegas and San Francisco.

Just opened in January 2023, the new WNDR Museum in downtown San Diego offers more than 20 exhibits that immerse guests in art and technology. It's creative and definitely not the typical museum experience. 

Starting March 25, 2023, Mingei International Museum will open “25 Million Stitches: One Stitch, One Refugee,” running through October 15, 2023. This exhibition, which is designed to raise awareness of the refugees displaced globally, will count each refugee with one hand-sewn stitch. More than 2,000 panels will be combined vertically to create 408 floor-to-ceiling flags. Travelers will walk through and around the poignant installation.

Look for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Downtown (MCASD) to develop a multi-disciplinary arts hub this year. It will offer artistic performances, exhibitions, events and new experiences.

On the Hotel Front 

One historic downtown property is the 211-room Sofia Hotel, 150 West Broadway St., San Diego. A member of the National Trust Historic Hotels of America, it's located within the city’s historic Gaslamp District and is just a quick cab ride from the Broadway Cruise Pier. 

Travel Agent opted for a day room here last fall after disembarking Scenic Eclipse at the Port of San Diego as our flight home didn’t depart until late at night. One feature we liked is that all rooms and public areas at The Sofia Hotel are non-smoking.

The historic Sofia Hotel in the Gaslamp District is a pleasant spot for a pre- or post-cruise stay or day room booking as it's within San Diego's historic Gaslamp District.
The Sofia Hotel within San Diego's Gaslamp District exudes historic charm but also has modern accommodations. Its lobby is shown above. (Photo by Susan J. Young)

This property is historic in nature, but the suite we enjoyed for a day room exuded a fresh and modern appeal. For those seeking a day room perhaps for a bit of "remote" work on the trip home, all of the Sofia's rooms have a convenient work station with an ergonomic chair. We felt the property's Wi-Fi also worked well during our day visit. 

Our “VIP Suite with Pillow Top King Bed" offered a separate bedroom and living room. The bed was outfitted with fine linens, a white down comforter, plush pillows and a pillow-top mattress. The bathroom was totally updated with contemporary bath fixtures and a separate vanity (in the space between the living room and bedroom) with lighted cosmetic mirrors. Guest accommodations have Sofia Signature spa products and toiletries.

Our in-room refreshment center also nicely offered a coffeemaker, mini-fridge and microwave. Other perks for all accommodations include hair dryers, irons with ironing boards, electronic in-room safes (large enough for a laptop).

While the hotel's on-site restaurant closed during the pandemic and has not reopened, the property is within the Gaslamp District so it’s within close walking distance to other eateries. During the past few months too, the Sofia has opened San Diego’s first Starbucks “Pick Up Store” where guests can order Starbucks through their app and pick up their order in the Sofia lobby.

John Maclean, the hotel's assistant general manager, told us that “we’ve also added a morning coffee station for guests and weekend yoga classes to complement our Weekend Walkabout Tour, all included in our guests’ stay.” Those walking tours of the Gaslamp district depart every Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. Yoga classes are offered for guests on Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 am.

A light-filled corner room with a queen sized bed at The Sofia Hotel.
A light-filled corner room with a queen-sized bed is among accommodation choices at The Sofia Hotel, San Diego. (Photo by The Sofia Hotel)

New At Other Hotels

According to the San Diego Tourism Authority, here are a few other hotel updates for 2023. A downtown landmark, The Guild Hotel, has partnered with Be Saha Hospitality Group to lead its food and beverage operations. Starting this spring, guests can expect a new concept in the hotel’s courtyard (formerly Luca) and a “reimagined” Guild Bar, garden and lounge.

In the heart of the Gaslamp District, the 122-room Palihotel San Diego will open in the 1912-era St. James Hotel. Look for a “youthful design” -- blending Palisociety’s signature California-quirky sensibility with a nautical-inspired charm. Also look for the addition of the hotel's new Saint James French Diner, an all-day dining room with elements of an American diner and elegant French bistro.

The historic Lafayette Hotel & Swim Club in North Park will reopen as a "reimagined" concept in June 2023. Guests will discover 141 redesigned guestrooms, as well as updated lobby and pool spaces. On-site venues will include three new restaurants, two additional dining and drinking outlets, a vintage bowling alley, cocktail bar, game room and an all-new pool bar.

After a major renovation last fall, the 211-room Kimpton Hotel Palomar was renamed the Kimpton Alma San Diego. All guest rooms and suites were updated and refreshed. Plus the hotel has a more inviting pool area with custom street art on the pool deck and murals from local artists (inspired by the destination's proximity to Mexico). In rooms, guests can now use in-room yoga mats and they also have Japanese tea sets. Most notably, the hotel offers a new signature, dinner-only restaurant, The Desmond, led by Executive Chef Jason Neroni, one of America’s top chef-restaurateurs,

Cruising from San Diego

More cruises continue to depart from this southern California destination. Princess Cruises, for example, has been home porting at San Diego throughout this winter. Most notably, Azamara's sold-out "2025 World Cruise" on Azamara Onward will depart from San Diego on January 6, 2025; it will visit 37 countries before concluding in Southampton, U.K. 

For information on San Diego cruising and the local cruise terminals, visit the Port of San Diego's website at https://www.portofsandiego.org. For more travel updates on San Diego, visit the San Diego Tourism Authority’s website at www.sandiego.org.