Royal Caribbean's new home port should get West Coast cruisers excited
In a big development for West Coast cruising, Royal Caribbean on Wednesday announced plans to base a ship in Los Angeles -- something it hasn't done in a decade.
The world's largest cruise line said its 3,386-passenger Navigator of the Seas would sail year-round to Mexico from the city starting in June 2022, offering a range of three- to seven-night voyages.
For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's new cruise newsletter.
Royal Caribbean said the voyages would include three-, four- and five-night trips that feature a mix of stops in Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and California's Catalina Island. The ship also will operate some longer, seven-night holiday sailings to Mexico.
The voyages will go on sale the week of March 29, the line said.
“We’re excited to return to Los Angeles to add bigger, bolder vacation options along the West Coast," Royal Caribbean president and CEO Michael Bayley said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "With a ship like Navigator of the Seas, complete with waterslides, activities from day to night and a lineup of restaurants, bars and lounges, friends and families alike are in for a memorable getaway.”
Sailing since 2002, Navigator of the Seas isn't a new vessel. But it underwent an unusually massive, bow-to-stern makeover in 2019 designed to transform it into the king of short-haul cruises out of its current home, Miami.
Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises
The overhaul brought the ship such brag-worthy features as the longest waterslide at sea and the only headfirst mat racer waterslide at sea.
The ship also got a completely revamped pool zone complete with a three-level bar hangout called The Lime and Coconut. Other changes included the addition of glow-in-the-dark laser tag (set in the ship’s ice-skating rink during the daytime and offered as an activity at no extra charge) and an escape room, plus a bunch of new dining and drinking venues.
Royal Caribbean executives have said the changes to Navigator of the Seas were designed to wow newcomers to cruising, who often start out with short cruises out of Miami. The ship's move to Los Angeles for short sailings will no doubt help the line bring in more first-time cruisers on the West Coast.
In deploying a ship year-round to Los Angeles, Royal Caribbean is going up against Carnival Cruise Line, which currently is the leader in cruises out of the Los Angeles area by a wide margin. Carnival traditionally has based three ships in the Los Angeles area year-round for sailings to Mexico and Hawaii, with departures out of the Port of Long Beach.
The announcement also comes as cruise lines eye more "close-to-home" sailings in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, which has shut down most cruising around the world for a year. Short sailings out of Los Angeles that Californians and other West Coasters can reach in a few hours by car fit right into that trend.
Los Angeles is one of the biggest cruise hubs on the West Coast. But it doesn't compare in size as a cruise hub to such East Coast cruising centers as PortMiami and Port Canaveral in Florida.
This is, in part, due to the limited number of cruise destinations that can be reached in a few days of sailings from Los Angeles. Most cruises from Los Angeles are to the West Coast of Mexico, known as the Mexican Riviera -- a region that has a limited number of port towns suitable for cruise ships.
Other West Coast cruise hubs include Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, which serve as the bases for summer cruises to Alaska.
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- What to pack for your first cruise