James R. Herman Cruise Terminal
Pier 27, The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94133
The Port of San Francisco annually hosts more than 80 cruise ship calls and 300,000 passengers at the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal (Pier 27) and nearby Pier 35. (Pier 35, the 100-year-old previous terminal, is used at busy times, but typically only for transit ships, not embarkation.) More than half of those 80 calls are thanks to Princess Cruises, which has a ship homeported here. San Francisco's new, much-needed terminal opened in fall 2014, greeting passengers with a two-story, 91,000-square-foot building that has spectacular views of the Bay Bridge, downtown skyline and Telegraph Hill.
The terminal is in a prime location, with easy access to popular attractions including Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, the Ferry Building, Exploratorium and Union Square. Its facilities are designed for ships in the 2,600-passenger range, but can handle vessels carrying as many as 4,000 passengers. The modern building's glass facade lets in lots of light, but inside it's pretty much all business, without much architectural pizzazz.
You embark here for a short-hop coastal cruise to Southern California or take longer voyages to Alaska, Mexico or Hawaii. In spring and fall, there's the possibility of a repositioning voyage. And, of course, you could easily spend three or four days in San Francisco before or after your cruise and never run out of things to see and do.
Here's what you need to know if you're departing on a cruise from San Francisco.
Cross the bridge on US-101 (you'll have to go online to pay the toll if you don't have a payment transponder; pay up to 30 days before you cross or within 48 hours after crossing), then take Exit 437 and turn left onto Girard Road, which will become Marina Boulevard. Keep following as the street makes a 90-degree turn and becomes Laguna Street. Two blocks later, turn left onto Bay Street, which will eventually dead-end at the Embarcadero. Turn right onto the Embarcadero. You will pass the terminal and make a left U-turn at the next point where you can cross the median, then proceed to the terminal where you'll turn right to enter.
Take US-101 North, following it until the two right lanes split off to become I-280 North (Downtown direction). Stay on I-280 until the freeway ends at King Street. Continue straight onto King Street, which will become the Embarcadero. Follow the Embarcadero until you reach Pier 27, and make a right turn to enter.
Cross the bridge on I-80 (pay at the toll booth), positioning yourself in one of the two right-hand lanes as you near the city. Take Exit 2C onto Fremont Street. Turn right onto Howard Street, which will dead-end at the Embarcadero. Turn left onto the Embarcadero and follow it until you reach Pier 27; then make a right turn to enter. If you're coming from this direction, allow plenty of time for backups at the toll plaza and downtown traffic, particularly during rush hour.
The cost of the 15-mile cab ride from the airport to the cruise terminal is approximately $60 to $70, including a 20-percent tip. It will usually take 30 to 45 minutes, depending on traffic.
Uber and Lyft are popular options in the city, and they're allowed to operate at San Francisco International Airport. If you're using them for the first time, save big by searching online for discount sign-up codes. You'll need to meet your driver on the airport's Departures level. For getting around on shorter hops when you don't have luggage, the shared versions of both services (UberPool and Lyft Line) are economical alternatives to mass transit.
Streetcar: The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) operates the F Line streetcar, which stops in front of Pier 27. If you are coming from the north, get off at the Embarcadero and Sansome Street. Coming from the south, get off at the Embarcadero and Greenwich Street.
Rapid Transit: If you are coming by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit System, which serves the city, suburbs and airport), get off at the Embarcadero station, then walk to the intersection of Market Street and Main Street, where you can catch the F Line streetcar toward Fisherman's Wharf. Get off at the Embarcadero and Greenwich Street, where you'll see Pier 27 nearby.
Amtrak doesn't serve San Francisco, although it does serve Oakland in the East Bay. If you arrive by train, Amtrak operates a bus transfer service into San Francisco. The closest stop is the Ferry Building, on the Embarcadero. From there, you can walk north along the Embarcadero for 1 mile to Pier 27, or you can catch the F Line streetcar and get off at the Embarcadero and Greenwich Street. There's also a taxi stand.
Bike rentals are available via Bay Area Bikeshare, which charges a daily, weekly or annual subscription fee; after that, you can ride for 30-minute increments at no additional charge. You can change bikes as often as you like and take as many trips as you want, but additional fees apply if you keep a single bike out longer than 30 minutes. There is a Bikeshare station across the street from Pier 27, on the southwest corner of the Embarcadero and Samsone Street; other stations are located around downtown and the Fisherman's Wharf areas.
There are no rental car agencies located at the cruise terminal, however, you'll find most of the major brands less than a mile away in the Fisherman's Wharf area.
Don't believe Google Maps -- there is no parking at the terminal. Because the cruise port is located near both downtown and popular tourist areas, parking lots can be expensive. The two closest lots are across the Embarcadero from the terminal on Francisco Street. For long-term parking, Ace Parking operates a garage at 55 Francisco Street (415-398-1900, ext. 112),which charges cruise customers $18 per day or $28 per day for oversized vehicles (credit cards accepted); and ImPark operates a garage at 80 Francisco Street (415-398-4162), which charges cruise customers $16 per day (credit cards accepted). Cruisers must identify themselves to the attendant or regular rates will apply.
To reach both garages, turn onto Chestnut Street from the Embarcadero, then take a right onto Montgomery Street and follow it as it makes a 90-degree curve and becomes Francisco Street.
We suggest you check with the garages in advance for availability or reserve at ImPark through ParkingPanda.com. Because short-term parking prices and availability at other lots can vary widely (even by time of day), we recommend using BestParking.com to search out the best option for your needs.
If you are parking nearby, you can drop off your luggage and your party at the terminal before parking your vehicle. Private cars, taxis and car-share vehicles are allowed to enter the ground transportation area for dropping off passengers -- though drivers might balk if there's a line of cars waiting to unload. Be firm and tell them you want to go all the way to the door if you want to avoid a walk.
Porters are available onsite to assist with luggage during embarkation and disembarkation.
The terminal is generally ready to process embarking passengers between 11 a.m. and noon for security screening and ticketing. In the event of inclement weather, staff try to accommodate those who might arrive early. Passenger boarding usually starts around 1 p.m. Always default to the time listed or suggested on your cruise line-issued e-docs for the best estimate of when to arrive.
Wheelchairs should be requested via your cruise line or travel agent, not at the terminal.
There are no food or beverage services at the terminal, but it's central location means you're not far from plenty of dining and shopping. When you're getting oriented, keep in mind that piers are not consecutively numbered. Odd-numbered piers (including the cruise terminal) are north of the Ferry Building (where Market Street and the Embarcadero intersect), while even-numbered piers are south of the Ferry Building.
Across the Embarcadero from the terminal, Fog City (1300 Battery Street) offers California cuisine, including oysters, seafood and burgers. Walk north along the Embarcadero for Cal-Asian fusion at Butterfly (Pier 33). True foodies should head south 1 mile along the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building, which hosts farmers markets, prepared food stands and restaurants; there's also shopping here, and most businesses are local. If you're headed north of the terminal to tourist areas Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, you'll find plenty of eats, from Boudin's (160 Jefferson Street) chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl to fast food outlets. Venture toward downtown for upscale Italian cuisine at Perbacco (230 California Street) or hearty Cal-American dining at Tyler Florence's Wayfare Tavern (558 Sacramento Street).
Major department stores and the Westfield Shopping Center are grouped near Union Square, about 2 miles away. You'll find plenty of souvenir shops around Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf -- but if you've got young kids or grandkids, don't overlook the museum shop at the Exploratorium (Pier 15), a half-mile walk south of the terminal. It's got oodles of fun, surprising, educational toys and books.
Outside of the terminal, public restrooms are located in a small stand-alone building to the right of the driveway that leads from the Embarcadero to the ground transportation area.
Inside the terminal, restrooms are located on the second floor, as well as in the baggage collection area for disembarking passengers and passengers in transit.
Wireless internet is free and available throughout the cruise terminal.
Due to security restrictions, luggage cannot be stored at the San Francisco cruise terminal.
You'll find 2.5 acres of public open space located outside of the Embarcadero end of the terminal, at Cruise Terminal Plaza. It offers a lawn with 50 benches that are perfect for soaking up sunshine, plus views of the Bay, Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, Financial District, Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower. Attached to the benches you'll find images and history about some of the most famous cruise ships that have called at San Francisco over the past 150 years.
Inside the terminal, you'll find a seating area on the second level.
The closest hotels to the cruise port are located in the nearby Fisherman's Wharf area, with major brands including Sheraton, Best Western and Holiday Inn, as well as one-off lodgings. If you want to be out of the wharf's tourist hubbub, the Washington Square Inn is located in North Beach, the old Italian neighborhood. There's a large Hyatt at Drumm Street and Market Street, and the boutique Vitale at the Embarcadero and Mission Street. The city's grand old hotels (Fairmont, St. Francis, Ritz-Carlton) are clustered near Union Square, while many of the newer upscale brands (W, Four Seasons, St. Regis, Intercontinental) are located south of Market Street, in the SOMA neighborhood. Homesharing services like Airbnb are also a popular choice in San Francisco, particularly if you want to avoid the city's steep hotel prices. Embarkation days are busy at the cruise port; budget more than enough time to battle potential traffic (only one way in) to make sure you get there with plenty of time to spare.
Updated October 10, 2019