Vancouver - What can you expect?

Updated April 10 2016

While allot of you are thinking of booking a Alaska cruise this summer and some have already booked it, I have been writing about what is available here in Vancouver for many years. Having lived in Vancouver for 40+ years I thought a general post on Vancouver may help some of you plan your Cruise better. Vancouver has recently finished hosting the most successful winter Olympics and Paralympics.
    The rapid transit line to Richmond and the airport has been finished for those that want a quick and easy way to Canada Place. One should note that there is a $5.00 add fare in addition to the regular 2 zone fare from Richmond to Vancouver. Visit Translink for complete details. Vancouver has started a new system to pay for your fare called the Compass Card.

Generally the weather in Vancouver is mild and the summers can be warm with temps in the 70's F or 20's C . In June darkness doesn't fall till after 10:00 PM. Twilight starts again at 4:00 AM.

Vancouver has 2 cruise docks one called Canada Place and one called Ballantyne. Canada Place was built for Expo 86 as the Host Pavilion for Expo and to be used as a Convention Centre and Cruise ship terminal in the years after Expo 86. The good news this year is Ballantyne is no longer being used by cruise ships. The reason being given is two fold, the first is cruise lines are pulling ships from Alaska and moving them to other locations. The second is since the start of the Alaska cruise seasons several decades back Vancouver enjoyed hosting all ships but that has changed in recent years and now Seattle ports many ships. Ballantyne is located in a "secure" area for container cargo and it was a real pain to enter this area. Since Canada Place could now handle all ships this year Ballentyne is not being used.

The Port of Vancouver Cruise ship schedule 

Canada Place is under the Pan Pacific Hotel and across the street from the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. The Fairmont Pacific Rim is just 1 short block away. This makes it very easy to get to if you are staying at either of these hotels on a pre/post cruise. Since Canada Place is under the Pan Pacific Hotel it is sheltered and thus you won't suffer from the elements of outside when getting out/in of taxis or buses. Canada Place is right outside Waterfront Station and the Seabus. Thrifty Rent a Car has a office inside the Pan Pacific entrance on the right side. It has limited hours. All other rental car companies have counters as you exit the terminal to the buses on the right side. Almost all do not have cars on site but offer pick-up/drop-off service to their lots in the Downtown core.

There is still some construction going on west of Canada Place on the waterfront. The new Convention Centre has been finished and was used as the broadcast centre for the Olympics. If you continue past the convention centre you will come to the Olympic Flame location.  
    The roadway just west of Canada Place has undergone a major upgrade with a new road heading west.

Getting to/from Vancouver

Most cruise lines use Seattle for flying into and out of and then bussing the passengers to Vancouver. The bus ride is about 3 -3.5 hours. Airline flights are very limited to and from Vancouver to the USA with most flights going to Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and a shuttle flight to Seattle. As well major Airlines offer direct non-stop service to Europe.

There are several options to get to from Seattle/Vancouver.
-take the cruise transfer - likely the easiest - cost is about $75.00 each way.
-rent a car and drop it off in downtown Vancouver
-Quick Shuttle bus connection - All day service
-Amtrak train - arrives Vancouver at 11:40 AM and now a second train arrives at 10:50PM

The main border crossing is the Douglas Crossing into Canada on the I-5 Freeway which turns into Hwy 99. The main crossing south is the Peace Arch crossing. This is named after the Peace Arch and Park. I would like to point out that as of Monday May 19th 2008 Peace Arch will close 4 of the 8 gates to build a new crossing.

Now if you decide on driving on your own I would recommend that you pay attention to the signs overhead the highways either entering the US or Canada for the Border wait times. In the past I recommended the use of the Truck Crossing for crossing into Canada but it is dependent on Truck Traffic now. It is well marked and about 2 miles south of Peace Arch/Douglas Crossing. It is very well signed to get back onto Hwy. 99 to Vancouver. Take note that the boarder line-ups can be 2 hours in the summer months especially on long weekends of May 19 2013 for the Queens Birthday, July 1st 2013 for Canada Day and August 4tht 2013 for BC Day and September 1st 2013 for Labour Day. The truck crossing is normally shorter but not always. For the brave of heart there is always Lynden/Aldergove crossing which is always much shorter. Almost all cars have their trunks searched now entering back into the USA so it does take longer to cross into the USA than it did before.

Arriving in Vancouver by airplane the day of the cruise and heading to the ship can be done a few ways.

- take the cruise line transfer- I see most cruise lines are charging $25.00 US each way now
- take a taxi from the airport- There is a zone system now in effect from the Airport to any destination. Currently the fare is $36 Canadian. Take note that it is metered from Canada Place to the Airport. 
- take a limo from the airport - The sedan rate between Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR) and either cruise ship terminal is $64 to $103 + GST depending on size of car.

Now I am not sure if you were going to The Waterfront Hotel or Pan Pacific Hotel what rate they would charge you with them being at Canada Place. Visit the YVR site for information as well as Aerocar Service  for rate info.

Now this brings up something that you will get a hundred different answers on and that is the exchange rate of the US and CDN dollar. The exchange rate has really changed over the last year. The current exchange rate has the Canadian Dollar about 30 cents behind the US Dollar,  in simple terms $10.00 US is worth $13.00 CDN. Now most places accept US dollars including taxis. I want to stress this, that some places may charge a low exchange rate, the best rate is at the bank if at all concerned. Each cab or business sets their own exchange rate. Please note that Public Transit does NOT accept US money.

Leaving Vancouver after your cruise

Vancouver Airport offers some of the best facilities in the world. Vancouver has been rated in the top 10 from Airports around the world for the last few years. There are more than ample choices of Restaurants at the airport and more located in the Domestic Terminal. They all offer street pricing which means you won't be paying inflated pricing.

Most cruise lines recommend no flights before 11:00 AM from Vancouver Airport. There is good reason for this. Most ships clear between 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM. There is about 30 minutes drive to the Airport. There is the check-in at the airlines then one must clear US Customs PRIOR to going to the gate. The lines for US Customs can be as long as 1-2 hours. Once one clears Customs then there is Security.

Now having said that Vancouver Airport has a terminal for check-in for cruise ship passengers only headed to the USA. It is my understanding that only those that buy cruise ship transfers will get to use this new terminal. One will disembark the ship and board buses in a secure area and be whisked to the new terminal.

In the past cruise ship passengers that were headed to Seattle for their flights have been placed on buses and didn't have to go through US Customs at the Border because they were considered "under bond" or "in transit" from one US port to another. Now the same thing is expected to happen when headed to the new terminal at Vancouver Airport. This should shorten wait times at the airport and make catching a earlier flight possible in time.

Where to stay?

Vancouver offers all the major hotels. By Canada place you have Pan Pacific, Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, Days Inn Downtown, Renaissance Hotel, and the Delta Vancouver Suites, Marriott Pinnacle all within a few blocks of Canada Place. Now if you don't mind being a 5 min cab ride out, the number of hotels goes way up. The Hotel Vancouver, Four Seasons, The Crown Plaza, Sheraton Wall Centre, Hyatt and lots more. In fact I have posted a large list of Hotels on Seacruise.

What to do?

Fireworks

2016 marks the 25th year of the Honda Celebration of Light an international fireworks competition which has, over the years,, attracted the world’s leading fireworks designers and is considered one of North America’s top pyrotechnic competitions. This year in 2016 is 3 nights.
Dates:

    * Saturday July 23th, 2016 - Netherlands
    * Wednesday July 27, 2016 - Australia
    * Saturday July 30, 2016 - USA Disney 

Time: 10:00PM – Rain or Shine

You will be able to view this at the Vancouver Cam www.katkam.ca

Most people will tell you the must do's of Vancouver such as Stanley Park and Gastown (check out the steam clock here) There are so many other things to do such as:

- Science World on False Creek
- Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver
- Grouse Mountain in North Vancouver
- Capilano Fish hatchery - Free - North Vancouver
- UBC Botanical Garden Universality of BC
- Vancouver Art Gallery 0n Georgia
- Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park
- Queen Elizabeth Gardens - Free
Further Links to all these and more can be found on the Attractions page as well.

Shopping can be done at Pacific Centre Mall at Georgia and Granville and all along Robson Street. In the summer months

Getting around Vancouver

There is several choices from renting a car, to the Vancouver Trolley to Transit. Transit in Vancouver has 3 modes of transport from the Skytrain (driver less trains) Seabus (small 400 seat ferries called the Burrard Beaver, Burrard Otter and the Burrard Pacific Breeze) and buses. There is a Day pass which starts after 9:30 AM Monday - Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday and most holidays. The fare you pay is good on all forms of Transit and you get a transfer good for a minimum of 90 minutes to be used on all forms of transit. All the places I listed above have transit to them. Transit Information.

Gastown and Pacific Centre Mall is a short walk from most major hotels in the downtown core.

Staying in Vancouver or Richmond or Metrotown, which is bettter?

That depends. The Vancouver airport itself is NOT in Vancouver but in the City of Richmond just south of Vancouver. It is about 20-30 minutes driving to downtown depending on traffic and how lost you become. Vancouver in the downtown core has one way streets and streets that don't allow left turns (Georgia Street mainly) Vancouver itself has NO freeway system.

So I say to people if you stay in Richmond to save a few dollars and want to see Vancouver how do you plan on doing it? Rent a car? Take a bus? It is a personal preference but I say if you want to make it easier on yourself so stay downtown.

Staying out at Metrotown is in the City of Burnaby and either a Skytrain ride (20 min) to Vancouver or you need a rent a car. If you don't mind transit then this will work for you.

Restaurants

I am going to include a list of some of the more well known names in Vancouver but this is only meant to give you some idea of cost. This is by no means the only list of restaurants, in fact there are more than enough choices in just the Westend of Vancouver (Robson, Denman, and Davie streets) to satisfy all those out there. There is larger list on here under Restaurants. I will say now that we lost 2 restaurants this year being Morton's Steak house and The Cannery. The Cannery was closed for very different reasons being that it was on the waterfront in the "secure" are where containers are shipped. The Port Authority wanted it gone. The lunch Chef has opened a new place called the Pink Peppercorn. 

Joe Fortes Seafood
Bridges on Granville Island
The Five Sails at Canada Place
The Thai House- several locations
The Diva at the Metropolitan Hotel
The Pink Peppercorn
Lupo - Hamilton Street
Steamworks Pub in Gastown

Chain Restaurants include:

The Boathouse - English Bay on Beach Ave. overlooking English Bay and near the Vancouver Airport.
The Keg - Granville Island, The Keg on Thurlow Street and Keg Ceasers on Hornby near Canada Place
Milestones - On Denman, On Robson, Yaletown, Vancouver Airport
Moxies Classic Grill - Robson Street and West Georgia in the Sandman Hotel.

Drinking and Driving

This past year a new Drinking and Driving law was past. Basically the legal limit is .08 BUT if you are stopped and blow over .05 then your car is impounded for 3 days and a $200 fine. There is storage for you car plus a reinstatement fee to get your licence back. Total cost around $600.00. If you refuse to blow in a Roadside Screening Device the Police have the Authority to still pull your licence and impound your car. So if you rent a car and it is impounded you will also get further penalties from the rental car company.

Getting to Vancouver Island and Victoria

Victoria is on the Southern tip of Vancouver Island. In fact it is said Victoria is more British than Britain itself. There is Buchart Gardens, The Royal BC Museum , The Parliament Buildings and The Empress Hotel for afternoon tea.

Now getting there is an ALL day tour. You would either take a tour or catch the bus to Victoria via BC Ferry.. The Ferry ride is about 1 hour 35 min each way. The ride alone from Downtown Vancouver to the Tsawwassen Ferry terminal is 60 minutes. It is about a 30 minute ride from Swartz Bay (where the ferry docks on Vancouver Island) to downtown Victoria.

GST/HST

There was a GST Visitor Rebate Program for those that visit Canada and buy things but the Government of Canada has eliminated the GST/HST Visitor Rebate Program as of March 31, 2007.

Visit Canada Customs for complete details. Now I have just scratched the surface of what there is in Vancouver and you can visit the links I have posted on the Seacruise page and take a look at some of the other Vancouver links I have for far more information.

I know many people will add to this list but this is just to give some idea.

I hope this helps you.

Phil
Webmaster Seacruise