Long beach is a major cruise hub on the West Coast. In fact, most Carnival cruises on the West Coast depart from Long Beach, and Carnival’s Long Beach terminal is one of the busiest cruise terminals in the country.
If you’re planning a cruise vacation one of the first things you’ll need to decide is which port to leave from, as each port sends ships to different destinations. If you’re trying to decide which port to choose, we’re here to help. We’ll go over the major pros and cons of cruises out of Long Beach so that you can decide easily if Long Beach is the right port for you.
Long Beach Cruise Terminal
Carnival’s biggest West Coast Cruise terminal has recently undergone a major renovation. Since it’s been one of the busiest cruise terminals in the country for a while now, it makes sense that Carnival would be pouring money into expansion projects.
The expansion included remodeling and redecorating the interior of the iconic geodesic dome, which was originally built as a museum facility for Howard Hughe’s plane, the Spruce Goose.
By taking over the entire dome and increasing the space available for passengers, they improved the ease and efficiency of the check-in and boarding operations so that the whole process is easy and painless now.
While it may seem odd to choose a cruise port based on how nice the terminal is- after all, you’re only in the terminal when you board the ship and when you leave the ship- experienced cruisers know that a good terminal can really make a difference. It’s your first experience on the cruise and it sets the tone for everything that happens afterward.
The Long Beach Terminal is also easy to get to, and both LAX and Long Beach Airport have shuttle services that can take you to the terminal.
If you’re driving into the terminal, the Long Beach Terminal may be your best choice. The Long Beach Cruise Terminal has a five-story, 1,450 space parking garage. This is perfect for people who prefer to drive themselves or who live in the Los Angeles area. You can drive yourself to your cruise, and then easily drive yourself home afterward.
To park in the cruise terminal’s parking garage, the cost is $17 per day. For oversize vehicles, you’ll be charged an additional $17 for each extra space your vehicle uses.
The current $17 per day rate applies to all spaces. There is no difference in price based on what level you park in or if you need a handicap spot. There are also no discounts for compact or fuel efficient cars.
The rate applies to the space, not the car. If your car takes up two spaces, you’re paying double the rate.
One final note on payment- the money is due in full when you leave, and can be paid in cash or via all major credit cards.
Because the parking garage is part of the cruise terminal, it’s under the same security umbrella as everything else. In addition to the overall terminal security, the sheer volume of activity and the near constant presence of people make it difficult to go around breaking in to cars there.
Unfortunately, you can’t call in to reserve a parking space ahead of time. Parking in the terminal is first come, first serve. It might be a good idea to arrive early to make sure you have a spot if you’re worried about that. That said, it’s a huge parking structure, and there have been no complaints about a lack of spaces.
There are height restrictions, as with any parking garage. For most cars this won’t be a problem, but for those arriving in an RV you may need to use the adjacent outdoor parking lot.
The top floor is uncovered, so if you’re worried about exposing your car to bad weather, try to park on one of the lower levels.
When you arrive at the terminal, the porters who take your luggage should also direct you to the parking garage if you’re having trouble finding it.
The Queen Mary
The Long Beach Cruise Terminal is home to the Queen Mary, a historic retired cruise ship. If you’re arriving early for your cruise, no other terminal offers such a great place to entertain yourself.
Although it looks just like the Titanic to most people, the Queen Mary was built much later and is larger. The ship is 90 years old now, and at one time was the most luxurious and technologically advanced cruise ship in the world.
During World War II, The Queen Mary was converted into a troop ship, and over the course of the war carried over 15,000 allied troops into battle. After the war, the ship was converted back into an ocean liner and spent the next twenty years as a luxury cruise ship. By 1967 the Queen Mary was retired and permanently docked at Long Beach.
These days, the Queen Mary is one of the most unique hotels in the country. If you arrive in Long Beach a day or two before your cruise leaves, you can book a room here.
If you don’t have time to stay in one of the rooms, the ship is also a floating museum with activities and exhibits for the whole family. These include history exhibits, fine dining, and even ghost tours of the supposedly haunted ship.
The Queen Mary is famous for being haunted, and there are daily, or, rather, nightly, ghost tours along with other events catering to those who are interested in the paranormal.
With multiple restaurants and bars on board, it’s also a great place to grab lunch before boarding your cruise.
Your Cruise goes to the Mexican Riviera
Most cruises leaving from Long Beach are headed south to Mexico. Specifically, they sail to the Mexican Riviera. Depending on the cruise, that can mean one of many different destinations- there are twenty cities that are collectively called the Mexican Riviera.
Five cities, in particular, are typically included on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera.
Acapulco features a perfect blue bay framed by white sand beaches. The bay is a diver’s paradise, with undersea canyons full of tropical fish just waiting to be explored. The Sea Turtle Rescue Center is a great place to get up close and personal with some of the local sea turtles. History lovers can see the San Diego Fort and the Acapulco History Museum, and everyone should take the opportunity to see the La Quebrada cliff divers.
Cabo San Lucas is arguably the most famous port on the Mexican Riviera, whether it conjures up images of wild spring break trips or luxury vacations. It’s likely to be your first stop on the cruise, as it sits at the very tip of the Baja California peninsula. Land’s End is a famous rock formation just off the coast, and the beaches are pristine.
Water activities are the big draw if you’re there on a cruise, and glass-bottomed boat rides are a great way to see a lot of the local wildlife. Deep-sea fishing is also available if you have the time.
You may stop in Ensenada before you hit Cabo, as it’s further north along the Baja Peninsula. Ensenada’s downtown area is packed with shops, restaurants, and bars. The seafood street stalls are incredible, with some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever taste. A nearby marine geyser, La Bufadora, is one of the towns most popular tourist attractions.
Mazatlan is in the state of Sinoloa, and has been a top tourist destination for over a century. The Centro Historico is full of landmarks and old buildings that are fun to see. The Mazatlan Aquarium is the only standalone aquarium on the Pacific coast of Mexico.
A short drive to the north of the city takes you to Las Labradas, a beach covered in volcanic rocks that feature hundreds of ancient glyphs, some of which date back to 2000 BC.
Puerto Vallarta features one of the best boardwalks (or, as the locals call it, the Malecon) on the Riviera. It’s full of artwork and greenery to compliment the incredible views, and it’s lined with wonderful restaurants.
For a break from the noise and the crowds, head to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens. You can easily spend a whole day in the expansive gardens, and you’re allowed to swim in the river that runs through them.
Other possible stops on the Riviera are Ixtapa, Manzanillo, San Blas, Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, and Salina Cruz.
No matter which of these ports your cruise stops in, the Mexican Riviera offers the same kinds of stunning scenery, pristine beaches, incredible dining, and priceless souvenirs as the French or Italian Rivieras, but at a fraction of the cost. The Mexican Riviera cruises really are one of the best things about Long Beach cruises.
There’s Always a Cruise
Carnival’s terminal in Long Beach alone sees over 300 cruises departing each year. That means when you just count the Carnival cruises there’s a new one leaving nearly every day of the year.
Fitting a cruise into your vacation schedule can be challenging. You may not be able to take your vacation at any time you want, and other, less busy ports may not have a cruise that you can take. Long Beach is almost guaranteed to, though.
Lots of Short Cruises
Part of the secret of having that many cruises is that so many of the cruises leaving from Long Beach are short, 3 day cruises. While this may not be what everyone imagines when they decide to take a cruise, it’s very economical and easy to schedule. Plus, for many people, it’s just the right amount of time.
Long Beach Cruises offer you beautiful weather from beginning to end. You board the cruise in Southern California, where you’re practically guaranteed warm, sunny days. Then, you sail along the Pacific Coast into tropical Mexico where you’ll continue to experience warm, sunny days.
Other cruise ports just can’t match that. They have far more seasonal variability in the weather both in the port and along the route. If your dream vacation includes perfect, warm weather, it’s hard to beat the cruises leaving from long beach.
If you’re sailing out of Long Beach, you’re sailing to Mexico. There was a time when Long Beach was the sole West Coast port for Carnival Cruises, and they offered cruises to Hawaii and Alaska from Long Beach, but no more.
There’s good reason for that- Long Beach is ideally located for cruising to Mexico. It’s in LA, so it’s accessible via a major airport, and it’s close enough to the Riviera to allow shorter, 3 day cruises as well as longer ones. Any cruise to Alaska from Long Beach would be a very long one.
These days, if you’re cruising to Alaska you’ll have to first fly to San Francisco, Seattle, or Vancouver. For a Hawaiian cruise, your departure port will be San Francisco, San Diego, Vancouver, or, oddly, Honolulu.
The Alaskan ports make sense. San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver are all much closer and offer more reasonable cruise lengths than Long Beach would. Hawaii is a bit confusing though; it doesn’t seem like San Francisco or Vancouver would offer faster cruises there and San Diego wouldn’t make too much of a difference, either.
This is perhaps Long Beach’s biggest drawback as a cruise port. It does what it does well, but it is very limited. If you want to go somewhere other than the Mexican Riviera, then you’ll have to use a different port.
Getting to Long Beach
Long Beach is a suburb of Los Angeles. Unless you live in Long Beach, getting to it requires that you go through Los Angeles.
There are a number of reasons why this might be a problem, but traffic is probably the first thing that comes to mind. You’ll need to account for time spent in traffic if you want to arrive for your cruise on time. If you’re flying in, odds are that you’ll land in LAX, which isn’t always the easiest airport to get around in.
Perhaps most importantly, if you don’t live on the West Coast, it’s hard to see why Long Beach is worth the travel time. The East Coast and the Gulf Coast both have plenty of cruise ports that sail into the Caribbean and to Mexico. You could take those cruises without spending the extra money on a plane ticket to Los Angeles. Perhaps if Long Beach still offered multiple destinations it would be worth it- you have to go to the West Coast for an Alaskan cruise no matter what- but as it is, the location is a drawback for anyone who doesn’t already live out there.
Yes, we listed weather under the Pros section too. It’s also a con. Think about it: if you live somewhere hot, do you really want to vacation somewhere hot, as well?
People from warmer climates often prefer to vacation somewhere cooler. Just ask business owners in Colorado how many Texans they see each summer.
An Alaskan cruise sounds great to someone living in a hot place. So, too, would a cruise in Maine. Or a cruise leaving from San Francisco and heading north, even if it stops short of Alaska.
Constant warm sunny weather just isn’t for everyone. If that’s you, Long Beach may not be where you want to start your cruise. Oh, and did we mention the threat from Pacific hurricanes? These can impact cruise itineraries in the Mexican Riviera and Hawaii.
Lots of Short Cruises
This is another one that we also listed under the Pros section. Again, short cruises are great for some people, but not everyone. If you want a longer cruise, say a seven day or even two week cruise, finding that at Long Beach is going to be difficult.
This is hopefully enough information to help you decide whether or not Long Beach is the cruise port for you.
Long Beach certainly has plenty of things going for it. It has an incredibly busy schedule of cruises, and they all take you to the beautiful Mexican Riviera where you can enjoy world-classes beaches, historical sites, and fine dining. That doesn’t mean it’s ideal, though. It mostly offers shorter cruises and finding a cruise from Long Beach that goes to anywhere other than Mexico is nearly impossible.
It’s also just not a good option for people who don’t live on the West Coast, or in the Western part of the country. There are numerous cruise ports on the East and Gulf Coasts that would be much better for a significant percentage of the country.
That said, only you can decide if Long Beach is where you want to start your cruise, and we hope we’ve helped you make the right choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Carnival cruise lines are the only lines that sail from Long Beach. While it is nearby, the World Cruise Center used by other cruise lines is in San Pedro, not Long Beach.
We’ll give you two: The Queen Mary and the Hotel Maya. Both are right next to the terminal for easy access, and both offer comfortable accommodations. Hotel Maya is probably more family friendly, with beach access, a pool, and other amenities. The Queen Mary has a lot of attractions and the rooms are luxurious, but there’s less for children to do.
It’s difficult to find an average that’s useful, because prices vary and deals are being offered all the time. Different booking services will have different prices, too. In general, though, somewhere around $200 per person, per night seems to be the standard. Always check multiple sites before you book.
3 nights is the most common cruise length, followed by 4 nights. In each case, the first day and last day of the cruise is embarking/disembarking. So, on a three night cruise, you get two days on the ship and/or in the ports of call. On a four night cruise, you get three days on the ship and/or in ports of call.
Most cruises begin check-in and boarding at 1pm. Don’t arrive much earlier than that, as the building will be closed until check-in and boarding begin. Be sure to check your ticket though, as those times may change. Your ticket will tell you what time to be there.
There are no restaurants in the terminal. If you are going to be hungry, it’s best to eat before you arrive.
There are no lockers available in the terminal. You will need to keep your baggage with you until you board the ship and can put it in your room. Alternatively, you can call ahead and arrange an early baggage check-in with Carnival. In that case, on of the porters will take your luggage on board for you.
Yes, there is free WiFi available in the terminal.
Yes, the terminal has restrooms.
The terminal building is closed until the staff is ready to begin boarding and check-in. If you arrive before that time, you will have to wait outside. If you have time, you could walk to the Queen Mary and enjoy the exhibits there.
Long Beach Cruise Terminal is 26 miles from downtown Los Angeles.
LAX is 22.4 miles from the Cruise Terminal.
You have several choices. You can use a service like Uber or Lyft, or take a Taxi. Both LAX and Long Beach Airports have shuttles services as well. There are four different shuttle services that can transport you from the airport to the cruise terminal, and back again.