Crystal Serenity, Panama Canal cruise complete, docked at dawn at the San Pedro Cruise Port. One of the two ports that comprise the Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro Cruise Port is also known as the The Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center. Though a major cruise port, its location is kind of odd.
Amtrak and San Pedro Cruise Port provide a dedicated motor coach to and from Amtrak Union Station in Los Angeles. But the motor coach stop isn’t where the cruise ships dock. The place to catch the bus to Union Station is at the Catalina Express Terminal. That’s where I am standing as I faced Crystal Serenity in the photo above.
As you can see, Crystal Serenity looks incredibly close to the Catalina Express Terminal. And it would be if you could debark the ship on the side that you see in the photo. But you do not; there’s water and a chain link fence in-between. You exit the ship on the other side.
If you didn’t have luggage, it’s a fairly a short walk (about ¼ mile) to the Catalina Express Terminal to catch the motor coach.
Bad news…not good to do with luggage and it’s further than you’d guess.
Good news…the port and Amtrak run a shuttle between San Pedro World Cruise Center and the Catalina Express Terminal. Confused? So was I.
How To Get to Catalina Express Terminal to Board the Amtrak Bus
As you exit your ship after you’ve claimed your luggage, exit the doors straight in front of you. Carefully cross the car and bus lanes to an island with a sign for the Cruise Ship Shuttle. It’s a small sign so hopefully this photo of it will help.
Depending on the day and time, you may have to wait 20-30 minutes for the shuttle. I suggest that you approach a port security person and ask her/him to contact the shuttle driver to let the driver know that there’s someone waiting to go to Catalina Express Terminal.
Think you would try to walk there? You have to walk out and around, (look again at the map above), cut through the parking lot where your ship is docked, find the way out the gate and into and through the parking lot for Catalina Express parking. The streets are bumpy, there are curbs and it’s easy to get confused with the security gates. Plus, you are cutting through two parking lots. I’d suggest that you wait for the shuttle.
Once on the shuttle, it’s only a 4-5 minute ride to Catalina Terminal. Amtrak’s motor coach will pick you up at the Catalina Express Terminal, right in front of the entrance gate, next to the round cement safety blocks. There’s a small sign, too.
Read more: Aboard Amtrak Southwest Chief from Los Angeles to Chicago
If you have to wait, you can go into the Catalina Express Terminal where you’ll find a snack and coffee shop plus a small bar/lounge.
On time, the Amtrak motor coach pulled in to the Catalina Express Terminal. I was the only passenger on the bus. There is one additional stop along the way where you might add another passenger or two en route to Los Angeles Union Station.
In the reverse, when you leave Los Angeles Union Station, you’ll exit through the side doors that lead to the garden area. The bus depot is just beyond the patio area. Look for the bus that’s marked Catalina Express Terminal.
My train to Chicago was set to depart Los Angeles at 6:40pm. I had already planned on at least a 7 hour wait at the station. Because I had reserved a sleeper, I could wait in the Metropolitan Lounge for the duration. At 6:15pm the Red Cap came to collect those of us who had requested service to board. Settled into my bedroom, the Southwest Chief left Union Station on time and ready for its two-night journey.
You MUST reserve your transfer to or from Los Angeles Union Station to Port of San Pedro when you book your Amtrak train. It’s not automatically included nor will the bus company know that they are supposed to pick you up at either end of the trip.