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About martincath

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    YVR & PDX
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    Travel, eating, eating while traveling;-)
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  1. I'd also recommend trying the PP hotel as your first stop - it's significantly cheaper than the official storage at the pier! Assuming no change since last operating season, $12 a bag vs. the PPs $5. You did get money off if you booked a tour - any length, including HOHO - from the folks operating the storage (Westcoast, the local Gray Line affiliate now), but even after that discount it only dropped to $8 which was still pricier than the previous folks with the contract. Pretty similar range of tours offered by these guys and LandSea who were linked above, both are long-standing local companies. The best option if you plan an active day, and returning to the pier at the end of it would be a hassle, is to have your bags collected, stored, then delivered to you again at YVR by Portergenie. It's most efficient for a group with a lot of bags, as there is a fixed pickup & delivery fee on top of the per-bag fees - but so far I've only heard good things about the effiiciency of their operation in terms of finding you, being on time etc. Of course, with 2020 having been a total write-off for HOHO tours and vastly reduced numbers of tourists, even if your cruise runs next year these hotels, tour companies etc. could all be bust! So definitely come back again in April/May to check all your local tours, restos, bag storage etc. needs.
  2. That makes sense. But given how few folks get more than 2 weeks vaycay in the US and the vast % of the market made up of US cruisers, a 15 day Saturday to Sunday schedule is about the max mainstream cruise lines could offer and hope to fill - so the 'direct to AK with the required legal foreign stop plus typical AK ports' strikes me as the only plan with even a remote possibility of working. Doing one-way Ensenada-Anchorage routes of ~10 days, with folks boarding buses in San Diego or LA for the first or last part of the journey, to enable cruise-tours again might be a more enticing option for the lines. I believe there were 1-way Hawaiian cruises that operated this way in the past, based on a few posts over the years where folks forgot about the bus element and claimed to have done Hawaii one-way on foreign flag ships despite that being a PVSA violation.
  3. Yup - and not even close to three weeks needed, considering there have been 14-day or less LA round-trips to AK offered for years. Ensenada can be swapped in for Victoria with 2 days added at most (<150nm, so <300nm extra RT, cruising speed of even 15 knots could technically manage to add 24hrs total including the required 4 hours minimum docked time) - it would definitely add only one day, including legal minimum port stop time, to SD-based itineraries. And that's assuming they otherwise stuck to the same current routing - Victoria actually involves significant deviation back toward the mainland compared to just heading straight for Ensenada from off the west coast of Vancouver Island.
  4. Actually Palin did indeed speak about Russia being visible from Alaska - she just didn't utter the commonly-referenced phrase about being able to see it from her house which was indeed Tina Fey's line. Full fact-checking, including video of Palin's actual statement, can be found on Snopes. On the cruising Alaska via Mexico front - sure, for LA cruises that sounds feasible and if there are no other options to cruise AK from the US west coast it might even be popular enough to be financially viable... but I would not like to be the person who decides to take that risk! Edit - somewhat redundant thanks to the post above which appeared while I was typing, but since I linked a different source I'll leave it in ;-)
  5. Given you only have a choice, within the parameters you gave us, of "Do, or do not" to quote the great philosopher Yoda - I'd do it;-) SF is a great city to hang in for some Pre/Post cruise time - although I would be tempted to look at other lines and departure cities even if your deal is excellent on this particular cruise. If you have time to spend on land before or after a one-way cruise for example, you'll get more time in Alaska and see things that can't be done from the coastal ports - and even an RT Vancouver 7 day cruise spends more time in Alaska than this one or any other US port RT, due to skipping Victoria (most US RT cruises simply stop there to make them legal, spending the shortest time possible and often late in the day when there's very little open - so even if Victoria is somewhere you do want to visit, it's most often better to visit independently instead).
  6. I'm also a fan of the local brewpubs. Victoria is the closest thing to a British city on the continent - a ton of pubs, some with live music, and two different ones (Swans and Spinnakers) that both offer a proper-temperature pint of cask-conditioned beer... but fear not, they also have regular 'too cold for beer to taste right' cellars as well if BF's tum is also sensitive to warm beer ;-) If it's a Friday or Saturday and early in Sep the excellent Royal BC Museum might still be open - at least in prior years they extended their hours until IIRC 10pm - and it's a large place, well worth two or three hours of pootling around the regular collections and usually there's a traveling exhibit too. Otherwise Victoria pretty much rolls up the sidewalks by 6pm, so the only stuff open tends to be shops on the main drag of Government Street. The inner harbour area does look lovely at night as well as during the day, many of the historic buildings are well illuminated - Parliament and the Empress Hotel being the most famous. The latter will have it's bars and restos open, and might even sell you an insanely-overpriced 'Afternoon' Tea if you'd like to partake - they have run them until 9pm seatings in the past during cruise season. Lastly, if small boats are OK for the BF, taking one of the 'pickleboat' water taxis around the harbour is a cheap but scenic option, and folks who don't mind dropping fairly big bucks - but at a good exchange rate - might enjoy a carriage ride with one of the two companies based in Victoria (hopefully at least one will survive the loss of cruise season revenue). Don't take the cheap 'trolley' tours - anything priced under $100 is almost certainly on one of those, holding 25+pax seated 4 across so only the outside people get a view to the sides while the front row middle literally looks at a horses ass for the trip!
  7. We took it on our very first AK cruise before we had a clue about good independent tours, and while it certainly didn't suck the most memorable things about it was the salmon dip that was provided free onboard! If you have OBC to burn and no other alternatives that entice, sure, but I would steer you toward doing something else instead.
  8. Even pre-Covid, there were multiple earliest time recommendations @Darlene If your entire party is mobile, can self-disembark carrying all their own bags and then move them a quarter mile over pretty flat sidewalk, and you don't mind using public transit, then even on a super-busy day with 3+ ships you could self-disembark and be at YVR well before 9am safely. That means a flight as early as 10am is possible - though if you have bags to check, since airlines tend to demand you check-in more than 60mins early with those a 10:30am flight would give you some safety margin. If you cannot self-disembark, then you cannot handle SkyTrain and you need to rely on a taxi/limo etc. - how many ships are in port becomes crucial! Unlike SkyTrain which is frequent and far from full heading toward YVR in the morning even on weekdays, there is a huge bottleneck for cabs getting into the pier. Plus the round-trip to YVR and back is over an hour driving, limited cabs have airport medallions allowing pickup there, and even for the ones with a medallion they cannot just head straight to arrivals after dropping folks off at departures - YVR has a stringently-enforced queuing area for cabs to wait in before being allowed to go back to the terminal. In other words, once a cab has left the pier it will be 60-90mins or even more before it can get back again for the next load of pax. Uber & Lyft are now legal, so overall things should in theory be better for everyone as every person using them means less competition for the cabs - but the bottleneck into the pier is still a big problem which adding more vehicles only makes worse, and I believe the plan is to have a different rideshare pickup point to help with that so you may also need to factor in using a porter (limited numbers of these, and they prioritise disabled folks) to get you and your bags to wherever the rideshare pickup point is. So, when it comes to car-based transport, unless you are among the very first people off ALL of the ships, the wait for a cab quickly builds from a few minutes (simply due to the time it takes to load pax and bags) to an hour, to as long as three hours on some of the truly awful start-of-season 3/4 ship days when everyone in the process is having the relearn how things work. Even the end-of-season 3+ ship days when over 10,000 pax are (dis)embarking you should assume an hour's wait, but expect up to two hours when deciding on flight times. Even if you are in the first 'with help' disembarkation group from your ship, you will find that hundreds of pax from EACH ship in port already beat you by self-disembarking - and if your ship is the last of 4 to get clearance you could have literally thousands of pax ahead of you in cab queues, using Uber app, and then also clogging the Check-in, Security, Preclearance, and whatever additional Covid-checking line is in place at YVR too... you might end up being lucky to make a flight that departs at noon! This is why all the cruise line transfers - which are the slowest, most expensive, and all-around crappiest options - will not accept a flight departure time earlier than 12:30 or even 1pm generally (you might see noon flights OK on a light day with one or two small ships in port). On top of all that, if we actually do see a 2021 cruise season, the first month or two will suck harder than it ever has before as literally every single shore-side staff person will have had a whole extra year of forgetting how to do their jobs!!! If we don't restart until 2022 it'll be even worse for the retraining - and frankly I think that's likely for Alaska cruising, as there are so many small communities whose medical services would be overwhelmed quickly so vaccines will need to be effective and available before it's safe to start dumping thousands of tourists from all over into the coastal communities. The good news is no US customs or immigration at any layover airport, as you get Precleared here at YVR. This is much more efficient than at most US int'l airports - but on very busy cruise days (3+ ships) does still cause delays even with the new kiosks. But usually it's the Security queue that is by far the biggest bottleneck - unless you are self-disembarking, I'd personally recommend just booking an evening flight to avoid all the huge delays that dumping thousands of pax into the airport between 9am and noon can cause. There's plenty to keep you entertained around Vancouver, and multiple options for stashing bags to let your tour unencumbered. TL;DR version: pre-Covid 10am if you are fit, get up early, walk off and take transit if there's a queue already for cabs/Ubers/limos. 1pm if you need to rely on porters to move your bags and someone to drive you. Plus whatever Covid fudge-factor you personally want to apply. But the best options is to book a flight for the next morning (or several days later) and spend some time post-cruise - if you have a 9am or earlier flight booked, you are 100% guaranteed to avoid ALL of the cruise-pax-induced queues that can happen... and if it's safe enough that cruises are running again, the city will be safer than being onboard!
  9. 1pm for going home should be OK - but given possible extra delays at the port for Canadian immigration on top of whatever happens at YVR, I'd be inclined to err on the side of caution and bump that later. Noon arrival even pre-Covid times is a recipe for disaster - unless you have a direct, non-stop flight from your home airport that shows a very consistent on-time % and minimal delay time when it is late. There's just way too much scope for things to go wrong - and even though an RT Vancouver cruise means it would be legal to fly onward and meet the ship in the first AK port, missing embarkation would mean missing out on ~48hours of time on the ship. Even if you're not worried about missing out on touring time locally, a pre-cruise hotel night is cheap insurance - and given you then have total flexibility in what time the flight arrives or route taken you can very possibly save more on flight costs than the price of the hotel...
  10. Wish I could have given you something more tangible - but until we see what happens with vaccines, tourist sector recovery rates etc. it's all just theory! Fingers crossed that next year's AK season will be viable, but between waiting until we see how winter flu season & Covid coexist and what comes out of the various vaccine trials in terms of efficacy and logistics of distribution, I really would not be surprised if cruising to small communities remains off the table in 2021 as well, even if cruises around the Med and to Caribbean islands manage to run...
  11. If things are back to normal, then showing up 2 hours preflight will be ample - but realistically nobody can tell you what it will be like at that time as 'normal' seems likely to be 3+ years away when it comes to air travel... Two key unknowns: how many other folks flying (if numbers stay low, then in theory you should most likely be able to shave the margins closer - even if there are CBP staffing cutbacks, the fact that the vast majority of flyers are processed by the kiosks at YVR means much less impact on processing time even when e.g. CBP agents were shifted to Mexican border from here); and what if any extra Covid checks will be carried out (e.g. if you have to show a clean test/proof of vaccination that will add at least a little bit of extra time, checklists and temp screenings likely at least a few minutes extra per person). Right now I'd be tempted to play it safe, assume you will have to be at the airport 3 hours early per YVRs standard recommendation, and then wait to see what reports come back from folks who travel in May - maybe you'll get lucky and be able to lie in until 8am. No matter how quiet the airport gets though, a minimum 1 hour preflight will likely always be needed for checked bag drop given the requirements of CBP prescreening.
  12. I'd reconsider VIA - the timing of the train, despite changing a few years ago so that you actually do see something on the first day, has nothing significant in terms of scenery until you get beyond Hope... depending on the date of your cruise (i.e. when is sunset) you might get some nice views for 3-4 hours but since VIA runs through the night you are going to be sleeping through the bulk of the mountains. Next morning when you wake up you should have plenty to see once the sun is high enough to illuminate the valleys until you arrive in Jasper at 11am. If you are seriously considering upgrading to Prestige class, compare the price with Rocky Mountaineer (who are mad pricey, but all their train travel is during daylight hours in a 'dome' carriage). If you want to just climb on a vehicle rather than drive yourselves, but aren't willing to just throw money around willy-nilly, do a coach tour - at least with those you get to stop at scenic viewpoints and take photos that are not through glass, and again they'll travel in daylight like RM does with overnights in hotels i.e. regular beds, no bunks!
  13. Solid info so far - but even without whatever changes are caused by Covid, local hotels that offer cruise specific packages have been disappearing over the last few years. So even the specific hotels mentioned above as providing a shuttle or cab to the pier, double-check directly with the hotels before you book. You would be best advised to forget about finding a hotel with trasnport to both port and airport, as there are none with their own shuttles which do this - so even the folks offering it are 100% dependent on another company for transportation, i.e. why not just book your own seats on the shuttle bus? Cabs will not work for you here - unless you take two vehicles. You'd need a limo or large SUV to seat 5 of you with luggage - there might be larger vehicles on Uber/Lyft at the time you will be here, but no cab company will prebook more than 4 seaters unless you have a disabled party member, and virtually all the bigger cabs in the city are minivans primarily designed for carrying wheelchairs (i.e. the middle bench seats are removed to make room, resulting in only 1x 3 seater rear bench and a single seat up front for a max of 4pax). I've seen literally two 6-pax taxi minivans in almost a decade of living here. While there are a couple of motels that you could describe as being downtown, including one right in the core, these 'hipster' joints are neither cheap nor practical (they seem to revel in being original construction, with paper-thin walls and crappy old elevators, and basically slap trendy decor and pod coffee machines on top of old bones). Actually-cheap motels are out in the 'burbs - and while we do have one genuinely interesting historic motel left (the 2400, one of the now-very-rare 'cottage' motels with many small buildings instead of the two-storey external-staircase single building type that is far more common) unless you have visited Vancouver before and would rather focus on off-the-beaten track exploration than hit the tourist highlights, the location would be a poor choice. With a younger generation along to help with bags, I'd agree that a hotel near the airport that you can use the Canada Line SkyTrain to get downtown is a sensible choice - but given you have 5 people, the perfect choice is the YWCA Hotel which offers 5-bed rooms! It's not just the best-value hotel in the city, it's right in the heart of the city - better located by literally miles than any other hotel that even comes close to their pricing - you can walk around all of the popular downtown sites from it, have plenty of restos available, and if you want to pinch even more pennies they have huge kitchens with lots of equipment so you can easily cook your own full meals in so prepping a cheap picnic lunch would be super-easy. if you just can't bring yourselves to 'stay at the Y' regardless of how well-reviewed it is, then I'd point you to the condo hotels like Rosedale on Robson or Times Square Suites for similar multiple beds and your own kitchen - or the Sylvia mentioned above, which has a couple of big suites that they don't list on their website. I believe one of them sleeps 5 or 6 in 2 bedrooms and a sofabed - while not as cheap as the Y, she's a lovely old hotel that has gone through significant renos in the last couple of years, including all-new piping.
  14. You might well have skipped some steps RKAC - there have been 'sealed bus' transfers offered in the past, where legally-speaking you remain under US jurisdiction from the ship to the airport and therefore bypass both Canadian and US immigration requirements at pier and airport. Your body may have physically been in Canada, but your 'legal existence' traveled on a magic bus made of Apple Pie flying the Stars & Stripes ;-) Availability has always been spotty, sometimes just some lines offer them and there's been no announcement by YVR/Canada Place on their availability for years - such a deal requires cooperation between CBSA, CBP, cruise line, port authority and airport authority (and indirectly costs Vancouver tourist income, as folks doing them cannot take tours or go shopping, they literally get a bus ride with no stops straight to the airport). Some of them even go all the way to the border without stopping, for transferring pax to SEA. It's wise to never expect such treatment, instead assume you will have to jump through every hoop and then you might be pleasantly surprised!
  15. Since RKAC has actually made use of the wheelchair assists, they may have more specifics - but to put your mind at rest the Porters and Pushers who will be moving you & your bags around are allowed to go back & forth between secure and open areas at the port and the airport. So while you will do Immigration checks before seeing your luggage (both on arrival pre-cruise at YVR, and again on arrival post-cruise at Canada Place, since I see from elsewhere you are doing a B2B) you will have your luggage with you when you do Customs. There's really just one exception to that - which you didn't ask specifically about but is worth pointing out - which is when you get Prescreened by US CBP before flying home. Even if you've done Prescreening in Canada, Ireland etc. before there have been a few changes in the last handful of years - kiosks make things much faster in general, and your bags get dropped before you see CBP instead of having to drag them through. A photo is taken of your bag as it is dropped on the conveyor - which is linked to your boarding pass. When you go through CBP you'll see screens displaying the bag photos - you may get some manual involvement from CBP (asking you questions in-person rather than just taking the print-out from the kiosk) and if so almost certainly the first thing they'll ask is (while pointing at screen) "Is this your bag?" If they have a problem with your declaration/you are randomly selected for a bag search, the bags get diverted until checked. If all is well, they are released for loading onto the plane without you ever seeing them until you get to your destination. It's a pretty slick operation, vastly more efficient than getting screened at your first US airport. Of course, in a post-Covid world there's likely going to be some extra step involving temp checks/screening for a negative Covid test/proof of vaccination etc. etc. slotted in to the existing customs/immigration/security shenanigans too, but they won't be unique to wheelchair transfer pax (I have no doubt that Porter & Pushers will need to add some sort of regular Covid testing/proof of vaccination to their required security clearance checks...)
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