Cruises can be enjoyed all around the United States of America, but they aren’t just limited to beach visits and island tours. Many unique cruises can also be enjoyed at unique locations around the country, giving visitors a chance to travel along iconic locations like the Mississippi River or the Potomac in Washington DC. Another major landmark you can visit via cruise is Alcatraz Island, home of one of the most famous historical prisons on the planet.

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Situated just over a mile away from the shores of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island is one of the most iconic sites in the entire Bay Area. The island, which covers just 22 acres, is home to some of the most important and unique man-made structures in all of California, including the oldest working lighthouse on the entire West Coast and the famous Alcatraz Prison, which was used as a federal prison facility from 1934 until 1963.

Best Alcatraz Cruises

Alcatraz Cruises is the official, authorized concessioner for the National Park Service, so this is the company you need to be contacting for cruises to and around Alcatraz Island. There are some unauthorized and fraudulent ticket sellers out there, so it's important to stick to the official Alcatraz Cruises name. Alcatraz Cruises runs a range of different cruise tours to Alcatraz Island at all times of day.

Getting to Alcatraz Cruises

All of the Alcatraz Cruises leave from 'Alcatraz Landing', which is located on Pier 33 at the northern waterfront promenade of San Francisco. Pier 33 can be found just by the intersection of Bar St and Embarcadero, in the North Beach area of the city. It's a very easily accessible point, just a short walk or drive from the downtown districts and streets.

There are over a dozen commercial parking lots to be found in the local area, with on-street parking also available on less busy days in the Fisherman's Wharf area. If you're in need of accessible parking, this can be found at Pier 33, but there are a limited number of spaces, so it's important to arrive early.

Alcatraz Cruise Options

Alcatraz Cruises provides an impressive total of five different tour options for visitors to choose from. Tours run at all times of day, with each tour having its own unique features and advantages. Let's take a closer look at all of the Alcatraz Cruises options so that you can pick the best one.

Alcatraz Early Bird Tour

As the name suggests, the Early Bird Tour from Alcatraz Cruises is the earliest tour of the day. It's the first cruise to leave from Pier 33 and is also the least busy, so it's a great option for people who prefer a cozier, calmer, more peaceful setting to really enjoy the sights and sounds of the experience without being crowded out by noise and large numbers of tourists. This cruise also gives you a head start on exploring the island, letting you enjoy a full day there if desired. In general, visitors tend to spend around three hours on their Alcatraz cruise, which includes the boat ride to the island, the 'Cellhouse' audio tour, some general exploration, and the return trip to Pier 33.

Alcatraz Day Tour

The Day Tour from Alcatraz Cruises is the simplest and most popular option for people wishing to explore Alcatraz Island. This tour, just like the Early Bird Tour, features a ferry ride to the island and the Cellhouse audio tour, letting guests freely explore the various areas of the island and learn more about its fascinating past and stories. When you're ready to head back home, the ferry will be waiting and it only takes around 15 minutes for the crossing to be complete. The Day Tour, along with the Early Bird Tour, is the cheapest option for Alcatraz Cruises.

Alcatraz Night Tour

As the name suggests, the Night Tour from Alcatraz Cruises takes place in the evenings. This cruise is a little more expensive than the other options, but comes with some unique bonus features and activities only available in the evening. Not only that, but the Night Tour, which runs from Tuesday through to Saturday, also allows you to enjoy the sights of Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco skyline in the evening, offering a unique view on this iconic part of California. The Night Tour Alcatraz cruise comes with the Cellhouse audio tour, along with special on-board narration during the ferry crossing and even a guided tour of the various island sites. Only a few hundred guests each day get to enjoy the guided tour of the prison, so this is quite an exclusive activity.

Behind the Scenes Tour

This Alcatraz Cruise costs more than the previous three, but offers so much more in return. It comes with the typical features of any Alcatraz cruise like return ferry travel to the island itself and the Cellhouse audio tour, but also features additional 'behind the scenes' activities, including granting access to normally closed-off areas, giving the public a look at parts of the island they simply wouldn't be able to see on any of the other cruises or tours. This is also a more intimate Alcatraz cruise, limited to around 30 guests in total. The small group vibe adds a personal, authentic touch to the full experience, and it's only available to visitors aged 13 and above.

Alcatraz & Angel Island Tour

The Alcatraz & Angel Island Tour is the longest lasting Alcatraz Cruise and will take a full day to fully enjoy. It's not quite as expensive as the Behind The Scenes Tour but is pricier than the regular Day and Night cruises. This cruise offers a real outdoor adventure experience, involving a full trip to Alcatraz Island and an island hop experience over to Angel Island too. On Angel Island, guests will be ale to enjoy an hour-long narrated tram tour, learning all about the history of this island and also having the opportunity to partake in various optional activities. website