Guide To What To Do In San Francisco Cruise Port


If you are planning to book a California Coastal Cruise in the United States for your next cruise vacation and are trying to decide on your cruise line and Itinerary? Then part of the decision is whether to add the Port of San Francisco Cruise to your Pacific Coast Cruise wish list?

San Francisco is located on a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay which is separated by the Golden Gate Bridge. And for us its a must visit location, with so much to see, nearby attractions include historic landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and the legendary cable cars.

This we are going to tell you exactly what there is to see in a day in the port of San Francisco. The hard bit is deciding what to fit in, when you are arriving for a port day on one of the fabulous cruise ships that dock there?

What to do on a port day in San Fransisco

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If you were to consider doing this trip as a land based holiday and wanted to also take in LA too, the drive from LA to San Francisco would take arounds 6 hours, traffic depending. However taking this very same route by cruise ship really inspires you to take it easy, thus making your California, San Francisco adventure an exciting trip with opportunities to see it all but relax in between ports and make the most of organised shore excursions or explore independently.

For us the choice between a long road trip, or sailing in luxury with fine dining and cocktails, outstanding service and views to die for is a no brainer.

How Far Is San Francisco Cruise Port Terminal From San Francisco International Airport?

If you are sailing in or out of James R. Herman cruise terminal in San Francisco Cruise Port, San Francisco Airport (SFO) is around 20 miles from the port. This is roughly 45 minutes by car and costs around $50 to $60 in a taxi.

Where Do Cruise Ships Dock At San Francisco Cruise Terminal?

Cruise ships sail from Pier 27 James R. Herman Cruise Terminal and Pier 35 on The Embarcadero which is only a short walk from so many attractions, plus the ferry for return trips to Alcatraz Island.

Guide To What To Do In San Francisco Cruise Port

  • Union Square
  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • San Francisco Cable Cars
  • Wild sea lions At Pier 39 At The Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Ghirardelli Square
  • Alcatraz Island
  • Disney Family Museum
  • The War Ships At Pier 45
  • Aquarium of the Bay
  • North Beach
  • Bay Bridge

Visit The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County, California, and is nearly two miles long, reaching across the Golden Gate where San Francisco Bay opens to meet the Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco Cruise Port, Visit the Golden Gate Bridge

Designed by Chicago-based engineer named Joseph Strauss. Construction took place between 1933 and 1937, where construction crews braved treacherous conditions to connect the cities. Thus also creating employment between the communities. Little did those brave workers know that their efforts would become an iconic part of the landscape and indeed history.

A great way to take in the Golden Gate Bridge is via walking tour with a guide with excellent local knowledge who can tell you more about the stories and people behind this iconic attraction.


Union Square

If shopping is your thing? You will find Union Square is the best area to head too. Packed with great hotels, shopping, dining options and museums. You will find an abundance of designer shops and stores such as….

  • Hermes
  • Dior
  • Major Department Stores such as Saks of 5th Avenue
  • Armarni
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Cartier
  • Tiffany
  • Christian Louboutin
  • Rolex
  • Gucci

But thats only the tip of the iceberg the shopping is extensive. Union Square is around 40 minutes walking distance away from San Fransisco Port. However is less that 30 minutes by tram, cable car or bus so easily accessible for cruise passengers.

Ride The San Francisco Cable Cars

The cable car is another iconic attraction, I mean have you ever seen a movie located in San Fransisco that doesn’t feature a cable car in some way?

Thus you can’t visit San Fransisco and not ride the cable cars. Single fares cost from $8, however it’s advisable to purchase in advance. Here is a map of cable car sales locations through the city.

How to book the Cable Cars in San Fransisco on a port day

If you are staying for 3 days of more as a pre or post cruise trip the City Pass offers you access to cable cars and buses, but also selected attractions and museums. Costing from $76.00 for adults and $56.00 for children up to the age of 11, it’s great value if you make full use of its perks.

What To Do In San Francisco Cruise Port

Visit The Wild Sea lions At Pier 39 At The Fisherman’s Wharf

The sea lions are said to have started hanging out at pier 39 shortly after the 1989 earthquake. Now you can find 100s sometimes 1000s of barking wild sea lions hanging out at the pier at Fisherman’s Wharf. Fortunately the sea lions are protected, thus providing a safe environment to stay.

The Sea Lions at Pier 39 on a port day in San Fransisco

Check Out Ghirardelli Square

A short walk from Fishermans Wharf you will find Ghirardelli Square, this is the ultimate dining location in San Francisco. Originally a chocolate factory established by Domenico “Domingo” Ghirardelli in 1852. Ghirardelli Square still to this day hosts a Ghirardelli store and chocolate experience, but now offers a multitude of dining options.

This is the perfect place to grab a snack and glass of wine and take in the San Fran way of life.

Check Out Ghirardelli Square

Explore Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island has served as a civil war fort, a military prison and one of the most notorious federal penitentiaries in US history, holding prisoners such as Al Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud (The Birdman of Alcatraz). It has also been the setting of many Hollywood blockbusters.

Here you can wander the infamous corridors and see the cells once inhabited by the hardened criminals. But note that Alcatraz is only accessible by ferry which departs at 30 minute intervals and the crossing takes 15 minutes. Then its an additional 1/4 mile walk to the prison, so it’s a great idea to visit as part of a tour or shore excursion.

Visiting Alcatraz with teens

You Can Also Visit The Disney Family Museum In San Fransisco Cruise Port

This is a must for Disney Fans, The Disney Family Museum in San Fransisco offers Disney Fans an insight into the life and loves of the Disney Family and the legend that is Walt Disney. Also check out the special Jungle Book Exhibition.

Entry is from $15 for Children and $25.00 for adults, with special exhibition prices of top. However do book in advance as tickets get booked up.

You Can Also Visit The Disney Family Museum In San Fransisco Cruise Port

Visit The War Ships At Pier 45

Head to Pier 45 to visit historic war ships SS Jeremiah O’Brien and the USS Pampanito. Both of these historic ships were used during World War II and a huge part of the war effort.

The SS Jeremiah O’Brien launched during WW2 and and named after the American Revolutionary War ship captain Jeremiah O’Brien. She made seven World War II voyages, including from South America, India, to Australia and England to Northern Ireland.

She also made eleven English Channel crossings carrying supplies and soldiers to the Normandy beaches to support of the D-Day invasions. Check out if there are any events during your trip.

USS Pampanito was built in 1943 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. She is a World War II Balao class fleet submarine. And was part of the elite force of U.S. submarines who patrolled the Pacific in World War 2. Pampanito made six patrols during WW2 where she sank six Japanese ships.

Aquarium of the Bay

This is a wonderful place to take the family, as the Aquarium of the Bay, celebrates and supports the natural ecosystems and habitats of San Fransisco Bay with walk through and interactive exhibits.

Tickets vary depending on which of the many experiences you choose, there are also discounts for families.

North Beach

North Beach adjacent to Chinatown. The neighbourhood is also known as the Little Italy of San Francisco. Thus you will find many Italian restaurants, though it has evolved into a much more multicultural neighbourhood.

Here you can find street art, bohemian coffee shops. Additionally try climb up Filbert Street to the base of Coit Tower. Its one of San Fransisco’s steep hills thats worth the climb for the 360-degree views of the city and bay, including the Golden Gate and Bay bridges.

Bay Bridge

The San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, otherwise known as Bay Bridge was built in the 1930s and opened on November 12, 1936. The bridge made up of two bridge segments, comprising of a skyway single anchored suspension bridge between Oakland and Yerba Buena Island, and also a suspension bridge from the island to San Francisco.

This feat of engineering is 4.35 miles (eastbound), 4.33 miles (westbound) including the approaches. The bridge sits of the other side of the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge and can be seen from the San Francisco Waterfront.

The Following Cruise Lines Stop At San Francisco Cruise Port Terminal in 2023

  • Princess Cruises
    • Ruby Princess
    • Majestic Princess
    • Caribbean Princess
    • Discovery Princess
    • Diamond Princess
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
    • Bliss
    • Encore
    • Jewel
  • Regent Seven Seas, Mariner
  • Holland America Line
    • Koningsdam
    • Zuiderdam
    • Nieuw Amsterdam
  • Viking Orion
  • Disney Wonder
  • Carnival Cruise Lines, Miracle
  • Cunard Queen Elizabeth
  • Celebrity Cruises
    • Celebrity Solstice
    • Celebrity Millennium
  • Regatta
Great cruise ships for babies, Norwegian Encore,Norwegian Cruise Line's Biggest Ships?

The Weather In San Fransisco

The best time to visit San Fransisco if you are looking for warmer days is July to October. Although all year round offers a fairly reasonable climate. June till September are the lowest rainfall months. Check out more weather info here.


And there you have it, a peek at some of the wonderful experiences and tours you can take part in when you visit San Francisco Cruise Port. The only problem now is working out what you want to do most! Check out the dates and exciting Itineraries for California Coastal Cruises over at Princess Cruises.

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  • Sarah Christie

    Sarah also writes for Mini Travellers Family Travel Blog and Extraordinary Chaos Craft and Lifestyle Blog. Both are award-winning blogs with a travel and family focus. She is married and has two boys, aged 18 and 22, who all love cruising as a family. Nothing is better than waking up every day in a new port with new and exciting things to explore. She aims to share how cruising as a family with young adults is the perfect choice for family travel. Her boys are sporty and love the activities, sports and dining options cruising offers. Sarah has worked with brands such as Walt Disney World, Mark Warner, Ikos Resort, Center Parcs, Laura Ashley, Belling and Next.

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