SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Erica Norman spent months saving thousands for a cruise down the Mexican Riviera on the massive Norwegian Bliss.
Norman and about 4,000 others boarded that ship this week and were whisked away from the Port of Los Angeles. They were excited for a trip down to Cabo and Mazatlan - but instead, they wound up in San Francisco.
"I paid $3,000 for this cruise and it's just a tour going in a circle in California," said Norman, who lives in Orange County. "I'm not happy about that."
Norman said that about two hours into the cruise, the passengers got an announcement that the ship would divert to San Francisco, San Diego, and make one stop in Ensenada before heading back to Los Angeles. The ship made the call to avoid Hurricane Willa down south.
"The safety and security of our guests and crew is always our top priority," Norwegian cruises said in a statement. "Guests were notified of the change as soon as our operations team was able to confirm the modified itinerary."
But Norman said many of the guests felt blindsided.
"I think they knew ahead of time, and then once they got us out in the water then they decided to change the itinerary because no one could get off at that time," Norman said.
The Bliss reached San Diego Wednesday morning. At 1,094 feet long and a capacity of 4,004 passengers, it's the largest to ever dock in San Diego, a city that usually gets older ships on less traveled routes.
"The guests will visit all the attractions, go on tours, go to restaurants, go shopping," said Adam Deaton, who directs cruise business for the Port of San Diego.
About two dozen taxicabs waited for the passengers as they disembarked on Harbor Drive. Bikes that normally would have baked in the sun were rented. And pedicab drivers said they were finding new passengers. A food mart across from the ship had a line about 10 deep.
"I'd rather be safe than sorry to even get in the area of Willa," said Lillie West, a passenger who said she was glad the ship diverted.
West had never been to San Diego and said she had $150 to spend locally.
The Port says most cruise ships have a $600,000 impact to the local economy in their stops in San Diego, although the Bliss is so big it could be up to $1 million.
But not everyone planned to spend their dollars in San Diego, Norman included.
"I work 45 minutes from here, and I'm just trying to find something to do to make the best of it," she said.
For Norman, that was to go back onto the Bliss, the ultramodern ship where many of the amenities are prepaid.