By Julie Dibble
Crystal’s ultra-luxury voyages visit some of the most exotic and far-off locales in the world, allowing travelers to check off destinations from bucket lists and fulfill adventurous dreams. To many of our international crew and staff, these spectacular places are simply “home.” While our land programs team and worldwide partners work tirelessly to craft Crystal Adventures that best highlight the cultures and beauty of our ports of call, we’re tapping our Crystal family for their recommendations of the best ways to enjoy their hometowns and countries. Here, enjoy the first installment of our newest blog series: “Crystal Locals,” for an insider’s guide to the City by the Bay. It’s worth noting that, while many of the attractions and areas included in the below can be enjoyed on Crystal Adventures, guests may also opt to explore on their own with Crystal’s Private Car & Driver excursions.
As Crystal Symphony sails into the storied port of San Francisco this month, guests will be welcomed to the bay by the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, as they pass the cliffs of Baker Beach that line the forested Presidio and military outposts of the past. My city packs a wealth of diverse experiences, sites and rich history into its compact 49 square miles. Here are my TOP 5 recommendations for a truly San Francisco experience:
1) Pick a ‘hood – As in many cities, each neighborhood within San Francisco boasts its own unique charm and personality (and food!). In North Beach/Little Italy, you’ll find more pasta and pizza than you can eat, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! Head to Mama’s for the most mouthwatering house-made focaccia bread in the city, then stroll up Columbus Avenue to City Lights Books, where San Francisco’s literary and artistic counterculture continues to thrive. In the Marina, charming clothing and jewelry shops are mixed in among the outdoor patios of eateries serving seafood sandwiches, tacos and cocktails. Find a table with a view of Union or Chestnut Streets and indulge in some people watching while you enjoy the breeze off the Bay. For an urban experience and some retail tourism, make a beeline for downtown, where Union Park is filled with artists and French cafes and surrounded by a shopper’s paradise (think Tiffany & Co., Saks Fifth Avenue and San Francisco mainstay Wilkes & Bashford). For a cultural break, it’s just a few blocks to the Contemporary Jewish Museum and SFMOMA.
2) Arrive hungry – This is a challenge, given Crystal’s nearly irresistible breakfast and brunch options (Lido Café’s omelet bar alone is reason to travel). But I highly recommend leaving some room for the local specialties. Just a short walk from the ship is the Ferry Building, a famed food mecca and farmers market. Slowly-spun Raclette cheese, gooey vegan donuts, artisan chocolates, and oysters served every way imaginable are a good place to start. Then, hop a cable car or MUNI over to the Mission District for the famous Mission Burrito. It won’t be hard to find one, since every taquería in the city serves up its own take on San Francisco’s signature wrap. Hopefully, you’ve eaten efficiently, since you still have chowder-filled sourdough and any number of five-star restaurants to try.
3) Wear layers – There’s no quicker way to spot a tourist in San Francisco than to spy the one person wearing summer clothing in – gasp! – summer. The sunshine that beckons locals and visitors outdoors can be deceptive, often overtaken by the fog spilling into the bay over the bridge and the wind that makes it a sailor’s and windsurfer’s dream. (Speaking of sailors, the “America’s Cup Sailing Experience” Crystal Adventure merits an extra layer!). You may encounter three very different climates within one day, so dress for anything and everything.
4) Get moving – This is a city that’s constantly on the move, whether by iconic cable car, or often by one’s own power. Running, bicycling, rollerblading and skating are rampant here, so feel free to join the movement movement. The Presidio offers dozens of hiking trails that lead to secluded lookout points, while visitors and locals alike enjoy the path along Crissy Field, which affords unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge, from the Beach Hut to the Warming Hut.
5) Embrace the (counter) culture – San Francisco’s history of activism, quirkiness, pioneering arts, music, and even tech and commerce continue to ensure that the past is still very much part of the present. From the beatniks and musicians (Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead) who headlined the human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, which kicked off the 1967 Summer of Love, to the innovators of Apple, Google, Twitter and other giants who call this city home, some of the most influential minds in the world have shaped the spirit of San Francisco. (The famous 1960’s culture of San Francisco can be explored on the “Beatnik & Bohemian” Crystal Adventure).
Crystal guests can explore San Francisco on two sailings in May 2015, as well as on 2016 Alaska and Pacific Coast voyages.