Travel: Southern California’s cruise industry will be sailing full speed ahead in 2023

With the pandemic likely having sailed into the sunset, the cruise industry is ringing in 2023 loudly and proudly with an armada’s worth of christenings, milestone anniversaries and the most itineraries we’ve seen since before the 15-month shutdown in March 2020. Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, alone, are scheduled to have 28 different cruise ships of 10 major lines raise anchor more than 450 times during the coming year.

Even nicer for those who prefer not to wear face coverings while on vacation, 2023 will be the first full year since 2019 when masks are no longer required except under certain circumstances. Many cruise lines have also dropped COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements for passengers, though one or more protocols may still be required depending on the voyage or destination.

Despite some lingering remnants of the pandemic, making face coverings optional in the new normal is an unobstructed breath of fresh air for the vast majority of guests and crew who, based on observance over 17 post-pause cruises, prefer to ditch the mask.

“Guests are super excited and happy to see the crew smile again,” said Alina Chefneux, hotel director on the Carnival Panorama, which is scheduled to make 53 trips to the Mexican Riviera out of Long Beach this year. “Our team loves to smile, even when wearing a mask, and now that passengers can see how happy we are, there is noticeably stronger guest-crew connection and engagement. You hear more laughter around the ship, too. With the mask mandates lifted, 2023 will bring us closer to how things were pre-pandemic.”

Carnival Cruise Line has more to smile about as the company is celebrating its golden anniversary this year. Impressive as hitting 50 is, that’s 100 years shy of the sesquicentennial Holland America Line is marking in 2023. Disney Cruise Line also is reaching a milestone this year, so happy 25th birthday, Mickey!

All the major cruise lines sailing in and out of Southern California have much to celebrate this year. Including ships that embark exclusively out of San Diego, let’s cruise through some of the highlights for 2023:

Carnival Cruise Line

Nearly half of the cruises embarking this year from Southern California ports will be on a Carnival “Fun Ship.” Most of the line’s workload will be undertaken by the Carnival Radiance, an older ship that was renamed and refitted in 2021. The reconstructive surgery was successful as the former Carnival Victory, a 2,764-passenger, Destiny-class ship built in 1998, hardly shows her age. While Radiance makes three-night roundtrips to Ensenada and four-night jaunts that also include Catalina Island, the younger and larger Carnival Panorama follows seven-night itineraries to the Mexican Riviera.

Carnival Panorama takes sun worshippers on seven-night Mexican Riviera roundtrips year-round from Long Beach. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Panorama became the fleet’s flagship when she first arrived in Long Beach in December 2019, and on a just-taken cruise that coincided with the ship’s third birthday, the 4,008-passenger, Vista-class vessel looked the same as she did on her inaugural seven-night sail. The third Fun Ship homeported in Long Beach this year is the 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle (Spirit class) with sails of three to six nights to Mexico, and longer voyages to Alaska and Hawaii.

From the Pacific Coast to the Gulf Coast, Carnival ( will launch its third Excel class ship in as many years with a Christmas cruise out of Galveston. Carnival Jubilee, sister ship to the 5,282-passenger Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration, both sailing out of Florida, will offer six-night cruises to the western Caribbean through August. Also joining the fleet this year is the Carnival Venezia, a former Costa Cruises ship that’s being rethemed “Carnival Fun Italian Style.” Venezia’s scheduled June debut in New York will pave the wave for Carnival Firenze, a second former Costa liner to be generously sprinkled with parmesan and oregano before being homeported in Long Beach in 2024.

Celebrity Cruises

Absence has clearly made Celebrity’s heart grow fonder for the Port of Los Angeles. Having returned to San Pedro in September after an eight-year hiatus, the cruise ships with the familiar “X” on their funnel apparently now can’t stay away.

Celebrity Solstice, shown docked in Skagway, Alaska, moves to San Pedro in the fall for roundtrips to the Mexican Riviera. (Photo by David Dickstein)

The 2,850-passenger Celebrity Solstice continues its full season of Mexican Riviera sailings this year, the first in 15 for the cruise line, with five-, seven- and eight-night voyages through April. Then from October to December, Solstice’s sister, Celebrity Eclipse, makes roundtrips of similar durations as far south as Puerto Vallarta and up the coast to San Francisco. A third Celebrity ship, the 2,100-passenger Millennium, pays a visit to L.A. in April when she picks up guests bound for Vancouver after having gone through the Panama Canal out of Florida.

The premium-class cruise line ( gets a new flagship in the late fall with the debut of Celebrity Ascent, the fourth and final 3,260-passenger Edge-class ship that will call Fort Lauderdale home for her first season.


The luxurious, 2,116-passenger Queen Elizabeth makes her royal return to Los Angeles in August, and although it’s just for a single cruise, what a voyage it will be. Countries visited on the 34-night sail include Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama (through the canal), Bermuda, Portugal, Spain, Italy and France. A 74-night transpacific cruise is being offered in February on Cunard’s ( slightly older and smaller Queen Victoria.

Disney Cruise Line

The Disney Wonder ends her West Coast residency in the fall, but not before making her regular runs south of the border from San Diego through mid-May and then to Alaska out of Vancouver in the summer. Most of Wonder’s Mexican itineraries are of three to five nights with stops in Ensenada and/or Cabo San Lucas, depending on the sail. A pair of weeklong cruises also take the 2,700-passenger ship to Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta. When Wonder leaves the West Coast for Australia and New Zealand in October, the second-oldest ship in the fleet will be replaced by her elder sister, Disney Magic, for voyages to such destinations as the Mexican Riviera and Catalina Island.

Disney Cruise Line ( celebrates its silver anniversary in 2023, and to commemorate the entire fleet will be making merry on select voyages from May through September. Captains Mickey and Minnie will be decked out in their sparkly best along with other Disney characters roaming the ships. Limited-time entertainment, food, drink and collectible merch also will add some sizzle to the summer sailings.

Holland America Line

Six different Holland America ships will sail out of San Diego during the cruise line’s 150th anniversary year. Led by the 2,650-passenger, Pinnacle-class Koningsdam with 19 itineraries, the half-dozen vessels will take vacationers from Southern California to Tahiti and the South Pacific, Panama Canal, Mexico, Canada, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand.

A continued partnership with Rolling Stone will have Koningsdam and other Holland America Line ships rocking on in 2023. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Speaking of the cruise line’s sesquicentennial, 48 “Heritage Cruises” are planned this year, focusing on ports rich in the brand’s history and featuring unique onboard and shoreside experiences. Destinations that share an intertwined connection to Holland America’s beginnings include the Netherlands and Alaska; also bookable now at are special itineraries in the Caribbean, Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Australia/New Zealand, Hawaii, South America and Mexico.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Out of San Pedro, the Norwegian Joy and Bliss, two Breakaway Plus-class ships, are combining for a series of five- and seven-night roundtrips to the Mexican Riviera. Also on the schedule are four 15-night sails to Miami through the Panama Canal. The older and smaller Norwegian Jewel has some Mexican Riviera voyages planned from San Diego in spring. Rounding out NCL’s regional presence, Norwegian Encore comes to local waters in May for a repositioning trip from L.A. to Vancouver.

Norwegian is taking shipboard nightlife to another level in 2023. (Photo by David Dickstein)

On the heals of making waves with the debut of the impressive 3,099-passenger Norwegian Prima in August, NCL ( debuts its second Prima class ship in June. Viva’s inaugural seasons will be spent in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, and with it enhanced specialty restaurants and suites, a three-level go-kart track and a pair of awesome dry slides.

Oceania Cruises

The upper-premium cruise line ( sends its oldest and newest to Los Angeles this year for voyages of 7 to 77 nights. The 684-passenger Regatta, which entered service for Oceania in 2003, sails out of San Pedro in October for a voyage that drops passengers off in either Japan (24 nights), Hong Kong (38), Singapore (53) or Australia (77). Regatta also sails from L.A. to Alaska in May and Mexico in September; both one-time itineraries include a call in San Francisco.

Oceania Cruises’ upcoming Vista will sail once from Los Angeles in her inaugural season. Pictured is the ship’s Grand Dining Room. (Courtesy of Oceania Cruises)

The 1,200-passenger, bar-raising Vista will be only 6 months old when she comes to San Pedro in November to begin a 16-night, 10-port voyage to Miami through the Panama Canal. The future flagship promises to be a real looker with a design that reflects the glamorous Belle Epoque era of 20th-century Paris and Oceania’s first category dedicated to solo passengers.

Princess Cruises

A year from now, Southern California’s claim as home of Princess Cruises’ flagship will take a bow (and stern) to the Sun Princess. The new ship on the dock will eclipse the 3,660-passenger, L.A.-homeported Discovery Princess by about 600 guests and 30,000 gross tons, setting marks for the Santa Clarita-based cruise line ( and the Italian shipbuilding industry. The next-gen, Sphere-class Sun Princess won’t have to travel far for its inaugural season that begins February 2024 in the Mediterranean.

Discovery Princess is the first Princess ship homeported on the West Coast straight from the shipyard in 20 years. (Photo by David Dickstein)

Although Discovery Princess will be dethroned as the fleet’s flagship after less than two years, the sixth and final Royal class ship still has plenty that’s fresh. She’s only one of two Princess ships offering the cruise line’s new, immersive “360: An Extraordinary Experience.” Launching this month for suite guests, “360” is an elaborate dining event that incorporates taste, sight, sound, touch and smell for an intimate seven-course gourmet Italian experience.

Down I-5, the newly refurbished Diamond Princess will depart from San Diego for early-2023 sails of seven to 25 nights to Mexico, Hawaii and Japan. Eight Princess ships in all will set courses for adventure from SoCal this year.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

The only Regent Seven Seas cruise in 2023 that embarks from California is sold out, not that there’s enough time to plan for a voyage that begins in a few days anyway. But there are plenty of other luxury-class cabins for the booking, including on the future flagship of the 30-year-old line ( Seven Seas Grandeur debuts in November and only two months later she’ll be in San Pedro to begin a 16-night cruise to Miami through the Panama Canal. The following winter she’s in town for another 16-night voyage — this one to the Mexican Riviera for an itinerary that includes rarely visited Manzanillo and La Paz.

“Journey in Jewels,” the first Fabergé Egg permanently displayed at sea, will be on the Seven Seas Grandeur that debuts in November. (Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas)

Something else unique to Grandeur will be a first-of-its-kind, multi-million-dollar art collection from swanky jewelry house Fabergé. The pièce de resistance will be a handcrafted Fabergé Egg, the first to reside permanently at sea. “Journey in Jewels,” as Grandeur’s centerpiece is named, will join works by such artists as Picasso, Miró and Chagall that are on display across the tony fleet.

Royal Caribbean International

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The mainstream cruise line known for breaking size records is at it again with Icon of the Seas, which a year from now will debut in Miami as the largest cruise ship ever built. That will be just 10 months from when Royal Caribbean ( rolled out Wonder of the Seas, which at 6,988 passengers and 237,000 gross tons, is the current title holder. The 7,600-passenger, 251,000-gross-tonned Icon, the first of its namesake class, will spend her inaugural season in the Caribbean. When thrill-seeking passengers board the maritime mammoth in Miami, they’ll no doubt be wowed by the biggest waterpark at sea — with the largest pool and waterslide afloat and the first-ever open freefall slide — and other industry firsts contributing to claims as being the “ultimate family vacation.”

Royal Caribbean’s workhorse in California this year was the world’s largest ship from 2002 to 2005. The 3,286-passenger Navigator of the Seas will spend all of 2023 making roundtrips of three to seven nights from L.A. to Mexico. In the fall, Radiance of the Seas and Serenade of the Seas will embark on 16-night and 14-night Panama Canal cruises to Florida from San Diego and San Pedro, respectively.

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