Cruise and Beach Destinations
in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond
Mexican Riviera

Embarkation Ports for Mexican Riviera Cruises

Queen Mary is one of the attractions at the Long Beach cruise port. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Queen Mary is one of the attractions at the Long Beach cruise port. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

Mexican Riviera cruises begin at one of four major embarkation ports in California: Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

Long Beach leads the way, followed closely by the nearby San Pedro docks in Los Angeles. The two ports are only seven miles apart.

The difference is the cruise lines that use each port. Carnival, the dominant provider of Mexican Riviera cruises, embarks from Long Beach and San Francisco. Celebrity, Oceania, Norwegian, Princess and Regent Seven Seas use Los Angeles. Disney and Holland America use San Diego.

So anyone who chooses a cruise line first will automatically choose an embarkation port. Many cruise passengers who live near a port may use that port anyway. But we have found great enjoyment in choosing an embarkation port first to take advantage of what it has to offer for a few days before or after a cruise. All four embarkation ports for Mexican Riviera cruises have many major attractions in and near their cities.

Los Angeles and Long Beach

Again, these two ports are so close to each other that anyone who embarks from either one can take advantage of many of the same attractions. But not all of them.

Attractions right by the Los Angeles port include the Battleship USS Iowa and the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

The battleship USS Iowa, 250 S. Harbor Boulevard, is a military history museum that saw action in World War II and the Korean War. It also had patrol duty in the Cold War. Tickets are $29.95 for 12-year-old children, teens and adults, $19.95 for children ages 3 to 11 and free for children 2 and younger.

The Long Beach port has its own historic ship, but of a different kind. The famous Queen Mary is the 1936 ocean liner permanently docked right by the cruise terminal. It is now a hotel and spa with overnight room accommodations.

Two major aquariums are within quick driving distance of both ports. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is about three miles south of the Los Angeles cruise center. Aquarium of the Pacific is a little more than six miles away at Long Beach and only a mile from that port.

Many short-term cruises that embark from Los Angeles and Long Beach stop at nearby Catalina Island. For those that don’t, visitors can walk to the Catalina Island Express Terminal at either cruise port and take a ferry to the island before or after their cruise. Ferry rides last about an hour. Round-trip tickets are $74.50 for people ages 12 to 54, $67.50 for seniors 55+ and $59 for children ages 2 to 11. Prices are subject to change Ferry schedules vary with the season.

Anyone with a lot more time can go one hour east to Disneyland in Anaheim. Beverly Hills is less than an hour north for anyone who wants to look for celebrities. Universal Studios Hollywood is about one hour and 15 minutes north.

San Diego

Zoo lion
San Diego Zoo is a top attraction in that city.

The city of San Diego is more than 120 miles south of Los Angeles and a little too far away from Disneyland, Universal Studios and Beverly Hills (unless someone is willing to drive that far). But it has plenty of its own great attractions.

It has one major attraction at the cruise docks and another a short drive away. Like Los Angeles, it has its own World War II historic warship. U.S.S. Midway, 910 N. Harbor Drive, was the largest aircraft carrier in the world during its time in service from World War II to Operation Desert Storm.Tickets online are $22 for adults with discounts for seniors, children and retired military.

The biggest attraction in San Diego is really dozens of attractions rolled into one. The 1,200-acre Balboa Park, four miles from the port, is a massive complex that includes the world-famous San Diego Zoo, 17 museums and more than a dozen themed gardens. We happen to visit during a major festival that attracted more than 300,000 people.

Otherwise, these park lovers do have two options in the San Diego area. SeaWorld San Diego is seven miles north of the cruise docks. Legoland California, about an hour away, appeals to families with young children.

San Francisco

Anyone who embarks from the San Francisco cruise docks at Piers 27 and 35 will find enough nearby attractions to keep them busy for at least a few days.

Exploratorium at Pier 15, an interactive science museum, is a 10 minute walk south of Pier 27. The world famous Fisherman’s Wharf is a 15 minute walk west of Pier 27. It has grown from a fish market to a waterfront community and entertainment center with shopping, dining, events, hotels and tourist attractions.

Tourist attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf include Madame Tussauds, a celebrity wax museum. Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 has “20,000 local sea creature” in three main exhibits.