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martincath

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About martincath

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    YVR & PDX
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    Travel, eating, eating while traveling;-)
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    NCL
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    Alaska

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  1. Nope - 1 May will be literally their first EVER day of operation! Vancouver has had many HOHO companies, which all gradually folded over the years until just WestCoast and the Trolley were left. They amalgamated quite recently (< 2 years), rebranding into a combined fleet under the WestCoast name but using both sets of vehicles. I guess LandSea saw an opportunity - and I for one am happy for visitors as this might bring in some price and quality competition! As soon as the merger of WC/Trolley happend they jacked up rates by about 20% but reduced the total number of vehicles running so while the overall frequency was a little better than either one of them, it was still about a third down from the total prior number on the road - so LandSea should at least have been able to pick up some experienced drivers for their new service. Other than directly comparing route maps and prices, which you can do yourself, there's nothing I can offer as the relative quality is starting as a total unknown... so it will actually be your fellow tourists who will be best able to discuss them. Most locals, including myself, don't tend to take general tours much;-) Personally I definitely won't be riding until the next time I have visitors in town who might enjoy a HOHO ride - and by then I hope to have lots of reviews from visitors to let me assess which one is best!
  2. That's not my understanding of the normal GE process, nor those of most other reports I've seen since it started. That does not mean I don't believe you, but depending when you cruised compared to other reports I am hopeful that your experience reflects an abandoned policy and this year and onward a 'short queue' at Security will also apply for GE. If the Security minions were actually shouting out 'Customs' rather than Immigration or Preclearance this also leads me to think it was early in a season and a yet-to-be-properly-trained minion was involved - the key part of CBPs presence is vetting people for entry, not collecting Duty, so while you do go through both Customs and Immigration the latter is by far the most important aspect. They are very commonly-conflated terms, but preclearance is all about the People, not the Stuff.
  3. The best (indeed ONLY) thing we ever do on a Victoria evening cruise stop, is go to the pub! Victoria is one of the longest-standing hubs of Canadian microbrewing, and is undoubtedly the best place on the continent to drink British style beers (both Swans, my fave, and Spinnakers actually maintain two cellars - one at proper beer drinking temo of 8-10C, and another at 4C for all the poor unfortunates raised to believe that beer should be drunk straight from the refrigerator). If it's a Friday or Saturday in summer, then the Royal BC Museum may also be open (it's a great museum, and even if it is not open they do have an IMAX cinema that stays open late, sometimes even showing regular movies as well as documentaries etc.) Otherwise it's basically shopping - many downtown stores will stay open until 9pm or so on cruise days. Personally I don't think the gardens are worth it in darkness, UNLESS it is a fireworks night! Sunset might be late enough you can get some sightseeing in before dark though - if you're here late June sunset will be after 9pm so an excursion arriving at 8pm would be pretty much idea for a quick walk around for photos in daylight, a little more wandering when the lights come on, then fireworks (no later than a 10pm start IIRC) before heading back. A midnight departure makes it very safe to visit the gardens even independently - traffic is a bear right at the gardens when everyone starts to leave as they all pile out within a very short time, but you'd have about an hour of padding (plus if your cab or rental car is stuck in traffic, so are the cruiseline buses...)
  4. Two ships should normally be relatively smooth by 1:30pm but as it's in May there will likely still be some rough edges to rub off on the staff & processes, so after 2pm is safer. - so assuming your ship departs 4pm or later (it should be listed on the schedule) that's a solid plan. Food options run the gamut from the food court connected to Canada Place (just head downstairs), various pubs & cafes along the Seawall, more restos down in Gastown (Water Street is the main tourist drag, folks of all ages enjoy the Steamclock, and kids especially are likely to find the Old Spaghetti Factory interior fun - there's all sorts of stuff in there, you can even eat inside an old streetcar, and while the food is not remotely fancy it's cheap and big) - in fact walk along pretty much any street in downtown and you'll find various eateries within ~three blocks.
  5. A thought - rather than having to get to Victoria and then back, look at changing your flights home to start in Victoria and spending time in Vancouver after the cruise then heading to the Island. As well as opening up the V2V route and other early ferry departures, which cannot be done the day you arrive, it's more efficient if you don't have to backtrack. Unless you have a nonstop from YVR to home you might find that even the flight time/number of stops does not change at all (many eastbound flights from YVR hop to Seattle first, and there are plenty of flights from YYJ to SEA too). Even if there's a change fee, saving the cost of transport back to Vancouver might offset it...
  6. Yes indeedy - read the small print on your card very carefully (or the original leaflets if you still have them). NEXUS is the best TT program as it incorporates ALL the benefits of GE and TSA Pre, PLUS the extraspecial magical land border lanes at the Canadian border AND expedited Canadian domestic flight Security queues. For half the cost of GE. The only downside is the very limited number of sites for interview due to requiring both CBSA and CBP staff.
  7. I think this is a case of message boards, like email, being a poor medium for communicating tone and subtleties. I never meant that I assumed you were, or would, vocalize your complaints in such a manner - I'm referring to the entitled but classless people who stand in line moaning out loud to all and sundry about how much Status/how many cruises/how much they spent on a Suite (i.e. basically "I am more important/richer/worthier than all of YOU and should not have to hang around with such people") rather than gracefully accepting the fact that it's just not done that way here.
  8. They don't - there is a Global Entry line for Security as well as Immigration. Furthest left IIRC. Signage however, is VERY poor at Canada Place as it is not a permanent cruise port so everything is temporary and often just one of the little waist-height poles for marking queues has a roughly Letter-size sign stuck on top of it. If you don't get proactive about asking people where the GE line is you will end up stuck with everyone else!
  9. Yup, one holding pen so it's cattle-class for everyone - like I said, physical space limitations! Manhattan has no more than 2 ships on a pier, one berth each side, and no Immigration for folks getting on so it's trivial there to just have 2 sets of everything - we have to get up to 4 ships boarding at once, and the only separate elements are the ones unique to each separate cruiseline, i.e. Check-in, which is done as physically close to each berth as possible while everything else is communal. There simply isn't room to squeeze in multiple Security stations, and even if there were it would lower efficiency - imagine Security and CBP agents standing around whistling at the HAL queue while the Princess queue was slammed? One queue for all leads to the most efficient use of thoise resources. I have no beef with folks who have lots of cruises under their belts or just drop lots of cash getting priority - I've got NEXUS myself purely to expedite my US/Canadian border crossings compared to Joe Q Public - but I do admit to reveling in a little schadenfreude when I overhear complaints from folks about having to slum it with the commoners in Vancouver 😉
  10. Back in the day, on quieter days with just one or two ships, check-in did sometimes happen first so that priority folks could indeed get first dibs on the Security and CBP process. So it's been tried, and unfortunately it leads to WORSE delays throughout the season because it simply cannot be done on busy days so everyone has to learn two separate processes - more confusion, more delays for longer. It's not feasible to continue doing check-in first on busy days - and that's the only way to verify who everyone is priority-wise as nobody has their fancy cards until after check-in. There is just not enough room to pack in desks and lines for ALL the cruise lines, each separating Priority pax from the Plebs, and then of course because it's up to CBP not the cruise line when people move out of holding there also has to be room for the fancypants people to wait before being called up, without the third-class types being able to sneak in. Given we are up to 4 ships at Canada Place simultaneously now, potentially four cruiselines would need their individual spaces and of course there would be infighting as to WHOSE priority people got priority over the OTHER lines' priority people because everyone then has to merge into the communal Security and CBP queues. Lastly, Princess are one of the biggest lines in Vancouver - and thanks to their Loyalty program allowing 'completed cruises' as a way to qualify, the many 1 day Van-Seattle cruises are used to boost Status by all sensible locals in Seattle and Vancouver. It's actually quite normal in Vancouver for the Princess 'priority' line to be longer than the pleb line because so many people have high status! I've been on cruises where over half the pax onboard were Platinum+ in this part of the world. I'm guessing that Cunard at Southhampton are the ONLY line using a given pier, and obviously they don't have US government officials demanding that things happen under their control, so it's trivial for them to do things in whatever order they like - but we unfortunately have many more constraints on Canada Place. At least our pier is slap bang downtown though, surrounded by all the delights of Vancouver - instead of folks mostly schlepping their way in from London on embarkation morning! So personally I'd wager that the total time from airport to cabin is still better here even on crappy May 3 shippers than it ever gets for folks using Southhampton unless they actually live in town 😉
  11. OP - since I don't know when you are cruising, I can only give you the general info and point you to the cruise schedule on the port website, so you can assess the likelihood of long delays for yourself. The key points are, first: how many ships? and second: when during the season are you cruising? The horror stories pretty much all share two points in common: 3+ ships, and a May departure. The latter because of new shoreside staff, CBP agents who may also be unfamiliar with the port as they just got assigned, and therefore a lack of efficiency until people get trained up and familiar with processes and location. The former because the pier itself has limited capacity to process passengers - with one or two ships, there can still be bottlenecks if too many folks show up at about the same time (e.g. every cruise day there is a surge of pax a little after noon because that's when Amtrak arrives) but it should never be too bad. But with 3 or 4 ships there is no room for error and even a minor snag causes backups - with CBP being by far the worst offender as not only is there a physical limit to how many agents and kiosks they can make use of in the space, but they're also prone to not staff all the desks all the time. CBP have total control over when people get to move - if their room is full, they stop anyone being allowed to leave the 'holding pen.' This does tend to mean that once you DO leave the first room, you should in theory flow relatively smoothly through Security and then CBP. You can't do anything about either of these key points (short of rebooking a different cruise!), but you CAN minimise the likely delays by choosing when you arrive at the pier. With a flight ETA of 11am, going early is off the table - even if you didn't have Canadian immigration to deal with at YVR, there's no way you could get to the pier fast enough (it's all about beating as many other pax as possible - and Joe Experienced Cruiser knows that 11am is a nice time to arrive at the pier!) What you can do though is arrive as LATE as possible - and that's actually the most efficient thing to do anyway, with the shortest possible time spent queuing (early people sit around until anywhere from 11am to noon before anyone is allowed to start moving, so show up at 10-ish and you'll always wait 90mins or more to get on board). Since we abandoned the concept of boarding early enough to get lunch in the MDR, and instead show up after 2pm, we've been flowing right through with almost no waiting ever even on 3 ship days. You MUST arrive at least 90mins before departure for the manifest to be locked-down, but the closer you get to that limit the shorter the queues - aim for 2 hours before, be somewhere close by having lunch or sightseeing so that you don't have any travel risks, and you'll be weighting the odds as much in your favour as you can. Boarding late, sometimes we literally only stop walking when we have to interact with someone so it's 20 minutes from curb to cabin. Even though you won't have time for much sightseeing OP, assuming an on-time flight you can expect to be downtown by some time between noon and 1pm - you can drop your bags with the longshoremen right away, but then instead of joining the queues go for lunch or maybe ride FlyOverCanada (this is right at the pier, takes <30mins to experience, so even with a bit of a queue you can be in and out and back to start the boarding process within an hour).
  12. No problem TJ - glad you got a big enough cab on the Island booked, and enjoy the limo ride (a metered cab to the ferry terminal from downtown might end up being just as expensive, so that's very reasonable price for a limo). If you're HOHOing anyway, you really should do Stanley Park - the nearest stop to the totem poles is actually right next to them (P8: Totem Pole stop). Unless you hate the outdoors, it's one of the most definitively-Vancouvery places and one of the finest (and largest) urban parks on the planet. I would suggest that since you have six people, the cost of 6 HOHO tickets (even with a Senior discount) could perhaps instead buy you a customized private tour for about 4 hours - that way you'd avoid all the wasted time waiting for the next HOHO, looping around anywhere you don't want to visit, and generally make your touring as efficient as possible. Unfortunately I can't personally recommend a local tour guide, never used one, but 'Toursbylocals' would be a good place to start (they actually started here in Vancouver, so there are many guides who've been working with them for years and should have plenty of reviews for you to check on).
  13. Best? Depends on many factors around your personal preferences and budget (both time and money)! Possible methods - fly, by floatplane or chopper. Pros: fast (~45mins incl check-in time); great views; many departure times; from harbour to harbour so no extra transport costs on either end unless your Victoria Hotel is far from the landing site; close to cruise pier (walkable even with luggage). Cons: just one really; ka-ching! If you have the budget (absolute minimum $100pp, up to three times that depending exactly which ticket type and time booked at) it's a pretty safe bet this would be 'best' for anyone except folks who freak out in small aircraft. 1.a) You *could* also taxi/SkyTrain ($4-$40) out to YVR, board a bigger plane (still likely a turboprop, still likely ~$100-200) to YYJ, then take a cab into Victoria (~$60) but it rarely saves much if any money, costs a lot more time, and only offers a marginal advantage in terms of luggage being more likely to come on your flight with you (floatplanes sometimes send bags on a different plane, depends how many folks are tourists vs commuters) whalewatch to Victoria. Pros - whalewatching; harbour to harbour service; close to cruise pier ($10 cab ride); nice views all the way; while it takes about the same time as the fancy ferry, it's WAY more efficient as the net 'transportation time' is only about an hour compared to a regular whalewatch (~4hrs vs 3 hrs). Cons - again, ka-ching! $230pp, so about $100 more than a regular whalewatch. the 'fancy ferry' - V2V run a seasonal catamaran. Pros - close to cruise pier; also harbour to harbour; nice views all the way. Cons - terrible schedule (one a day each way, 8am, which is BARELY enough for self-disembarkers to run like the wind from a cruise ship so there's a good chance you'll miss it unless you stay overnight in Vancouver); slow (3hrs 40min from check-in to arrival); ka-ching (cheapest flights actually cheaper than this boat ride - though occasional 2 for 1 deals can make it very comparable with the coach/ferry combo below) the BCFConnector Coach - a 'tour bus' type coach that drives you to Tsawwassen Ferry then from Swartz Bay on the other side into Victoria. Pros - price isn't bad (~$65pp and up); can get a pier pickup (but cheaper to cab to bus station instead!); several departures daily; multiple drop points in Victoria so hopefully one near your hotel. Cons - about as slow as the fancy ferry; views driving to Tsawwassen get really boring from about halfway out of Vancouver car rental and BC Ferries - rent a car downtown, drive it to Tsawwassen (or Horseshoe Bay) and onto the ferry, then onward to Victoria. Pros - very flexible, only way to do a different route than Tsawwassen/Swartz Bay so if you are returning you don't have to duplicate your route; the Island, except for Victoria/Butchart, has pretty poor transit so a car REALLY helps sightsee over there; cost is roughly comparable to BCFC coach, depends on many variables though (one way or return rental, Costco or other membership to score cheaper rates, how many people are splitting car, blind luck). Cons - no faster than buses to the ferry really (time taken to get the car offsets no stops en route). public transit and BC Ferries - SkyTrain, then an express transit bus to Tsawwassen Ferry; walk on passage on BC Ferries; BC Transit bus from Swartz Bay into Victoria. Pros - cheap as mince ($4.20 for Vancouver and $5 for Island transit fares - less if you are Seniors/Kids - and ferry ticket ~$20 with various possible discounts too). Cons - slow (but no slower than BCFC or fancy ferry!); major hassles with luggage (transit buses have no storage, so you really need to cut down to an overnight bag and store your suitcases in Vancouver - which doesn't work at all if you are going just one-way to Victoria then heading elsewhere!) I think that covers all your potential options! If it's a quickie visit focused on Victoria/Butchart, then flying would be my recommendation of 'best' - but if you have time to actually explore the Island properly, having a car is an advantage whose value simply cannot be overstated so a rental car/ferry would be 'best' IMO. And lastly, Secret Option 7 - don't go at all, spend your post-cruise time in Vancouver instead 😉
  14. Thanks for the info. I know from various research organizations that (edit) Alaska Residents are much less specific in their diets than the (edit) Northern/Southern Residents, so assumed they were eating salmon/mackerel/squid/all sorts throughout the season, and it was the baby seals that were most attractive to Transients at that time (since if it was salmon, there would be logically be other runs throughout the summer that should entice them them to stay around and therefore Orca should be seen more frequently throughout the season rather than just during the ~4 weeks that MM runs their tour - maybe Kings hit the sweetspot for them in terms of prey size?)
  15. Now that's the sort of detail a Victoria local can be very helpful with! Yeah, outside summer the interior of Hatley can be inaccessible, but the gardens are pretty much open daily. But if they're coming in from Butchart, doubling-down on a second Japanese garden would not be worth sitting in traffic a long time... We share the same opinion of Craigdarroch by the sounds of things - nice house, but a castle it ain't so rather cheekily-named. If OP's into stained glass and period furnishings though, it definitely hits the mark. Yup, Uganda was a very formative travel experience for me - first trip without the family, first outside the UK, and I doubt I'd have traveled anywhere near as much and certainly unlikely to have emigrated if I hadn't been bitten by the bug as a youngster! Plus, even the crappiest cruise buffet looks pretty damn good compared to Uganda student food - except maybe Princess oatmeal after they ditched the steelcut oats for wallpaper paste😉
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