By Paul Motter
Mariner of the Seas arrived in Los Angeles in February of 2009, with Carnival Splendor arriving just two months later. Both of these ships are too big for the Panama Canal so they had to sail all the way around South America to get there. It was quite a feat to relocate each of these ships to the West Coast and it demonstrated a commitment to California-based cruising and the hope that the western states would support these new and more interesting ships.
Well, it just didn't work out that way. Mariner of the Seas, the largest cruise ship to ever sail regularly scheduled cruises out of Los Angeles, is leaving California for good with its last cruise sailing January 9th. This is really just too bad for California.
At 138,000-tons, Mariner of the Seas is one of the five popular Royal Caribbean Voyager-class ships, making it one of the most unique ships to ever home port in Los Angeles - and no other vessel of its caliber is scheduled to replace it.
I have been suggesting to all West Coast cruisers that they try this ship before it leaves California, because once it leaves the closest port where you will be able to catch a ship of this size will be Galveston, Texas. In fact, it will be the same ship, Mariner, because that is its new U.S. home port.
I have to say that it makes me a bit sad that Los Angeles can't support a ship of this size when much smaller cities like Galveston and New Orleans seem to have no problem supporting such ships.
Incredibly enough, Galveston is also scheduled to be the homeport for Carnival's next newest and biggest cruise ship, Carnival Magic, which is even bigger than Carnival Splendor, the other mega ship that sailed all the way around South America to get to Los Angeles. How is it possible that Galveston can do what Los Angeles cannot?
Why are California cruises waning in popularity? It is actually hard to say. Mexico tourism is hurting due to news reports of violence there, but that violence is largely confined to the border cities of Tijuana, Nogales and El Paso. The coastal port cities on Mexican Riviera cruise itineraries are still as relatively safe as ever.
So crime probably isn't the main reason Mexico cruise numbers are down. The main reason is more likely the lackluster California economy and the residual stigma from H1N1.
It seems like many years ago, but it was just the previous April (2009) that all the cruise lines canceled stops at all Mexican ports due to the outbreak of "Mexican Flu." (It didn't even have its real name yet).
Demand plunged immediately as ships like Mariner were re-routed to northerly itineraries for the next two months, even calling in Vancouver, Canada in early April - not exactly the first choice of people looking to escape the cold winter weather. Prices on those seven-day cruises dropped as low as $199 per person and remained dirt cheap throughout the rest of the year, even when the ship started returning to Mexican ports.
So Mariner of the Seas is leaving for good as of January 2011. Yes, we still have Sapphire Princess and Carnival Splendor, but Mariner is almost 20% larger than each of those and has a ton of onboard features not found on any other West Coast ship - such as an ice rink, rock climbing walls, a huge indoor promenade and just plenty of great space for cruising fun.
Mariner sails every Sunday from Los Angeles to Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. You can see a good deal for this seven-day Mexican Riviera cruise to the right. Prices are going up as these final cruises fill up, so book now. September through November have already crept up to the $550+ range, but there are still December cruises at $493 per person, double occupancy for an inside cabin, or $722 for a balcony cabin. Fares are currently much higher during these summer months.
West Coasters, please try this ship before it leaves.
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