Want to go on a West Coast cruise in 2024? Here’s what you need to know

Splitting her time between Mexico and Alaska, Discovery Princess is a beautiful workhorse in the Pacific. (Photo by David Dickstein)

The BBC wasn’t cheeky when the UK news desk published an online story titled ‘Will we take cruise holidays again?’ On 9 April 2020, the future of cruises was indeed in question. Almost overnight, fears caused by a mysterious deadly virus brought a booming $46 billion industry to its knees, and with it a sinking feeling shared by millions of seafaring tourists whose plans were suddenly dashed.

As a weary world disinfected, masked, distanced and prayed for a panacea, perhaps the last place people imagined they were, other than the emergency room, was on the water with perhaps thousands of strangers of questionable hygiene and health.

What a difference four years make. Not only were the vaxxing requirements dropped, except on rare itineraries, but with the books closing in 2023, an estimated 31.5 million passengers will have taken to the world’s oceans in the past 12 months. That’s a jump above 2019 demand levels for the first time since the pandemic began, according to the International Cruise Lines Association. Even rosier, the industry’s leading trade organization is predicting a 6% increase from pre-pandemic numbers in 2024, and the boost isn’t necessarily coming from the standard sources of retirees and families.

“Consumer intent to cruise is at an all-time high, with millennials and Gen Xers leading the way in their desire to cruise,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA.

CLIA’s latest annual report notes that at least 73% of people in their 40s and 50s are interested in taking their first cruise, and that more than 86% of those who have sailed plan to do it again.

“This trajectory reflects the growing number of travelers embracing the extraordinary experiences and exceptional value of cruise travel,” Craighead said. “They recognize the benefit of visiting multiple places while unpacking just once, the breadth of onboard activities, entertainment and dining options, and that a cruise offers something for all tastes and all ages.”

So let’s take a look at some of the more exciting 2024 routes from the West and beyond to get an idea. Oceania’s 180-night, 96-port, 33-country, four-continent voyage out of LA may have sold out for three years, but the new year is filled with other, less lengthy adventures.

Margaritas, corn and moose

Mexican Riviera cruises often offer unobstructed views of Cabo’s iconic El Arco. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Because Mexico is a year-round destination, cruise ships from California’s four busiest cruise ports migrate south of the border regardless of season. More than 300 round trips from Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego and San Francisco are scheduled next year. Most of the projected 1 million passengers who will sail from the San Pedro World Cruise Center in 2024 will do so on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, Discovery Princess and Norwegian Bliss. Oceania and Regent Seven Seas will also make trips to Mexico from the Port of Los Angeles, which has announced plans to expand its cruise operations over the next few years.

Carnival has a fleet of fun ships heading to Mexico from Long Beach in 2024. The mix of nearly 200 voyages to the fiesta country will be Radiance, Panorama, Miracle and, debuting in April, Firenze, a former Costa ship that is renovated and rebranded to bring “Italian-style fun,” as Carnival calls it, to the Pacific.

Carnival Panorama is one of four entertainment ships sailing south of the border in 2024. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Most seven-day sailings from Southern California make calls to at least two of the three most popular ports on the Mexican Riviera—Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlán—while Ensenada is usually the only overseas stop on three- or four-day voyages. The only itineraries that reach the Big Three from San Francisco are 10- and 11-day cruises on Crown Princess and Ruby Princess. About half of the longer voyages are sea days – plus or minus depending on the cruiser.

The second most popular cruise destination from California is Alaska, with a peak period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The Golden State trails the Pacific Northwest in number of Last Frontier trips, but it has 25 on the list for 2024 — and 24 of those are 10- and 11-day round trips from San Francisco aboard the Carnival Miracle and Crown Princess.

Juneau is a regular stop on Alaska cruises, which peak from May through September. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Sailing from Seattle or Vancouver takes several sea days, taking you much more quickly to the glittering yet receding Mendenhall Glacier and the scenic White Pass of Skagway and the Yukon Railroad. Fourteen workboats will be sleepless in Seattle, combining for more than 250 seven-day round trips this season. In the basic bargain category, Carnival is deploying Luminosa and Spirit; Norwegian has Bliss, Encore, Jewel and Sun; and Royal Caribbean departs with sister ships Ovation of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas. Premium ships include Celebrity Edge, making its Alaska debut after six years sailing; Eurodam and Westerdam of Holland and America; Princess’ Discovery and Majestic; and Oceania’s Regatta, the smallest ship of the mentioned at 656 capacity.

Due to its proximity and qualification as a statutory foreign port, Vancouver, British Columbia offers the widest variety of cruise lines, ships and durations to Alaska. The upcoming season will be no different. In addition to all the above non-Carnival cruise lines, north of the border you can also sail with luxury brands Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, Crystal, Viking and Ponant, along with Cunard, Disney and Lindblad/National Geography in the premium category. Hurtigruten and American Queen Voyages will also sail from western Canada in May.

While many consider the 49th state a bucket list item, a cruise to the 50th isn’t exactly chopped liver with a side of poi. Five cruise lines, 10 ships and 35 round-trip sailings from four California ports will have ships sailing to Hawaii in 2024 — just not in the summer, when Alaska needs West Coast-bound ships. Carnival, Princess and Viking book the most popular round-trip sailings from Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego and San Francisco. These are usually two-week sailings, more or less a day. In February and September, Holland America has 35- and 51-day voyages that visit four Hawaiian islands and French Polynesia before returning to San Diego.

Fresh on the boat

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas, which debuted from Miami in January 2024, completed sea trials in November 2023 while construction is nearing completion at Meyer Turku Shipyards in Turku, Finland. (Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International)

Graduation of the freshman class of 2024: Cunard’s 3,000-passenger Art Deco design Queen Anne debuts in May on a 14-day voyage from England to the Canary Islands and Spain; Her Majesty sailed from New York in January 2025 and a month later in San Francisco. Silversea’s 738-passenger Silver Ray begins her first season in the Mediterranean in June, then migrates to Florida in the winter to begin a 72-day grand voyage around South America. Royal Caribbean introduces its second new ship of the year in July with Utopia of the Seas, the sixth and final Oasis-class ship; three- and four-day getaways will sail from Port Canaveral to the Bahamas, including the line’s private paradise, the near-perfect Perfect Day at CocoCay. Disney Cruise Line’s floating fairy tale, the 4,000-guest Disney Treasure, unwraps next Christmas an hour east of Walt Disney World in Port Canaveral; bookings are open until May 2025 for one-week round trips to the Caribbean, with or without Yo-Ho-Ho Pirates.

If you go…

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