Cruises From San Francisco, California

Crown Princess docked at the James R Crown Princess docked at the James R. Herman International Cruise Terminal, Pier 27, San Francisco. Overflow ships may dock at Pier 35.   Photo credit Dave R

San Francisco, The City By The Bay

A six mile sided square in shape, San Francisco straddles the tip of a narrow peninsula which lies between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

Though today San Francisco sprawls across 40 steep-sided hills, originally the city was built over just 7: Rincon Hill at first a fashionable residential area then a business sector, Twin Peaks a large natural park, Mount Davidson which has a large cross at its summit, Mount Sutro which boasts a forest of eucalyptus trees, Nob Hill affluent and exclusive, Russian Hill named after a Russian cemetery and Telegraph Hill topped by the stunning art deco Colt Tower.

San Francisco’s history starts in 1769, when Spaniards sailing from Mexico scouted out the bay. Based on their report of the area’s significant potential, an advanced party marched to the area from San Diego to establish a military base. The outpost was transferred to United States ownership in 1848. In the same year that San Francisco became part of the US, gold was discovered near to the city, attracting the attention of thousands of would be prospective gold miners. The rough and ready outpost rapidly grew into America's largest city west of the Mississippi River. Through the late 19th century San Francisco continued to grow, boasting leading department stores, prestigious residential areas, a modern cable car system and a stylish Opera House. The city’s economic strength further improved with the arrival of the Pacific Railroad which spurred the establishment of profitable assembly line industries.

San Francisco's expansion was curtailed in 1906 when a huge earthquake hit the city. The earthquake was so powerful people felt the shock-wave as far away as Nevada. Raging fires spread out of control causing the destruction of nearly three-quarters of the downtown area. Reconstruction began almost right away, but surprisingly building standards were not tightened, as many feared that this would delay redevelopment.

After a period of consolidation, the city emerged in the 1930s with the benefits of another boom. The Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge were built, and in 1940 the Golden Gate International Exposition achieved widespread recognition.

Today San Francisco is a major financial and insurance center, an international port, and the gateway to Silicon Valley, home of technology giants such as Sun, Google, eBay and HP.

Cruise Terminals

In late 2014 the newly constructed James R. Herman International Cruise Terminal at Pier 27 came into full operation as the city’s main cruise terminal. Pier 35 North and Pier 35 South are kept as reserve cruise ship docks.

Pier 27 Terminal
Thanks to its diagonal orientation, Pier 27 is SF’s longest berth and can dock modern ships up to 1150 ft in length. The new terminal offers extensive embarkation/debarkation lobbies with tourism facilities, ticketing desks, meeting rooms and retail shops.

Pier 35 Terminal
Pier 35 has a rich history as home to the iconic Matson Line. The 'White Fleet' of the Line, consisting of SS Malolo, SS Mariposa, SS Lurline and SS Monterey, operated a wide range of cruises from this dock as far back as the 1920s. The cruise terminal at Pier 35 is a spartan building – a passenger transit shed behind a fascia bulkhead building. The terminal is adjacent to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf, and within a short stroll from museums, theaters, hotels and restaurants. Facilities include passport checking, customs, luggage checking, check-in and shops.

Two separate commercial operations Impark Parking and Ace Parking (the parking supplier for Princess Cruises) offer parking close to the cruise terminal buildings. Booking in advance is advised.

cruises from san francisco

Cruises From San Francisco

A large variety of cruises from San Francisco are on offer with the most popular durations being 7, 11, or 15 days. The favorite San Francisco cruise is the voyage west across the huge Pacific to the Islands of Hawaii. Typical shore excursions include swimming in the warm tropical waters of Kalapaki Beach in Kauai, learning to surf on Waikiki beach on Oahu, visiting the awe-inspiring Volcano National Park in the Big Island, and enjoying the energetic vibe of Front Street in Lahaina. The second favorite itinerary is the return trip to Alaska with calls at Juneau, Tracy Arm Fjord, Skagway and Ketchikan. You will see spectacular coast and mountain panoramas, enormous glaciers calving into the ocean and coastal settlements with rich histories. Extended repositioning cruises to Australia and the Panama canal are also sometimes scheduled.

Things To Do Near San Francisco Cruise Port

Fisherman’s Wharf
Every year Fisherman’s Wharf draws huge numbers of tourists to its many eclectic attractions. Your tour of Fisherman’s Wharf can cover Ghirardelli Square, with its origins in a chocolate making enterprise established by Domenico Ghirardelli, Hyde Street Pier, belonging to the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, USS Pampanito, a WWII submarine, the cable car turnaround at Beach St, a busy part of San Francisco’s historic cable car transport system and Pier 39, popular with children thanks to its sea lion colony and carousel.

The inventor of the city's cable car network, Andrew Smith Hallidie, was inspired to start the ambitious project after witnessing the terrible deaths of five horses who fell down a steep slippery slope while pulling a large wagon. Of the 23 lines which operated in the city at the end of the late 19th century just 3 remain, Powell-Mason , Powell-Hyde (made from sections of the Powell-Washington-Jackson and O'Farrell-Jones-Hyde lines) and the California Street Line . To check out the driving force behind the cable cars, make a trip to the Cable Car Barn and Powerhouse at the intersection of Washington and Mason.

From 1934 to 1963 America's most notorious gangsters were imprisoned in a nearly inescapable federal penitentiary built on Alcatraz, a small rocky island standing in San Francisco bay. A sightseeing tour of the prison includes the Library, the Dining Hall, the Recreation Yard, the ruin’s of the Warden's House, the Lighthouse and the Main Cellhouse. Alcatraz Cruises, who run a service to the island from Pier 33, is the ferry operator to Alcatraz and back. As the cruises generally are fully sold it's best to book ahead of your visit on-line.

Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge was inaugurated in 1937. Incredibly on the day before it opened to road traffic, almost 200,000 people crossed the bridge by foot or bicycle. The bridge is accessible to both pedestrians and bicyclists, and was built with sidewalks on both sides of the six motor vehicle traffic lanes. Pedestrians are only permitted on the east sidewalk, the side overlooking San Francisco. Bicyclists have the other sidewalk. Fort Point, built in the years between 1853 and 1861 stands at the south end of the bridge. It is possible to tour both the fort and the bridge on the same visit.

Lombard Street
The ‘most crooked street in the world’, Lombard Street is an easy trip along Hyde Street on the Powell-Hyde cable car departing from the Beach St stop at Fisherman’s Wharf. There are sets of steps on either side of the street, allowing the energetic to walk up or down the hill for a closer look at the 8 hairpin bends.

Though many of the buildings in SF's Chinatown may not be properly Chinese in style, the people, food and culture lend a genuine quality to the district . The primary tourist area is Grant Avenue, where the flamboyantly ornamented street is lined with all kinds of far-eastern markets, shops and eateries. Don't miss the Golden Gate Cookie Factory, the sole remaining cookie factory in San Francisco - here the cookies are made by hand the old fashioned way.

Getting To The Cruise Port

The cruise terminal's location is absolutely perfect as a base from which to see SF's attractions, but its downtown position makes it difficult to reach. Passengers booked on cruises from San Francisco can reach the cruise terminals by car, cab or bus.

Cruise Port Map (click on image for larger image)

San Francisco Cruise Port Map

Cruise Port Location(s) @  James R. Herman International cruise terminal    Pier 35 cruise terminal

Port Authority  Port of San Francisco

Port Website   Port of San Francisco

Currency  USD

Timezone  PST/PDT