April 15, 2003
At last! A cruise ship terminal that will be pleasant rather than something to endure. Carnival Corp.'s new cruise terminal at Long Beach offers a refreshing alternative to the boring wait and long lines that mar most embarkations. The $40 million facility handled its first embarkation from the new terminal Monday after the Ecstasy disembarked passengers for the last time at the World Cruise Center at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro. The Elation, Carnival's other Los Angeles-based ship, also will use Long Beach starting Sunday. The new terminal is built next to the Queen Mary, a historic liner built in 1936 that is now permanently docked in Long Beach. The glamorous, Art Deco vessel built for Cunard is a hotel but also offers tours full of maritime lore and ghost stories. Passengers can check in at the Carnival Lounge aboard the Queen Mary after 8 a.m. on embarkation day, then while away the hours touring the ship, browsing the shops on and outside the Queen Mary, sipping a cappuccino or even visiting the aquarium or other sites on the Long Beach waterfront. The terminal opens at noon and passengers who already checked in can simply pass through security and board. The 30,000-square-foot terminal is located in a geodesic dome that once housed Howard Hughes' wooden Spruce Goose aircraft. Passengers can check in at 30 desks in the terminal after noon. Four plasma screens above the desks will broadcast boarding information. Even the mandatory photo session promises to be more fun. Carnival has built a pseudo rainforest area with Aztec walls and monument with two queues for the snapping session. The photos are immediately broadcast on a plasma screen hung above the escalator to the gangway. The pier is long enough to handle just about any cruise ship afloat today, save for deep-draft vessels like the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the under-construction Queen Mary 2. Sadly, the water isn't deep enough for the new QM2 to dock next to the historic Queen Mary. When passengers arrive, their heavy luggage will be immediately taken from the drive-in area and checked in for transfer to the ship. Carryon bags can even be checked in at a small facility outdoor so they can walk around unencumbered. That building was not completed on Monday, but will be within weeks. On Monday, there were some long lines as early-arriving passengers passed through security to board, but that logjam promises to be eased in coming weeks.