San Francisco Bay Cruises: Blue & Gold or Red & White Fleet?
The following post compares Blue & Gold Fleet and Red & White Fleet, the 2 leading San Francisco Bay cruise and sightseeing companies. Both offer high quality tours of the Bay area and share many similarities. However, there are a few notable differences between the companies that might make one more suitable than the other, depending on what you’re looking for. Below we have compared the specific tour offerings, cost, and reviews of each company so that you can decide… which is the best San Francisco Bay cruise company is best?
+ Both are highly respected cruise companies with outstanding reputations. Though there are other companies offering boat tours around San Francisco Bay, Blue & Gold and Red & White are by far the most famous.
+ Both offer standard cruises around San Francisco Bay, highlighting Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, AT&T Park, and Sausalito, amongst other sites.
+ All cruises (with the exception of Blue & Gold’s Rocket Boat) are accompanied by an audio guide that comes in several different languages.
+ Both are relatively affordable, costing between $30-$37 per adult for a 1 hour cruise.
Red & White Fleet offer several different cruises around San Francisco Bay. They range in length from 1-2 hours, and anywhere from $30-$64 per adult depending on the type and length of the tour. Each features views of several different sites, including Alcatraz, Sausalito, AT&T Park, and the Golden Gate Bridge, among other attractions.
+ Red & White Fleet offer 4 different standard cruises of the Bay (1 evening, 1 sunset, and 2 different day-time cruises), whereas Blue & White Fleet only have 1 standard cruise, in addition to their Alcatraz cruise and speed boat cruise.
+ Red & White Fleet offer cruises in both the daytime and evening so guests can enjoy the city skyline at various times throughout the day.
+ Red & White Fleet has a slightly better rating on TripAdvisor, with 4.5 stars as opposed to 4 stars.
+ Red & White fleet was founded back in 1892, making it by far the oldest and most historic cruise company in San Francisco.
Red & White Cruises:
+ California Sunset Cruise – A 2-hour sunset cruise around the Bay to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel Island, and Alcatraz at sunset. Operates from November 6th through March 26th. Cost: $64 for adults; $44 for youths.
+ California Twilight Cruise – A 2-hour evening cruise around the Bay to see the illuminated skyline. Operates from November 6th through March 26th. Cost: $64 for adults; $44 for youths.
+ Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise – A 90-minute audio tour covering the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, the Ferry Building, Bay Bridge, and AT&T Park. Departs 4 times daily and is available in 16 different languages. Cost: $38.00 for adults; $26.00 for youths.
+ Golden Gate Bay Cruise – Their original 1 hour San Francisco Bay tour with views of the San Francisco waterfront, the Golden Gate Bridge, and notorious Alcatraz Island. Departs 8-12 times daily. Cost: $30 for adults; $20 for youths.
Reviews of Red & White Fleet Cruises are generally very positive, with many customers complimenting the accommodating staff and the reasonable price. The audio tour also comes highly recommended from those who sought to learn more about the sites that were featured. The only common complaint came from those who partook in the tour on a rainy or cloudy day and therefore struggled with the limited visibility. If you’re concerned about the weather, it is perhaps best to wait until nearer your departure day to better know what to expect. TripAdvisor Rating: 4.5 stars.
Blue & Gold Fleet offer boat cruises and ferry trips around San Francisco Bay. There are 3 different cruises to choose from, in addition to ferries to Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel Island, and all of the locations offered by San Francisco Bay Ferry. SF Bay Cruise Adventure and Escape from the Rock are guided cruises, whereas Rocket Boat is a thrill-seeking ride and all of the ferry tours are unguided transportations services. The costs of the cruises range from $28-$37 for adults.
+ Blue & Gold is the only company to offer a cruise specifically about Alcatraz, though both companies offer cruises that feature the prison.
+ Blue & Gold is the only company to offer a speedboat tour around the Bay for thrill-seekers.
+ Unlike Red & White, Blue & Gold also sells tickets for several ferry rides.
Blue & Gold Cruises and Ferries:
+ SF Bay Cruise Adventure – A 1 hour sightseeing cruise of all the major attractions in the Bay with both indoor and outdoor seating. Audio tour available in several different languages. Departs at 4 times on the weekdays and 8 times on the weekends. Cost: $31 for adults; $21 for youths.
+ Escape from the Rock – A 1 hour tour that takes guests under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz Island, sharing the history of the prison and stories of the many famous escapes that have been attempted there. Departs once on the weekdays and twice on the weekends. Cost: $37 for adults and $25 for youths.
+ Rocket Boat – A high speed 30 minute cruise around the Bay. The Rocket Boat does not include an audio tour, but rather functions as a way for thrill seekers to ride around and see some major sites. The boat is currently receiving repairs and will be back running tours in May 2017. Cost: $28 for adults; $20-$24 for youths.
+ Sausalito Ferry – A ferry ride to the town of Sausalito. This trip does not include an audio guide, but does feature beautiful views of San Francisco. There are 4-5 departures from both San Francisco Bay and Sausalito daily. Cost: $11.50 for adults one-way; $6.50 for youths one-way.
+ Tiburon Ferry – A ferry ride to Tiburon. This trip does not include an audio guide, but does feature beautiful views of San Francisco. There are several daily departures. Cost: $11.50 for adults one-way; $6.50 for youths one-way.
+ Angel Island Ferry – A ferry ride to Angel Island, a beautiful wildlife reserve known as the Ellis Island of the West. This trip does not include an audio guide, but does feature beautiful views of San Francisco. There are several daily departures. Cost: $9 for adults one-way; $4.75 for youths one-way.
+ SF Bay Ferry – Blue & Gold Fleet also sells tickets on behalf of the San Francisco Bay Ferry, which visits 5 different locations including AT&T Park, Harbor Bay, Oakland/Alameda, South San Francisco, and Vallejo. Costs vary for each trip.
Like the other company, Blue & Gold Fleet has very positive reviews from previous customers. Most find the tours to be well guided and the views spectacular. However, while reviews of the cruises are almost unanimously good, opinions of the ferries are more mixed as some comment that they felt the trip to be overpriced and substandard. If considering selecting a ferry ride over a cruise, remember that the ferries are more so transportation services and therefore guests should have an interest in visiting the destination rather than just being out on the water. TripAdvisor Rating: 4 stars.
Mega Pass – City Sightseeing has recently introduced the San Francisco Mega Pass, which has replaced their Freestyle and GoPass. This new pass allows you to select between different options: Mega Pass 1 Day City Tour + 2 attractions, Mega Pass 2 Day City Tour + 3 attractions, or the Mega Pass 3 Day City Tour + 4 attractions. With each, you can choose from 25 different attractions, including a San Francisco Bay Cruise, Escape the Rock boat tour of Alcatraz, and many others. Their hop-on, hop-off Official City Tour (Blue Line) is also included. All Mega Passes include the Official City Tour (Blue Line) for the validity period of the pass plus choose from a list of 25 attractions.
- Mega Pass 1 Day Hop-on, Hop-off Tour of San Francisco – Includes 24 hours access to their Open Top Bus Tour + 2 attractions. $59.99 for adults; $39.99 for children.
- Mega Pass 2 Day Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour of San Francisco – Includes 48 hour access to 4 Open Top Bus Tours + 3 attractions. $79.99 for adults; $59.99 for children
- Mega Pass 3 Day Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour of San Francisco – Includes 72 hour access to 4 Open Top Bus Tours + 4 attractions. $99.99 for adults; $79.99 for children
CityPass – The CityPASS is a booklet of tickets that saves you 46% off [regular admission costs] of the top 4 attractions AND grants free cable car/Muni bus transit! One of the attractions that is included in CityPass is a cruise around the Bay with Blue & Gold Fleet. Your tickets will be valid for 9 consecutive days starting from your first day of use. This gives you plenty of time to see everything included. As of June 2016, the CityPass is $94 for adults (full-admission price $174.85) and $69 for children (ages 5-11) (regular $129.85).
Go San Francisco Card (All Inclusive) – With flexible options and pricing between 1-5 days based on your needs, the Go San Francisco Card can’t be beat! This all-inclusive pass means you are granted free admission to as many attractions as you can fit into the number of days that your pass allows. There are 28 attractions to choose from, including the Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise and Golden Gate Bridge Cruise with Red & White Fleet, as well as the Escape from the Rock Cruise and Rocket Boat Cruise with Blue & Gold Fleet. Prices range from $65-$150 per adult for 1-5 days.
San Francisco Explorer Pass (3, 4 or 5 Attractions) – This pass lets you pay one price, and grants admission to 3, 4 or 5 attractions that you choose from a list of 20 attractions at a discounted rate. Included in the selection are the Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise and Golden Gate Bridge Cruise with Red & White Fleet, as well as the Escape from the Rock Cruise and Rocket Boat Cruise with Blue & Gold Fleet. You don’t need to pre-select your choices when buying, but will be cut off after you’ve used your 3, 4 or 5 admissions. The Explorer Pass is valid for 30 days from your first visit, so you can take your time making your choices. This pass costs $65, $85, and $100 per adult for 3, 4, and 5 attractions.
Go San Francisco Card (Build Your Own Pass) – Build your own pass with at least 2 attractions from their list of 35 that saves 20% off the admission of all items. Again, the Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise and Golden Gate Bridge Cruise with Red & White Fleet, as well as the Escape from the Rock Cruise and Rocket Boat Cruise with Blue & Gold Fleet are included in the list. This one is best if you know what places you want to visit, but you may not be sure you will have enough time to visit all the attractions that you would need to visit to make the other passes worth it. You have 30 days to visit everything on this pass from your first use, and you’ll skip the long lines at the door! This pass has no set pricing. You get 20% off the retail prices of the items that you choose, which vary in admission rate.
Groupon, Living Social, and GoldStar
Additionally, there are several other discount websites such as GroupOn, LivingSocial, and GoldStar that periodically offer discounted tours to Muir Woods. These companies update their deals on a regular basis, so be sure to check each website to learn more about what special discounts are on offer. The online travel agency Viator also sells tours on behalf of other companies, so it might be worth browsing what they have on offer.
There are several other boat tour companies to choose from in addition to Red & White and Blue & Gold Fleet. Tourist cruises, water taxis, fishing boat tours, dinner cruises, speed boats, sail boats, and specialty Alcatraz boat tours are all available.
To learn more about there different tour options, check out the following post: Which San Francisco Boat Tour or Cruise is Best?
San Francisco is a bustling city with a wide variety of sites and attractions. We have written several guides and ‘how to’ posts about visiting San Francisco. Below we’ve included the articles that we believe are most helpful.
Tours of San Francisco:
Things to Do: