Avid Cruiser Voyages: Pacific Coast Cruises

Repositioning cruises can be largely classified as one-off voyages offered at a specific time in the year. Typically, these will consist of just a single sailing that is noteworthy for being longer or shorter than the average voyage, operating an itinerary that is intended to bring the ship from one cruising region of the world to another.

One such repositioning cruise, though, is gaining in popularity, to the point where multiple voyages are offered two or three times per year: Pacific Coast Cruises in North America.

Pacific Princess in Vancouver, British Columbia. Photo © Aaron Saunders
Pacific Princess in Vancouver, British Columbia. Photo © Aaron Saunders

Originally offered as voyages that traversed between ports like Los Angeles and Vancouver, Pacific Coast cruises have become an itinerary in their own right. Some cruise lines even dub these voyages California Coastals or Pacific Coastal Wine Cruises, due to their proximity to some of California’s best vineyards.

Today, Pacific Coastal voyages can run from between three days to nearly two weeks, operating out of prime turnaround ports such as Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Occasionally, a sailing might embark guests in Ensenada, Mexico in order to sail directly to Seattle, Washington — a voyage that would be impossible, as the Jones Act requires foreign-flagged vessels sailing between two U.S. ports to visit in a “distant foreign port.” It’s similar to cabotage restrictions for foreign air carriers.

Carnival Splendor sails from Long Beach to the Mexican Riviera. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders
Some Pacific Coast cruises terminate in Long Beach, California. Photo © 2011 Aaron Saunders

If you are looking for a quick cruise getaway, try one of the three- or four-night repositioning coastals that operate between Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Vancouver. Beginning in late March and running through May, these voyages typically have one or two days at sea, while a few longer voyages may call first on Victoria, British Columbia before continuing on to Vancouver.

For travellers with more time (and a desire to visit ports of call in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California) longer voyages are available.

Popular ports of call for voyages that are at least a week in duration include the Californian hot-spots of Santa Barbara, Catalina Island, and San Francisco, where many cruise ships overnight in order to give guests time to explore the stunning beauty and vibrant culture of the Bay area.

Departing Vancouver aboard the Rotterdam, bound for the Inside Passage. Photo © Aaron Saunders
Departing Vancouver aboard the Rotterdam on a Pacific Coast voyage. Photo © Aaron Saunders

In Orgeon, guests can blaze the trail that Lewis and Clark (or perhaps just Arnold Schwarzenegger) took. Astoria, Oregon is a staple of Pacific Coastal itineraries, and the Lewis & Clark expedition concluded at nearby Fort Clatsop. Movie-goers will likely recognize more of this beautiful little town than they realize: It has served as the backdrop for Kindergarten Cop, The Goonies, and The Ring 2. Cruise passengers coming ashore will likely be able to see the Megler Bridge in the distance.

In British Columbia, cruise ships will nearly always call on the capital city of Victoria. With its stone buildings, British charm and famous attractions like the Fairmont Empress Hotel and Butchart Gardens, no one goes away from Victoria unhappy.

Other ports of call in BC include nearby Nanaimo and Campbell River, both of which are located on the eastern side of Vancouver Island, within sight of the mainland and Vancouver on a sunny day.

In the past, a few coastal voyages have even gone as far north as the British Columbia town of Prince Rupert, though these are becoming rare.

If you’re considering sailing to Alaska in the shoulder months of April, May, September and October, you may want to consider extending your trip with a voyage up or down the Pacific Coast. A cruise is truly one of the best ways to connect those two voyages.

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