San Francisco is benefiting from a flood of new interest and investment stemming in part from the new tech boom — companies like Twitter that have made downtown their headquarters, or Internet giants such as Google, Facebook and eBay based in nearby Silicon Valley.
The city is consequently experiencing a sort of cultural reawakening just as it prepares to become a more significant cruise hub, as well. With Princess Cruises starting a year-round deployment of its 2,600-passenger Grand Princess in the Port of San Francisco this year and the city readying to open a new cruise terminal in 2014, San Francisco will be welcoming more cruise passengers to the Bay Area this year and next.
According to the Port of San Francisco, the Grand Princess alone will bring an additional 130,000 cruise guests to San Francisco in 2013, giving the city a 65% boost in cruise guests. San Francisco typically welcomes about 200,000 cruise guests annually, with between 60 and 80 ships stopping in the city each year.
The Bay Area is known for its well-established foodie scene and a tourism industry built around images of the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars.
But as the city reinvents itself, cruise passengers choosing to extend their stay and further explore the city will find a new generation of hot spots that are redefining the visitor landscape. Among those are some new and renewed hotel properties for a pre- or post-cruise stay in the new San Francisco.
The Presidio welcomes its first hotel
San Francisco doesn't often get new hotel properties, due in large part to a lack of space in "the 7x7" (the city's area is approximately seven miles by seven miles). But in 2012, two new hotels joined the city's roster of accommodations.
The first was the 22-room Inn at the Presidio, which opened in April as the first hotel in San Francisco's sprawling, 1,490-acre Presidio national park that overlooks the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Inn at the Presidio is located in Pershing Hall along the Presidio's Main Post, which was the social and administrative center for the U.S. Army when it was using the area as an active military settlement until the 1970s.
Pershing Hall was built in 1903 as a Georgian Revival-style building that housed unmarried officers. In 2011, the Presidio Trust, which oversees the parks operations, restored Pershing Hall and transformed it into the park's first lodge.
The result is a boutique-style property that marries the Presidio's history with modern amenities and upgrades. The clean and bright interior is dotted with historical memorabilia and photographs, comfy club chairs and classic furnishings.
The hotel features 17 classic king suites (530 square feet each) with a bedroom and a separate sitting room with a pullout sofa and a gas fireplace.
There are three rooms at 380 square feet each with king beds, and two rooms at 290 square feet each with queen beds.
The Inn at the Presidio does not have an on-site restaurant (though there are numerous restaurants and eateries within the park), but the property does offer a complimentary continental buffet breakfast in its charming dining room as well as a wine and cheese reception in the afternoon.
Guests can relax on rocking chairs along the front porch or cozy up to the fire pit behind the building.
There is complimentary WiFi and a daily complimentary shuttle service around the Presidio and to downtown San Francisco, Mondays to Fridays, provided by the Presidio Trust's PresidioGo Shuttle.
Rates start at $195 per night. Visit www.innatthepresidio.com.
Chef Charlie Palmer's hotel
Also in 2012, the 81-room Mystic Hotel by Charlie Palmer opened its doors a block and a half from Union Square.
Palmer is the chef behind the Hotel Healdsburg in Sonoma and has brought that same city-meets-country charm to San Francisco with a boutique hotel that combines the property's historical details such as exposed brick walls and bay windows with modern bedding and furniture.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a highlight of the Mystic Hotel is the dining and drinking spaces overseen by Palmer himself. The hotel features a classic cocktail bar and lounge, the Burritt Room, as well as a restaurant, the Burritt Tavern, which showcases locally inspired modern tavern fare, including salads, seafood and steaks.
The hotel has several room categories, including the Mystic Junior, which features a double bed; the Mystic Room, which features a queen- or king-size bed; and the Mystic Studio Suite, which has an expanded living area with sleeper sofa.
Rates start at $179 per night. Visit www.mystichotel.com.
For the downtown 'Diva'
Also in the heart of San Francisco's Union Square area is the 116-room Hotel Diva, a Personality Hotel, which received a $2 million makeover and reopened in spring 2012.
The historical city center building was re-envisioned by Edmonds + Lee Architects with an emphasis on clean and modern, black-and-white furnishings and decor that take its cues from the fashion world.
For instance, the window shades in the rooms are printed with two images — one of a woman in a corset and another of long legs in heels — that when drawn can be seen from the exterior, as well.
There are several room categories ranging from the 205-square-foot deluxe rooms to the 360-square-foot junior suites. There are also several larger suites, including a Little Divas Suite with a separate kids' room for younger guests.
In addition to a meetings room, the hotel features four Diva Lounges, each styled by a San Francisco artist or designer, stocked with refreshments and offering complimentary use of a computer. They can also be rented for a private meeting for up to four people.
Rates start at $149 per night. Visit www.hoteldiva.com.
Follow Michelle Baran on Twitter @mbtravelweekly.