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Cruise from 1 of Southern California’s 3 home ports

Royal Caribbean International’s Navigator of the Seas is among the ships that sails from San Pedro. Photo courtesy Royal Carribean/Nic Morley

Bubbles seem to fill the Grand Épernay Dining Room on Celebrity CruisesCelebrity Solstice. Translucent globes hanging from the chandelier and light reflecting from bubble-like bulbs create an illusion of effervescence.

“You feel like you’re inside a bottle of Champagne,” said then-Solstice sommelier Randy Manansala as the ship embarked on a Mexico cruise from Los Angeles. The voyage last October marked Celebrity’s return to Mexican Riviera sailings from L.A. after more than a decade.

Solstice is one of a flotillla of ships now homeporting in Southern California. “Southern Californians are fortunate to have 3 busy home ports, making a weeklong vacation at sea or even a quick getaway so easy,” says Theresa Norton, editor in chief of Agent@Home magazine. “Now that airfares are rising, it’s more affordable to take a cruise you can drive to.”

Round-trip voyages take passengers to the Mexican Riviera, calling at ports such as Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas; up the California coast; and even to Alaska, Hawai‘i, and beyond.

Most itineraries range from 3 to 8 nights (cruises to Alaska and Hawai‘i are longer). Most fares start at under $300 per person per night, and many start at under $100. Here are some stellar ships sailing from Southern California.

You may also like: How to choose a cruise that's perfect for you

Cruise ship deck with a waterslide

A cruise ship basks in the sun in San Pedro. Photo by Debbie Ann Powell/stock.adobe.com

Cruise ships sailing from Los Angeles (San Pedro)

Celebrity Solstice

Sails to: Mexico
Notable: Real grass on the outdoor Lawn Deck—great for bocce, miniature golf, and movies under the stars

Book a Celebrity Solstice cruise

Navigator of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International)

Sails to: Mexico, year-round
Notable: The Blaster, the longest aqua coaster (a combo waterslide and roller coaster) at sea

Book a Navigator of the Seas cruise

Discovery Princess and Emerald Princess

Sail to: Mexico, California, and Hawai‘i
Notable: MedallionClass, an app that lets you order snacks, keep track of traveling companions, and even unlock your cabin door

Book a Discovery Princess or Emerald Princess cruise

Cruise ships sailing from Long Beach

Carnival Panorama

Sails to: Mexico, year-round
Notable: The Heroes Tribute Bar & Lounge, where uniforms, flags, and photos honor American forces

Book a Carnival Panorama cruise

Carnival Radiance

Sails to: Mexico, year-round
Notable: Dr. Seuss–themed activities and a Seuss-inspired parade

Book a Carnival Radiance cruise

Cruise ships sailing from San Diego

Disney Wonder

Sails to: Mexico
Notable: A multihued chandelier by glass artist Dale Chihuly in the art nouveau–style atrium lobby

Book a Disney Wonder cruise

Zaandam (Holland America Line)

Sails to: Mexico
Notable: A pipe organ sculpture in the atrium and guitars signed by Queen, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton

Book a Zaandam cruise

River cruising returns to California

In the 1930s, steam-powered riverboats like the Delta King carried guests on overnight trips from San Francisco to Sacramento. Travelers can once again ply those waters—and beyond.

Beginning in February, American Cruise Lines offers 7-night cruises round-trip from San Francisco on the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Napa rivers. Passengers can browse Stockton’s farmstands, take a fresh look at Napa Valley wine country, and explore Old Sacramento, where the Delta King is now a hotel. Fares for the 190-passenger American Jazz start at about $800 per person per night.

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AAA travel alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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