by Anna Selby, The Telegraph, January 9, 2020
Los Angeles is a city that doesn’t really need an introduction. It’s a place with something for everyone from fabulous beaches to the world’s most famous film studios, a renowned restaurant and nightlife scene and shopping opportunities from LA’s Farmers Market to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.
Cruise port location
The main Los Angeles World Cruise Center is located in San Pedro Bay, 18 miles south of LAX Airport (20 miles from Downtown LA) and there’s a shuttle from the airport to the port. Around 12 cruise lines visit regularly and it’s served by three berths and two terminal buildings. The Long Beach Terminal a few miles away serves Carnival Cruise Lines.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
The LA Waterfront itself has plenty of attractions. Battleship IOWA and the Los Angeles Maritime Museum are both worth a visit and there are lots of shopping and dining opportunities. If you’re docked at the Long Beach Terminal, you’ll find historic luxury liner the Queen Mary at nearby Naples Beach.
The Metro Silver Line is an express service into Downtown LA (day pass $7, seniors $2.50). Los Angeles itself is a vast sprawling metropolis and its public transport is limited. If you want to travel independently, you are best off hiring a car – though bear in mind LA has heavy traffic and a complex freeway system.
What to see and do
Given the port is such a distance out of town, this is one destination where you’re probably best served by taking an organised excursion from the ship. And if you’re in port for just a few hours, your options are fairly limited.
What can I do in four hours or less?
If you want a quick adrenalin rush there are – fairly pricey – helicopter flights along the coast. Another possibility is a visit to Naples Beach. It’s in easy reach of San Pedro port (and even closer to the Long Beach Terminal) and it’s a pretty spot with canals and Spanish-style houses that date back 100 years (ancient by LA standards). Long Beach itself has plenty of attractions including the Aquarium of the Pacific and, of course, the Queen Mary – the ship has been permanently docked here since 1967 and, as the last name in elegance when she was built in the 1930s, is well worth a visit.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
Los Angeles is often the final destination of a cruise and the airport you’ll fly home from, so many ship excursions work on the basis that you finish up at LAX after a day of sightseeing. Norwegian Cruise Line does this, offering an LA highlights trip including the Downtown area, Sunset Boulevard, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Another option combines the famous beaches (Santa Monica and Venice) with Beverly Hills.
Most ships will offer city or Hollywood tours (including a visit to that world-famous sign up in the Hollywood Hills) or you can spend a day at one of the studios, such as Universal or Warner Bros. Princess Cruises offers a seven-hour excursion including transport to Universal Studios Hollywood where you can explore the theme park on your own. Try out rides including Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, and take a tram tour around the studio itself.
Princess also runs a fascinating trip to the La Brea Tar Pits (home to over a million Ice Age fossils) combined with the Griffith Observatory, which has appeared in films from Rebel Without a Cause to Transformers.
Other popular excursions include shopping trips to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and Downtown. This long neglected area has been recently smartened up with new developments alongside the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Frank Gehry’s stunning Walt Disney Concert Hall.
What can do I do with a week?
LA is a great jumping-off point post or pre-cruise. It’s a two-hour drive to Palm Springs and the desert heat (plus superb resorts and, of course, golf). It takes the same time to drive up the beautiful California coast to Santa Barbara, aka the American Riviera; or drive south to the pristine beaches of San Diego and Laguna. A little further and you’re in a whole new country. 30 minutes from the Tijuana crossing is Rosarito Beach – great Mexican food, nightlife and Spanish-colonial architecture.
San Francisco is one of the US’s most fascinating cities and just a 90-minute flight. Must-dos include walking over the Golden Gate Bridge, riding in a cable car, visiting Chinatown and shopping in Union Square. If shows and nightlife appeal more, a one-hour flight takes you to Las Vegas (modestly describing itself as “the world’s top destination.”) But then, among the city's headline acts this year are Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Willie Nelson and Cher. Not bad.
Eat and drink
You’ll find every kind of food in LA. There’s a strong Mexican influence – try a spicy breakfast burrito. For something a little healthier, pick up some Californian fruit from a roadside stand ($5 for a mixed bag). Steaks, hot dogs and burgers are everywhere, washed down with a local craft beer.
Don’t leave without…
The world’s most famous brands are up in Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Melrose Avenue has vintage clothing and LA’s Farmers Market is a must for foodies. Olvera Street in Downtown is LA’s birthplace with historic buildings, a Mexican-style plaza and a market with traditional Mexican food and crafts, if you’re looking for a more unusual souvenir.
Need to know
LA is a big departure port for US West Coast cruises. Mainstream carriers include British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Norwegian, United and Air New Zealand. The flight takes 11 hours 30 minutes.
It’s a big city so expect some petty crime. LAPD recommend not wearing or carrying anything that looks expensive and not walking alone at night. And the famous street scam involves the talent agent who suddenly “discovers” you or your child!
Best time to go
The summer months (June-August) can be uncomfortably hot and smog levels rise. January and February are the wettest months so spring and autumn are the best time to go. Any time of year, there will be something going on in LA – from the Marathon in March to Fourth of July fireworks at the Hollywood Bowl. Oh and there's a little party in February called the Oscars.
Many general shops are open 24/7 in LA, while museums, department stores and malls generally open 10am-9pm with slightly shorter hours on Sundays.