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As cruise ships are not able to dock here you will be tendered ashore to Green Pleasure Pier in the center of downtown Avalon.
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Santa Catalina Island is small, 21 miles long and less than a mile wide at its narrowest point. Elevations range from sea level to 2,000 feet. Coastal cliffs fall precipitously into the ocean and an encircling undersea ledge provides a rich habitat for marine life.
There are only two towns here: Avalon, with a population of about 3,000, and Two Harbors, where a few hardy souls live at the island's narrowest point. The rest is preserved in its natural state, thanks to a conservancy established by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, the island's former owner.
Most of the island's beaches are somewhat rocky, but there's plenty to do besides lounge in the sand. Lover's Cove, a protected marine preserve, is a short walk from Avalon and is an excellent spot for snorkeling. The fish are plentiful and used to people, thanks to frequent feedings from passengers on the glass-bottom boats that tour the area. Much of the interior of the island is protected by the Catalina Island Conservancy. It oversees the diverse island habitat that is home to plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. The organization also sponsors a nature center at Avalon Canyon and conducts nature walks every evening. Kids will enjoy the center's hands-on exhibits that feature information about the island's native wildlife and hiking its many nature trails.
If you're up to it, Avalon is also a great walking town. If you're not, try the trolley service that runs from Pebbly Beach and the Casino up to the Botanical Garden.
There are also places which rent out golf carts.
Go snorkeling at Lover's cove. Bring old bagels from ship and the fish will swarm all around you. The water temperature might be chilly. Lover's Cove is to the left (10 min.) of the green Pleasure Pier (where Carnival's tenders drop you off). You can rent snorkel equipment (including wet suits) on the pier.
It pays to compare your cruise line shore excursions here.
The official U.S. currency is the United States dollar (symbol: $). ATM's everywhere.
Major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard are widely used and accepted, even for transactions worth only a few dollars. In fact, in some cases, it may be the only way to make a transaction. Note to overseas visitors: Prices of goods and services always seem lower than they really are, as taxes and gratuities are seldom included.
Most states have a sales tax, ranging from 2.9% to nearly 10% of the retail price; 4-6% is typical. Sales tax is almost never included in posted prices (except for gasoline, and in most states, alcoholic beverages consumed on-premises), but instead will be calculated and added to the total when you pay.
Tipping in America is widely used and expected. While Americans themselves often debate correct levels and exactly who deserves to be tipped, generally accepted standard rates are:
The U.S. has no official language at the federal level, but English is by far the standard for everyday use. Several states have declared their official state language as English. Spanish is also official in the state of New Mexico, where it is widely spoken; French is official in Louisiana and the Hawaiian language is official in Hawaii, but neither approaches the use of English and are official for primarily historical reasons.
In major metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles, many drugstores and supermarkets are routinely open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, while department stores, shopping centers and most other large retailers are typically open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and often with shorter hours on Sundays - generally 11 a.m. or noon to 5 or 6 p.m. On holidays, the tendency is to remain open (with the exception of the most important holidays like Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day where stores are generally closed)
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