Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friday in San Francisco---On Our Own!!!

Friday morning we were up at the crack of dawn---literally---and none too happy about it! LOL  But we wanted to be awake and join our fellow cruisers upstairs on the open decks to be a part of Disney's first sailing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge to enter San Francisco.    Before we could head up on deck, however, we had to put our specially designed San Fransisco door magnet on our door! :)  I've included a picture of it here for everyone's viewing picture.

Now.....on to the adventure of sailing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time ever on a Disney ship.....

This picture is not one that I took obviously, since it was taken from the shore, but it is one that our friend Sandi emailed us. Our ship's entrance was something that LOTS of people were excited about and so many Disney fans were awake and ashore to catch the moment and posted it to facebook immediately.  I have to looks really cool.....and if you had a microscope you might be able to see me and Jason on the top decks there!!  We did, of course, take a lot of pics of our own and you'll see those in a bit.

Sailing under the Golden Gate and into San Francisco was fun!  The top decks of the ship had lots of cruisers who were willing to brave not only the early morning hours but the brisk morning winds.  We all looked like we'd just rolled out of bed----because we had----and thrown on something warm---because we had----to be there....but we were all there together, so it was cool!  Here is a cornucopia of pictures that we took while we were sailing under the bridge:

Here are also some GREAT photos that I love that Jason took with his fancy smart-phone that has the ability to create panoramic shots:
Sunrise over the Bridge from the deck of the ship.

The full bridge from the back of the ship.
This is my favorite---with the signature stacks of the ship and the bridge in the background.
Of course, the bay in San Francisco also includes Alcatraz Island.  So we took some pictures with that in the background, as well (while we were having breakfast):
Once we were done eating, we hustled back down to our cabin to shower and get ready for our day in San Francisco.

For those of you who know us well or have vacationed with us, you will be surprised to hear that we decided to spend the day off our ship....OURSELVES!  Usually when we take a cruise, we always book "official" excursions through the cruise line because I don't want the bother of having to figure those things out myself AND because I just feel safer that if anything goes wrong, Disney will take care of it.  (A fear of mine is that I would organize my own outing and then a car would break down or something and we will miss the boat!).  Well, in San Francisco we were staying overnight...we could get off the boat about 8am on Friday and don't have to be back on until 3pm on Saturday....and the excursions we researched through the cruise line were OK, but not great....and many of them we ventured out on our own!!

Our agenda for the day involved getting off the boat and getting a rental car...and then hitting a few sight-seeing spots:  Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, Muir Woods and Alcatraz.  It was an ambitious itinerary for the day...but we were excited.

We started by walking to get our car and stopped by Pier 39----in San Francisco, this pier is where the wild sea lions live.  I love animals----everyone who knows me knows that I love any excursion or experience where I can see animals.  Here are some images of these cool animals that just live in this harbor:
A picture of me standing in the port with the ship behind me.

Then we picked up the car, hopped in and started up the GPS on my phone to direct us to Muir Woods National Park----home to some of the oldest trees in America, apparently....huge redwoods.  The drive to the park was itself very nice as it took us OVER the Golden Gate Bridge (which just a couple hours prior we had be sailing UNDER!).  Here are some pics as we crossed the bridge:
We then arrived at Muir Woods and it was amazing.  This forest is truly gorgeous and incredible.  Now those who know me know I don't tend to wax too philosophic too often but there are certain things in life that just remind you how small you are in the grand scheme of things and how big and amazing nature is.  I have had this experience on both our TransAtlantic voyages when you're in the middle of the ocean with land nowhere around (and I think I blogged a bit about it last year).

Well, something very similar strikes you in the presence of all those huge old trees.  I was awestruck by how beautiful this park was/is.  I stopped short of channelling my inner Pocohontas and breaking out into a rendition of "Colors of the Wind"---LMAO----but suffice it to say it was very cool! :)

The park has a main area that is paved or has wooden boardwalk-style walkways where most visitors tour the main area....but then there are also a lot of "off road" trails that are not paved and that explore the hillsides, river, waterfalls, forest and mountainous areas.  One of the reasons we wanted to do this park on our own was so we had time to really explore since Jason and I can both really get into a nature hike now and we did.  In the end, we ended up walking for over 2.5 hours and it worked out to be a little over 6.5 miles total---over very hilly and rough terrain and up to a pretty good altitude!  We were exhausted, but we LOVED it!  Here are some of the great pictures we took:
This is another of Jason's panoramic shots----we're really loving this feature of his phone's camera!

I am not one to take lots of unnecessary nature photos, either.....but we saw these pretty wild irises and took some pictures:

After our fun (but exhausting) morning, we headed back to the car and drove back to San Francisco proper. We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in the area around the ship so we returned our car and hung out in the Fisherman's Wharf area (plus, Jason had never eaten at an "In & Out Burger" so we decided to eat there for the experience).  We took this shot of the sign for the neighborhood....which is also included on our door magnet:
 And we thought this fun shot taken down the main street with the Disney Wonder at the end was kind of cool, too:
Once we were done eating lunch and strolling the Fisherman's Wharf area...we still had a couple hours to kill before we were to meet up with Johanna to tour Alcatraz at night and so we decided to stop into the Aquarium of the Bay which was basically next door to the ship.  As I mentioned, I love all things animal/wildlife/zoo----and aquariums are a particular favorite.  We've toured aquariums all over the place and the one here in San Francisco is a very nice little aquarium that is a quick tour (about an hour) and that features primarily all marine life you can find right in the waters surrounding San Francisco! (And, to sweeten the deal, they were offering a discount to passengers from our it was a CHEAP tour, too!).  Here are some photos from our underwater adventure:

We also took the following fun picture with Jason's phone in the underwater walkway.  Now, what's fun about this picture that you probably wouldn't recognize until you were told----is that Jason and I actually took this photo SEPARATELY......
....Jason's phone has this very cool feature where you can take a single picture in two parts/halves and then it splices the pictures together----so that basically you can pose for pictures together that you didn't actually TAKE together.  (A very cool feature for us since very often, as you have likely noticed in these blogs, our pictures are one of us taking a picture of the other...and unless we're with a friend or there is some nice passer-by...we aren't in shots together!)  His phone's camera is WAY cool!

After the aquarium we had just enough time to hop back on the ship, grab a quick early dinner, pick up our photopass CD from the theme parks to give to Johanna and then meet Johanna downstairs (she lives in San Francisco).  She met us at the port and we headed over to Alcatraz.  This is a San Francisco tourist staple.  Alcatraz is on an island in the middle of the bay and it is most remembered for being a famous (or infamous) federal prison with a host of famous inmates----not the least of which was Al Capone.  You ride a ferry boat out to the island while learning a bit of the history and then you take a tour in 2 sections:  first is a guided tour with a guide who tells stories and history and then you do a walking tour with a narrated audio headset that is led/told by former staff and inmates from the prison.  The facility is very creepy and run-down....but the overall effect is very cool.  I have to admit that I kind of wish this tour hadn't been at the end of a very long and tiring day....because it was kind of slow paced and crowded and I was feeling tired and I don't think I got as much out of it as I could have....but even still it was very cool and I know that Jason really enjoyed it.  Also, it was AMAZING to see Johanna again.  Even though we just saw her last weekend in was great to hang out with her----and we're so looking forward to the next time we get to vacation with her (& Kimmy.....and all our other DIS friends!!!)

Here are some photos from our "sentence" at Alcatraz:
View from the ferry.

Alcatraz is also famous for having beautifully kept gardens with very interesting and beautiful plants---this photo doesn't do it justice at all...but believe me when I say that it is an odd juxtaposition to see such beautiful natural landscape in a place that is so run down, in need of repair and with such a dark & sordid history!

The showers of long gross open hallway with shower heads coming down from the a bathing trough!

Doing time at Alcatraz!!

One of the more "nicely" decorated cells.

View of the city (and, yes, that's the Disney Wonder to the left) from Alcatraz island.
After the tour, we got back to the ship, had a bite to eat and I quite literally passed out!  I was so tired and I imagine my legs will be sore in a day or two......but it was worth it.  What an amazing day with lots of fun stuff to do!  We didn't make it to dinner tonight so there were no ties....but a lovely towel animal did say good night to us...and here he (or she) is:


  1. Erik - loved ALL the photos but really cool that you could see the ship from Alcatraz. The showers are gross! Sounds like you had a great time. Hope Jason enjoyed In n Out Burger!! LOVED the seals!!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us! I love to read your blog and see what you have been up to on vacation. Looking forward to the next post!

  3. Hadley and familyMay 2, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    It sounds like a perfect day! So much so, in fact, that if we are lucky enough to do the same repo in the other direction next year we may copy your plans! I especially love your photos of Muir.

  4. It was amazing for of our favorite port days ever!

  5. Quote: 'One of our favorite port days ever' and no shore excursion (gasp). Maybe you should join us on some of our non shore excursion port days sometime. Anyways, I am glad that you had fun.