A July 2000 trip
to Avalon by Taylor252
Quote: There are a tremendous amount of interesting things to do on Catalina Island--swimming, sailing, a boat cruise to see the seals or watch for whales( season dependant), submarine rides, and you can finsh any event with a meal in a great restaurant.
We arrived at their facility, which is on the extreme south of the docking area at Avalon, about an hour before our dive. This is their recommendation. We watched the dive before us and then were given a short course in what would be happening and how to work the controls. The sub resurfaced. The oxygen tanks were checked, pictures were taken and then the bubble closed down and sealed around us. Our pilot was a friendly sort of guy who steered us out a little ways from the dock and then we began our dive. I was taking pictures as fast as I could because the chances of my being in a submarine again seemed slim. (NOTE: There is a sub at Georgetown, Grand Cayman that I found in Jan. of '01. It also goes down 40 feet but holds 30 or so people. It is called the Atlantis. Who knew!) Because the cabin is pressurized you really don't get the sense of going down 40 feet underwater. However, watching the fish and kelp around you let's you know for sure you're in a different world.
Our underwater tour lasted about 40 minutes and we had about 20 minutes on land for training prior to the dive. The cost was $98. I went to their website www.SEAmagine.com to check on current prices but could find none. This may mean they are no longer doing tourist dives. We'll be back in Avalon in Jan. of '04 and we're going to check and see if we can repeat this great experience!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 7, 2003
SEAmagine Mini Submarine Dive
South end of port
Many of these ships use electric engines so there is very little noise. The captain of the ship is in the passenger compartment as well as a first mate who provides narration for the experience. If they spot something unusual they can call people attention to it. On the top deck, another sailor will throw some fish food over the side. This will draw 1000’s of fish to the boat. It is simply great fun and great pictures to be taken!
A word on pictures. . .you are looking through a thick pain of glass. I tried using flash and then not using flash. I got good pictures and bad pictures from both methods. There isn’t much light, and sometimes the fish are moving pretty fast so I’d wait till the fish had slowed down and use at least 400 speed film. With the digital camera it worked better to use the flash. I’ve decided that the best way to handle this situation is to simply take a lot of pictures and a percentage of them should be great!
We used a company called Discovery Tours. They have many other kinds of tours, but this was on their ship named the Emerald. You can book these tours before your trip or in most cases, you can sign up right at their office in Avalon. Their office is on the Big Green Pier. It sounded A bit strange to me, but honestly, when you dock at Avalon, there is a big green pier sticking out into the harbor. It’s not hard to find. This tour cost $24.50 for adults; $12.50 for children and $21.50 for seniors. It lasted about 50 minutes and was well worth the price. The company’s phone is 310-510-TOUR. Their website ishere.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 10, 2003
Discovery Undersea Tour
Big Green Pier
Attraction | "The Avalon Theater and Casino Ballrom"
There is no gambling done here at all. This structure was in its hey day when motion pictures were just beginning to include sound and big bands were the most popular form of music. The inside of this building now houses the Avalon Theater as well as the huge Casino Ballroom.
The Ballroom has a lighted archway surrounding the outside edge of the huge room with more lighting coming from giant light fixtures at the peak of the dome above. The art deco influence can be seen in everything from sprayed wooden moldings that move from the edge of the dome to a center circle around the light fixtures to detailed iron work on sconces. This is a place where a quiet moment takes one back to an age when the original wild children created a phenomenon called the Roaring 20s.
Discovery Tours offers a casino tour for only $9.75 for an adult and $5 for a child. It is well worth that small cost if interesting architecture or art deco designs interest you. There are also great views from the portico balcony that surrounds the building at the top. The casino was built close to the beginning of Avalon and as such has become a symbol of the city. I collect lapel pins and proudly display a pin of Avalon with the casino as the main subject.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 10, 2003
Avalon Theater and Casino Ballroom
The harbor of Avalon
Attraction | "Catalina Express-Transportation to Catalina Island"
We chose a boat. Several companies depart from Long Beach and have a good reputation including Catalina Cruises (1-800-CATALINA; www.catalinacruises.com) and Catalina Express (1-800-618-5533; www.catalinaexpress.com.) From San Diego, look for Catalina Passenger Service (949-673-5245; www.catalinainfo.com.) From Dana Point you can look up the Catalina Explorer, (949-492-5308.) All these companies boast that they are the fastest ride from the mainland to Avalon. Our trip took about an hour for the ride from Long Beach.
We chose to use Catalina Express and were well pleased with the service. We made reservations ahead a month or so and I would recommend this especially in the summer when the ride loads are heavy. You will be asked to choose first class or coach seating and then you can choose which ship you'd like, based on the time schedule. Certain ships will be scheduled for certain runs based on how many people generally travel at a that time. For example, we were on a fairly small ship leaving Long Beach at 8:45am.
Our return ship was the huge Starship Catamaran that holds up to 300 people. That ship was one of the reasons we chose Catalina Express. We had never been on a catamaran. It was a beautiful smooth ride and kind of interesting, as the boat rises up out of the water on the floats. The departure dock in Long Beach is right next to the Queen Mary, and there is plenty of parking for your car.
The larger ships are usually multi-story with airplane-style seating and will have a cocktail and soda bar as well as snacks available for purchase. There will be crew persons to help in each cabin. We decided on first class round trip tickets. This included complimentary champagne on the way over and very roomy seating in both directions.
Here is the fee structure for our trip in July of 2000. You purchase a round trip ticket and make a reservation for your berth going over. Coming back is open. Pick your own return departure time. There were 12 departures starting at 8:00am and ending with the last one at 9:30pm. The coach ticket round trip was $40.00. First class upgrade was an additional $10.00 per person. This was a relaxing way to handle transportation and is highly recommended if you're in Southern California on vacation.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on September 8, 2003
When you get off the boat there won’t be any noisy taxis all around. Instead transportation in Avalon is either by foot or golf cart! You can rent the carts or some of the upscale hotels include them as part of your overnight fee. There are vehicles in Catalina, just not in downtown Avalon. One of the main beaches of Avalon will be about 50 yards from where you disembark. In the summer, that beach will be crowded with people, and small stands on the beach rent inner tubes, rafts, beach chairs, etc for a nominal price. Now, if you’re more used to southern Atlantic beaches, as we were, you may think this is sounding like a nice place for a beach vacation in winter. No, it’s not, at least not for a BEACH vacation. Whereas the Gulf Stream keeps the Florida waters warmer, the Pacific ocean tides run opposite (north to south), so the water temperature will drop into the mid 50’s in winter even if the air temperatures are warmer. In fact, the water temperature for swimming in the heart of summer will be in the low to mid 70s. Still pretty brisk! And now that I’ve mentioned it, air temperatures rarely touch 80 for a high and rarely go below 50 for a low. Catalina is a destination at any time of the year. (see temperature chart in pictures below.)
A pedestrian/golf cart road borders the beach and on the other side of that road is a delightful array of quaint speciality shops, restaurants and bed and breakfast establishments. The building colors are all dessert pastels and the green landscaping is well done. Add the delightful counterpoint of bright bold colored wind socks and other souvenirs and the result creates an atmosphere of peaceful energy. Truly a vacation destination.
In fact, over the years, many of Hollywood's greatest have been to Catalina. and some of the restaurants will have pictures of this or that celebrity who ate in their establishment. Avalon was founded in 1889 and some of the famous visitors its had are John Wayne, Cecil B. De Mille, Laurel and Hardy, and Winston Churchill. Undoubtedly, they were drawn by the relaxed, secluded nature of the island in combination with the many sporting type activities available. You can snorkel/scuba dive, ride horseback among the buffalo herd in the interior, sport game fishing, whale and/or seal watching, golf on famous links, parasailing, jet skiing, and the list goes on.
Our "sport" for our day at Avalon consisted of walking through many delightful shops, taking several tours, eating a wonderful seafood lunch and soaking up the relaxed atmosphere of the wonderful secluded getaway. We’ll be going back and we’ll be staying overnight next time!
St. Louis, Missouri