It’s high tide again for Southern California’s cruising scene – Daily News

Southern California, your ship has come in.

Actually, make that a fleet of ships as the variety of vacation-voyaging vessels setting courses for adventure over the next year is the largest these parts have seen in over a decade.

Even more telling from a present-day view, with more than 400 sailings scheduled to go in and out of the area’s two major cruise ports next year the cruise industry is extending a big “bon voyage” to this market after a 17-month pause due to the pandemic.

“We will have more than 200 sailings on schedule for 2022, and that’s the most we’ve had since pre-recessionary days,” said Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

Following CDC guidelines and operating at reduced capacities for now, 11 brands will sail out of the port’s World Cruise Center next year, ranging from mainstream-class Celebrity, Cunard, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean to luxury-class Crystal, Oceana, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and Viking.

The remaining couple of hundred cruises will embark from Long Beach Cruise Terminal, soon to be the home port of three Carnival Cruise Line “Fun Ships” on this road — make that sea lane — to recovery.

The healing began in late summer with resumption of weeklong cruises to the Mexican Riviera on the 4,008-passenger Carnival Panorama. The line’s first ship to come out West straight from the yard in 20 years had sea legs just three months old before Carnival — and the rest of the industry — suspended operations in March 2020.

For the sentimental and boastful, Carnival’s “Back to Fun” ribbon-cutting ceremony inside the former Spruce Goose dome in August was bittersweet; while Long Beach was celebrating a return to cruising, its claim to being home of Carnival’s flagship was soured due to the pause, and ended altogether the same month with the maiden voyage of the bright, shiny object called Mardi Gras out of Central Florida’s Port Canaveral.

Shed no tears for Long Beach, however, because Carnival’s local flotilla of mainstream-class, something-for-everyone ships is an upgrade from what the market leader sailed here pre-pandemic. With the long-serving Imagination and Inspiration being scrapped in Turkey, Carnival ( has a younger trio of ships serving Southern California for the time being.

Joining the 2-year-old Panorama with round trips out of Long Beach are Miracle and Radiance, each bearing the line’s iconic red, white and blue “whale tail” funnels. Although their bones are 17 and 21 years old, respectively, both don’t look their age thanks to recent major refurbishments.

Radiance, in fact, just went through a rebirth; sailing as the Carnival Victory since its 2000 christening, the 2,124-passenger ship will float under its new name starting Dec. 13 for a four-day round-trip voyage to Catalina Island and Ensenada. The 2,124-passenger Miracle is offering itineraries of three to six days to Mexico and 14-day sails to Hawaii before San Francisco borrows the ship for the summer with trips to Alaska and Baja Mexico.

A Royal return

While it’s a Carnival atmosphere in Long Beach, the World Cruise Center in San Pedro is celebrating the return of Royal Caribbean International after an 11-year absence. The largest cruise line passenger-wise after Carnival hasn’t home-ported a ship in L.A. since the Mariner of the Seas made runs south of the border.

Royal Caribbean’s California comeback hinges on the success of the 3,835-passenger Navigator of the Seas, which in November started at least two years’ worth of three-, five- and seven-day round-trip voyages to such destinations as Cabo san Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, Ensenada and Catalina Island. The wider variety of itineraries than what Mariner sailed when here, plus a better understanding of what L.A. area passengers want on a cruise, are reasons Royal Caribbean believes it will be more successful this time around.

“Navigator of the Seas fits the Southern California market,” company Senior Vice President Vicki Freed said on a two-day preview cruise aboard Navigator. Royal Caribbean’s head of sales, trade support and service pointed to the outdoor pool area with added hot tubs and new three-level Lime and Coconut tropical-themed bar as a feature this passenger can attest to meeting the SoCal vibe check. Both venues were given a face-lift as part of a multi-million-dollar “Royal Amplified” program that was executed before the COVID shutdown.

Other new elements that impress include The Blaster aqua coaster, the longest waterslide at sea (super fun); an observatory-themed escape room (super cool); the first ship blow-dry bar (super hairdos); and The Bamboo Room, a delightful and delicious throwback to the tiki bars of the mid-1900s (super exotic).

Ice shows are a Royal Caribbean exclusive including on Navigator of the Seas, now home-ported in San Pedro. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Navigator also boasts the U.S. debut of “Showgirl!” a spectacular production show in the main theater that pays homage to the past, present and future of the title profession through song, dance and eye candy. When Studio B isn’t transformed into a nightclub, it stages the cruise line’s exclusive ice shows; iSkate 2.0, running indefinitely on Navigator, allows the eight-member cast to strut its stuff to music ranging from Debussy to Pink.

The Navigator of the Seas’ Main Dining Room is three decks of opulence. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Royal Caribbean’s decade-long snub of California was reportedly due mostly to home-porting too large a ship in a market with limited itineraries and a corporate decision to expand in other markets, China and Florida in particular. The L.A. lovefest displayed by the cruise line during the preview cruise in November — a large Dodgers cap cake with “Welcome Aboard” written on the bill welcomed buffet diners — clearly indicated that Royal Caribbean’s absence made its heart grow fonder for the region.

“Our goal is to bring more ships out here,” Freed said. “We’d like to grow this market as fast as we can. If we see the demand, then a second ship could come to L.A. as early as 2024-25.”

The World Cruise Center will be home to Princess Cruise’s new flagship, Discovery Princess, shown in a rendering, this spring. (Courtesy of Princess Cruises)

Meanwhile, San Pedro mainstay Princess Cruises ( was the first to resume operations at the World Cruise Center when the 2,600-passenger Grand Princess set sail for the Mexican Riviera on Sept 25. The “Love Boat” line will bring 70 voyages on seven ships to L.A. in 2022, including the fleet’s newest, the 3,600-passenger Discovery Princess. The eventual flagship will journey to the Mexican Riviera in March and April before home-porting in Seattle for the Alaskan cruise season, then return to LA through at least April 2023.

Norwegian Cruise Lines ( boasts the largest-capacity ship based in Los Angeles, and through most of 2022 will primarily sail weeklong trips to the Mexican Riviera and Ensenada on its 4,004-passenger Norwegian Bliss. The Joy and Jewel are scheduled to make cameo appearances at the end of 2022.

A six-figure sail?

The toniest line to embark from the World Cruise Center in 2022 might be Crystal Cruises (, which delivers its 960-passenger Symphony for two distinct voyages; a 14-day round trip to five Hawaiian islands and Ensenada from May 29-June 14, and a nine-day sail up the Pacific Coast that ends in Vancouver on June 23 after making calls in Santa Barbara, Monterey, San Francisco, Astoria, Seattle and Victoria.

And how convenient that Crystal’s 132-night, four-continent Grand Voyage from January to May ends in L.A.? Balconies are going for a cool $122,000, double occupancy, flight to Miami included.

With a dozen cruise lines wooing long-time and first-time cruisers to Long Beach and L.A. harbors, it’s hard to imagine that those considering a voyage vacation wouldn’t find at least one itinerary that floats their boat. But if your heart is set on a different cruise line — as in Holland America, Disney, Windstar, AQV or Silversea — they can be found farther south in 2022. Although it ranks a distant third in the Southern California cruise scene, San Diego is also looking to ride the wave of recovery rolling across regional waters.

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