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Essentials

Language: English.

Currency: US Dollar.

Docking/Anchoring: Docking at Pier 35 on the Embarcadero, close to Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and Fort Mason.

Itineraries: Features on Alaska cruises, sometimes Panama Canal and Hawaii cruises,  and occasionally Mexican Riviera cruises.

Getting Around: There are usually taxis outside of the pier, or at nearby Fisherman’s Wharf. Alternatives include taking the trolley, or walking to a cable car stop.

Overview

San Francisco is not only picturesque but has a magnetic appeal, making it an ideal year-round destination. Another bonus is that arriving or departing by ship affords amazing views of two of its most famous tourist sites – the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. On land, however, there are many quintessential experiences for visitors to enjoy pre or post cruise, or as a port of call, and for cruise passengers some of the A-list are conveniently close to Pier 35 where ships dock.

Must See

Fisherman’s Wharf: You’ll either love or late this touristy area which is close to the pier. It does afford some nice views across the bay to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, but mostly it’s an area of mainly seafood and fish restaurants and souvenir shops, with a few sea lions in the harbour to boot.

Coit Tower: If you don’t feel like venturing far, head for the Coit Tower which is not only a fascinating structure to see, but also affords panoramic views of the entire city and the coastline.

Alcatraz: Now run by the National Park Service, during the busy season tickets to this notorious former prison get booked out well in advance. If you have the opportunity to go, however, you will get to enjoy an important slice of San Francisco close up, and explore what was once the home of some of America’s most notorious criminals.

Chinatown: It’s about eight blocks long with two bustling main streets, Grant and Stockton. Here the thing to do is buy some cheesy souvenirs or t-shirts, enjoy watching local life, or grab some dim sum at a bargain price from the kitchen cafes which supply the city’s restaurants.

North Beach: It’s the city’s Italian Quarter and an area packed with the city’s best cafes, perfect for a caffeine hit or for just for hanging out and people watching. This area is also packed with history; it’s where the baseball great, Joe DiMaggio, grew up, and is home to one of the city’s oldest streets in Grant Avenue.

Golden Gate Park: This impressive park is larger than New York’s Central Park and has a Botanical Gardens boasting more than 6,000 plant species, an aquarium and a planetarium.

Union Square: Considered by many as the hub of the city, this is where you’ll find many of the city’s top hotels, department stores, galleries and fashion boutiques. It’s a shopper’s haven, with plenty of spots in which to wet your whistle or grab a bite to eat.

Excursions

If you are new to San Francisco, a city tour will not only take the strain off your legs (it is an extremely hilly metropolis), but also afford you most of the popular and famous sights, even if some, like Alcatraz, are from afar.

If it is high summer, however, a tour of Alcatraz not only gives you a nice boat ride but the option of exploring a piece of local history without the queues.

If you have been there and done all of that, consider a wine country tour to the Napa Valley if one is offered, or an excursion to the pretty enclave of Sausalito across the bay which affords plenty of photo ops of the San Francisco skyline.