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Cruises to Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara (Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock.com)
Santa Barbara (Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock.com)

About Santa Barbara

Sometimes called the "American Riviera," especially by the real estate industry, Santa Barbara is a well-tended community that practically defines the mellow, sun-drenched California Coast aesthetic. But unlike busy L.A., 95 miles down the coast, Santa Barbara has always been a bit sleepy, which has made it highly enviable to seekers of seclusion and sprawling estates (along with under-the-radar neighbor Montecito -- home to Oprah Winfrey, Rob Lowe and Ellen DeGeneres).

Santa Barbara had been settled for thousands of years by Native Americans -- the Chumash -- when European occupation started in 1782 with the building of the last of the Spanish presidios (forts). The Old Mission Santa Barbara is the 10th of the missions established in California by Franciscans from Spain. Today the city has a population of about 88,000, and the growth of Santa Barbara is largely limited by strict zoning laws and building codes that inhibit density. Major industries are aerospace and defense companies, while tourism is a mainstay and an agricultural bounty is found just over the mountains in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Although most of us can't afford to live in Santa Barbara, it's a great stop on a cruise itinerary. Sitting at the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the beach-fronted town is small enough to be easily revealed during a day visit, even on foot. The food and wine give us at least a taste of the lifestyle here, which is upmarket and exclusive, without being pampered or pretentious.

Architecture -- especially Spanish Mission and Mediterranean -- is a big piece of the eye candy. Following a 1925 earthquake, city planners decreed that all future building would adopt the style. You'll find it at both the historic sites like the Mission Santa Barbara and the fine county courthouse downtown, as well as in the gorgeous homes that line the avenues paralleling State Street, the main artery through town.

The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden represents a feast of California native plants, while those who plan ahead with a reservation can take in Montecito's legendary estate, Lotusland. If your cruise stops here on a Saturday, be sure to visit the Santa Barbara Farmers Market, which brims with robust local produce year-round. Walking, jogging or cycling the pathway lining the beach is an option for independent types, as is touring the harbor or seafront by kayak or standup paddleboard. And just strolling along the rounded archways, adobe walls, and cafes and shops lining State Street can make for a perfectly enjoyable wander.

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DAY 1: San Diego

10 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Monterey ...
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Cruise Line:
Windstar Cruises
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DAY 1: San Diego

10 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Monterey ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Catalina Island, Ensenada ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Los Angeles
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Catalina Island, Ensenada ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Seattle, Astoria, Oregon ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Los Angeles ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Seattle, San Francisco ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Catalina Island, Santa Barbara ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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28 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Vancouver
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Seattle, San Francisco ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Catalina Island, Santa Barbara ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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20 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Cartagena, Panama Canal ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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25 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Honolulu, Kauai ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Monterey ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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160 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Port Royal, Aruba ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking Ocean Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Catalina Island, Santa Barbara ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Monterey ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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4 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Vancouver ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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4 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Ensenada ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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29 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Key West, Cartagena ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Los Angeles ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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39 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Kauai ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking Ocean Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, San Francisco ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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14 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Cabo San Lucas, La Paz ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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139 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Kauai ...
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Cruise Line:
Viking Ocean Cruises
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6 Night
Cruise to Santa Barbara

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Monterey ...
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Cruise Line:
Seabourn Cruise Line
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Why go to Santa Barbara?

Pros:

Spanish-Colonial and Mission architecture, great wineries nearby, fine weather year-round.

Cons:

Tender port; beaches are beautiful but the sea is cold for swimming in winter and spring.

Bottom Line:

Unadulterated, upscale Central California coast lifestyle at its best.

Santa Barbara Cruise Port Facilities?

Santa Barbara is a tender port. Sea Landing, the small harbor for cruise tenders, has some facilities, including volunteer-staffed information tables with maps, brochures, bus schedules and more. The Santa Barbara Visitors Center is located at 1 Garden Street and free Wi-Fi is available here.

Good to Know?

"Sideways," the 2004 Oscar-winner that simultaneously introduced the world to actor Paul Giamatti and caused merlot sales to plummet, was filmed 30 miles up the road in the Santa Ynez Valley. The town of Solvang is a cute hub for explorations, with winery locations such as Kalyra, Los Olivos and Fess Parker not far away. Reach the Santa Ynez Valley by rental car or reserve a seat on one of the winery tours departing from Santa Barbara.

Getting Around?

On Foot: Santa Barbara is an easily walkable town, especially the sidewalk fronting the beach leading away from the port (paralleling Cabrillo Boulevard) and along State Street, which leads to downtown. It's 1.5 miles from the port to downtown and 3 miles on foot to Mission Santa Barbara (with a modest incline most of the way).

The Red Tile Walking Tour is a self-guided, 12-block-long loop trail through downtown visiting some of the city's most significant historical gems. Pick it up along State Street, between De La Guerra and Anapamu streets. More information on this and the Santa Barbara Coastal Trail is available at the visitor center.

By Public Transportation: The Santa Barbara MTD operates a Downtown-Waterfront electric shuttle for 50 cents a ride. The route extends from the harbor, where tenders dock, up State Street to Sola Street, and down Cabrillo Boulevard to the zoo and Andree Clark Bird Refuge, and then back to the harbor -- a distance of about 8 miles total. Shuttles run every 15 minutes.

The MTD also has a bus network connecting Santa Barbara and the neighboring communities, for about $2 a ride; $6 for a day pass. There are discounts for seniors and young children ride free. These buses don't stop at the harbor, but main routes through downtown -- lines 11, 14, 21 and 21X -- converge around the Museum of Art on State Street.

The Santa Barbara Train Station is located close to the port and Amtrak serves the coastal communities near Santa Barbara.

By Taxi/Rideshare: Metered taxis are usually waiting near the port when tenders start coming in, and shared rides like Uber and Lyft are easily hailed.

By rental car: There is an Avis Rent a Car branch at 34 East Montecito Street, just off State Street, and a Hertz outlet at 633 East Cabrillo Boulevard, inside the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

The U.S. dollar rules in Santa Barbara, although major credit cards are widely accepted. Visit xe.com or oanda.com for current exchange rates. ATMs are plentiful; you'll find one at Sea Landing, where tenders disembark, along State Street, at the Santa Barbara Visitors Center and another in the Funk Zone.

Language?

English is the native tongue for most, but Spanish is a common first or second language for some residents.


Santa Barbara Cruise Reviews

Celebrity Eclipse
packedcountdown
Sail Date: Nov 2019
There is a lot to see and do in Santa Barbara. I recommend going to Solvang if there is time.... Read More
Norwegian Gem
BWCW3885
Sail Date: Jan 2020
Santa Barbara Highlights - good tour - from the ship to the Peso - Presidio and the Court House and the old mission. Good tour with a new bus driver who took wrong turns numerous times throughout the tour... Read More
Norwegian Gem
beachcomberbill
Sail Date: Jan 2020
Rated it high because we love Santa Barbara, met my cousin for lunch. Highly recommend the Clearwater Grill. Oysters on the half shell, fresh sea urchin, chowders, pastas, great drinks, great people watching from... Read More
Celebrity Eclipse
dhaslett87
Sail Date: Nov 2019
I live near Santa Barbara and think it is a wonderful port! I met friends for lunch and a visit to the Maritime Museum. Standing in line to board the tender back to the ship the comments I heard all around me were... Read More
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