Your Comprehensive Vancouver-Alaska Cruise Guide
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Vancouver for Cruise Passengers:
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Canada Place & Ballantyne Photos
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©Susan Milne, 1999-2011
Vancouver is one of the most beautiful ports in the world. With a mild climate year-round, locals boast they can ski in the morning on the north shore mountains and windsurf in the afternoon at English Bay. It is a very green city with numerous parks, fountains and gardens and a wide variety of recreational activities.
Vancouver has been ranked in recent years:
Vancouver Sailout Page
GETTING TO VANCOUVER
Vancouver is served by numerous air lines from around the world. If you book early, you should be able to arrange flights directly to Vancouver. It is reported that since the Open Skies policy was implemented in 1995, Vancouver has grown from 454 direct flights per week into Vancouver from eight US cities, to 674 flights per week from 21 US cities.
The most scenic route to Vancouver is via the Rocky Mountains. Fly to Calgary then take the Rocky Mountaineer Rail journey through the Rockies to Vancouver. Rocky Mountaineer has a variety of tours to choose from to show you the grandeur of Alberta and B.C. Visit the Rocky Mountaineer web site or call 1-800-665-7245.
Arriving a day or two early to see Vancouver is a great idea and gives you a chance to recover from your journey before setting off on your cruise. This page contains a lot of useful information for those planning on spending a pre or post cruise stay in Vancouver.
ARRIVING FROM SEATTLE
Quick Shuttle offers bus service between Seattle Tacoma Airport, Downtown Seattle, Bellingham Airport and Vancouver. Call 1-800-665-2122 or book online at www.quickcoach.com.
The train between Seattle and Vancouver makes a very scenic run, and avoids long waits at the border. It leaves Seattle in the morning and arrives before noon in Vancouver. (It returns to Seattle from Vancouver in the evening.) Both Canada Place and Ballantyne Pier are about a 15-minute taxi ride from the station. Check www.amtrak.com for rates and times.
Cruise Lines often fly passengers to Seattle and bring them by coach to Vancouver. The coach ride is 3 hours which, on top of a long flight can make for a very tiring start to your vacation. It may be possible to request an air deviation, for specific flights of your choice. If the Cruise Line is able to comply with your request, there is a service charge, normally around $75.00 per passenger. Discuss this with your agent when booking your cruise.
ARRIVING FROM VICTORIA
Pacific Coach Lines provides drop-offs and pick-ups at both Canada Place Pier and Ballantyne Pier, to and from Victoria during the cruise ship season from May to September. Visit their web site at www.pacificcoach.com.
If you are driving onto the ferry in the summer be sure to book ahead. Lineups can be long and people frequently wait for more than one sailing. I wouldn't want you to miss your ship in Vancouver. For schedules and fare see the BC ferries web site at www.bcferries.bc.ca.
This hotel is close to the ferry terminal: Best Western Emerald Isle Sidney Hotel. www.bwemeraldisle.com email:firstname.lastname@example.org or call Toll Free:1-800-315-3377.
CAR RENTAL, DRIVING TO VANCOUVER AND PARKING
Those renting car to drive to Vancouver can drop off at the rental office in Vancouver. Some companies offer a shuttle bus service to the pier from the car rental office. Alamo and National have an office in the Pan Pacific Hotel at Canada Place, so you may be able to arrange to drop off at that location. Several companies have booths at the Canada Place cruise ship level including Avis, Budget and National but these are for car pick up after your cruise only. Be sure to check with your car rental company for exact details re. drop off or pickup in downtown Vancouver when booking.
Note that driving from Seattle is about a three hour drive but border crossing delays can be as long as three hours in the summer if security is on high alert. Especially on weekends, the border crossing can really delay you getting to your ship so be sure to drive up a day ahead so you don't miss the boat.
Canadian citizens renting a car to drive back to Canada from Seattle must have a car with Canadian licence plates to cross the border. Let your rental company know that you are Canadian when making a one-way rental. Avis was very accomodating on my recent one-way drive, Seattle to Vancouver and made sure we had a car with Canadian plates.
Secured parking facilities are available during your cruise through the following companies:
CANADA PLACE AND THE VINCI PARK PARKING FACILITY, located at the North end of Howe Street at Canada Place Way, is the only Vancouver onsite parking facility for the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal. It is accessible 24 hours per day from the Canada Place Way entrance.
Canada Place is home to the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Pan Pacific Hotel, Port Metro Vancouver Cruise Ship Terminal, and the World Trade Centre Office Complex.
With over 750 stalls, the VINCI Park facility is able to offer solutions for all your parking needs, from short term visitors to monthly parkers, hotel guests, event exhibitors and cruise ship guests. The company offers cruise ship discounts. You will enjoy one of the many cruises knowing your vehicle is in a secured location. For more visit the Cruise Ship page and to reserve space click here.
** VINCI Park has just rolled out its Value + program at Canada Place. Stay an extra day, and borrow a bike on us at no charge to take a ride around the sea wall and enjoy the many fabulous sites that Vancouver has to offer.
CRUISEPARK at www.cruisepark.com. They accept all over-sized vehicles and have security on-site 24 hours a day. Cruisers who have used this service have written to say they were very satisfied with it. Book at least 30 days ahead of sailing to be sure to secure space. All details and booking can be made on their web site.
Your Vancouver hotel may offer parking during your cruise. The Pan Pacific is at the Canada Place cruise terminal and has parking facilities under the terminal. The Best Western Sands By the Sea Hotel situated at English Bay, on the corner of Davie and Denman allows a hotel guest to leave their vehicle at the Hotel for the duration of the cruise for a fee.TOP
FROM THE AIRPORT TO YOUR SHIP
It is about a half an hour to 45 minute drive to your cruise terminal from Vancouver International Airport. You will be met by cruise line representatives in the arrivals area of the airport. They will answer any questions you may have, and deal with any problems. Coaches will take you to your ship.
If you do not have a cruise line transfer, you can usually purchase one from the representative at the airport upon arrival.
- Canada Line Skytrain Service This light rail service from the airport to downtown is now open. It takes around 20 minutes to get downtown. Get off at Waterfront Station for Canada Place or to take a taxi to Ballantyne Pier. Fares are the same as the Translink service however there is a $5 AddFare for tickets purchased from a ticket vending machine at the three stations closest to the airport. The state of the art system has certainly enhanceed airport transportation options and is a huge success. Get comlete details here.
- Taxis For independent travellers not using the cruise line transfer, the taxi fare to your ship or downtown hotel is about $30.00. If you are staying in a downtown hotel before or after your cruise, the taxi fare is about $15.00 to Canada Place and $20.00 to Ballantyne Pier including tip.
- Limos are also waiting for you at the airport. This often works out better for families and those with a lot of luggage. The price is set for the trip into town and is not much more than a taxi.
- Car Rentals are of course available at the airport. You can drop off your car at the downtown office or at the pier. Some companies have an office at Canada Place and Ballantyne Pier. Other companies offer a shuttle service to the pier for cruise passengers including Avis at the Hotel Vancouver (Hornby Street location). Check with your rental company for the current arrangements.
VANCOUVER'S PIERS: CANADA PLACE AND BALLANTYNE
The Port of Vancouver's Cruise Schedule indicates which ships are sailing from Canada Place and Ballantyne Pier. It should be available for this year in February.
There are two cruise terminals in Vancouver: Canada Place and Ballantyne Pier. Both offer state of the art facilities for provisioning cruise ships and meeting passengers' needs.
Located downtown, Canada Place was the Canada Pavilion at Expo'86. Today it is home to the Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and an IMAX theatre as well as being a cruise terminal. The Fairmont Waterfront Hotel is located directly across the road, recently named the best hotel in the city by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler magazine.
Canada Place was extended a couple of years ago and can accommodate a third megaship. The cruise level has been re-designed to handle the increasing number of passengers and taxis more efficiently. A few shops and kiosks have opened on the cruise ship level as well as a tourist information centre. For photos of Canada Place see the Vancouver Sailout page and the Vancouver Piers photo page.
Further East from downtown, beyond the container terminal, Ballantyne Pier can welcome one or two ships. To get to Ballantyne from downtown, take Georgia Street East (away from Stanley Park). The road becomes a bridge between the dome stadiums BC Place and GM Place then it returns to ground level, renamed Prior Street. Keep going and turn left on Clarke Drive and continue over the bridge and around to the port security entrance. From there turn right, drive a few minutes to Ballantyne and turn right to drive up to the entrance or enter the parking area.
Ballantyne Pier reopened in 1995 after a major renovation and expansion which enables this facility to handle the new generation of megaships now on the Alaska run. The need for a larger container port caused the west side to be land filled so we lost the west pier at Ballantyne. This terminal is very spacious and easy to get around. The taxi service operates very smoothly at Ballantyne. The sailout is not as pretty as from Canada Place and it is difficult to wave friends off to Alaska as the small viewing area is in front of the ship's bow.
Unfortunately, Ballantyne is a little remote and the area between the pier and the city center is the worst part of Vancouver. It is essential to stay in a downtown hotel and take a taxi to or from Ballantyne. You are advised not to walk. It is a 15 to 20 minute taxi ride from downtown to Ballantyne and with a wait in the taxi queue and a tip, it costs about $20.00.
For photos of Ballantyne Pier see the Vancouver Piers page.TOP
ARRIVAL AT THE PIER
- Boarding commences between 11:00am and 2:00pm depending on the cruise line with lunch available onboard throughout the afternoon.
- When you arrive at the ship, your luggage will be taken from you and delivered to your cabin. Tipping is now allowed and you may find the baggage handlers lingering in the hope of getting one.
- You are then free to proceed through check in, immigration and security with just your hand luggage.
- Keep your passport, ticket and credit card handy for check-in and be prepared for a wait at U.S. customs especially if the security alert is high.
- Also be sure to have your smile ready for that "welcome aboard" photograph. Remember, once you are through the boarding procedures you are fee to unpack and enjoy your cruise!
** Cruise lines offer priority check-in for past passengers so be sure to ask about this if you don't see the separate kiosks for this purpose. Also be sure to ask a representative for assistance if you need a wheel chair, are unable to stand in a long queue or have other special needs.TOP
HOTELS / BED & BREAKFAST LINKS
Cruise lines charge a per person rate to book a hotel room so it is usually more economical to book a room yourself.
If you are sailing from Ballantyne Pier, you will need to stay downtown and take a taxi to your ship as there are no hotels near Ballantyne. A taxi to Canada Place from a downtown hotel is around $15.00 including tip and a wait in the taxi queue.
I find hotel packages are usually the best value. The Pan Pacific and Waterfront are luxury hotels with packages for cruise passengers.
Click the hotel name for the web site. Hotels 1-5 blocks from Canada Place: Pan Pacific Hotel
At Canada Place Cruise Terminal
300-999 Canada Place Canada: 800-663-1515
Across the street from Canada Place
900 Canada Place Way 1-800-441-1414 Marriott Vancouver Pinnacle 1128 W. Hastings Street 1-800-207-4150 Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harbourside 1133 W.Hastings 1-800-905-8582 Delta Vancouver Suite Hotel 550 W. Hastings 1-877-814-7706 Days Inn Vancouver 921 W. Pender 1-800-329-7466 Hyatt Regency Vancouver 655 Burrard Street 1-800-233-1234 Hotel Le Soleil Suites 567 Hornby Street 1-877-632-3030 Metropolitan Hotel 645 Howe Street 1-800-668-6600 Fairmont Hotel Vancouver 900 West Georgia 1-800-866-5577 Four Seasons Hotel 791 West Georgia 1-800-268-6282 Hotels 6-8 blocks from Canada Place: Shangrila Hotel Vancouver
Open Winter 2009. Tallest building in Vancouver at 61 storeys
1128 Georgia Street West 604-689-1120 Wedgewood Hotel & Spa
845 Hornby 604-689-7777 Sutton Place Hotel 845 Burrard Street 1-800-961-7555 Sheraton Wall Centre 1088 Burrard Street 1-800-325-3535 Century Plaza 1015 Burrard Street 1-800-663-1818
Hotels 9-15 blocks from Canada Place: The Westin Grand 433 Robson St.at Homer 1-800-228-3000 Rosedale on Robson Suite Hotel 838 Hamilton St. & Robson 1-800-661-8870 YWCA Hotel 733 Beatty Street 604-895-5830 English Bay Downtown:
Best Western Sands By the Sea Hotel
Corner of Denman & Davie by English Bay in the West End 1-800-663-9400
Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites
Across the harbour, close to all the north shore attractions. Kids eat free program.
700 North Lillooet Road, North Vancouver 1-877-985-3111
- Bed and Breakfasts are very popular in Vancouver and there are many located close to downtown.
- Western Canada Bed & Breakfast Innkeepers Association, the largest Association of B&B's in BC. This Association features many of the finest B&B's in the province, having all passed a very high inspection procedure.
- The Sunshine Coast Bed & Breakfast & Cottage Owners Association represents the premier accommodations on BC's Sunshine Coast, north of Vancouver. "From rustic to luxury . . . something for everyone."
- Nu-Salya Chalet B&B. A charming B&B outside Vancouver en route to Whistler is this upscale property. Hosts many cruise ship guests at their recreation/adventure location which offers a unique Coast Mountain experience.
- Accommodations in Western Canada Reservation agency for Bed and Breakfasts.
Traffic in Vancouver is very busy and drivers are notorious for not heeding lights. Look before you step off the curb even if the light is in your favour. Running red lights is very common here.TOP
THINGS TO SEE & DO - GETTING AROUND
To get you started when you arrive, there is a lot of useful attraction information in the front of the yellow pages which should be in your hotel room.
A good first stop is the Vancouver Tourist Office at the foot of Burrard Street, across from Canada Place at the harbour. Here you will find an exhaustive resource of information for your visit including bus and ferry timetables and sample menues from local restaurants. A supply of pamphlets of places of interest can be found in hotels, malls, restaurants and car rental offices.
Those calling at Vancouver for a day will find tourist information at the kiosk on the cruise level of Canada Place.
Getting around Vancouver is normally easy and a lot can be seen by walking the downtown area.
- An excellent bus, SeaBus and SkyTrain service connects the lower mainland by Translink.
- It costs $2.50, $1.75 for seniors and kids for one zone. (On weekdays from start of service to 6:30pm, the area is divided into 3 zones with a small surcharge for each zone).
- Day passes are a good option for visitor.
- Maps of the zones and timbetalbes are located at bus stops and SeaBus and SkyTrain stations. Timetables can be picked up at the Tourist Office and are available online and by calling the number at bus stops on your cell.
- Your transfer is good for 1 1/2 hours and can be used on buses, the SkyTrain and SeaBus.
- A trip across the harbour on the SeaBus can give you an excellent view of the cruise ships in port for the day. The SeaBus leaves from Waterfront Station, the restored Canadian Pacific Station, a short walk from Canada Place on the edge of Gastown.
Hop-On-Off-Service is offered by the Vancouver Trolley Company. They stop at all major attractions and you can get on and off as you please: Makes 23 stops. Reservations are not necessary. Tickets can be purchased from guides or from the driver when you board. There are many pickup spots downtown including Canada Place, the Art Gallery, Sheraton Wall Centre, Virgin Megastore and all major tourist attractions. Payment by cash or travelers cheques (Canadian or American funds). Call toll free: 1-888-451-5581.
Car rental offices are scattered downtown and most hotels have a rental office or pickup service. It can be difficult to rent in Vancouver in the high season so be sure to book ahead if you are sure you will need a car. Parking is expensive and can be awkward downtown so if you are not planning on going out of town, you will find it easier to walk or take transit.
Victoria and Whistler make good day trips and there are a number of ways to get there: by car, public transit or tour.
- The Rocky Mountaineer "Whistler Sea to Cky Climb" gives you the option of a day trip, or staying overnight before returning to Vancouver.
- Pacific Coach Lines offers service between Vancouver and Victoria, and, Vancouver airport and hotels and Whistler with add on tours available.
- Harbour Air sea planes make regular flights to Victoria harbour from Vancouver harbour.
LINKS TO VANCOUVER ATTRACTIONS
Click on the attraction's name:
The largest park & forest inside city limits in North America. The world class Aquarium features a dolphin show, beluga whales, sea lions, sea otters, indoor and outdoor displays and a tropical area. The park also has a totem pole display, kids railway, nature trails, tennis courts, pitch and putt, swimming pool, beaches, seawall for walking, biking and roller blading and excellent vantage points for watching ships sailout.
The free SHUTTLE BUS circles the park each summer (2009 dates and times are not yet posted. Normally from mid June to late September, 10:00 am - 6:30 pm.) The special fleet of buses offers frequent - every 12-15 minutes - pick-up service. The Shuttle has 15 specially signed stops hitting the park's most popular attractions and natural highlights.
Take the skyride to the top for panoramic vistas, Theatre in the Sky, chair lift, helicopter rides, mountain bike tours, hiking, restaurants.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
450 feet long and 230 feet high above the Capilano River. Totem poles, Story Centre and Living Forest exhibits. Gastown A short walk East of Canada Place. Founded in 1867 Gastown was a rough frontier town in the days of its eccentric founder, Gassy Jack Deighton. Restored Victorian architecture, shops, restaurants, a steam clock and statue to Gassy Jack greet visitors today.
Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden
The first authentic Chinese garden built outside of China.A place of serenity in the middle of the city. Located in Chinatown. Granville Island Take a ferry across False Creek from the Aquatic Centre on Beach Street to this lively spot, site of 250 artistic, educational, industrial and commercial facilities including the famous European-style market and outstanding restaurants. Imax Theatre Located in Canada Place. 5 story high screen. Vancouver Museum
Across the Burrard Street Bridge at Kits Point, the museums and planetarium are located. Kits Beach is nearby. Visit by water taxi from various spots on False Creek, take bus #22 or 2, or the hop-on-off trolley.. The Lookout at Harbour Centre Spectacular 360º view from the observation level or revolving restaurant. Ticket allows you to return at night to see the lights Close to Canada Place. Sunday Brnch. Science World This geodetic dome on False Creek was the BC Pavilion at Expo '86. 3D Laser Theatre & Omnimax films; special exhibits. Art Gallery Right downtown at Robson Square on the block from Georgia to Robson, between Howe and Hornby. Former municipal building of architectural interest with a beautiful fountain facing Georgia Street. Extensive collection of works by B.C. artist, Emily Carr is frequently on display. Harbour & Day Cruises Good selection of dinner cruises, harbour tours and English Bay Brunch cruise. Shopping Robson street offers a variety of boutiques and is a popular walking street with many restaurants. On Hastings Street, near Canada Place, Sinclair Centre is an upscale shopping spot. Cartier and Birks jewellers are nearby on Hastings. Tiffany's, Coach, Louis Vuitton are on Burrard between Robson and Georgia. Gucci is in the same block in the Hotel Vancouver which also has a superb souvenir and Fairmont shop. Malls include the downtown Pacific Centre, extending from Robson to Pender, between Howe and Granville. Award winning Granville Island has a European market and excellent artist's boutiques, bookstores and nautical clothing and curio shops. Lonsdale Quay has a good market, boutiques and shops. Take the SeaBus across the harbour to visit Lonsdale Quay. TOP
MORE VANCOUVER LINKS Additional links for your Alaska Cruise Vacation can be found on the Alaska page.
Book hotels online, see a calendar of events and more.
Tourism British Columbia
The official site of BC Tourism. Phone: 1-800-435-5622.
Informative resource and blog.
Self-guided urban walks for Greater Vancouver tourists - maps, photos, directions - free!
Bus, Sky Train and SeaBus information for Vancouver and British Columbia
Ferry service to Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands and the BC Coast
Rocky Mountaineer Vacations
B.C. and Alberta rail tours including Calgary, Banff and Jasper and the Whistler Sea to Sky Climb, a three-hour rail journey from North Vancouver to Whistler. Many hotel packages available including a pre/post-cruise tour.
Vancouver Nature Adventures
Offers half day eco-adventures around Vancouver for cruise passengers' pre and post cruise activities. All trips include hotel pick-up and lunch. "Wilderness Adventures for softies since 1994".
Vancouver City and Nature Tours
Vancouver Attractions Trolley Bus
Hop-on-and-off-Trolley for seeing the major sites and attractions.
Pacific Coach Lines
Regular service between Vancouver and Victoria with add on tours available. Service between Whistler and Vancouver airport and hotels.
Pacific Spirit Tours
Howe Sound/Whistler Boat Train & other tours
Helicopter tours and service from Vancouver harbour.
The Sunshine Coast Trail
For hikers; rivals the famous West Coast Trail but is not as well known.
Whistler Resort Reservations
Whistler is highly ranked as a ski resort. Summer skiing on the glacier. World class golf course. Peak to Peak gondola, new in 2009, connects Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. 2.5 hour drive from Vancouver.