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Cruises to San Francisco

San Francisco (Photo:Travel Stock/Shutterstock)
San Francisco (Photo:Travel Stock/Shutterstock)

About San Francisco

It's no wonder Tony Bennett left his heart there. San Francisco is a compact city of world-class culture, historical landmarks, award-winning dining, outdoor adventures and nightlife -- all wrapped by a sparkling bay flanked by the famous Golden Gate Bridge, visible from historic cable cars that ply the hilly streets. Even the unpredictable fog adds to the beauty.

Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala discovered the inlet in 1775, but it wasn't until 1847 that San Francisco got its name -- just before gold was discovered in "them thar" Sierra Nevada hills to the east. In 1850, California became the 31st state in the union, and, by 1854, more than 500 saloons and 20 theaters graced the booming Gold Rush town. But, the real "gold" to be found was in its seas. The area known as Fisherman's Wharf, on the San Francisco Bay, is still the center of Northern California's commercial and sport fishing industry.

Indeed, the City by the Bay reflects its roots: a morning stroll down Fish Alley -- Jefferson between Hyde and Jones -- offers a chance to view fishermen at work. The Saloon (1232 Grant Avenue) established in 1861, still stands in the city's North Beach neighborhood with cracked barstools and a dusty wooden floor. (It's one of the three oldest taverns in San Francisco, which somehow survived demolition by man and earthquakes, including the major one in 1906 that resulted in fire and widespread destruction.)

But, above all, today's San Francisco is playfully sophisticated, with a mix of distinct contemporary neighborhoods like the tie-dye-wearing, peace-loving Haight; the super-trendy Mission; swank Pacific Heights; and fabulously gay Castro, home to many of the city's LGBT businesses and households.

If your voyage begins or ends in this colorful California port, consider a pre- or post-cruise stay. The treats of San Francisco command more than a few hours. These include mah-jongg parlors in Chinatown (with yummy samples from the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley), cable car rides over Nob Hill, the staircase down the very steep and crooked Lombard Street, the ferry ride to enchanting Sausalito across San Francisco Bay and, of course, an escape to Alcatraz.

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DAY 1: Vancouver

7 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Victoria, San Francisco ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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5 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
San Francisco, Victoria ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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17 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
San Diego, Cabo San Lucas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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120 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Honolulu, Maui ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Astoria, Oregon, Sitka ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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18 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Key West, Grand Cayman ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
San Francisco, Monterey ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Seattle, Astoria, Oregon ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Monterey ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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18 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Honolulu, Maui ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Catalina Island, Ensenada ...
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Cruise Line:
Oceania Cruises
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Cruise Critic Favorite

108 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Southampton
Visiting:
Hamilton, Port Canaveral ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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25 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Los Angeles
Visiting:
Honolulu, Kauai ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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50 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
San Francisco, San Diego ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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25 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Victoria, Astoria, Oregon ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Sitka, Juneau ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Catalina Island, Santa Barbara ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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20 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Cartagena, Panama Canal ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Vancouver
Visiting:
Victoria, Astoria, Oregon ...
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Cruise Line:
Crystal Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Diego
Visiting:
Catalina Island, Santa Barbara ...
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Cruise Line:
Holland America Line
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Cruise Critic Favorite

16 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
Montego Bay, Puerto Limon ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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27 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
Southampton
Visiting:
Hamilton, Port Canaveral ...
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Cruise Line:
Cunard Line
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7 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Santa Barbara, Los Angeles ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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13 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Astoria, Oregon, Ketchikan ...
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Cruise Line:
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to San Francisco

Leaving:
San Francisco
Visiting:
Juneau, Skagway ...
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Cruise Line:
Princess Cruises
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Why go to San Francisco?

Pros:

Lots to see and do: Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, Painted Ladies, streetcar rides

Cons:

San Francisco is an expensive city, and the airport is 45 minutes from the cruise terminals

Bottom Line:

This departure port is ideal for a pre- or post-cruise stay

San Francisco Cruise Port Facilities?

Piers 27 and 35 are located at the Embarcadero. Most ships dock at Pier 27, the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal, opened in 2014, located along the Embarcadero, the city's bustling downtown waterfront on San Francisco Bay, but some, especially in-transit ships, dock at Pier 35, a few blocks away. Nearby are the restaurants and tourist attractions of Pier 39, the Ferry Building Marketplace food hall and Fisherman's Wharf.

Some of the city's major tourist attractions are located within steps of the port, including touristy Fisherman's Wharf. Hyde Street Pier, a historic ferry pier near Fisherman's Wharf, is part of the National Park Service's Maritime Museum. There, maritime buffs can board historic vessels, such as the 1886 square-rigger Balclutha and 1914 paddlewheel tugboat Eppleton Hall.

Nearby, Pier 39 is a bustling marketplace boasting more than 110 stores, 14 bay-view restaurants, street performers and live daily entertainment.

The Embarcadero is great for strolling, with kiosks explaining the city's history and quotes or snippets of poetry embedded in the sidewalk.

Good to Know?

Summer is cold and foggy: Bring a jacket, sweater or warm scarf (ideally, all three). If you arrive in a T-shirt and shorts, you'll regret it.

Be prepared for rough seas when you sail out into the Pacific Ocean. Also, San Francisco is the hilliest city in the United States, and its steep streets are best traversed by bus or the famous cable cars, whose views can be enjoyed standing on one of the outside platforms, but travelers should hold on tight (and keep extremities tucked away from oncoming traffic).

Getting Around?

By Car: All the major rental companies operate in the city and have desks at the airports. They include Avis, Alamo and Enterprise. Car rental rates vary with daily rates, starting from about $50. Be advised that parking is horrendous in the city, but if you're spending several days, you might want to rent a car to visit more far-flung sites, including Muir Woods and Wine Country. If you're lucky enough to find street parking, use the hand brake and curb your wheels when facing downward on a hill and away from the curb when uphill. You'll get a pricy ticket if you don't. All parking meters operate Sundays, and some along the Embarcadero operate later than the usual 6 p.m. cutoff.

By Ride-Hail App: Do what the locals do: Use Lyft or Uber in the city where both companies were born.

On Foot: There are many distinct neighborhoods (e.g., Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, Nob Hill, North Beach, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, Union Square, SoMa (South of Market), the Haight, Castro, Mission, Marina, Richmond, Sunset and Tenderloin). From the cruise terminals, you're just a few blocks from Telegraph Hill and North Beach. Fisherman's Wharf and the Ferry Building Marketplace are both on the Embarcadero, but on different sides of the cruise terminal. The Golden Gate Bridge is tucked in the city's northwest corner. The city's main thoroughfare is Market Street, leading into the city from the Ferry Building. San Francisco is a perfect place for walking, and it's fun to wander the hilly streets and even over the Golden Gate. Fact is, you can walk from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf, passing Chinatown and North Beach on the way, and it will take you about an hour. Walking is the best way to travel for those not in a rush, and it's the only way to really see the neighborhoods.

By Rail or Bus: The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) runs the cable cars, buses and streetcars. One-way fare for a bus or streetcar is $2.75 ($1.35 if you're 65 or older); you'll need exact change to ride. Service typically begins around 5 or 6 a.m. and ends around midnight or 1 a.m., depending on the route (some routes do offer late-night "Owl" service). You might want to consider a Passport, which gives you unlimited rides on all services for one, three or seven days. You can purchase the pass at the SFMTA Customer Service Center (Van Ness at Market), information booths at SFO baggage claim, the Powell/Market cable car booth, the Sutter and Hyde streets booth, the Bay and Taylor streets booth and the Geary and Presidio avenues booth. BART is mainly used for reaching the outlying areas like Berkeley, Oakland and the airport. Machines inside the stations dispense tickets. The trains run every 15 minutes or so, Monday to Friday from 4 a.m. to midnight, Saturday from 6 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 8 a.m. to midnight.

Pro tip: A $89 CityPASS ($69 for kids) gets visitors admission to several popular cultural and entertainment attractions without waiting on line: a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Aquarium of the Bay and either Exploratorium or San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, plus three days of unlimited transportation on the buses, cable cars and street cars. You can purchase it at any of the included attractions or online.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Because San Francisco is part of the U.S., the currency is the U.S. dollar. International visitors will find it easy to access cash at numerous ATMs. Exchange bureaus -- so common in Europe -- are not in the U.S., but major banks also provide exchange services. Most banks are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Some are also open Saturday mornings.

Language?

English is the primary language spoken.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2016 Top-Rated US & Canada Destinations
  • 2015 Top-Rated US & Canada Destinations

San Francisco Cruise Reviews

Celebrity Eclipse
packedcountdown
Sail Date: Nov 2019
There is much to see in San Francisco, China Town, etc.... Read More
Norwegian Gem
beachcomberbill
Sail Date: Jan 2020
Hey, it’s San Francisco.... Read More
Grand Princess
waylyn
Sail Date: Jan 2020
I love San Francisco. Have been here before but this time we flew in & took the shuttle from the airport to the cruiseport... Read More
Grand Princess
BeeMom
Sail Date: Sep 2019
I grew up in the bay area and was saddened to see all of the homeless on the streets of San Francisco as we were being driven to the cruise terminal. We even saw a queen size mattress with two homeless people... Read More
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