Like many cruise ports associated with large well-known cities, the cruise port in Los Angeles is located somewhere with a different name. Usually these ports are a completely different city, but in this case San Pedro has not been an independent city for over 100 years and is actually an area of Los Angeles. Most cruise ships sailing out of Los Angeles leave from San Pedro’s World Cruise Center, except for Carnival whose ships normally sail from nearby Long Beach which is a separate city.
Both of these ports are south of LAX, with San Pedro about 20 miles from the airport and Long Beach about 30. Our cruise on the Royal Princess left from the World Cruise Center in San Pedro. Given LA’s notorious reputation for long lines of unmoving traffic on overcrowded freeways, we booked flights that came in well ahead of the time it should actually take to get from the airport to the cruise dock before boarding time. Better early than late and we wanted to make it to the ship on time regardless of whether we had any airplane delays or faced severe traffic.
You can get from the airport to the cruise dock by cruise line shuttle, taxi, Uber, or Lyft. Cruise line shuttles charge by the person so they often end up costing more than other transportation since the rest charge by time or distance – although a taxi meter running in unmoving traffic could surpass the shuttle’s set fee if someone got quite unlucky. The advantage of the cruise line shuttle is that if they are providing the transportation the ship has to wait for you if it is late, but you would still have to get to the airport in time to catch your shuttle. When getting to the port on your own the ship will not wait for you if you don’t get there before the all aboard time. Which is why it is a good idea to fly in well ahead of boarding time to account for any possible delays.
We went with Uber, which for 3 of us was considerably cheaper than taking the shuttle, and also less than taking a taxi. It just took a few minutes for pick-up, and we got lucky and didn’t encounter any slow traffic so we arrived at the port well ahead of our scheduled boarding time.
The World Cruise Center in San Pedro has 2 cruise ship berths, 2 terminal buildings, parking for people who drive to the terminal (at $18 per day) with shuttle service from the parking lot to the cruise terminal, and electricity by solar power. It’s the biggest cruise port on the west coast. There’s an old battleship (the Iowa) at the pier which is now a museum so if you have some time to kill before boarding there’s something to do right there. For those staying in San Pedro other things to do include a brewery tour, aquarium, shops, restaurants, and parks where you can see a lighthouse or the Korean Bell of Friendship, a gift from Korea in 1976. The day we boarded there was a Cirque du Soleil tent set up in the parking lot at the cruise terminal, but that is not a permanent feature.
Carnival owns and operates the Long Beach Cruise Terminal. It is located next to the Queen Mary, a former cruise ship that is now used as a hotel, restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue. There are also ship tours available. Parking at the Long Beach port costs $20 per day. Hotels in the area offer park & sail packages for people who arrive by car and want to take advantage of the opportunity to stay for a night and leave their car at the hotel to save money on parking. For those who are staying in Long Beach before or after their cruise, there are things to do there in addition to visiting the Queen Mary. The city has an aquarium and plenty of shops, restaurants, and theaters. Whale watching cruises are available in the harbor.
Boarding the Royal Princess in San Pedro was a quick and easy process. The spacious terminal could have accommodated a lot more people than were there waiting before boarding time. The check-in process was quick and efficient, and once the boarding process started it didn’t take long to get through all the priority passengers and on down to everyone else.
The Golden Princess was also in port that day. It left just before we did. Apparently the way the ships were docked we had to wait for them to leave in order to use their space to turn around before heading out. We had a good view from our cabin’s balcony of the Golden Princess passing by our ship on its way out. We also saw a big sailboat and a harbor cruise go by. On the other side of the waterway our view was of a container port, but we could see the city from the top deck of the ship.
As the Golden Princess passed by our ship they tooted their horn, as cruise ships often do when leaving port. Of course when there is a second ship they often toot too, and sometimes get into a horn battle. Royal Princes responded to Golden Princess’ toot by playing the theme to The Love Boat on the horn, so Royal Princess won that horn battle hands down. A song beats a toot any day.