All Hail, The Queen!

In Feb. 4, throngs of locals and tourists alike turned out to witness the Bay Areaís maiden call for the Queen Mary 2, the largest passenger liner ever to sail beneath the Golden Gate.

Photo by Joel Williams

Queen Mary II leaves Port of SF wanting more

By JB Powell
Published: March, 2007 

Escorted by a sizable retinue of sail boats and pleasure craft, the sleek-hulled flag ship of the Cunard Lines cleared the bridgeís underside by less than 30 feet before anchoring briefly near Treasure Island and finally docking alongside Pier 27 during high tide.

For the shipís crew, the QM-2ís overnight stay was another eventful stop on her Around the World in 80 Days voyage. For the thousands of onlookers lining the Embarcadero, the sight of the majestic liner provided a rare, if distant, glimpse of how the wealthiest travelers traverse the worldís oceans. But for officials at the Port of San Francisco, the visit meant much more.

It puts San Francisco on the world map, Gerry Roybal, in the portís maritime division, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Roybal and others at the Port and in city government hope the linerís successful call will jumpstart the development of a new, world-class cruise ship terminal.

Four years of increased traffic into and out of San Francisco has brought the number of cruise ship calls close to 100 per year, with nearly a quarter of a million annual passengers. But officials concede that the main terminal at Pier 35 is antiquated and undersized. As a result, the Port has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars dredging and outfitting back-up facilities at Pier 27, as well as Piers 30 and 32 near South Beach. The massive QM-2 could not fit into Pier 35 and her berthing at 27 was a tight fit. To make matters worse, the Port and Metro Cruise Services, their stevedore company partner, had to service the Princess Linesí Dawn Princess at Pier 35 while the QM-2 was down the street at 27. Despite these headaches, the Portís Executive Director, Monique Moyer, called the weekend a huge success.

It was an event that was unparalleled, at least in my lifetime in the Bay Area, she told port commissioners at their Feb. 13 meeting. Port staff worked incredibly hard to make that happen. Moyer went on to echo Roybalís sentiments about the import of the visit. It showed that San Francisco is a viable market for world class cruise liners such as the QM-2.

But while San Franciscoís waterfront provides one of the most beautiful backdrops for a port of call, the cityís attempts to develop a new cruise terminal have been marred by setbacks and disappointments.

Last year, the Portís private development partner, the Australian firm, Lend Lease Corp., which had joined with the Port of Singapore on the venture, pulled out of their deal with the Port to build a mixed-use terminal and office complex at Piers 30 and 32. After five years of designing the proposed James R. Herman International Cruise Terminal, and pushing it through the regulatory thicket that accompanies such a massive waterfront undertaking, the project now appears dead in the water.

But the Queen Mary 2ís successful stopover has buoyed the hopes of port and city officials. Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose district includes the northern waterfront, has floated the idea for incorporating a new terminal into the development of Piers 27-31, another of the Portís public-private partnerships that has stalled in recent years. Shorenstein Properties LLC took over the rights to that project in March of last year after an ill-fated proposal for a waterfront mall by Mills Corp. went by the boards.

Officials outside of San Francisco are also talking about getting into the game. The Contra Costa Times reported on Feb. 2 that Alameda resident and travel agent Eugenie Young has collected several hundred signatures calling for the development of a cruise terminal on the East Bay island. The paper noted that Young has gotten the attention of Alameda City Councilman, Doug deHaan, who thinks such a terminal could be viable near the USS Hornet museum.


Photo by Joel Williams