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Port Review: San Francisco, USA

Joanna Hall


San Francisco has both a magnetic appeal and a stunning geography, making it an ideal year-round destination for cruising. When arriving or departing by ship, you also get the bonus of amazing views of two of its most famous sights - the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. On land, however, there are many essential experiences for visitors to enjoy, and many of the A-list are conveniently close to where ships dock.

The Details

Location: On the west coast of the USA in central California.

Language: English.

Currency: US dollar.

Docking/Anchoring: Ships dock at either the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal (Pier 27) or Pier 35 both of which are on the Embarcadero, close to Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and Fort Mason.

Transport: There are taxis outside of both piers, or at nearby Fisherman's Wharf, however, alternatives include taking the trolley, or walking to the cable car.

Don’t Miss

You’ll either love or hate Fisherman's Wharf, a touristy district which has lovely views across the bay to Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, and a lineup of seafood and fish restaurants and souvenir shops. There’s also famous sea lions in the harbour for a photo-op.

A trip to Alcatraz is a must for every first-timer, but 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 enjoy an important slice of San Francisco close up, and explore what was once home of some of America's most notorious criminals.

Chinatown is a fun area in which to buy cheesy souvenirs or tee-shirts, enjoy cheap Chinese cuisine including yum cha, and enjoy watching local life.

The Golden Gate Park is bigger than New York's Central Park and has a Botanical Gardens boasting more than 6,000 plant species, an aquarium and a planetarium. It’s great for a long walk, as well as to explore. 

Lombard Street in Russian Hill, located between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, is dubbed the crookedest street in the world, and emerged because its 27 per cent grade made it too steep for most vehicles to climb. The view from top or bottom is spectacular.

Best Photo Op

San Francisco has so many! Top picks include the top of the Coit Tower, which is close to the Embarcadero, and is a fascinating structure to see with panoramic views of the entire city and the coastline. And for the Golden Gate Bridge, head to the wide open space of Chrissy Field.


There are many shopping areas in the city, but it’s hard to get past the malls and shops on Union Square. The social hub of the city, this is where you'll find top hotels, as well as wall-to-wall department stores including Macy’s and Saks, art galleries and fashion boutiques from high street to high end. The Westfield Centre on Market Street is a huge indoor mall, home to the prestigious Nordstrom department store and many boutiques.

Eating And Drinking

A city blessed with fine cuisine, good food is on virtually every street corner one way or another. Top areas to explore include North Beach, the city's Italian Quarter which is packed with cafes ideal for a caffeine hit or for just for hanging out. Chinatown’s Asian restaurants are hard to beat, especially dim sum which you can buy at a bargain price from the kitchen outlets which supply the city's restaurants.


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 you have been there and done all of that, consider a wine country tour to the Napa Valley, or an excursion to the picturesque enclave of Sausalito across the bay which affords more photo ops of the San Francisco skyline.

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