Cruises have been popular family vacations for many years now and when my wife and I went on our first cruise from San Diego a handful of years ago we wondered why we had never done it before. For one a cruise by definition keeps you close to the beach which is always a good place to vacation and it takes you to new cities, many of which you would never visit otherwise.  What is often overlooked however is that cruises tend to offer guests much more than the obvious and for the novice cruise vacationer or uninitiated the benefits may be overlooked completely.

When you take a cruise you usually get to visit multiple destinations without actually feeling like you are traveling.  Unlike a road trip where you are overtly aware of a five hour car ride from LA to San Francisco on a cruise you hardly notice the hours of traveling from Catalina Island to Ensenada Mexico.  There are so many things to do on the ship that the journey is a passing afterthought.

What’s even more enjoyable about a cruise is the fact that they are generally all-inclusive with a few exceptions like alcohol and shore excursions.  If you wanted to fly to Cabo San Lucas and vacation there for a week you would have to buy plane tickets for your whole family, reserve a hotel room for the week, and then provide meals for your whole family every day you are away.  Each of these individually generally seems affordable but when lumped together the cost of this type of vacation can go up significantly.

A cruise on the other hand includes the travel from city to city, the lodging on the cruise ship, and the meals of every guest for the duration of the cruise all in the cost of the ticket.  Because of this the ticket price may seem a little high for those who are not accustomed to cruising but when the final bill is paid many people who go on cruise vacation end up paying less in aggregate.  You can obviously increase this aggregate cost if you cruise from departure ports many miles from where you live but usually by sticking to cruises close to home your vacation costs can go down significantly.

My wife and I live near the San Diego cruise ship terminal.  Although we have taken a Hawaiian cruise when we went on our honeymoon we have typically stuck to the San Diego cruises because there are a lot of them and they are all quite affordable.  It’s also convenient that we can pack our bags and jump onto the city bus that runs by our house and get to the cruise ship embarkation terminal is under an hour.  In our experience we have noted a few very different cruises from San Diego which are affordable and popular and worth spending money on.  You can always find expensive luxury cruises or long-duration cruises but these four cruise vacations will appeal to the masses much more.

Cheap Short Cruises From San Diego

One of the most popular cruises from San Diego are the ever-present option of taking a short cruise to Catalina Island, Ensenada Mexico, and Cabo San Lucas.  These cruises are year-round and although the vary slightly from year to year you can always be assured that almost every week of the year you have the option of taking 3-5 night cruises from San Diego to various destinations on Baja California.  These cruises are most frequently run by Carnival Cruise Lines and they are ultra affordable, often costing less than $400 per person for a 4-5 night cruise.

Because the short haul cruises to Ensenada are only a few days long and because they only cost a little, these can often be booked as last minute cruises that are largely unplanned.  In fact in 2010 my wife and I went on a three night weekend cruise to Ensenada from San Diego and we weren’t even planning on going on a cruise until just a few weeks away from the sailing date.  Options for sailing are often and cruises go on sale all the time which makes these unplanned trips even nicer.

Mexican Riviera & Panama Canal Cruises From San Diego

San Diego is fortunate enough to have a variety of excellent cruises by a number of reputable cruiselines.  Carnival caters to the one week or less crowd looking for shorter cruises but they also have a few cruises in the 7-11 day range which go down to the Mexican Riviera.  In addition to Carnival Holland America is another frequently traveled cruise line which caters to the cruise vacationer looking for longer cruises.  Holland American actually has  a few long cruises lasting for two weeks or more but many of their 7-14 day cruises departing San Diego are excellent options for those looking for a more exotic vacation.

You can easily find cruises year round which visit all the Baja Mexico ports of call including many popular destinations on the Mexican Riviera including Acapulco, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta to name just a few.  Some of the even longer Holland America cruises from San Diego even go through the Panama Canal and culminate in destinations as far as the east coast.  These are typically one-way cruises but the option is worth exploring if you’ve ever wanted to see the Panama Canal.  Obviously these cruises are a bit more expensive than the short cruises offered by Carnival but the costs are still much lower than many vacations of the same duration.

Hawaiian Cruises From San Diego

A third popular and slightly more expensive option for cruise vacations departing from the San Diego cruise ship terminal is to board a Norwegian Cruise Ship to Hawaii.  The Hawaiian cruises operated by NCL do not depart nearly as often as the weekly short cruises to Baja California or the week long cruises to the Mexican Riviera but they depart often enough to provide ample date options for any family looking to take a Hawaiian cruise without actually having to book flights to the islands.  These Hawaiian cruises do make it harder to see the Hawaiian cities seeing as though you are not in any one place for more than a night or two but they do give you the added benefit of seeing multiple Hawaiian islands on one trip, which many traditional Hawaiian vacations do not include.

For dates and price ranges for all these cruises and many others typically offers an excellent interface for comparing cruises by date and location.  They can help you narrow down when and where you want to cruise and home much money you want to spend on shore excursions or extra travel before or after your cruise.