The 2,500-passenger Carnival Spirit is moving to Australia by April 2012, the cruise line announced on its Web site, citing a "huge potential for growth" there while its San Diego business sags.
The Port of San Diego estimates the departure of the ship, which takes more than 60,000 passengers a year to destinations along the Mexican Riviera, will cost the local economy about $54 million in annual spending, the San Diego Union Tribune said.
To the north, Royal Caribbean's 3,100-passenger Mariner of the Seas is leaving on its final voyage from the Port of Los Angeles on Sunday and after a tour of South America. It will end up at its new home base of Galveston, Texas, the Los Angeles Times said. And the 2,348-passenger Norwegian Star will leave LA in May for Tampa, Fla.
The two boats carried nearly half of the business of the Port of Los Angeles in 2009.
While the cruise industry is seeing signs of recovery in Florida and elsewhere, persistent drug-related violence has meant fading interest in cruises to Mexico, the chief destination of California-based ships.
"What we need is a better economy — so does everybody — and a better product in Mexico," Rita Vandergaw, director of marketing for the Port of San Diego, told City News Service.
In the first six months of 2010 just 187 cruises docked in Mexican ports, compared to 290 in the same period in 2008, the Times said.
That giant sucking sound you hear is Mexico's economy slipping further into the third world.