Thanks to the USS Potomac for hosting my family on a seasonal Santa Cruise. All opinions in this article are my own.
Compared to many of the really crazy Christmas activities I've tried with my kids, I really enjoyed cruising the Oakland estuary aboard the USS Potomac with Santa Claus. If it is in your holiday outing budget, I recommend that you get tickets for the December 15th or December 21st voyage before they sell out.
What to expect on the USS Potomac Holiday Cruise with Santa
While waiting to board the USS Potomac, guests receive a souvenir Christmas tree ornament at the check-in table. When we walked the gangplank, we were greeted by Santa Claus, who gave small toys to each of the children, and his photographer. Printed photos were delivered to us before we disembarked. All in all, these were pretty sweet souvenirs included with the price of admission. Yay!
The USS Potomac leaves the dock on time and takes a one-hour round-trip route along the Oakland estuary. Friendly elves circulate and are available to help you or be in pictures. You'll be treated to seemingly unlimited holiday cookies and cocoa while on board. Wine is also available for a suggested donation of $5.
Volunteer docents answer questions and give impromptu tours of the historical boat. Guests can visit most areas of the yacht. Learning about the ship's history is quite interesting for older children and their adults; my boys enjoyed playing with one of three typewriters tucked into the executive officers' quarters.
We recommend this outing for children age 3 or 4 to 12. Little toddlers might make a parent crazy.
Note to parents: The two Christmas cruising times are 3 pm and 5 pm (A.K.A. right before dinner or instead of dinner). My family picked the trip instead of dinner and lived to regret it. We got home just after our regular bedtime and had a quick breakfast-for-dinner after we were all sugared up. I'm sure you'll make the right choice for your family.
Logistics and costs for the Oakland Santa Cruise
Tickets $35 for adults and $10 for children age 2 to 12. They include souvenirs, sweets, and unfettered access to Santa the entire ride. Buy tickets online >
The boat is docked in Jack London Square at 540 Water Street in Oakland (right near BevMo).
Parking is available at the Washington Street Garage between 2nd and Embarcadero Streets, one block from the Potomac. Or you may luck out with free street parking on a Sunday.
A little history lesson about the USS Potomac
I didn't know anything about the USS Potomac before getting on board. Oops. It turns out that this “Floating White House” was originally commissioned as a Coast Guard vessel in 1934. In 1936 it was renamed the USS Potomac and served as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Presidential Yacht until his death in 1945. She is now preserved in Oakland, California, as a National Historic Landmark. Throughout the year, various themed cruises and tours are offered. I'd be delighted to take another one in the future. Milo recognized FDR as the president in Annie; we get our history lessons where we can.
Thanks again to the USS Potomac for hosting us on the holiday boat cruise. For other events and outings, including a caroling cruise for adults, see their website.
Find more to do in our East Bay Holiday Events Guide.
[All Photos by Heather Flett]