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Best cruise lines from San Francisco

Explore the sparkling sea beyond the golden gates.

Updated

San Francisco Bridge

San Francisco is an electrifying, dizzying, creative city that’s perfectly situated on the Pacific for cruises north to Alaska or south to Hawaii, Mexico and beyond.

Best cruises from San Francisco

Here’s our picks for the best cruises from San Francisco, whether it’s icebergs or ice-cold drinks that you’re craving:

Budget option

Best for cruises from San Francisco to Mexico: Carnival

Carnival's four- and five-night cruises to Mexico are short-and-sweet so you can set foot in Ensenada, Mexico without being away for too long. Take a tour of wine country, ride along the coast on horseback and explore Guadalupe Valley via safari while you're there.

Got a busy schedule? Carnival offers these quick trips monthly, so you don't have to worry about planning your year around the cruise.

  • No free room service
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Paypal, Carnival EasyPay, Gift Card, Discover Card, Debit, Western Union, Cheque
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for cruises from San Francisco to Hawaii: Princess

Princess Cruises sails from San Fran to Hawaii almost monthly. Sail south for four days, then visit Hilo, Honolulu, Kauai and Maui for the quintessential tiki escape. Marvel at legendary volcano Mauna Kea, get lost in the Akaka waterfalls and walk along black sand beaches.

On the way home, explore romantic Ensenada, Mexico. You'll only be gone for a total 15 days — but you won't come back the same.

  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card, JCB
Price ($-$$$):

Best for Panama Canal cruises from San Francisco: Norwegian

To be fair, NCL is the only cruise line that offers Panama Canal cruises from San Francisco — but it's got the trip down pat, with rates as low as $51 per night. The jam-packed itinerary ports in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Columbia, Aruba and Netherlands Antilles before landing in NYC. This 21-night adventure is bound to be as breathtaking as it is relaxing.
  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Best for Alaska cruises from San Francisco: Princess

Dying to let your inner Jack London run wild? Sail north to explore America's last frontier with Princess Cruises, with port stops in Juneau, Skagaway and Ketchikan.

Get up-close-and-personal with the Dawes Glacier and Endicott Arm fjord. Its 10-day journeys feature whale watching, dog sledding, and plenty of rugged outdoor activities.

  • Room service included
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Discover Card, JCB
Price ($-$$$):

Best for luxury cruises from San Francisco: Regent

If you're willing to pay a little more for all-included everything — alcohol, shore excursions, gratuities, Wi-Fi, etc — consider Regent Seven Seas. Its ultra-luxe cruises sail from San Fran to Alaska, islands in the Pacific or around the world. Seriously — its 131-night world cruise sails to dozens of bucket list destinations, from Bora Bora to Singapore, Dubai, Rome, Barcelona and many more.
  • No free room service
  • No free alcohol
  • Food included
  • No price matching
  • Visa, American Express, Discover Card
Price ($-$$$):
Book now

Are there three-night cruises from San Francisco?

Rarely. At the time of writing, the only company offering a three-night cruise is Cunard. The itinerary only has one departure date available to travel up to Astoria before landing in Victoria, Canada.

Your best bet at a short cruise from San Francisco is a four-night cruise, as these are more readily available. Carnival has the best four-night cruises from San Francisco, which sail to Mexico.

What are the cheapest cruises from San Francisco?

Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival usually have the cheapest cruises departing from San Francisco, so compare prices and itineraries if you’re hoping to find the lowest fare. Both of these companies are known for offering special deals, discounts and freebies throughout the year, especially around Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

How we chose these cruises

When choosing cruises for this list, we looked at the quality of routes available from each cruise line, prioritizing well-paced itineraries with port stops at key destinations around the region.

We also considered dining onboard, weighing the number, variety and overall quality of restaurants against passenger reviews. Finally, we weighed cabin amenities against each price point, looking for cruise lines that are known to deliver the highest value.

Additionally, we sought out customer reviews on travel websites and personal travel blogs, considering first-person experiences and each company’s overall reputation.

When it the best time to cruise from San Francisco?

The best time to cruise from San Francisco depends on where you’d like to go.

Alaska

You’ll find the most itineraries available from June through August, when the weather is warmest. However, the cheapest cruises from San Francisco to Alaska are in May and September — you’ll get more snow and fewer tourists around that time, too.

Hawaii, Mexico and further south

These cruises are available all year round. Rates tend to be lowest in early spring, spiking during June and July. You’ll usually find the widest variety of cruises from San Francisco throughout springtime.

Getting to the port for your cruise from San Francisco

The Port of San Francisco is easily accessible via public transportation and private transportation. You could also book a shuttle, but cruisers travelling with more than one person should remember that shuttles typically charge per passenger — which can get pricey.

San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport are the closest if you’re flying into town. From the airport or elsewhere around the city, here’s how you can get to the departure point:

Public transportation

  • Streetcar — MUNI. Take the F Line to Embarcadero & Sansome St if you’re coming from the north, or Embarcadero & Greenwich St if you’re coming from the south.
  • Subway — BART. Ride the BART to Embarcadero station, then turn left and walk north for about a mile. Pier 27 will be on your right.
  • BART and MUNI. Ride the BART to the Embarcadero Station, walk to the Market St & Main St stop, then take the MUNI F Line to Fisherman’s Wharf and get off at Embarcedero and Greenwich St.

Private transportation

Here’s what you can expect if you’re taking a Lyft, Uber or taxi from a nearby airport to the Port of San Francisco:

LyftUberTaxi
San Francisco International Airport$32 to $36$30$50
Oakland International Airport$35 to $42$36$70

Planning on driving yourself? To be honest, we don’t recommend it, as parking is fairly limited. If you do decide to drive, gated and patrolled garage parking is available at 80 San Francisco Street for $20 per night.

The Port of San Francisco has two major piers — Pier 27, also known as James R. Herman, is the newest and most frequently docked at. Pier 35 is used mostly for overflow.

Bottom line

Whether you’re hoping to see mammoth glaciers or glittering beaches, San Francisco can serve as your kicking-off point for cruise adventures to come. Before booking your passage, check for discounts that might come in handy.

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