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Should You Take a San Diego Harbor Cruise?

Should You Take a San Diego Harbor Cruise?

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I have to tell you, friends, our San Diego getaway was nothing short of fabulous.  When we planned our trip, I knew that San Diego would definitely not be on the list of the cheapest places to live in California, nor would it be one of the cheapest places we have ever visit. Despite that, I really wanted to visit San Diego and take in some of the amazing sites and participate in a San Diego harbor cruise during our visit!

We escaped the Texas cold and headed for the California sun over the Christmas break, and boy were we glad we did. I just love that there are so many great hotels and gorgeous San Diego Airbnbs to choose from.  Just choosing my accommodations got me excited for this trip!

Not only that, but after researching all of the things to do in San Diego, I was even more excited. 

*This post contains affiliate links.  By purchasing through these links, we get a small commission at no additional cost to you. That Texas Couple is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.  As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.  In addition, this is a sponsored post.  Marty and I were hosted by Hornblower Cruises, but as always, all opinions are our own.

San Diego Harbor Cruise

Why Choose a San Diego Harbor Cruise?

I have to tell you that we did not originally plan to do a Harbor Cruise with Hornblower Cruises.  We planned on going on a whale-watching cruise as December was prime migration season for whales.  Even if you only had one day in San Diego, how awesome would it be to spend the day watching whales?

Unfortunately, I had to put a damper on these plans.  I get extremely motion sick so the thought of several hours out on open seas did not appeal to me.

I know what you’re thinking…” take some Dramamine, Michelle, you’ll be fine.”  Normally I would agree with you but I had just recovered from a bad case of vertigo that had me bedridden for weeks so I was not willing to risk it.

I told Marty to go ahead without me but, of course, he would not do that.  Being that a harbor cruise is one of the top things to do in San Diego, we opted for the harbor cruise instead and we were both super excited to get out on the water!

Embarking on Harbor Cruise

Marty jumped on the Hornblower website to choose the day and time for our tour.  We were pleasantly surprised to realize that they offer both one- and two-hour cruises several times a day from their waterfront location on Harbor Blvd.

Marty and I chose the one-hour cruise because we were not sure how I was going to do with my vertigo.  You might want to consider the two-hour cruise.  The two-hour cruise only costs a bit more, but it allows you to see the entire harbor.

While it is not required, it is suggested that you make your reservations online as the cruises can fill up during busy times of the year, especially the weekends.

What to Expect on a Harbor Cruise from San Diego

boat that will take you on your harbor cruise

Know that the San Diego harbor area is definitely a favorite spot around San Diego.  For that reason, I suggest getting there early if you have your heart set on an outside seat. 

Marty and I were there about 40 minutes early and still were not able to get an outside seat. Once boarding begins, the boat is several levels, and is free seating, meaning first-come, first-serve.

Although we didn’t get an outside seat, we really didn’t mind.  Marty was walking around taking pictures most of the time and I sat at a table by the window sipping my drink and enjoying the views.

Drink you ask?  Why yes!  Hornblower offers a full-service bar and a fun snack menu all of which were reasonably priced in my opinion.  While we did not eat any food, we did order drinks and they were very good.

What Will I See on a Harbor Cruise?

As we pulled away from the dock, I found myself in awe of the size of the USS Midway that was directly beside us.  I later commented to one of my Navy friends that the USS Midway was huge and they laughed at me. 

They quickly informed me that it was not huge; it was actually a small ship!  Well, from my vantage point on the Hornblower and touring the USS Midway the day before, it seemed huge to me!

As we continued to pull away from the dock, Marty and I were immediately drawn toward the view of beautiful downtown San Diego.  The buildings looked so gorgeous reflecting the sun.  Of course, Marty snapped tons of photos for us!

As we continued on our journey, I was thrilled that we found ourselves surrounded by so many sailboats in the bay.  I’m not sure if this is a normal occurrence or not, but they seemed to be everywhere on this particular day. 

A sight we never see in our part of Texas!

sailboats in the San Diego Harbor

The one-hour tour that we were taking is known as the North Harbor Tour.  We found ourselves gliding past Harbor Island and Shelter Island, both of which housed several boats before we stumbled across my favorite part of the tour, the sea lions!  

The tour is fully narrated and the staff provided sufficient information about the surrounding area to keep us interested and always noted wildlife that they spotted near us!

Now, you are not guaranteed to see wildlife while on the tour.  I mean, they are wild.  LOL!  Therefore, I was thrilled when we came across a few sea lions basking in the California sun. 

Granted, there were not as many as we saw on our trip to San Francisco, but that’s ok.  I was glad to see any wildlife!

After cruising by the sea lions, we made our way past the submarine base and the Cabrillo Monument before turning to head back toward the dock.

Once we made the turn, the view allowed us to peek into the North Island Naval Air Station that takes up a big part of Coronado Island.  Marty enjoyed seeing all of the Navy’s planes and helicopters on this part of the journey.

sea lions on a dock in San Diego

Although we did not opt for the two-hour tour, I did check out the map.  The second half of the tour takes you past fun Seaport Village before heading toward Nassco, the 32nd Street Naval Station, and the Coast of Coronado Island. 

I’m sure this would have been an enjoyable experience as well had my vertigo not been acting up (sigh).

All in all, we really had a nice, relaxing trip aboard Hornblower Cruises.  I would definitely recommend booking a San Diego Harbor tour with them!

We would love to hear from you .  Have you ever been on a Harbor Cruise?  Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

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Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight:

We love using CheapOAir, Kayak, and Kiwi to search for the best flight prices. We love using these search engines because they search the web for airlines worldwide to ensure you get the best deal! In addition to flights, you can also find great hotel prices on Kayak and Kiwi.

Book Your Vacation Package:

If you want to book an entire vacation package, we suggest using Expedia. We love how easy Expedia is to use, and we always find good deals on entire vacation packages on their site.

Another great site for vacation packages is BookVIP. BookVIP offers super cheap vacation packages to incredible destinations. You are sure to save money using their site!

For full guided vacations, including hotels, some meals, transportation, and guides, then we book with Trafalgar. Trafalgar is a trusted tour company that will meet all your needs while ensuring a great experience. allows you to book flights, hotels, train tickets, rental cars, airport transfers, tours, and more all on one site. Owned by the parent company that also owns Skyscanner, this is a trusted resource for travel booking and a great “one-stop shop.”

Book Your Accommodations:

We always begin our search by checking out honest reviews on TripAdvisor hotels. This allows us to narrow our search for specific properties once we are ready to book. Of course, you can also book directly on the TripAdvisor site!

There are several accommodation sites that we like to use. One of our favorites is because it offers a wide variety of hotels and guesthouses at a good price.

Another “go-to” hotel booking site for us is We love their loyalty program that allows you to earn free nights, and their “secret prices” for members are fabulous deals!

HotelsCombined is another cool site. They allow you to compare all the top travel sites with one search to ensure you find the best deal out there. Kayak works in this way as well.

If you want a luxurious all-inclusive vacation, consider checking out the Sandals/Beaches properties. Sandals properties are for couples only and Beaches are for families. We have visited Sandals in the past and absolutely love the attention to detail and the service they provide.

Tour Companies We Trust:

We love taking guided tours when visiting new places. Our go-to tour companies are and Get Your Guide. Both of these companies have been in business for years and provide excellent customer service. You can trust booking tours from their sites for sure!

For a guided city tour, check out City Sightseeing and BigBus Tours. These bus tours are so much fun and easy to hop on and hop off at top attractions in cities around the world.

CityPass is a great way to save money when visiting large cities. CityPass allows you to get free admission to major attractions once you buy their pass. The savings add up quickly with this pass, often saving 50% with combined admissions.

Another great pass to save money in larger cities is the Sightseeing Pass. This pass allows you to save valuable time and money by combining admissions to major attractions. They also have a handy app that keeps everything you need at your fingertips.

Looking to Save Time and Money?

Check out our resource page for all of our favorite vendors. These companies help us to save time and money on our travels!

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Michelle Snell founder of That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel

About The Author

Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel.  Her practical tips and suggestions help make travel dreams a reality while immersing her readers in the history, culture, and food of a region.  She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.


Monday 4th of February 2019

You sound so much like me -- I get motion sick VERY easily! I got tickets to this harbor cruise for a gift, but I kept putting off using them because I thought I would get oozy. Turned out to be smooth and no problem at all! I live in San Diego and loved this tour that allowed me to be a tourist in my hometown. I'm glad you enjoyed your cruise and San Diego!


Wednesday 6th of February 2019

I am so sorry to hear that you suffer from this also, Sharon. I hate it. I have to ride in the front seat of cars all the time-I'm sure my friends LOVE that! LOL! Yes, the harbor cruise was great. I don't know if I could have stomached the whale watching cruise though?!


Saturday 2nd of February 2019

Escaping the winter cold in Texas? Lol. I know, it's all relative. But on a more serious note, I've done the brunch cruise twice and enjoyed it both times.


Sunday 3rd of February 2019

It's definitely all relative. It's been in the 30s here, so us that's cold. LOL! I'm so glad to hear that you enjoyed your cruise with Hornblower also.


Saturday 2nd of February 2019

I used to go to San Diego a lot when I lived in Phoenix and I did the Hornblower Cruise. It's definitely something I recommend to people visit San Diego - so much fun!


Saturday 2nd of February 2019

Thanks so much, Anisa. I'm glad to hear that you would recommend it as well ;)