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Los Angeles (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Jana Jones
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles has a lot more going for it than Woody Allen leads us to believe. Stretching along the Pacific from Malibu to Long Beach, the region offers plenty to see and do in what can only be called a sun-kissed blend of adventure, culture and whimsy. It all melds stylishly with an anything-goes attitude, and whether you're kicking back on one of its fabled beaches, grabbing a ride at a world-class amusement park, plunging into glittery shops for the latest Oscar-worthy fashions (you need to practice a regally bored look to fit in better), dining at Tinsel Town hot spots or exploring inspiring world-class museums -- you're in for a magic-carpet ride like no other. And in a city dominated by "show business" -- prepare for a ride that comes with a good deal of self-indulgent dazzle anytime of day, be it a Malibu glamour tan while nonchalantly reading Variety, catching the Pussycat Dolls at the Viper Club on Sunset Boulevard or browsing breathtaking art works at the Getty.
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About Los Angeles


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For those who never watch TV or go to the movies, we should tell you that L.A. is a sprawling metropolis (with an atypically high percentage of beautiful people) with no "center" -- which means you'll wind your way through various neighborhoods and independently incorporated communities, keeping your eyes peeled for celebs and clusters of paparazzi everywhere. (Did you know that the city's Zagat restaurant guide actually has a "stargazing" category?) And still under the heading of Geography 101, try to think in terms of the major "areas" like Santa Monica and Malibu, the San Fernando Valley (the "valley" to locals), the Westside and Beverly Hills, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Downtown and Pasadena.

One important note: Cruises don't actually leave from Los Angeles -- they embark and disembark from San Pedro and Long Beach, two adjacent ports. These are located about 20 miles south of Los Angeles International Airport.

Where You're Docked

Los Angeles Cruise Port Address:
Long Beach - 231 Windsor Way, Long Beach, CA 90802
San Pedro - World Cruise Terminal, Berth 93, 92 and 91, Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro, CA 90731

Most ships embark and disembark at Berths 91, 92 and 93 A/B at the World Cruise Center in San Pedro, except for most Carnival Cruise Line ships, which sail in and out of the Cruise Terminal in Long Beach.

World Cruise Center is approximately 20 miles south of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) via the San Diego Freeway (405) south to the Harbor Freeway (110); 25 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles via the Harbor Freeway; 12 miles from Santa Monica via the Santa Monica Freeway south (10) to the San Diego Freeway to the Harbor Freeway; 20 miles from Hollywood via the Hollywood Freeway (101) south to the Harbor Freeway. Once on the Harbor Freeway, continue south to the CA 47-Terminal Island exit. Parking is available; check Web site for directions and fees. Free shuttle buses are provided to and from the terminal on scheduled ship days. Note: They are not wheelchair accessible.

The Long Beach Cruise Terminal is at 231 Windsor Way and is approximately 30 miles from LAX via the San Diego Freeway south to the Long Beach Freeway (710); 35 miles from Downtown Los Angeles via the Harbor Freeway south to the San Diego Freeway south to the Long Beach Freeway; approximately 32 miles from Santa Monica via the Santa Monica Freeway east to the San Diego Freeway south to the Long Beach Freeway. Once on the Long Beach Freeway, follow the signs for the Queen Mary. At the entrance to the Queen Mary, stay to the far right for the Carnival Cruise Terminal. Note: No matter where you're driving from -- count on at least an hour's time to drive from locations listed above. The Long Beach Airport (LGB) is approximately five miles from the cruise terminal.

Passengers flying from Los Angeles International Airport after their sailing can check-in their luggage from the ship terminal; for a small fee, bypass the ticket counters, remotely check up to two bags and print out airline tickets.

Port Facilities

San Pedro: There are really a fair number of places to see around San Pedro. You can walk through Old San Pedro where you'll find plenty of shops and restaurants, or you can consider something more cultural like the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial on South Harbor Boulevard, the historic Angel's Gate Lighthouse, the Greek Revival Banning Residence Museum or the Los Angeles Maritime Museum -- which happens to be California's largest maritime museum. Inside you can check out more than 700 ship and boat models and try your hand at any one of more than 60 seaman's knots. Or, just a block from the terminal, you can tour the Battleship Iowa, which is the only battleship on the West Coast that's open to the public.

Ports O' Call Village is another worthwhile stop. An authentic New England-style seaside village, it's a place to meander cobblestone streets, dine alfresco as ships pass by or shop 'til you drop at dozens and dozens of specialty shops worth a browse. It's also the place to hop aboard a harbor cruise or helicopter tour.

Long Beach: It goes without saying that Queen Mary is a popular place to start. It was the most glamorous ship of its time; the passenger lists on its Atlantic crossings between 1934 and 1964 included the world's most famous, from Winston Churchill to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. During World War II, the ship was converted to a troop ship named the Grey Ghost, and carried as many as 15,000 troops at a time. Now it's a floating museum, hotel and conference center.

Aquarium of the Pacific is home to 550 species from three Pacific Rim regions: Southern California & Baja, the Northern Pacific and the Tropical Pacific. The top don't-misses here are Lorikeet Forest -- a mammoth outdoor aviary that will knock your socks off -- and the Plexiglass underpass in the Soft Coral Lagoon. Daily 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. (100 Aquarium Way; 562-590-3100)

Good to Know

Practice common sense safety as you would in any large city. Also, you may be asked for help from a homeless person. Help at your discretion, but if you choose not to help, avoid being rude as there's no need to antagonize them.

Chances are that agent, director or producer who thinks you or your child would be a great actor or model is probably scamming you. Go ahead and take their business card -- you can always do an Internet search later -- but don't go anywhere with them and don't give them money or personal information.

Getting Around

Nope. Not a myth. Not an urban legend. No one really walks to get from point A to point B around Los Angeles. In fact, locals will only walk just so far -- like from their front door to their garage and from the parking lot to the store. And since it is all a huge urban sprawl, consider wheels (be it a taxi, a car rental, a bus or a train) to get around.

Three airports serve the Greater Los Angeles Area: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport (BUR); and Long Beach Airport (LGB). Amtrak serves Los Angeles with its main terminal at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.

Renting a car is pretty easy, but navigating the elaborate network of freeways -- not so much. All the majors are set up at the airports and pretty cheap, too -- but if a Ferrari or Porsche is your thing, consider Budget Beverly Hill Car Collection. Not only will they bring the car to the airport as a complimentary service, they'll be waiting for you at Baggage Claim where, in the blink of an eye, all the paperwork is done. Did we mention the traffic? Leave plenty of time to get where you're going and try to enjoy yourself along the way. Note: Most Southern California freeways have carpool lanes (HOV/High Occupancy Vehicles called "Diamond Lanes" in and around Los Angeles, and signified with a diamond shape painted in the lanes) -- which means there needs to be a minimum of two (a few require three) passengers inside the car to be using it. Don't even think about trying to beat the system. You'll end up with a pricey fine that will cost upwards of $300.

Seeing the sights will present a bit of a challenge since you'll want to use freeways for quicker travel -- a perplexing situation even for locals -- though sticking to main thoroughfares like Wilshire, Santa Monica, Sunset, Venice, Olympic and Pico boulevards is perfectly fine if you don't get crazy driving in a lot of traffic. For example, you can drive Wilshire, Olympic or Sunset boulevards all the way from the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica to downtown. It may take a while, but it does give you a chance to see a lot. You can also get to the valley through the "canyons." Taking the steep twisting roads through Laurel, Coldwater or Benedict canyons or over Beverly Glen is an impressive drive, particularly as you reach Mulhulland Drive at the tippy-top before heading down to Ventura Boulevard -- the valley's main thoroughfare. Note: Freeways running east-west have even numbers, while those running north-south have odd numbers. Most have a name as well as a number and all are well-marked.

Los Angeles has a light rail system that covers more than 60 miles and 65 stations with four lines. Metro Rail may not go everywhere, but it can make it easy to get to a bunch of places worth checking out, such as Pasadena and Universal City. Trains run from approximately 4 a.m. until midnight, depending on the particular line: the Red Line connects downtown to Hollywood, Universal City and North Hollywood; the Gold Line connects downtown to Pasadena and Long Beach; the Blue Line connects downtown to Long Beach with free shuttle-bus connections to LAX; the Green Line runs along the Century Freeway and links Norwalk and El Segundo. Single rides are inexpensive (well discounted for seniors), but there's a one day pass option, too. Notes: Station stops can be more than a few blocks from your actual destination, so be prepared to walk. Tickets are purchased from vending machines and the entire system operates on an honor system. That being said, there are inspectors, from the Sheriff's Department no less, who roam the cars checking randomly for tickets. Get caught without a ticket and you'll end up with a hefty fine and maybe even 48 hours of community service.

Xpress Shuttle provides service 24/7 to and from all three airports to really anywhere you need to go throughout the area. It is also popular for getting to both cruise terminals. (800-427-7483)

SuperShuttle operates the same way, serving the same airports. Reservations are not necessary from the airports, but they are when you require a pick-up to go back. (800-BLUE VAN)

Taxis can be expensive -- primarily because everything is just so spread out. A small surcharge is added for fares originating from LAX. Taxis are not hailed in Los Angeles and must be called, unless you are at a major hotel, at an airport or downtown at Union Station. United Taxi (213-483-7604) and L.A. Taxi (323-654-8400) are two reliable choices. A metered-taxi ride from LAX to West Long Angeles or Santa Monica will run at least $20, to Beverly Hills, at least $25 and to downtown, count on at least $35, but that's only if you arrive and travel when traffic is at a minimum, say ... between midnight and 5 a.m. A tip should be about 15 percent.

Public buses (there are more than 200 lines) are recommended for quick daily trips only.
Downtown Los Angeles has a DASH system and fares are inexpensive.
Cityline Shuttle is great if you're hanging around West Hollywood (not to be confused with Hollywood). It operates Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., making stops at all the major shops and restaurants. ( 800-447-2189)
Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus offers 12 routes covering the beaches, UCLA and LAX.
Long Beach's public transportation is excellent. The Passport is a free shuttle bus that provides hop on/hop off service throughout the downtown area -- getting you to top attractions such as the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific.
The Aquabus makes six stops daily from late May to early September, then weekends thereafter, running frequently along Rainbow Harbor to the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, Shoreline Village at Parker's Lighthouse, Catalina Landing, Pine Avenue Circle and Hotel Maya. The fare is cheap and you can pay onboard.
The newer, faster Aqualink catamaran makes stops at Queen Mary, Aquarium of the Pacific, Belmont Pier and Alamitos Bay Landing. It also runs from late May to early September, then weekends thereafter. The fare, a bit more expensive than Aquabus, can be paid onboard.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Currency is the U.S. dollar, and ATM's are readily available. Exchange bureaus so common in Europe are not in the U.S., but major banks provide exchange services.

Language

English is spoken.

Food and Drink

Acapulco has big, bold and better-than-you'd-think Mexican cuisine at really good prices. The Fajitas Gigante are not just gigantic when it comes to portion size -- this dish is a sizzling extravaganza of shrimp, chicken and steak with plenty of sauteed onion, guacamole and peppers. Inexpensive. (750 Sampson Way, corner of Sixth, San Pedro; 310-548-6800)

Chin Chin is a beloved mini-chain offering up the likes of dim-sum, only-in-L.A. Chinese chicken salad and plump, golden-browned pot stickers. Always fun, very inexpensive and honestly quite delicious. Inexpensive. Open daily from 11 a.m. (11740 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; 206 S. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills; 8618 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; 12215 Ventura Blvd., Studio City)

Musso & Frank Grill The oldest restaurant in Hollywood and it's still wonderful. If you love martinis, this is the place. Clubby, dark and comfortable. Moderately priced. Open Tuesday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. (6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; 323-467-7788)

No two ways about it. The Ivy is the place to see and be seen. On top of that, it's, in a word, lovely. Country French to the nth degree, you'll enjoy the good food, too. Expensive. Reservations recommended. Open Monday - Thursday 11:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m. (113 N. Robertson Blvd., L.A.; 310-274-8303)

Koi A hey-isn't-that-so-and-so-over-there kind of place, the food's Asian and the scene is white hot. Try the seared scallop with yuzu. Moderate. Reservations recommended. Open Monday - Wednesday, Sunday 6 -11 p.m., Thursday 6-11:30 p.m., Friday - Saturday 6p.m. - 12 a.m. (730 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; 310-659-9449)

L'Opera Ristorante serves fantastic northern Italian dishes like caramelized sea scallops snugly placed between asparagus cannelloni and a creamy roasted garlic ricotta. Expensive. Open Monday - Thursday 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m., Friday until 10:30 p.m., Saturday 5 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., Sunday 5 - 9 p.m. (101 Pine Ave., Long Beach; 562-491-0066)

More than a handful of New Yorkers would tell you that there is no true deli in L.A. -- but Nate 'n Al actually is a really good one, Hollywood-style. It's a favorite among long-time famous locals; don't be surprised if you see one slurping up the very delicious chicken soup. The pastrami is as good as it gets -- even by New York standards -- and if you love short ribs, this is the place. Moderate. Open at 8 a.m. every day -- so don't knock yourself out rushing over to make lunch hour. (414 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-274-0101)

Smack-dab between the Third Street Promenade and the Pier, The Lobster has a delightful pedigree nowadays. Enjoy everything lobstery from grilled Pacific spiny lobster to a refreshingly outstanding cold lobster and avocado salad. No disappointments here. Expensive. Open Monday - Sunday 11:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. (1602 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; 310-458-9294)

Some say it's an acquired taste, but not only are the fluorescent-orange chili dogs at Pink's Hot Dogs the best you'll ever have -- you'll also probably spot loyalists like Leno, Willis and Pitt lining up at this iconic outdoor stand (near the chi-chi Beverly Center shopping mall) with the rest of the crowd at this beloved L.A. institution. Even Ruth Reichl, the famous food critic (she was editor of Gourmet Magazine) said she once dug through their trash to find out what kind of chili they used (it's a family recipe). Inexpensive. No, cheap! (709 N. La Brea Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-931-4223)

If you love Moroccan food, the award-winning Babouch Moroccan Restaurant will do the trick. Their Bastilla (chicken, spiced eggs and roasted nuts all wrapped up in phyllo, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon) is out of this world, and it comes with a fabulous floor show, too. Expensive. Open Tuesday - Sunday, 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. (810 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro; 310-831-0246)

Nobu Malibu is yet another outpost, this time at the beach. Try the ceviche. It's divine. Very expensive. Open Sunday - Thursday 5:45 p.m. - 10 p.m, Friday - Saturday until 11 p.m. (3835 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu; 310-317-9140)

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