Finder is committed to editorial independence. While we receive compensation when you click links to partners, they do not influence our opinions or reviews. Learn how we make money.

Best cruises from California

Sail through the shining blue Pacific and leave the Golden State behind.

Updated

Aerial view of Laguna Beach, California

California beaches have captured the imagination of the human race pretty much since the dawn of time. See for yourself what lies beyond the waves of the Pacific on these top California cruises to Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii and more.

Best cruises from California

Stay close to the coast or travel as far as Hawaii or Alaska on one of these voyages. Overwhelmed? We’ve sifted through your options.

Best for cruises to Mexico from California: Holland America

With a huge range of itineraries, Holland America Line cruises to Mexico from San Diego and San Francisco. From weeklong tropical beach getaways that dock in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta to grander Panama Canal voyages and tours of ancient Incan empires, these cruises run all year round.

So no matter when the boss green-lights your vacation days, you can wave adiós.

  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover Card
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for family cruises from California: Carnival

Worried about keeping your kids occupied on long hauls through the Pacific? Carnival packs as much fun into days spent at sea as it does at each port.

Between the water slides, arcades, sport courts and mini-golf games, they may not even want to disembark when you arrive in Hawaii, Mexico, Alaska or wherever your travels take you. Plus, Carnival sails from Long Beach, San Diego and San Francisco — so if you're flying to the port you can easily compare airfare.

  • No free room service
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Paypal, Carnival EasyPay, Gift Card, Discover Card, Debit, Western Union, Cheque
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Runner-up: Disney Cruise Line. It didn’t make the list because it tends to be super-pricey — fare is twice as much as what you’d pay for an equivalent Carnival itinerary. Since families tend to value budget-friendly trips, we recommend Carnival.

Best for cruises to Alaska from California: Princess

Whether you want to start in San Francisco or Los Angeles, Princess Cruises offers dozens of expertly-crafted adventures to America's last frontier. Its short-and-sweet Alaskan sampler sails to Ketchikan and back in only four days, while its 14-day route sails through Icy Strait Point and by the Hubbard Glacier. We like the Cook your Catch program, which lets you gobble up the fish you find — and its Puppies in the Piazza extravaganza where you can cuddle sled dogs to your heart's delight.
  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card, JCB
Price ($-$$$):

Best for luxury cruises from California: Crystal River

Relax like an A-lister on Crystal's luxe cruises. Fare includes premium wines and spirits, shore excursions, gratuities, gourmet dining and Wi-Fi. Its itineraries are unique, too — sail from San Diego or Los Angeles to New York, Vancouver and more.

If you're feeling extra fancy, book a suite — you'll get a personal butler that can arrange private cocktail parties along the way.

  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for yacht-style cruises from California: Windstar

We're wild for Windstar's epicurean tours of the west coast, inspired by James Beard. You'll dock at key California ports like Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Francisco before tasting wine, beer and locally-grown deliciousness during an evening in Portland. Follow in the footsteps of our nation's daring explorers by traversing the Columbia River to marvel at Multnomah Falls.

With never more than 300 passengers, Windstar trips are unique, intimate and off the beaten path.

  • No free room service
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, American Express, Discover Card
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for cruises to Hawaii from California: Carnival

Carnival wins again for its 15- or 16-day cruises from San Diego or San Francisco to Hawaii. Get your fill of sorbet-sunset skies and majestic volcanoes, with plenty of snorkeling, hiking and beach breaks.

Go ahead, dance at the luau. The wild, clogged California freeways will seem a world away.

  • No free room service
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Paypal, Carnival EasyPay, Gift Card, Discover Card, Debit, Western Union, Cheque
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

What are the cheapest cruises from California?

The cheapest cruises from California are usually Carnival, Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Lines — though Princess Cruises can have stellar deals too. Budget travelers should compare itineraries and rates between these four companies.

Avoid Crystal Cruises if you’re looking for the lowest fare, as these tend to be pricier — unless you’ve got a penchant for cocktails and vino, in which case the all-inclusive rate might be worth it at the end of the day.

Also keep in mind that you’ll find the best cruise deals of the year around Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

How we chose these cruises

When choosing cruises for this list, we looked at the quality of routes available from each cruise line, prioritizing well-paced itineraries with port stops at key destinations around the region.

We also considered onboard dining, weighing the number, variety and overall quality of restaurants against passenger reviews. Finally, we checked cabin amenities against each price point, looking for cruise lines that are known to deliver the highest value.

Finally, we sought out customer reviews on travel websites and personal travel blogs, considering first-person experiences and each company’s overall reputation.

When is the best time to cruise from California?

The best time to cruise from California depends on where you’re going. Here’s a quick guide:

Alaska

These are generally available from late spring through early August. The most temperate months to sail from California to Alaska are June through August, though fare will be cheapest — and crowds sparser — in May and September.

Mexico and Hawaii

You can usually sail from California to Mexico and Hawaii all year round. Budget cruisers should book during shoulder seasons — September and May — as fare tends to spike in the busy summer months and over the holidays.

The good news? You’ll get sunny skies no matter when you sail. Avoid December through February if you’re hoping for long, hot days to bathe in the sun.

If you’re taking a cruise along the Pacific coast, the best time will likely be determined by when the cruise lines decides to sail. Companies like Windstar and Crystal Cruises generally only have a handful of itineraries available a year.

Getting to the port for your cruise from California

There are four key cruise ports in California:

Long Beach Cruise Terminal in Long Beach.

Los Angeles World Cruise Center in Los Angeles.

Port of San Diego in San Diego.

Port of San Francisco in San Francisco.

The best way to get to your cruise terminal will vary slightly, depending on your port of departure. In general, here’s how you can get to your cruise:

  • Uber/Lyft. Both apps are popular in CA, and fare is usually cheaper than what you’d pay for a taxi.
  • Taxi. Take a cab from the airport, or anywhere else, straight to the terminal.
  • Shuttle. Most cruise lines offer shuttles from the airport to your cruise port, but these don’t come cheap. Expect to pay at least $20+ per person, per way — usually more. Families should probably opt for an Uber or Lyft, which is a single lump fee.
  • Public transportation. California has decent public transportation in its larger metropolises, but while it might be cheap it’s not always most efficient. In many cases, it’ll take you about two hours to ride public transit from the airport to a cruise terminal. Below is a cheat sheet to help while you’re weighing the options:
Cruise port Public transit
Long Beach Cruise TerminalOpt for the bus, which will drop you off just a couple
of minutes’ walk from the port.
Los Angeles World Cruise CenterConsider taking the metro, which will drop
you off about a half mile walk from the port.
Port of San DiegoWe recommend taking the bus, which will
take you directly to the port.
Port of San FranciscoYou can take the subway (BART) or streetcar (MUNI)
which’ll both drop you off a short walk from the port

Most cruise ports have parking nearby if you’d like to drive yourself. But rates are typically upwards of $20 per night — usually double if you’re arriving in an RV.

The cheapest way to get to your California cruise port will likely be via public transportation or shuttle.

Bottom line

California can be a fabulous place to kick off your cruise, with plenty of top-rated voyages to choose from. Before booking your fare, check for discounts and coupons that can help you save.

Frequently asked questions

More guides on finder

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder.com provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and finder.com Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on finder.com are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site