Destination immersion is the hot buzz phrase in the cruise industry these days, bringing ports of call more into focus, giving cruisers a sense of place that goes beyond an onboard experience that could be anywhere. Cruise lines large and small are approaching this concept in varying ways, and Princess Cruises has introduced some of its new initiatives to a culinary cruise along the Pacific Coast aboard Ruby Princess.
A new shore excursion partnership with Bon Appetit magazine was announced earlier this month. More than 30 of these shore excursions will be rolled out around the world. We had a chance to test drive the New Mexico tour, developed by author Bill Esparza, a James Beard Award-winner for his coverage of L.A.'s taco scene. A secondary focus was in Santa Barbara, developed in partnership with chef Esparza, showcasing Princess' own in-house culinary offerings.
Southern California glitters with possibility. While there is every reason to make it a standalone destination, there are many advantages to exploring SoCal with the help of Princess Cruises. Its California Coastal Cruises hug the shores of the sun-kissed Pacific Coast, where inviting beaches, fascinating cities and exciting attractions await. The cruise line sails into first place when it comes to providing a premium cruise holiday with both onboard and ashore programs.
Princess offers a cruise which departs from Los Angeles, sails north to San Francisco before turning around to visit Santa Barbara, San Diego and the Mexican coastal destination of Ensenada - finally returning back to Los Angeles. With nearly 1,000 miles of beautiful coastline, there's always something new to discover in a state as diverse as California.
Here’s a taste of what you could see, eat, and experience in Santa Barbara & Santa Monica with one of Princess Cruises’ new ashore programs.
Explore Santa Monica & Santa Barbara with Princess Cruises
Explore California's Riviera with history, food, and wine
Princess' Santa Barbara tour began with a jolt of caffeine at Handlebar Coffee Roasters. The "California's Riviera, Food and Wine" tour then went on to two architectural stops at the beautiful Mission Santa Barbara, founded in 1782, and at the Santa Barbara Courthouse, one of America's most photographed public buildings.
And then it was off for lunch at chef Ramon Velasquez's Corazon Cocina, housed inside the Santa Barbara Public Market. Formerly known for a Tijuana food truck, Velasquez has transported his street food into a polished warehouse setting, offering such delectable items as queso fundido -- melted cheese, mushrooms and roasted poblano chili -- and tempura cauliflower tacos with dates, radish and micro greens.
The tour covers two architectural sites – the Mission Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Courthouse, both make for Instagram-worthy photo shoots.
The tour then headed over the scenic coastal mountains into the Santa Ynez Valley, 45 minutes away, where we visited the sweet town of Los Olivos - famous as a setting for the classic movie "Sideways" - where Saarloos and Sons winery has introduced wine tastings paired with cupcakes. The quirky concept is better than it sounds, and the family-owned winery is the only place to purchase these lovingly crafted bottles.
Explore the gateway to Southern California
The iconic structures of the Getty Centre Museum and the Santa Monica Pier take centre stage on this excursion. The Getty Trust displays the Getty family’s massive collection of art, photography, furniture and more. And if the contents of the Museum don’t inspire you enough, take a look at the architectural wonder of the building itself. In its imposing location on top of a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains, this Museum represents the awesome power and artful nature of this city.
Down on the coast, Santa Monica sits peacefully against the Pacific Ocean. Its historic Santa Monica Pier lights up day and night with vendors and amusement parks. It’s framed by the bustling boardwalk, offering tasty treats, souvenirs, and shows from street performers.
The Ruby Princess is the first in the Princess fleet to offer a culinary cruise along the Pacific Coast. With the Santa Barbara shore excursion added on, it really gives food aficionados everything along the West Coast.
Downtown Los Angeles History and Hidden Gems Walking Tour
Princess’ Los Angeles History and Hidden Gems tour begins at El Pueblo de Los Angeles, with a visit to the Plaza, Olvera Street, Avila Adobe and finally Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church. As you look around you can see the history and how Los Angeles grew from a sleepy little desert town to the second largest metropolis in the United States in less than 100 years.
A walk to and visit of the Union Station follows. The station features a stunning design that combines Spanish Colonial Revival architecture, Mission Revival and Streamline Moderne. While this is this first and foremost a transportation hub for downtown LA, its atmospheric architecture makes it a worthy visit for any traveller.
The Grand Park is a peaceful, green sanctuary in the urban landscape of LA. Located near the Music Centre, it's a great place for a picnic or to grab a bite from the food trucks that show up at lunch time. The park runs from City Hall to the Music Centre with major streets cutting through the plots. Around the corner from the park you’ll find the Walt Disney Music Hall which features stainless steel curves on its striking exterior. This 3.6-acre complex designed by architect Frank Gehry is one of the most acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world. Giving our very own Opera House and run for its money.
Downtown Los Angeles isn’t complete without a visit to its famous, Grand Central Market with nearly 100 vendors you’ll be spoilt for choice. From Mexican to German cuisine, the market caters for everything you could wish for and then some. A stone through away from the market is the Million Dollar Theatre, the Bradbury Building, and the Biddy Mason Memorial.
The Biltmore Hotel, built in 1923, is renowned as once the largest hotel west of Chicago. Films such as Spider Man & Bachelor Party were both filmed here. As always in LA, you’re never far from a film set or a film star! A short walk across the street brings you to perhaps one of LA’s most beautiful architectural interiors, the stunning Los Angeles Library. Everywhere you look the walls and ceilings are adorned with richly-detailed and grand paintings.
A final glance over the city from the 70th floor of the Intercontinental Hotel seems the fitting way to take in everything prior and once again embrace the share size, history & culture embedded into this city.
Princess Cruises is always happy to assist guests with adding a day before or after their cruise to allow guests to explore this exciting & exhilarating destinations further. To learn more about Princess Cruises’ offerings, click here.