Alcatraz Island: An Inescapable Experince, Cruises from Pier 33, San Francisco  » Travel  »
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Pier 33, Hornblower Alcatraz Landing, San Francisco, California 94111
  • During a short visit to San Francisco for a conference, my wife and I decided to make the best of our stay by visiting local attractions
  • That also gave us the unique experience of riding a cable car, since we didn’t know if we could make it in the two days we spent there
  • But I would strongly recommend it, because without the audio we couldn’t find the cells where the famous inmates like Al Capone, the Birdman or Frank Morris were kept
  • Definitely be prepared to do a lot of uphill walking, and I didn’t see too many benches where you can sit and rest
  • Even a fridge magnet cost $6, and we remained satisfied with some post-cards

    • by jerrymouse
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      During a short visit to San Francisco for a conference, my wife and I decided to make the best of our stay by visiting local attractions. The best-known of them is Alcatraz Island, made famous by the movie ‘Escape from Alcatraz’, with Clint Eastwood starring. And not to forget Sean Connery and Nick Cage in ‘The Rock’ either! We found out information about the Alcatraz cruise from the brochures at our hotel. Only one company serves the cruises to Alcatraz and back, and we had the option to pick one of three tours: the Early Bird tour, which cost us $26 each. The day tour was priced similarly, but thinking about the crowd made us decide to go early. The night cruise is more expensive, and I don’t think it would be any more special except the more creepy feeling you might get at night.

      >From our hotel, we took the F-Market cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf. That also gave us the unique experience of riding a cable car, since we didn’t know if we could make it in the two days we spent there. The cruise leaves every half hour from Pier 33, just 2 minutes walking distance from the cable car stop.

      We bought our tickets, but had to wait in a long line anyway. Given it was already 10AM, we were already running into crowds. A café with bathrooms at the pier conveniently served


      waiting customers. Once the cruise started, we had a beautiful distant view of the island from the top level of the island. The second biggest cruise ship in the world, Queen Victoria, was docked right at the next pier. That was a fortunate addition!

      It took us only about 15 minutes to reach the docks of Alcatraz. You could see the old graffiti left from the First Nations Indian occupation welcoming you. The rangers pretty much left everything as they were since the last time the park was used for a purpose other than tourism. After getting off, we were greeted by a park ranger, who told us about the park regulations. We chose not to take the audio tour. But I would strongly recommend it, because without the audio we couldn’t find the cells where the famous inmates like Al Capone, the Birdman or Frank Morris were kept.

      The good thing is once you are there, you have all day to walk and look around until the last ferry leaves in the afternoon. The first thing we did was go into a nearby room turned into a theater where there were five large TV screens showing a short documentary. It was full of interesting information. For example, I never knew Alcatraz served as a military bastion, and was also claimed and occupied by Native Americans. There are four or five rooms set up as museums, and ...


      • they have artifacts from the Civil War period, and one small room dedicated to the Native American Occupation. I expected to see some artifacts that the famous prisoners had used, but they were all general exhibits.

        We took our own sweet time to see everything. The buildings are all run-down and damp. I don’t know if they have any conservation program. But it certainly gives you the creeps! We walked to the parade ground, which was shabby too. With blasted off concrete blocks and wild bushes here and there, it looked like an ancient ruin. But the view of San Francisco from over there is certainly a sight. Definitely be prepared to do a lot of uphill walking, and I didn’t see too many benches where you can sit and rest!

        Once you go into the prison, you see what you really came to see. The four levels of barred little cells certainly provoke the feeling of being in a prison. Not having the audio tape with us, we failed to find out any markers that showed us where the well-known inmates were kept. We were desperately looking for Frank Morris’s cell, but couldn’t find it. One or two cells were, however, decorated in the way the movie depicts the escape of Frank Morris and his compatriots. Those cells have rubber dummy heads covered with blankets, and even a false ventilator cover swinging on its sides. But

        there was no sign saying if those were really their cells. The D-block is open too, but I didn’t find anything special about those. The rooms get totally darkened when the steel door is shut, but other than that I couldn’t understand how confinement in D-block could be a severe punishment. The recreation ground has the famous stairs, but there isn’t a city view from those, as shown in the film. The prison cafeteria simply has some cooking utensils, but all locked up behind bars.

        The gardens on the island are very beautiful. There are lots of different flowers with bees buzzing about. For a photographer like me, it was an excellent opportunity to take outdoor macro snaps. They say it’s a difficult task to grow plants on the ‘Rock’, but the prisoners, and later on the park rangers, did manage it.

        The whole tour was supposed to take about 2.5 hours, but we spent a good 4 hours before leaving. The souvenir shop is located in one of the old buildings. Even a fridge magnet cost $6, and we remained satisfied with some post-cards.

        The tickets are quite expensive, even though the tour is a worthwhile experience. It looks like the cruise company is running a monopoly business, and they would milk you for money everywhere on the island. But it’s a one time thing. So I would recommend anyone to visit Alcatraz with them at least once.




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    The review was published as it's written by reviewer in February, 2010. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 38502981840628/k2311a025/2.5.10
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