If you’re planning a cruise along the West Coast, odds are you’ll be leaving from the Long Beach Cruise Terminal in Long Beach, CA. It isn’t the only cruise terminal on the West Coast, but it’s one of the biggest and busiest.
Over 300 cruises depart from this terminal each year, which means hundreds of thousands of passengers come through it. Fortunately, because it’s so large, Carnival has found plenty of way to streamline and simplify the process of check-in and boarding, so once you arrive everything should be pretty straightforward.
Whether you’re cruising down to Mexico or out to Hawaii, Long Beach is your starting point. With so many people going through the terminal, there are bound to be lots of questions. First-time cruisers, especially, probably want to know as much as they can learn before they arrive at the terminal.
Whether you want to know more about the facilities, or you have questions about which ships leave from Long Beach, we’ve got you covered.
1. Cruise Lines that Sail from the Long Beach Cruise Terminal
One of the first things that people will often ask is which cruise lines sail from the Long Beach Terminal. Carnival is the only cruise line that uses this terminal. Every other cruise line uses the World Cruise Center in San Pedro, on the other side of the harbor.
If you’ve booked a cruise with any other cruise line, this article isn’t for you. The Long Beach Terminal exclusively serves Carnival cruise ships. Actually, it serves six Carnival Cruise ships.
Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Panorama, and Carnival Splendor all call the Long Beach Cruise Terminal home.
In fact, they have no other home. The Long Beach Cruise terminal is the exclusive home port of Carnival Cruises on the West Coast. The Splendor is moving to Australia soon, though, and Long Beach will be left with five ships.
2. The Terminal was Expanded in 2017-2018
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. In fact, prior to the expansion it was only home to four ships- Panorama and Splendor are new arrivals to the West Coast.
The expansion included remodeling and redecorating the interior of the iconic geodesic dome, which was originally built as a museum facility for Howard Hughes’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.
Part of the expansion plans include work being done in Ensenada, Mexico, one of the stops on the three- and four-day cruises to Mexico. These expansions will include shopping centers and restaurants. All of this is part of a broader plan to increase the Long Beach cruise business in general.
Carnival is the largest vacation company in the world, and it’s going to keep getting bigger for the foreseeable future. That’s a good thing for cruise-lovers, because Carnival knows what they’re doing.
The expanded cruise terminal in Long Beach is a great start, and it significantly enhances the experience of leaving on a cruise through that port.
3. There is Parking Available
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 into cars there.
If you want to park your car in the terminal parking, you really don’t need to worry about security. It is by all accounts a very safe place to leave your vehicle for the duration of your trip.
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.
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.
You do not need to reserve a parking space in advance for this garage, and, with its huge capacity, finding a parking spot shouldn’t be a problem.
4. The Queen Mary
The Long Beach Cruise Terminal is home to the Queen Mary, a historic retired cruise ship.
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.
There are also several restaurants and bars on board, and you don’t need to book a room to eat there.
Sir Winston’s is a fine dining option with ocean views and an award-winning menu. The Chelsea Chowder House and Bar is much more casual, although the food is no less delicious. The Promenade Cafe specializes in breakfast and lunch and is far and away the fastest and most family-friendly of the restaurant options.
If you happen to be leaving on a Sunday, the Royal Sunday Brunch is a true spectacle. The meal is served in the Grand Salon, and the array of food is incredible.
If you don’t have time for even that, it’s still fun to get a few pictures with such a beautiful old ship in the background.
5. Terminal Amenities
There plenty of restrooms in the terminal itself, so that shouldn’t be a problem.
There are no places in the terminal for you to store your baggage, but you can arrange to check your baggage in to the ship early if you call ahead. You should also call ahead if someone in your group will need wheelchair assistance.
If you arrived early than you planned but don’t have the time or energy to explore attractions like the Queen Mary, don’t worry: the terminal provides free WiFi.
The terminal itself doesn’t have restaurants, but there are plenty nearby. The Queen Mary and other hotels, like the Hotel Maya, have excellent restaurants and these are the closest ones to the terminal.
There are also several restaurants along the waterfront across the harbor from the terminal, although these aren’t much help if you’ve already checked in. If you think you’ll need to eat before you board your cruise, eat before you arrive at the terminal.
Most cruises begin boarding around 1pm, and have boarding completed well before dinner time. Eating lunch before you arrive is a good idea, but once you’ve arrived, you will probably not need to worry about finding something to eat. Once you’re on the cruise, there will be plenty of dining options.
7. Arriving at the Terminal
When you arrive at the terminal, look for the people wearing red caps. These are the porters. The porters are the people who will help you with your luggage, including taking to the ship if you’ve arranged to check it in advance. They can also direct you to the parking garage and answer any questions you may have.
It’s smart to arrive fairly close to the time when your ship is leaving. That doesn’t mean you should get there five minutes before but arriving early won’t have many advantages unless you’re a day or two early and staying in one of the local hotels.
That’s because this is a busy terminal, and even though it has been expanded to hold more people in, you won’t be allowed inside if you arrive too early. You’ll have to sit outside and wait in the heat and the sun.
Instead, look at your ticket. Each ticket should tell you when to arrive at the terminal. For each cruise there’s a fairly small window for check-in and boarding. That’s because the process is surprisingly efficient, so they don’t need to have you there for a long time.
Arrive when your ticket tells you to, and you’ll be able to go right into the terminal, check in, and sit in the cool, air-conditioned building until it’s time to board the ship.
8. Hotels Nearby
In addition to the Queen Mary, there are many other hotels nearby for travelers to stay before or after your cruise.
Hotel Royal, located in downtown Long Beach, was built in 1923 and has retained much of its original design. Each room is decorated differently, and you can choose between suites, kitchenettes, and private rooms.
A uniquely designed, European-style hotel, the Varden is one of the highest-rated hotels in Long Beach. The sign stills reads “Dolly Varden Hotel,” but this building has been extensively renovated and redesigned. It now blends both historic and contemporary features into an elegant design.
Hotel Maya, owned by Hilton, offers stunning rooms with ocean views, and has beach access. Hotel Maya also offers kayak and jet ski rentals so you can really enjoy the water. The Hotel Maya is the closest hotel other than the Queen Mary to the Cruise Terminal, so it’s convenient, too.
Located a mile from the beach in downtown Long Beach, the Hilton offers spacious rooms and a beautiful pool. Perhaps the best part for those leaving on a cruise is their “Stay, Park, Sail” deal. Book a room with the Hilton before your cruise, and they’ll let you leave your car at the hotel for the duration of your cruise, driving you to and from the terminal in their own shuttle.
Hotel Current features hand-painted artwork from local artists in every room. The Snooze and Cruise package offers free parking for the duration of your cruise when you book one night in one of their rooms prior to the cruise. As part of this package, the hotel will offer shuttle service to the cruise terminal.
The Hyatt Regency offers stunning ocean views. You can view the Queen Mary across the water from many of the rooms. With a full bar, incredible views, and comfortable rooms, this is one of the most popular hotels in the area, and it fills up fast. If you want to stay here, book your room early.
With these tips and facts at your disposal, you should be ready for your trip. The Long Beach Cruise Terminal is one of the busiest cruise terminals in the world, with over 300 cruises departing from it each year. With all of the people and ships moving through it, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed but remember that Carnival has the check-in and boarding processes down to a science at this point.
There’s plenty to see and do around the Long Beach Terminal, so arriving early to check out the sights and enjoy the luxury hotels and fine dining options is always a good choice. With its proximity to LA, the Long Beach Cruise Terminal offers a lot more than just a place to board your cruise ship.
It’s a perfect chance to add a few adventures to your cruise vacation, since there’s always something new to see or eat in Los Angeles. Even if you’ve been before, you’ll find something fun and exciting.
While the terminal itself is really little more than a giant dock, a parking garage, and a massive building for handling the check-in and boarding, it’s surrounded by all kinds of exciting places.
Whether you want to tour the Queen Mary, see the Aquarium of the Pacific, or just take in the Southern California sun on the beach, there’s a place to do that nearby.
As long as you show up on time with your ticket and your baggage, you should be good to go.
Frequently Asked Questions
All Carnival Cruises on the West Coast depart from the Long Beach Cruise terminal, located in the Port of Long Beach.
The Long Beach Airport is a short, 20-minute drive from the cruise terminal. The distance is just over 11 miles.
The nearest hotel is either the Queen Mary or the Hotel Maya. Both are very close.
You can park in the parking garage. The cost is usually $17 per day, and you do not need to reserve a parking spot in advance. If you are unsure where to go, find a porter in a red cap and ask them; they can direct you to the parking garage.
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, one 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.
Many of the hotels in the area offer package deals that allow you to park there for free while you’re on your cruise if you book a room with them. That is the only free parking available in the area, though. If you don’t want to do that, the only way to avoid paying for parking is to not drive yourself to the cruise terminal.
The main building is the geodesic dome that used to be a museum. It’s thirteen stories tall and has plenty of space to handle all of the passengers for a full cruise.
It depends on the cruise. Each ship holds a different number of passengers, so some will take longer than others. Usually, the entire process is complete in 3-4 hours. That doesn’t mean you will be sitting around waiting to board for hours, though. The process takes that long because there are people arriving at the terminal during that time. Once you have arrived, the check-in and boarding process is fairly quick.