Celebrity Infinity anchored in Monterey, California outside the marina in Monterey Bay. A short tender ride brought passengers to a floating dock with a ramp up to the pier. Passengers exit the tender right into Fisherman’s Wharf, one of Monterey’s tourist attractions. Buildings that once housed a wholesale fish market in Monterey’s sardine fishing heyday now have all sorts of cute little shops. Many contain restaurants, others things like souvenir or candy shops. One had a taffy machine where they made their own homemade taffy.
Shore excursions from the ship are an option in any port, but in Monterey there is plenty to do for any passengers who prefer to venture out on their own.
One of the first buildings we passed offered whale watching tours. The little booth next to it had glass bottom boat rides for just $15. All along the pier signs in front of one shop or another offered whale watching or other boat tours for $40 or less.
At the end of the pier a left turn leads to the current commercial fishing pier. In the land area around the port locals had booths selling all sorts of things in Custom House Plaza on the day of our visit. Custom House near the land entry to the port was the first government building in California. The plaza also has other historical buildings and a museum.
A right turn at the end of the pier leads to a paved trail where once a railroad line ran to Cannery Row. A scenic walk down that path next to the shoreline brought us past rocks covered in harbor seals, cormorants, and seagulls. Another little cove had a rock pile covered in squabbling terns. Soon we came to a park where many scuba divers got ready to dive at world renowned San Carlos beach. The park also had a public restroom. Just beyond the park we came to Cannery Row.
This area where once canneries processed sardines now holds numerous tourist oriented shops and restaurants. Some rent things like diving gear, bicycles, kayaks or little pedal cars that can hold two people or a whole family. Guided tours are another option for kayaking in the bay. Walking down the street leads to numerous choices of things to do.
We had thought about going to the famous Monterey Aquarium, but when we saw the line to get in snaking up the block we changed our minds and went back to the wharf for the glass bottom boat ride instead. If someone really wanted to see the aquarium they could probably bypass that line by taking a shore excursion from the ship that included a visit there.
The glass bottomed boat took us out to see the sea lions on the breakwater and sea otters near the kelp beds. Then it skimmed slowly over kelp so passengers could look through the glass windows in the center of the craft. The water looked emerald green that day. Mostly we saw kelp, but now and then small fish swam into view.
Back on the pier at Fisherman’s wharf several little restaurants had free clam chowder samples. We tried a couple of them. One tasted very good and the other not so much. I guess that just goes to show it’s a good idea to try before you buy a bowl clam chowder for lunch.
Cannery row has all manner of touristy things now, but in the past the canneries there canned sardines caught by commercial fishermen in the bay. The first cannery opened in 1902. Increased demand for canned sardines during World War 1 brought expansion with many new canneries opening up from 1916-1918. Two were destroyed in a 1924 fire from an explosion caused by lightning striking petroleum tanks. The canneries kept people employed through the depression era, turning sardines into fish meal and fertilizer. The industry expanded again from 1941-1945 during the second world war. John Steinback’s novel about the area called Cannery Row came out in 1945. The name Cannery Row was officially adopted 12 years later on what had formerly been called Ocean View Avenue.
By the 1950’s the heavily overfished bay ran out of sardines, shutting down the industry. Within a few years entrepreneurs started opening restaurants in former warehouses and in 1968 the Sardine Factory restaurant was the first in what is now restaurant row in the old canneries.
It took nearly 40 years for sardines to return to the bay. The return of the fish brought a return of fishermen and another population decline leading to at least a temporary closure of the fishery. They do say that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.