Alcatraz Island Cruises
By Brian Geisler
Since September 2006, Hornblower's subsidiary Alcatraz Cruises has held the exclusive contract to dock on Alcatraz Island. On all other tours you will only sail around the island, viewing it from afar. This being the case, if you want to explore the Rock, see the prison including AZ #85, home of Al Capone, Alcatraz Cruises is the only way to go. There is a small walk from Pier 39/41 to Pier 33, but that's where San Francisco pedicabs come in handy. We'll be happy to get you to the boat on time.
Alcatraz cruises offers 10 scheduled departures per day and has night tours Thursday through Monday. One of the things we constantly see on the pedicabs are people who have not pre-purchased tickets and arrive to find them sold out. Alcatraz is the #1 tourist destination in San Francisco and is consistently sold out as a result. We recommend you purchase your tickets before you arrive in San Francisco to ensure you get to see it for yourself on the day you have planned.
You can pay for the optional audio tour for the cell house, which features commentary from former inmates and prison staff. You also hear about some of the many escape attempts as you tour through the mess hall, main cell block and solitary confinement cells. If you're particularly lucky, they will turn all the lights off and rattle the cage!
The night tours are held Thursday through Monday, with 2 departure times from late march till late October. The night tour includes a narrated cruise around the island and a personally guided tour from the dock to the cell house. The night tour also offers a view of the Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset and a view of the city at night.
Pier 33 is within walking distance of Pier 39, Fisherman's wharf, Ghirardelli Square and the Ferry Building. The steps leading to Coit tower are only a few blocks away as is Levis Plaza and there are numerous transport options. The nearest cable car is at Taylor and Bay. The F line has a stop at Embarcadero and Bay, although long lines and crammed carriages are often encountered at peak times. There are 9 public parking lots within walking distance from pier 33 and there are always pedicabs floating around happy to get you there on time.
Alcatraz as a former federal prison is well know, but there is much more to Alcatraz than just that. The original civil war era soldiers barracks remain and can be seen from the dock upon disembarkation. You can also see the original cannons, ammunition stores and a disused moat. The parade ground and Officers quarters also contain historic gardens of exquisite beauty.
The island is also home to various species of seabirds, who use the island for nesting between February and September. During these times, some areas of the island are closed to protect the sensitive nesting areas.
Hornblower currently has 4 vessels in use for Alcatraz cruises: Islander and Respect perform daily runs while Ranger and Freedom are designated relief vessels. The professional crew members are also on hand to ensure that everything runs smoothly and safely.
Since September 25th Hornblower has been running Alcatraz cruises, and the customer feedback to us on the pedicabs has been very positive. This will ensure a visit Alcatraz will remain very high on the list for any visitor to San Francisco. San Francisco Pedicabs look forward to picking up and dropping off customers to Alcatraz cruises for many years to come.
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