Carnival Packs for Long Beach

Terminal area near Queen Mary to start operations April 14

By: Theresa Norton Masek

LONG BEACH, Calif. The new Long Beach Cruise Terminal, built for $45 million by Carnival Corp., will allow passengers to while away the pre-boarding hours, by touring the historic Queen Mary ocean liner, sipping a cappuccino or shopping.

Scheduled to begin operations on April 14, the state-of-the-art facility is built next to the permanently docked 81,237-ton Queen Mary, now a 356-room hotel with several restaurants and shops.

The entire complex includes a 1,000-foot berth; a new five-deck parking garage; and check-in facilities on the Queen Mary and in a refurbished geodesic dome.

Baggage-handling systems and an immigration and customs facility are also located in the dome, which formerly housed the Spruce Goose the wooden aircraft that had a wingspan of 320 feet built by Howard Hughes.

“All the major components are complete now,” said Giora Israel, vice president of strategic planning for Carnival Corp. “We already had a ship come in for a test. The garage, road system, terminal and pier are all complete.”

The first cruise to depart from Long Beach will be the 2,040-passenger Ecstasy, on April 14. The Elation’s first cruise from the new terminal will be April 16.

The 12-year-old Ecstasy departs every Friday and Monday on three- and four-day Baja cruises, while the Elation departs Sunday on weekly Mexican Riviera voyages. The 5-year-old Elation will be replaced by the slightly larger, 2-year-old Carnival Pride in September.

Both ships are abandoning longtime homes at the World Cruise Center at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.

The Long Beach terminal is designed to be efficient, cost-effective and pleasant for cruise passengers, who often endure long check-in lines and seemingly endless waits on plastic chairs in concrete port buildings.

“There is a tendency for some passengers to arrive very early, as early as 9 a.m.,” Israel said. “The problem at San Pedro is that there is really very little for them to do or places to go.”

Interestingly, he said that passengers arrive earlier in Los Angeles than they do at homeports in South Florida or elsewhere.

“It is a fact that in Los Angeles, more so than in any home port Carnival operates from, many of our guests are arriving early to the cruise,” Israel said. “We are not sure why. It could be the traffic, the fear of lunchtime traffic, or the obvious they want to start their Fun Ship vacation as soon as possible.”

At Long Beach, passengers will be able to unload checked baggage, shortly after arriving by car, taxi, bus or van.

A new roadway system includes a two-acre covered area that can accommodate up to 15 motor coaches; and up to 50 cars taxis or vans, Israel said. Those who drive their own cars can park in the parking garage, which accommodates about 1,200 cars in covered spots and a few-hundred more on the roof. Parking will cost $10 per day. The elevator in the garage drops people off in the plaza area.

“People get out of vehicles with their luggage and on the spot, the luggage is identified, taken away, X-rayed and goes onto the ship,” Israel said. “People can then go their merry way.”

Passengers can check in after 9 a.m. in the new 10,000-square-foot Carnival Lounge, located aft on a lower deck of the Queen Mary.

There, they can also buy discounted tickets to tour the 1934-built Queen Mary.

“The Queen Mary hasn’t decided yet what that price will be, but it will be a substantial discount, in excess of 50 percent,” Israel said.

Meanwhile, smaller, carry-on bags can be checked in at a small Carnival building, so that passengers can walk around the complex unencumbered. The carry-ons have to be collected before passengers get onboard.

The new Carnival Plaza will connect to the series of shops that is part of the Queen Mary Seaport Development complex. A pub and coffee shop are among the new retailers expected to open within weeks.

Boarding will begin at noon. “If they already checked in, at 12 they go to the terminal, go through X-ray and, bingo, you’re on the ship,” Israel said.

Passengers arriving after noon can check in at the desk in the dome and embark immediately.

The disembarkation process will also be streamlined, he explained, with the new “sequential debark.” Israel said passengers will receive the traditional colored baggage tags, based on order of disembarkation to connect with flights. The luggage will be unloaded in the same order.

“The immigration is not done on the ship, so we don’t have to wait until the entire ship is cleared,” Israel said. Previously, all the luggage was unloaded, and then immigration officials embarked to clear the ship.

“Then the authorities start allowing people to get off,” he said. “This new system dramatically expedites the quality of the debark.”

Carnival is also selling pre- and post-cruise packages, which include one to three nights in the Queen Mary hotel.

One-night packages are priced from $115, including a rental car.