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Cruises to Santa Barbara

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.

  • Why go to Santa Barbara?

  • Santa Barbara Cruise Port Facilities?

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Zuiderdam
Zuiderdam

5 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

985 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Apr 22, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Grand Princess
Grand Princess (Photo: Princess Cruises)

36 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Sep 26, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Noordam
Noordam

6 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Oct 2, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Radiance of the Seas
Radiance of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

6 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Royal Caribbean International
Apr 23, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Nachi Cocom Beach Club

10 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

1,644 Reviews
Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
May 3, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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8 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Norwegian Cruise Line
Apr 23, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

7 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

1,835 Reviews
Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Mar 26, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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Cruise Critic Favorite

7 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Celebrity Cruises
Apr 9, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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28 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Sep 26, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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8 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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9 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Crystal Cruises
Jun 14, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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10 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Windstar Cruises
May 10, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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137 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
Dec 20, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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137 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
Dec 22, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Hurtigruten
May 2, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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118 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
Jan 10, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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135 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Cruise Line:Viking Ocean Cruises
Dec 24, 2021
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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8 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line
Oct 13, 2023
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Sep 26, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Vancouver
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
Nov 2, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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8 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Seabourn Cruise Line
May 19, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Princess Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:San Diego
Cruise Line:Holland America Line
Nov 5, 2022
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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7 Night
Cruise to Santa BarbaraDetails

Leaving:Los Angeles
Cruise Line:Oceania Cruises
No prices currently available for this sailing.
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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
There is a lot to see and do in Santa Barbara. I recommend going to Solvang if there is time.... Read More
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packedcountdown
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
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BWCW3885
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
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beachcomberbill
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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dhaslett87

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