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Sensational San Diego

San Diego, California

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San Diego, California, is a big city but feels more like a cluster of separate communities - each with its own strong identity. Perhaps the thread which links the diverse aspects of this magical city is the ocean. San Diego owes its perfect weather, warm sunshine and low humidity to high pressure systems from the North Pacific Ocean. The sea breezes help to moderate the summer heat and take the chill off the winter temperature as well as dispersing the air pollution that besets so many other US cities.

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century San Diego bet its future on providing the coastal terminus for a rail link to the eastern states. Although the link was completed in 1885 it proved unsuccessful, partly because every year winter storms destroyed a section of track that ran through the Temecula Canyon. But San Diego bounced back. Roosevelt's Great White Fleet toured the world in 1908 to show off US naval might. They stopped by San Diego and were so impressed by the city's harbor and favorable weather that it was decided to build a destroyer base on the Bay. This was the start of a relationship with the military and its associated enterprises which flourishes to this day and continues to bring trade and jobs to the area.

San Diego has so much to offer the cruiser that your main problem is going to making it back to the boat in time for re-embarkation. In a brief stop off you just won't have time to do more that sample a tiny fraction of the attractions. Don't run yourself ragged and wind up sore-footed and unable to remember anything. Be smart and choose just one facet of the city to explore. That way you'll have time to enjoy your day ashore – this isn’t a city to be skimped.

San Diego's Zoo is deservedly famous. Close to four thousand animals of some eight hundred species roam expertly crafted habitats that include many rare plants and flowers. The zoo is best appreciated on foot. Walkways pass over bridges, alongside waterfalls, through spectacular foliage and let you get up close and personal with many of the animals.

If you're a history and culture fan you'll want to spend your time in the Old Town and Gaslamp Quarter. This is where the city's Spanish and Mexican heritage is most evident. Free daily tours of Old Town start at 11am and 2pm from Seeley Stable and this is a great way to explore. The Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is the heart of the Old Town and lies on the site of the original pueblo that was the city’s seed. You should also check out the Bazaar del Mundo, built in the style of a Mexican square. The central courtyard is a cascade of colour with magenta bougainvillea and scarlet hibiscus. If you're lucky there'll be a display of flamenco dancing. If you want to stretch your legs you could walk up to the summit of Presidio Park - it'll take about a half an hour and you'll get a look at the town's oldest adobe, constructed in 1820 - it's been incorporated into the Presidio Hills Golf Club clubhouse!

San Diego's beaches are one of its greatest natural attractions. The most popular is Mission Beach – it’s usually busy with runners, volleyball players, skaters, cyclists, swimmers and surfers. This is a great place to sample jet skiing, surfing, waterskiing or sailboarding. You'll be able to hire equipment and arrange a two hour lesson or beginner's session with no difficulty. If you're fed up of the water, then rollerblades, skates and bikes can also be rented. Further north there are some beautiful beaches around La Jolla: you can watch the sea lions from Shell Beach, a small cove accessed by stairs. Windansea Beach has an underwater reef produces some world class waves for surfers to enjoy. The incredible views and secluded nooks amid the sandstone rocks make this a great place to find a little peace and quiet.

You'll want to enjoy a meal in one of San Diego's restaurants while you're ashore. The cuisines of Latin America, Asia, Japan and France are all well-represented but the city seems to have a particular affinity with Italian food - just stroll down Fifth Avenue and find somewhere that takes your fancy.

Back on board you’ll probably find that you wished you’d had more time in this most vibrant and alive of American cities – dropping in as part of a cruise is a great way of getting a taste for San Diego. But you can guarantee that having visited, one day you’ll be coming back for more!

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