Cruise tours show you a whole new side of the City by the Bay. San Francisco is an exciting place to explore on land, thanks to those cable car tours and hilly streets, but it’s also exciting to check of the city from the water. Cruises of the bay are the only way to get to Alcatraz, the famous prison landmark known as the Rock, and they’re a great way to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline.
A number of cruises set sail from docks throughout San Francisco, from mid-morning sightseeing cruises and luncheon sails to dinner cruises and romantic sunset sails. Some cruise tours combine a sail with other San Francisco attractions, like a tram tour or Angel Island or a visit to the Aquarium of the Bay. With so many cruises and packages available, it’s quite easy to work a cruise tour in your vacation plans no matter how long you’re staying in San Francisco.
It’s nice to plan ahead, and it’s often a great way to save on tickets, but you won’t be out of luck if you decide to add a cruise at the last minute. Many of the cruises have ticket booths right on Pier 39, which is so much more than a simple dock, and will have plenty of last-minute tickets available. It’s one of the best places to visit if you want to experience the fun side of San Francisco with the shops, live entertainment and great restaurants. It’s also the place where the sea lions hang out, often pointed out on cruise tours.
After a ride in the PIER 39 carousel, it’s the perfect time to set sail on the San Francisco Bay. An array of ships leave from the docks, including the sail boat that competed in the America’s Cup in 2003, USA 76. The Blue & Gold Feet offers ferry service and narrated cruise aboard comfortable, modern vessels. High-speed thrills combine with the views on a RocketBoat cruise, and San Francisco Whale Tours visits the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary aboard sleek catamarans. Charters and private excursions are available from the PIER 39 Marina.
The Red and White Fleet set sail in 1892, even before the big earthquake. In the last century-plus, this fleet has carried millions of happy locals and vacationers along the bay. The family-run company continues to offer narrated cruises with headphones and commentary in several different languages, along with sunset sails and special event cruise tours.