Spring is here. Well, officially, the Spring Equinox is in just few days’ time on March 20 with our clocks going forward 10 days later when we mark the start of British Summertime. For my part however, as soon as March arrives, I’ve officially shrugged off winter and am (almost) ready to turn off my central heating and get the patio set out.
Wherever you choose to travel, cruising is always linked to the seasons and the one in which you wish to cruise can often dictate where you’re going. In some cases, a destination is linked to a season when it comes to seeing it at its most beautiful – take for example the East Coast of America and New England in the autumn. (OK, they call it ‘fall’ over there but I’m not budging). As coastal opposite to that, I’m thought I’d take a look at some of the finest US West Coast ports you can visit on a cruise.
A common starting point for a number of cruises exploring the West Coast of the US, British Columbia and Alaska, San Francisco is of course one of the USA’s most iconic coast cities. You won’t be able to miss its most iconic tourist attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge. Elsewhere in the beautiful bay, you’ll find the infamous prison island of Alcatraz and you can book a tour of it online in advance. If you’re visiting San Fran on a cruise and stay, you’ll have ample time to explore further afield, so be sure not to miss the chance to explore the Golden Gate National Recreation Area – an 81,000 acre National Park which is the largest in the world in an urban area. For art lovers, the Asian Art Museum is one of the finest of its kind in the world, while the Palace of Fine Arts is a purpose built 1915 Expo building that never went away.
You’d be forgiven for associating LA with Hollywood glamour, excess and beachfront skating and indeed, all the movie-related attractions are there, such as Universal Studios, Mann’s Theatre and of course the famous Hollywood sign. However, there are plenty of cultural attractions why lie behind this West Coast favourite’s showbiz façade, too, making it multi-faceted cruise destination. The Getty Centre is a must-see; an expansive museum showcasing works from such legends as Van Gogh, Cezanne and Monet, with the added bonus of some expertly landscaped gardens. For the ultimate view of the Hollywood hills, be sure to head to the Griffith Observatory, which offers a planetarium a number of exhibits and telescopes for public use. Auto enthusiasts should motor along to the Nethercutt Museum, which houses some beautiful examples of classic cars from the 1910s to 1930s.
Santa Barbara is California at its most beautiful and cultural, something which makes it the perfect West Coast escape. The beaches here are legendary and Arroyo Burro Country beach Park (Hendry’s Beach for short) is one of the city’s finest and a popular hangout for both locals and tourists. Shoreline Park, meanwhile provides the perfect coastal escape, offering ocean views and palm-lined boulevards. Courthouses don’t come more architecturally appealing than Santa Barbara’s and though this Spanish-Moorish masterpiece still functions as one, it’s open to the public. Lotusland is another of Santa Barbara’s most popular attractions and though the name gives it away a little, this sprawling 37-acre botanical garden contains more than lotuses and is home to well over 3,000 different plant species.
Lying close to the Mexican border, San Diego is the southernmost US West Coast city you’ll visit on a cruise and offers the quintessential California beach experience along with some fine attractions, too. La Jolla Cove is the place to be when it comes to swimming and snorkelling experiences, while to enjoy the beauty of the San Diego Bay from above, head up to the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park to drink it all in. The city has the honour of hosting one of the world’s finest zoos, divided into 10 different bio-zones and home to some of the rarest animals in the world, including Giant Pandas. In complete contrast, the USS Midway Museum showcases naval aircraft in spectacular style, owing to the fact that it is in fact an aircraft carrier which once served the United States Navy.
Alaska is a US state, even though your west coast cruise will likely take you to through a number of Canadian ports to get there, so as such, I felt this blog wouldn’t be complete without an Alaskan port. Ketchikan is in fact one of the southernmost cities in the state and a first port of call on a number of Alaskan itineraries. The Misty Fjords National Monument is the big draw here; a breathtaking wilderness of glacial valleys, mountains and waterfalls, but there’s plenty of other attractions too. There’s plenty of opportunity to explore the regions aboriginal heritage thanks to a good choice of totem parks and heritage centres and museums, while Creek street is always a favourite with visitors, offering a range of arts and crafts stores housed in the town’s traditional wooden buildings and earning it name from the Salmon-rich creek which it runs along the side of.