This guide to California cruises will cover the Southern California ports for cruise ships, the various cruise lines and useful tips for finding good deals on cruises from California.
Some of the most common destinations for those leaving from California include Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii. You'll also find cruises that go much further abroad, to places like the Panama Canal in Central America, South America and the South Pacific.
This page is more about the Southern California ports of call.
Ways to book:
For comprehensive, hand-held cruise vacation planning, you can still depend on your favorite travel agent who can help you navigate through all the variables involved. The personal service and knowledge they can provide can be a much better experience and you can let them do all the work to find you the best value.
On the other hand, it is becoming easier and easier to find great discounts by booking it yourself online through one of the many competing websites.
Some of the more popular cruise booking engines include cruisecompete.com, priceline.com and all-around travel booking giants like Expedia.com and Travelocity.com.
On cruisecompete.com, you choose the cruise you want, submit it, and then wait for cruise agencies bid their best deals to you via email.
Other online services include Orbitz, californiacruises.com, cruises.com, hotwire.com and more.
You can also make bookings directly on the websites of individual cruise lines, but these aren't necessarily the best deals. Check around.
Before booking your cruise online, make sure the website, whatever it is, has a CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association) and BBB (Better business Bureau) rating.
Sometimes the best prices can be had by booking far in advance or alternatively, last minute. (But then you may have to deal with last minute airfares, which can dampen your overall deal).
The more flexible you are with your cruise dates, departure ports and ports of call, the more apt you are to find the best bargain.
There are basically 5 cruise ship ports in Southern California: Long Beach, San Pedro, (both also referred to as Port of Los Angeles), San Diego, Catalina Island and Santa Barbara.
Catalina Island isn't a deep water port, where major cruises leave from, but more of a port of call for cruises from California. Short cruises leaving from Los Angeles or San Diego may stop here, often on the way to Ensenada, Mexico.
Once a ship anchors in Avalon Bay, the ship's smaller boats take you to the Catalina Boat Pier in Avalon. From there, it is a short walk to the Green Pleasure Pier, where many boating activities are available, such as the Glass Bottom Boat Ride and various boat rentals. There are also shops, restaurants and a small beach along the harbor.
Cruise lines that stop in Catalina include Carnival, Seven Seas Mariner, Regent Seven Seas, Oceania and Celebrity Cruises.
When you think of taking a cruise ship into or out of Los Angeles, it generally means the Port of Long Beach or the World Cruise Center in San Pedro.
Click here for information on cruises from Los Angeles.
Port Of Long Beach
Long Beach port near the Queen Mary is where the Carnival Corporation's cruise terminal resides. Most of the Carnival ships and the other cruise lines they own depart from here.
World Cruise Center In San Pedro
While Long Beach Port is the home of Carnival cruise lines, the Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center in San Pedro is where the other cruise lines (not owned by Carnival) depart from.
Santa Barbara is a less frequently used port of call for California cruises; it is not a major port where ships depart. Also known as the American Riviera, Santa Barbara is really beautiful, with the surrounding Santa Ynez mountains and the nearby Channel Islands out at sea.
Passengers get tendered into Sea Landing, which isn't too far from Stearns Wharf. Stearns Wharf is a pier with restaurants and shops. There's a trolley that can take you downtown, along the waterfront and up to the mission.
Cruise lines that have ships that stop in Santa Barbara include Seabourn, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Celebrity. Learn more about visiting Santa Barbara California.
San Diego has a very busy port, with many cruise ships departing from there. There are 2 terminals: B Street Terminal, which is the primary one, and Broadway Terminal, which is more for overflow. More info on these terminals here. The nice thing about these terminals is how close to downtown they are, so you are have easy access to sightseeing. Click here for information on cruises from San Diego.
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