40th Anniversary : Catalina Express

40th Anniversary


Celebrating 40 Years of Catalina Express

It all started with one boat and one phone and grew to become a leader in the marine industry. Today, Catalina Express celebrates 40 years of ferrying over 33 million passengers to and from the enchanting Catalina Island. Since July 1981 and over 315,000 sailings later, Catalina Express takes a great source of pride with the ability to continually offer comfortable, personalized passenger service year-round.

Greg Bombard, president and CEO of Catalina Express, says, “From the reservation agent to the captain and crew, our goal is to offer passengers more than just a boat ride, but a total travel experience. Our focus on customer service and staying current on marine technology for the comfort of the passengers has allowed us to provide a valuable service to Catalina Island over the past 40 years.”

Catalina Express is grateful to provide our passengers the opportunity to visit Catalina Island, the perfect getaway for more than a century. Whether visitors are looking for the idyllic, fun, action-packed or relaxing and rejuvenating day or overnight stay, we are excited to reward and give island fans even more reasons to visit.

Over The Years

Catalina Express is excited to celebrate 40 years of service to Catalina Island and the Bombard’s 100 years of history with the island. Step back in time with the photos that tell the story that spans through the decades.


The Bombard family has had a long-rooted history with Catalina Island starting with Al Bombard. Doug Bombard, founder of Catalina Express, shares, “My father, Al, first came to Catalina in 1919 for a weekend getaway and never wanted to leave. After his trip to the Island, he decided to pack everything up and move to Catalina where he saw a future for him and our family.”

In 1921, Al started the Miss Catalina Speedboat Company to offer visitors a joy ride to meet the Steamer, the main transportation service to Catalina. As a mechanic in the racing industry including Indianapolis, Al knew how to create a vessel to thrill passengers. Each Miss Catalina engine was customized from WW1 Liberty airplane engines.

Throughout the years, the family continued to become more engrained in the Catalina Island community and found ways to grow tourism for this premier destination they called home.

Catalina Express began in 1981 when three Catalina Island residents realized the need for fast, reliable transportation to and from the Island. Doug Bombard, his son Greg Bombard and longtime colleague, Tom Rutter, worked tirelessly to make the vision a reality. They bought a 56-foot, 60 passenger monohull vessel and customized the interior to have Continental Airlines seating and all the comforts you see in other forms of transportation. The first year, the company carried 3,256 passengers from their San Pedro terminal. The company continued to grow and in present day carries over a million passengers a year.

Throughout the 80’s, Catalina Express worked closely with boat builders to design monohull vessels that carried 149 passengers along with innovative features including full ride control systems, modern navigation systems and on-decking seating. The engineer team continues to pursue ways to modernize these innovations.

The new monohulls also introduced Catalina Express’ upgraded seating called the Captain’s Lounge, a private lounge with priority check-in and boarding and complimentary beverages.

By July 1989 to help with the demand to visit Catalina, Catalina Express had two port locations in Long Beach at the Queen Mary site and the other in Redondo Beach, which was withdrawn three years later.

In the 90’s, Catalina Express saw continued growth to both the fleet and port locations as Catalina Island was seen as a great getaway for both locals and visitors. The company acquired their first catamarans including the Cat Express and Starship Express and built additional customized monohulls, Avalon Express, Catalina Express and Islander Express, which are all in service today.

The Starship Express introduced the next level in upgraded seating called the Commodore Lounge. The Lounge included upper deck seating with priority check-in and boarding, reclining seating and a complimentary beverage and snack. This became an extremely popular feature with passengers.

During the summer of 1998, Catalina Express introduced an additional port location in Dana Point terminal to accommodate the Orange County and San Diego residents

By early 2000, Catalina Express completed the current route network with the addition of Downtown Long Beach, which is today the busiest port location. The company also welcomed two more catamarans, Catalina Jet and Jet Cat Express, which brought the fleet up to four monohulls and 4 catamarans.

At this point, Catalina Express started to re-engineer the fleet to reduce greenhouse emissions to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier II and Tier III depending on the vessel. The Port of Los Angeles reports that this effort resulted in annual reduction of 800 tons in NOx emissions, 10,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 30 tons of particulate matter emission – equivalent of 10,000 cars.

As the fleet was complete with eight high speed vessels to accommodate the demand, Catalina Express saw this as an opportunity to continue to modernize. The team explored new seating for additional comfort of the passengers and upgrades to the stabilization and navigation systems to provide an even better trip to Catalina.

Towards the end of 2012, Catalina Express moved their San Pedro location to the building that once served as the hanger for the seaplanes that provided service to Catalina until the 1970’s. The company took this opportunity to create more outside lounge space for passengers to relax and enjoy themselves before departing on their trip to Catalina.

Like many in the tourism industry, 2020’s has been a difficult beginning. As leisure travel has been reopened, we have been welcoming passengers back to enjoy their favorite Southern California getaway.

Catalina Express is excited to celebrate our 40 years of service to Catalina Island and look forward to another 40 years of providing fast, reliable transportation to visitors and the Catalina community.

Employee Spotlights

Francina Hines

Francina joined Catalina Express over 17 years ago as a Call Center Representative and quickly advanced to the position of Call Center Lead to help manage the floor. Due to her attention to detail and leadership, she became the Trainer for the Call Center and helped with the training of ticket agents. She became a mentor to many agents over the years and continued to build a comradery within the team resulting collaboration and further growth. Prior to Catalina Express, she developed a strong background in customer service with a variety of customers during her time at Comcast Cable and Old Navy. Read More...

Her continued drive and ambition led to her perusing a new position this year in the Sales department to assist large groups in the planning of their trip to Catalina Island as well as working very closely with Catalina Express’ industry partners. “I love that there is always something new to learn. I’m really passionate about learning new things, and I consider myself very fortunate to work in a company that is always changing and growing with new technologies, capabilities, and ideas,” said Francina.

Many colleagues know Francina for her dedication and also her compassion towards others. A fellow colleague commented, “Francina is a very welcoming person with a friendly greeting for everyone. She also remembers everyone’s name and asks you how you are doing. It is rare to find that quality in anyone in this current day and age.”

Francina’s organization skills, attention to detail and time management are key to her position to provide strong customer service she has come to be known for across the company. “My typical day starts as I get up early and try to be to work at least 25 minutes early, so I can avoid delays due to traffic jams and still be on time for work. When I am at my desk, I jot down all the plans I have to complete and prioritize them depending on their urgency and importance. Also, I check my voicemails and emails this way I can increase my pace for doing work and can be more productive for the day,” said Francina.

On your next trip to Catalina Island, Francina recommends trying the thrilling Zipline Eco Tour as a fun and memorable experience.
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Growing up in San Pedro, Steven was able to view Catalina Island across the channel and later experience the island with his grandfather on a camping trip. He joined the team over 11 years ago as a reservation agent to help customers plan their trips on Catalina Express. Due to Steven’s strong work ethic and attention to detail, he was promoted to Call Center lead and later advanced to his current position of Analyst. Read More...

Steven says, “As the Analyst for the call center, my job entails data gathering from the 332,000 calls received annually and reporting to help improve our call center’s performance, the service we provide to our customers and highlight the successes we have as a team or individually. Watching trends as they develop is a regular part of my responsibilities to prepare the call center for any potential impact. This data and trends directly help me in the creation of schedules for our agents.

When Steven is not working with spreadsheets or schedules, he is helping with training of other agents to further their development and help them grow in their current position. He is regularly collaborating with other departments on various projects and new programs to assist the company in becoming more efficient and effective. One department he works with regularly is the IT team to help with further improvement to the communication systems and phone support.

Steven’s professionalism and expertise was acknowledged by industry leader Monet Software, a workforce management (WFM) system. He was honored to be recognized as a WFM Power User in a program that aims to identify the best WFM experts in the contact center industry.

For those going to Catalina for the first time, Steven highly recommends the Discover Avalon tour as a great way to learn about the city and snap plenty of beautiful photos. For those looking for adventure, he shared that everyone should take the chance to experience Two Harbors. Steven shares, “I’ve only been there once and I can’t wait to go back again. The island did a wonderful job with Harbor Sands, but now I need to go back to experience the camping.
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Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Troy knew he wanted a career on the water. He joined the Catalina Express crew 39 years ago when the company was just starting. He has seen the company grow over the years from one boat to eight and a single terminal on the mainland to three. Read More...

Prior to joining Catalina Express, Troy served in the US Coast Guard on Alaska Patrols in the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska and assisted in search and rescue efforts for four years. During his time in the Coast Guard, he gained significant industry knowledge that he shared with Catalina Express.

With his prior work experience and background, Catalina Express welcomed him to the crew and he was hired almost on the spot. “When I moved to Southern California, I knew I wanted to continue my career in the marine industry. I grabbed a road map and started visiting local port cities including San Pedro. While visiting the cruise ship terminal, by luck, I saw the Catalina Express window and they were hiring,” said Troy.

Over the years, he has gained a reputation among the team for his knowledge and work ethic as a captain. He has taken the time to mentor younger crew members to help them grow and reach their potential in the marine industry. He advises those interested in a career on the water to have tenacity and be the best you can be. It takes hard work and needs to be taken seriously but the job is worth it

“Looking out on the ocean, there is a sereneness to being on the water. It can be very peaceful on the trip over to the Island. My typical day is looking at calm seas and cruising over to Catalina. One of my best memories is when we saw a pod of about 20 blue whales. Marie, a cabin attendant, was on the bow of the boat and two of the whales were gliding along the water. She was smiling and everyone around was enjoying watching the whales. It was a good day,” said Troy. “The best part of job is when I drive home and say that it was a good day and have the satisfaction and pride in the job I did.”

Prior to joining Catalina Express, Troy was not too familiar with the Island. Over the years and by talking to passengers, he began to visit the Island and experience various places and activities. “I highly recommend exploring the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. If you enjoy hiking, walking up to the ridge gives you a great view of San Clemente Island. If you enjoy a challenge, mountain biking in the interior of the Island is fun too,” commented Troy.
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Miss Catalina taking visitors out for a joy ride. Miss Catalina being lowered into Avalon harbor by the Catalina Island Casino Miss Catalina 6 arriving to Catalina ready to take to visitor out for a fun ride. Passengers riding on the Miss Catalina 5 speedboat. Miss Catalina 5 and 6 taking passengers out for a fun boat ride. Catalina Express enjoys being part of the Catalina community. The Catalina Express crew was part of an Island baseball league. Catalina Express and Two Harbors Express added to the fleet to increase capacity to Catalina. The Catalina Express vessel, later called the Channel Express, returning to the mainland. Tom Rutter, one of the founders of Catalina Express, was a captain for many years and enjoyed taking passengers for a boat ride. The original Catalina Express crew including Greg and Tim Bombard and Tom Rutter. The Catalina Express crew celebrating the company’s 10 year anniversary. The Catalina Express team celebrating the company’s 10 years of service. Doug Houghton, former captain for Catalina Express, making standard checks to ready the vessel to transport passengers to Catalina. The christening of the new Catalina Express vessel in 1994. The christening of the Cat Express in 1997. Doug Bombard, founder of Catalina Express, in the wheelhouse. Catalina Jet departing the downtown Long Beach location. The maiden voyage of the Jet Cat Express to Avalon. Catalina Express founders Doug Bombard, his son Greg and Tom Rutter in front of the Catalina Jet. Catalina Express call center agents are ready to take your call to plan your trip to Catalina. Starship Express docked at the San Pedro terminal. Catalina Express moved into a new terminal building in San Pedro, which used to be the hanger for the Seaplanes that provided service to Catalina. Over the years, Catalina Express became known for their Bloody Mary and the spicy green bean, which is a customer favorite. Catalina Express passenger love to share their Catalina vacation on social media. The journey begins on Catalina Express. Captain Mando in the state-of-the-art wheelhouse ready to take passengers on their Catalina getaway. Safety is a top priority for Catalina Express. View of the City of Avalon and all the fun to be had on this island paradise. Catalina Express is excited to welcome visitors back to Catalina Island, SoCal’s favorite getaway. The Catalina Express team is working on more innovative ideas to provide great service over to the Island. We look forward to serving the visitors and the community for another 40 years. Francina Hines Steven Jones Troy Menzel

Daily Boat Trips To Catalina Island

Discover paradise on Catalina Island with daily ferry trips to and from the island. More than one million travelers choose Catalina Island as their getaway each year and Catalina Express' large fleet of boats make the trip in about an hour, operating every day, year round from three mainland ports - Long Beach, San Pedro and Dana Point.

Escape To Catalina Island

Leave the hustle and bustle of the "mainland" behind. Catalina Island is the perfect place to take a break from the demands of daily life. With so many activities to choose from, your visit to Catalina Island can be adventure-packed or filled with rest and relaxation. With its year round Mediterranean climate, it's the ideal place to enjoy ocean air and sunshine.