A Vacation with Friends – Santa Catalina Island

Everyone has friends that seem like they have been with you every step of the way, through good and bad.  We have some of those people in our life.  The Packs have been our friends for 33 years, but the one thing we have never got them to do with us is a cruise.  Finally they said YES!!  We chose a cruise that takes out of Long Beach, California.  It travels to Santa Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico.  It is a short and inexpensive cruise, a great “beginning” cruise.  We have been on this cruise several times so we were the official “tour guides”.

We flew from the SLC airport into Burbank, California.

From there we had arranged a shuttle to the Long Beach cruise port.  We were sailing on Carnival and they allow each person to bring a 12-pack of canned soda/pop on board.  This is a huge savings, so we hopped on the free Long Beach shuttle and went to the grocery store.  On the way to the pier, we stopped for pictures at the Queen Mary.  This is permanently moored at the Long Beach port.

With beverage in hand, we were ready to check-in. The holiday decorations provided an additional festive atmosphere.

It was Ellie’s birthday, so to celebrate, we had Carnival decorate the Pack’s cabin.

We enjoyed lunch at the buffet and avoided the pesky seagulls.

Darrel wanted to re-create the Titanic scene…

The afternoon was a bit over-cast, so the sunset view we had hoped for was not going to happen, but still nice views.

The Carnival Inspiration is a nice small ship, with a beautiful atrium area.

The first evening, we skipped the dining room to catch a quick nap, as we had left at 1 am to catch our flight out of SLC.  Carnival has a kid’s theme of Dr. Seuss.  We had brought our Thing 1 and 2 costumes, as they had a photo op with Cat in the Hat.

With Jim still in his “costume”, he was selected to play Hasbro – The Game Show.  He didn’t win the Grand prize, but received a fun card game as a consolation.

Then it was time for some music.  This group played music from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

The next morning, the Inspiration was anchored near Santa Catalina Island, Catalina for short. It is part of the Channel Islands and is 29 miles southwest of Long Beach, so we didn’t travel far on our first day.  It is 22 miles long and it’s largest settlement is Avalon.  The Avalon Harbor is not deep enough for the cruise ship to dock, so there is a ferry provided.

The ferry ride takes about 15 minutes, but it gives you nice views of the town and surrounding area. Throughout it’s history, Santa Catalina Island has been used by pirates, sailors, and Native Americans.  There has been smuggling, otter hunting, and gold digging.  It’s relative obscurity changed in the 1920s when the controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company was bought by William Wrigley Jr. (Wrigley Chewing Gum) and developed into a tourist designation.

When visiting Catalina, there are several tours you can take, or you can rent a golf cart and do a self-guided tour of Avalon and the surrounding hills.  We elected to rent the golf cart.  It is $45.00 per hour, but if you rent for 2 hours, you get a 3rd hour for free.  Then if you give a $10.00 donation to the local veterans group you get an additional 45 minutes.  So we had use of the golf cart for 3 hours and 45 minutes, which is ample time to see the area and not feel rushed.  You are provided with a map of the suggested route.

Our first stop was Lover’s Cove, on Pebbly Beach Road.  This is a great place to snorkel or scuba dive.

Continuing down Pebbly Beach Road, you pass the power and desalination plants for the island.  There are also distribution buildings for the goods that are ferried to the island.  We continued up the hillside road stopping just below the Wrigley House to look at the views.

There is a nice walking path that takes you past an old house out to a view point.

Mr. Wrigley passed away in 1932, but his wife Ada wanted to create a memorial for him on the island.  She over saw the building of the Wrigley Memorial.

In 1935, Ada Wrigley supervised the creation of the original Desert Plant Collection at the base of the Memorial.  It has been expanded several times and features over 400 species of plants from all over the world.  Six species can only be found on Catalina Island.

Mr. Wrigley fell in love with the island and beginning in 1921, the Chicago Cubs held their spring training here until 1951. This is the general area of the field.

The island is now 88% owned by the Catalina Island Conservancy, a private non-profit organization.  It was Mr. Wrigley’s dream to be a steward of the land with a balance of conservation, education, and recreation.  One of the triumphs of the Conservancy is the recovery of the island fox. There are now more than 400 living on the island.

The climate is very much like the Mediterranean and very arid.  Cactus thrive on the island.

The suggested path for the golf carts takes you up one hill, back down into Avalon then up and around another hill.  Before heading back to Avalon you pass the Catalina Chimes Tower.  It was built by the Wrigley’s in 1925.  The chimes were purchased in Chicago and shipped to Catalina.  It was Mrs. Wrigley’s hope that the unique sound of the chimes would waft into town, bringing joy to it’s citizens.  Today, they are on a timer and ring every 15 minutes from 8am to 8 pm.  Occasionally, the chimes are taken off the timer, and a local resident will play music for special events or the holiday season.

Once back in Avalon, we drove north on Crescent Road to Descanso Beach.  Since the first time we came to Catalina in 2001, this area has been developed into a very nice resort.  There is some sand, but the beach area is mostly pebbles.  It was very enjoyable to listen to the small pebbles roll into the ocean with the waves.

The Descanso Canyon is full of beautiful foliage as well as the Catalina Zipline.

Once back in the town of Avalon we enjoyed the Bubble street performer…

And ice cream from Scoops

It had been a great day in Catalina…perfect weather, great memories, and lots of smiles…

Back on the ship we enjoyed a song and dance by the waiters and the traditional napkin twirl.

The waiters celebrated Ellie’s birthday early.  She didn’t know they were going to do that, so she had plenty of desserts to choose from…

It had been a great 2 days of vacation.  We still had so much more to see and do…up next Ensenada, Mexico.