If you are like most people who enjoy cruises the ports of call can be both the highlights of your cruise as well as the most financially draining part of your cruise.  Sure, booking a cruise can get expensive depending on when and where you cruise and on which cruise liner you opt for but the shore excursions can really get quite expensive if you have many ports of call and a larger family to entertain.

Many people who are on tight budgets opt to see the port location but skip on the formal shore excursions to keep costs down.  Sometimes this means that they never even leave the ship while it is in dock.  Sometimes they will only do excursions only at certain ports to limit the financial cost of the vacation but one excellent option that everyone should consider no matter where they cruise to is visiting the free places near the port of call and cruise ship terminal which can satisfy the shore excursion bug.

San Diego Shore Excursions

For those cruises which dock overnight in the San Diego Bay there are tons of day trips that vacationers can indulge in.  There are city tours, trips to Sea World, and trips to the San Diego Zoo.  You can visit local wineries out on the outskirts of the city or indulge in the many water-sport activities the bay and beaches provide.  There is no lack of activities that a cruise ship traveler can partake in while visiting San Diego.  Whether it is local dining, dancing, shows, or sports San Diego has a bit of everything if you are willing to pay for it.

What many cruise ship excursion planners won’t help you with however is finding out as much as you can on all the free or close to free activities you can do near the San Diego cruise ship terminal.  The most common free activity is to walk down to Seaport Village and the Gaslamp Quarter downtown but there are actually a ton of alternatives which all cost very little if not nothing at all.

Cheap or Free Shore Excursions in San Diego

Yes there are a huge amount of amazing things to do in San Diego for a day which cost money but there are a lot of free or nearly free options as well.  The main San Diego Cruise Ship Terminal is located just a stone’s throw from downtown San Diego.  The famous San Diego Bay has relatively inexpensive ferry rides from the ports to Coronado Island, which isn’t really an island at all, although ti is close.  On Coronado there are parks and things to see on foot which you can explore without the need for battling the busy streets of downtown.

If you are ok with busy inner city sight seeing then you are in luck.  Walking across the street from the dock takes you immediately into the downtown area where you can go visit Horton Plaza, sight see through the Gaslamp district where there are a number of historical buildings interspaced with modern construction including the newly constructed Petco Park.  During baseball season you can actually go the grassy knoll behind the outfield wall, called the park-at-the-park, and buy tickets to watch a game for just a few dollars per person.

To the south of the cruise ship terminal you can walk to the convention center which always has something going on.  You may want to check the schedule ahead of time because not all conventions or happenings at the center are free.

Directly to the south of the cruise ship terminal and to the west of the convention center is Seaport Village, which cost money to park in but6 is free to enter on foot.  The village is an outdoor mall of shops, venders, restaurants, parks, and open space.  It is an ideal location to walk to to spend some time close to the cruise ships and downtown but right on the waterfront in a beautiful and quiet park location.  The Embarcadero is the main open space park which extends from Seaport Village out into the bay on a miniature peninsula flanked by docks and small boats.

Other Cheap Things To Do Near The San Diego Cruise Ship Terminal

If your cruise is going to be docked in San Diego for a full day or more and you aren’t opposed to making a full day of the boat and seeing the city then you have a few really good options which are quite cheap.  The cruise ships dock within walking distance of the International Airport, the Amtrak station, the local trolley lines, and city buses.  Needless to say it’s very easy to get transportation to and from your cruise to just about anywhere.  If you are willing to pay for public transportation it would behoove you to walk across the street from the ships to the Santa Fe Depot train station and purchase a day pass on the MTS.  

The MTS operates the trolleys and city busses all throughout the city and can get you just about anywhere in town and back for just five bucks.  The trolley can then take you north to Old Town San Diego for walking tours of the historical part of the city as well as all the touristy hotspots nearby.  Up the hill to the East of Old Town San Diego is the old Mission which is worth checking out on foot if you are interested in the history of city.

The city buses from the main train stations down town and from old town can connect you to the beaches of OB, PB, and La Jolla as well as the world renowned Balboa Park which contains the entirety of the San Diego Zoo.  You may have to pay a bit to get in the zoo but the park itself is free and there is always art galleries and street shows happening which are free forms of entertainment.  Many museums line Balboa Park and depending on the time of the year or day of the week some of them even have free admission.  

Cruising through the San Diego port of call offers a huge variety of free options and sightseeing for the casual and frugal cruise ship patron.  If you are willing to pay for public transportation you can get to some really interesting spots very easily without any worry of not being able to get back.  Sure, there are many awesome shore excursions that can cost a bit per head but you can easily entertain yourself in San Diego for very little out of pocket.