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Short "Taster" Cruises out of LA/Long Beach Ports

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Mar 10th, 2016, 11:48 AM
  #1
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Short "Taster" Cruises out of LA/Long Beach Ports

My dear MIL is thinking about a cruise to celebrate her 80th birthday. Due to various constraints (*cough*she'scheap*cough*), she wants to do a 3- or 4-day cruise out of either "home" port: Long Beach (meaning Carnival) or LA/San Pedro (every other line). We are talking about travel between late September and early November, and we'll probably need a few staterooms. I am curious:

-- Has anyone taken one of these short cruises out of the LA-area ports?

-- Which line?

-- Which ship?

-- How was the overall experience?

I know-- asking a LOT. I just want her 80th to be nice and stress-free. A trip to Vegas a few years ago with my mom (and me and my husband) was good despite some tense moments thanks to my mom's health problems (and, it turns out, the beginnings of Alzheimer's). However, her last trip to Vegas with my rather irresponsible BIL ended up being a fiasco (Thanksgiving dinner ended up being completely scuttled because somebody gambled away the money he was going to use to buy dinner-- did I spill the beans on that disaster...?). We want to avoid that.

My dear MIL appreciates good food, nice and clean accommodations and friendly, individualized service. Will we find this on this type of cruise?

Any guidance will be, as always, greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
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Mar 10th, 2016, 04:50 PM
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Can't comment on Long Beach or LA but short cruises out of Florida are known as "party cruises" and cater to a young crowd that does a lot of drinking.

I'd steer clear of Carnival and stick with Princess, Celebrity, HAL, for an older crowd and a more refined experience.
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Mar 10th, 2016, 07:40 PM
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I'd like one of the 4-nighters out of either LA or LB -- so you'd have a stop at Catalina.

I haven't take one of them - but have been on Catalina a couple of times and the passengers off the cruise ships were all ages, not just a young adults/party crowd.
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Mar 10th, 2016, 09:54 PM
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Many cruises stop in Catalina, we were on a 10 day cruise out of San Francisco going to Mexico and made a stop in Catalina. Just saying.
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Mar 10th, 2016, 10:49 PM
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Frank: >>Many cruises stop in Catalina, we were on a 10 day cruise out of San Francisco going to Mexico and made a stop in Catalina. Just saying.<<

Yes -- but most short ones don't . . . and the OP is looking for a short cruise, not a 10 day-er.

Most 3 day cruises only head south and back and don't go to Catalina. That is why I posted what I did . . . just sayin'.
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Mar 11th, 2016, 03:03 AM
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She wants "good food" - no one wants bad food, but how does she define "good". For some it is choices and quantity, for others it is individually prepared/attention to detail food - the latter will not exist on short mass market cruise

Nice and clean accommodations - there are all levels on cruises, but cabins are small, generally clean, but not luxury-level.

Friendly, individualized service - this also used to be a feature of cruising, but is much less so on all mass market lines today. I think part of it is that tips are not included as a flat fee, rather than having an incentive to earn a higher tip. I have found that tipping on the first night the cabin steward gives a higher level of service there. But she will likely not find a friendly, personal waitstaff person who gets to know her.

But I still wouldn't rule it out. You get the security of having everything in one place and don't have to deal with irresponsible or bickering or disagreeing family members about what to do or where to eat.

In Florida it is true that a younger, more party-oriented group take shorter cruises. And also in Florida, these are often on the older ships with fewer amenities (like no wave pool or zipline on board - still lots of bars, restaurants and deck chairs). We have taken a few shorter cruises and were well able to avoid drunken 21 year olds.

So while no direct experience on west coast, reviews I have read seem to show similar experiences there.
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Mar 11th, 2016, 03:05 AM
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And just make sure her idea of a cruise is not based on old movies, Love Boat reruns, etc. It is like a big floating mid-level hotel with lots of people. The exclusivity and elegantly dressed elite cruising stopped about 50 years ago.
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Mar 11th, 2016, 08:20 AM
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Thanks for the input, everybody! It's all greatly appreciated and quite useful. As always.

I am leaning toward pushing the 4-day cruise, since we all love Catalina (our last trip was for her 78th birthday, and we had an incredibly good time-- lots of laughs at the miniature golf course, where we gleefully cheated at every hole). A nice shore excursion there to see old friends would be great.

It's sounding like the key to this cruise will be to carefully temper expectations. Although the Carnival cruises sound rather low-rent to me, we may be stuck with that choice, so we'll send dear MIL to watch the Hairy Chest Contests on the pool deck while we find other things to do (drink, hit the gym/spa, drink, hit the casino, drink...). As long as the staff on-board are polite and pleasant and aren't particularly surly, I'm sure she'll be fine. And as long as we have some edible choices on-board, we'll make do with our dining options. We'll do something special one night to celebrate her birthday (whether it's the actual day or not).

Are alcoholic beverage plans worth the extra charge? I'm not a huge drinker, really, but I do like GOOD wine and top-shelf liquor (well booze tends to give me horrible hangovers). I'm inclined to spend the extra scratch to not have a nasty surprise when we go to settle the bill....

And: I'm assuming we will all need current passports (if we want to go into Ensenada, which is the usual Mexican port on these short cruises). What other travel documents will we need?

Thanks again, everybody, you're wonderful!
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Mar 13th, 2016, 04:07 AM
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Passports - check with the cruise line. They may require passports since you have the option of getting off in Mexico; I doubt they will let you just promise to stay on the ship.

Cruisecritic is a good site to see specific questions about specific cruises - but in general, unless you are a big drinker, alcohol packages are not worth it.

I agree with the temper expectations comment. Staff is generally very polite on any cruise I have taken - just not showering everyone with attention. And as an RN who works with the elderly, if your MIL is at all hard of hearing, she is likely to complain that the staff is mumbling - since most will not have English as a first language and elderly people seem to find it more difficult to hear and understand accented English. (assuming that is her language)

I think she will have fun, and with much less drama than the other trips you described. Please let us know how it goes.
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Mar 22nd, 2016, 08:29 AM
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Another check-in to say "Thanks!" to everybody's great input.

MIL is still keen on this plan, but as always it's beginning to mutate. After talking with her friends and getting a bit of an earful about those short Carnival cruises, she's now leaning toward a Princess cruise out of San Pedro. We don't have a problem with changing ports or cruise lines-- in fact, Princess might work out a bit better for us.

I might push her to go for a longer cruise now, so that we are on-board to celebrate her birthday. She does love a bit of attention showered on her, so can you imagine the thrill she'd get of having her 80th fête-d in public?

Oh, and gail: Good observations. MIL's hearing is almost TOO good, so that's not a problem. And her mother didn't speak English as her first language, so she's very used to accented English. I think, given her sympathetic ways and chatty demeanor, she'll have a grand time on-board with everybody.

Again: Thanks to everyone! You've been very helpful.
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Mar 23rd, 2016, 08:47 PM
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Glad you came back with the new idea. IME, it is good you and your MIL are re-considering ships and length of cruise.

I have taken short and long and very long cruises. I like just about any ship, going anywhere (or nowhere) as long as I am on water. That being said, short cruises are OK if you have cruised before, and know what to expect, but IMHO, they are not good as "taster" cruises. It takes the first day to get acclimated to the ship (unless you are on board just to party or gamble) and not enough time to get into a relaxing mode. Just as you get comfortable on the ship, it is time to pack up. Itineraries are usually not that interesting either. Nicer ships usually do longer itineraries.

Princess is an excellent cruise line with generally good food, good/interesting entertainment, etc. Public areas are usually not quite as loud as on some other ships. The four Princess ships I have been on were elegant and understated with soft colors. The important thing though with any line is which ship and the itinerary.

A seven day cruise with some really good/interesting port stops on a nice ship, is an ideal intro to cruising.

Let the staff know ahead of time, and I bet they will treat your MIL like a celebrity.

Whatever you choose, I hope you all have a great time.
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Mar 28th, 2016, 06:17 AM
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I would stick with Princess or possibly HAL. Sometimes there are short cruises up the coast to Vancouver, check Vacations To Go under cruises that leave LA/LB.. Seasonality enters i to that, though.

You may do better to pick a line with a fair corkage fee vs the unlimited bev, esp. on a short cruise.
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