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martincath

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About martincath

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About Me

  • Location
    YVR & PDX
  • Interests
    Travel, eating, eating while traveling;-)
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    NCL
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Alaska

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  1. Yes - check your MyNCL to see what they charge you. Odds are that it'll be more than an independent shuttle, and if there are 2+ of you a taxi/uber/limo will work out cheaper and go whenever you want it instead of when they fill up a bus with incoming pax...
  2. The sensible question isn't whether you can, but whether you should! By all means go and drop your bags at the pier and go sightseeing, then come back later to check in. But checking in early, leaving, then coming back means going through most of the boarding rigamarole twice. Unless if it's one of the handful of cruises that goes to Victoria next, so no US Preclearance, it would be an utter waste of your time to get off again and deal with both CBSA and CBP - even if you're the only ship in port. TL;DR - yes you can, but it's terribly inefficient so don't!
  3. The new machines are an improvement over the old - big screens, many languages - but mistakes can still be made of course. Anywhere in Vancouver is within 2 zones of the airport however, so unless you were trying to take the Seabus to go over to the North Vancouver or transferred onto a different SkyTrain line to head out to Surrey you would never actually a require 3 zone fare that needed extra payment. If you tapped a 2 zone ticket at the fare gates to exit it should have worked - so that was a glitch in the system, not a mistake in what you bought. The only actual error I can see in what you typed is the cost - since all tickets bought at the airport automatically include the AddFare you should have paid no more than $18.50 (since July this year) for a pair of 2 zone tickets at YVR ($4.25+$5 each). If you bought Day Passes the $ number would make sense - $10.50 each plus $5 AddFare so $31 total - but those are valid absolutely everywhere on the system, so again they should never have asked you for extra payment. If you mistakenly bought Compass Cards rather than one-use tickets, you could easily have spent $30 (2 cards @ $6 each, plus loading them with $10 apiece) but gain those should have let you tap out again just fine so system error. The only way it could have been something you actually did rather than a glitch would have been if you bought the pair of 2 zone tickets correctly, then also 'bought' a pair of the free "Sea Island Only" tickets (these get you between the airport and mall on the same island and cost $0) then manually added a $5 AddFare onto each of those, which would not be valid if you tried to tap them instead of the 2 zone tickets when you arrived downtown - you'd have paid a total of $28.50 so that does sort-of fit with your numbers, but you'd probably be the only people ever to have managed it!
  4. For the specifics of your cruise OP, many of the May issues are irrelevant - since it's a one-way to Vancouver from outside the US you don't have to worry about Denali or any other interior park not being open as you can't do a cruisetour, and since all the ports you'll visit are basically at sea level in a temperate rain forest there's no issue with snow having closed anything. All but one of our own cruises to Alaska have been in May - as noted above it has many advantages. I think most have already been covered except for the landscape looking like the Alaska you probably imagine (snow on mountains, and perhaps even accessible if you take a bus ride up into the coastal mountains e.g. from Skagway into BC/Yukon, rather than having to take an expensive chopper flight onto a glacier to experience walking on snow and ice) as well as cute baby animals. Compared to the other end of the season when you can also do repo cruises (Sep/Oct) May is vastly preferable IMO, as it has several hours of extra sunlight every single day and a lower risk of storms & rain. Bring whatever medication you know works for you to handle rough seas - if you're totally prepped for all weather and wave conditions it's like taking your umbrella with you on a day the weatherman says could rain, the Gods look favourably upon your willing sacrifice and you probably won't need to use them 😉
  5. Exact distance will depend which pier you're docked at, but should be in the 1.5 - 2 mile range. Google Maps is your friend for this type of question (with some local advice if there are e.g. specific roadworks that would impact routing).
  6. I'd be inclined to look at GL's point first - sounds like you were not looking into touring Seattle until you started thinking about flight prices, so why not figure out the comparative total cost and time to get to Vancouver either via Seattle or just coming straight here first & foremost? This does mean waiting until flight prices actually become available if you want to work with firm numbers, but realistically you don't have very long to wait before you'll start seeing flights for next October. If it turns out that you would save enough cash by flying to Seattle to be worth the extra time you'll spend, the only methods not already covered above are a one-way rental car (even with 2 people this can be cheaper than Quickshuttle, if you are a group of 3+ it's even more likely to be the cheapest option) which is the most flexible - rent it whenever you want, drive whichever route you want - and a cruiseline transfer if your line is offering one for this cruise (you'd have to get back to Seatac on the day of your cruise, but after that you'd have a less-annoying bus ride than any other option as there's no need for any stops except at the border). Well, there's also the really-silly 'take the Clipper to Victoria then another ferry from there to Vancouver' which would be extremely ka-ching as well as very time-inefficient. But even if you do decide to fly to SEA instead of YVR, why not come up here that day instead of right before your cruise? Our hotels are about as pricey as Seattle's, but they're priced in CAD so barring a significant change in comparative $ value you can expect a substantial ~25% discount on everything. You would also remove the stress of a long cross-border trip on the day you are supposed to embark on your cruise. Plus, Seattle's very nice but we're way, way nicer! 😉
  7. It's a government town so a lot of folks work 9-5ish; with a very mild climate even by Canadian standards, Victoria also attracts a lot of retirees; but it's also a university town, so a lot of youngsters need venues to party hearty into the wee small hours so while I've often used phrases like 'roll up the sidewalks at night' myself it's a bit tongue-in-cheek! There's plenty of nightlife and much of the downtown area is very attractive, with many buildings well-lit at night so it's totally worth a wander about for photos even if you don't actually buy tickets to go to anything. Even very touristy sites rarely extend their hours much beyond 5pm however, so the vast majority of ticketed attractions like museums, historic houses & gardens are shut down for the night by 6pm or earlier. Exceptions: Butchart Gardens know which side their bread is buttered on, so they not only light up the gardens at night but even allow cruise buses to come after they have officially closed to the public during shoulder seasons. So you can usually get a Butchart excursion from your cruiseline, even if the timing is late enough that local independent shuttles don't work for you - though it will cost you a fair bit of a markup over doing it yourself. The Royal BC Museum stays open later on Fridays and Saturdays in summer, until 10pm - it's an excellent museum and well worth visiting if it is open on your dates. Buskers will be there to entertain you in the Inner Harbour almost any cruise night. The Empress Hotel's 'afternoon' tea gets extended to the point of ludicrousness in cruise season, I've seen them take bookings until after 9pm! Shops on Government Street also tend to run later hours on cruise days, so you'll be able to pick up souvenirs and snacks. Bus tours will definitely be available, as will carriage rides - just watch out for the latter as any 'carriage' ride that isn't at least triple-digits in cost is almost certainly one of the huge trolleys that seat about 25 people on what's basically a trailer with a roof. If you're on one of those the outside person on each row can see, but everyone else is looking through other pax - except the front row whose view is blocked by not just a raised seat for the driver but also a literal horses ass 😉
  8. Cali Coastals tend to be Spring & Fall, to let the lines repo their ships into and out of Vancouver for Alaska cruise season. That timing of course brings with it more potential for weather... but at the end of the day if you're sensitive to motion sickness you bring an appropriate treatment, as you can never guarantee ANY spot on any sea will not be rough or smooth. I wouldn't let the potential for statistically-slightly-worse sea conditions than your typical non-hurricane-season Caribbean cruise impact your choice whether or not to do the cruise, instead I'd be deciding whether the places I most wanted to see were visited for long enough or at all compared to doing a road trip - it's a beautiful drive, and there are plenty of good bits of California that are way too far from the coast to be visited by a ship.
  9. Best is subjective. You've already spotted almost all of the possible options, and all the sensible ones (you could fly, but that's kaching, or take a ferry to Victoria then another to Vancovuer but that's also kaching and extremely slow!) QuickShuttle IMO are the worst value option, but they are the most convenient for pier or airport - that convenience comes at a price! A cab to where you can bard Amtrak or Bolt or Greyhound would run maybe $20, probably even less in Uber/Lyft. Enterprise as always will pick you up, other car rentals not so much but cabs to their nearest offices would be less than getting to the bus or train, and yes you can book a one-way car rental - you don't even have to worry about whether it's an American or Canadian plate on the car. Rates vary wildly, especially far in advance for cars - once cruise season picks up you can find ridiculous bargains at short notice, but in April you might need to shop around all rental companies and look for one which has no drop fee, as someone else who wants to book to bring the car 'home' is more likely into May when cruises are much more frequent. Still, there's a good chance that by splitting the cost of the car among your group of 2+ it works out cheaper than any other option except Bolt, and it's definitely the most flexible since you can choose any time you like and any route you like. Use whichever company is cheapest - odds are the prices will vary a lot on any given day so restricting yourself only to an office that will come and pick you up would risk missing out on a discount that saves a lot more than cab fare to the cheapest one. The nicest way to go is Amtrak - but the train, not the buses! The buses are almost as overpriced as QS, and if you get an actual Amtrak bus are the worst on the road for age and quality - though a buddy whose fiancee got a job in Seattle so he's been bussing down a lot tells me that Amtrak seem to be chartering Cantrail coaches most of the time and these are in good shape. The train is however still cheaper than the bus at $33pp (no Saver tickets on buses) and has by FAR the nicest border crossing of any possible method - you don't even stop going Northbound, but instead get processed only on arrival at Vancouver Pacific Central Station. Southbound you get precleared by CBP before boarding, but there's also a token stop at the border for CBP to run dogs along the train and hassle a few 'random' passengers with extra questions, usually takes just a few minutes. Only downside is lack of frequency - just two trains a day and the morning one leaves too early to board it after a cruise. In April the nicer scenery from the train (tracks run nearer the coast than I5 does) becomes redundant on the evening train not long after leaving, as the sun sets long before arrival in Vancouver. Cheapest way is Bolt bus, if you can score one of the $1 fares you simply cannot beat the value - and even their regular price tends to be about half that of Amtrak buses at about $20pp. Probably 3 daily departures next April, first might be too early for you to make though, and they have fewer stops than anyone else so are usually fastest of the buses. All buses though have the issue of a border stop where if one person gets extra questions you all have to wait around until they are accepted or rejected, so the theoretically-faster-than-the-train route has more border variability than any other method - in your car you can choose which border crossing to take but the buses are stuck with just their one.
  10. Most bakeries, cafes, and even sammich and coffee shops in the city sell Nanaimo bars (unless the bakery is heavily marketing themselves as a specific ethnic style or are obviously super froo-froo with nothing but macarons and patisserie in the window). I wouldn't go looking for them specifically, instead wherever you're heading to for sightseeing just check out the coffee places and bakeries you pass - if you just want to sample what they're like at minimal expense then hit the first supermarket you see, probably Urban Fare or Nesters depending if you head up toward Stanley Park or down into Gastown respectively. I'm afraid that between my diabetes and the ludicrous amount of sugar in a Nanaimo bar it's not something I can give you a personal opinion on whether there's a noticeable difference in taste between different suppliers!
  11. I also think Bruce's suggestion is spot-on - 2 hours in advance is a solid baseline for US-bound flights. The only reasons to modify that would be if you have Global Entry or NEXUS, when you could bump it to 90mins even if you have checked bags with minimal risk, or if it's a very busy cruise day - an awful lot of folks, especially on a weekday cruise arrival, head straight to the airport due to lack of vacation days for our US cousins so if there are 3 or 4 ships in port things could get very messy at check-in, bag drop and security. If it's this year, check the port schedule here - if it's next year, bookmark that page and check it again in March when the new schedule should be listed. If it's a 3 or 4 ship day (or even a 2 ship day with one of the monster ships like NCL Bliss/Joy, RCCL Oasis), if you don't have GE/NEXUS then I'd be inclined to edge it closer to the official YVR recommendation of 3 hours pre-flight, especially if it's your April Hawaii cruise in your signature as that's very early in the season so there's always a learning curve as airport staff learn to handle cruisers again!
  12. I agree with Ell - Victoria's is not really a 'visit by itself' kind of Chinatown; there may be a lot of history but in the present it's extremely small! Personally I'd walk everywhere in Victoria - there's a pleasant suburban area, James Bay, between the pier and the inner harbour or else you can follow the water pretty much the whole way around and go via Fisherman's wharf. If walking a couple of miles isn't feasible for you, take a cab - shuttles are horribly overpriced for all cruiselines in Victoria, so even if it's just the two of you you will save money and get dropped exactly where you want. You could also consider the little ferries - the Chinatown dock is just a couple of blocks away from Chinatown itself. Depending how old grandson is, you could stop into one of the oldest brewpubs on the way to or from as well, Swans on Pandora & Store - it's the one place I always visit when in Victoria! 😉
  13. Ah, that would explain it - I had assumed you were cruising this fall so I found it very odd that just a month or so out the rental agencies didn't have any bargains. Almost a year ahead car rental availability may as well be a black hole, especially for one-way trips let alone cross-border - keep checking closer to the date and you'll get much more sensible quotes and also a better chance of no-drop-fee rates as the franchisees start to figure out how many matching one-way rentals they are looking at (i.e. how many folks want to go Montreal airport to Quebec City and vice versa for yourself). Another good trick is to make use of airport-to-airport one-way rentals - they seem much more amenable to no drop fees, and those usually more than offsets the cost of a cab to the airport from downtown. As long as you book refundable options you can definitely have plans in place that are tolerably-priced months ahead, and then check again about the 3 month, 1 month, and right before you cruise again to see if there are better deals.
  14. The biggest potential issue would be why your incoming flight is so late that you miss the cruise and want to trigger Plan B. If it's mechanical/airline staff strike/weather issues at your starting airport that resolve by later same day then arriving so late you miss the cruise but could still potentially get a ferry or floatplane/chopper over to Victoria even the next day remains viable, unless it's a RT Vancouver route (you'd then be in breach of our equivalent of the PVSA, the Coastwise Trade Act which stops foreign flag ships moving people between different Canadian ports). If it's a one-way to any other country, including the US, you'd still be starting in Canada so Plan B of getting on in Victoria works on paper. The Victoria stop being next also means no US Preclearance in Vancouver, so no problem with everyone else being 'in the USA' but you having to do immigration on arrival on a Coastal or Hawaii cruise for example. But what if it's a regional weather issue here? Anything that grounds planes at YVR will almost certainly mean no ferries either, they stop far more often than flights at YVR are suspended - and floatplanes and choppers also stop flying long before weather impacts jets at YVR. Overall, assuming you have a flight early in the day you have a very low risk of things going pear-shaped enough you miss a 7:30pm cruise; the lines do book people to arrive same-day every single time for ships leaving at 4/5pm and while it's not unheard of for folks to miss their ship it's still very rare - YVR is very rarely hit by extreme weather of any kind. Your Plan B is also very feasible - as would be Plan C, if you can get to Seattle you may be able to then fly to YYJ or take the Clipper to downtown Victoria - in the event that you have an issue that's pretty much anything except extreme weather in this neck of the woods. So overall I'd rank this as similar to booking a flight back home before noon after your cruise - the odds of one big problem or a series of smaller problems that add up to you missing it are very, very low... but since you do have your entire vacation at risk if things go wrong on the way to Vancouver I'd still be inclined not to take the risk personally!
  15. Without knowing your dates I can't verify how many companies in Quebec City have available one-way cross-border rentals, but I'm very surprised that only a single car is available - maybe a lot of folks on your cruise already booked them all!!! If you have a large group that needs a Minivan or full-size SUV that might restrict choices significantly - but even $282 a day would probably be a bargain for a big group of people compared to a cruiseline excursion. Costco, if you are a member, or Kayak if you are not, will let you compare all rental companies in a given city pretty efficiently, and while it's very possible that there would be drop fee involved at a minor airport across the border if you were considering touring around for a few days look at Boston/NYC area airports too where there's much more competition both for flights and car rentals. If you're restricting your choice to one company because you have points, this would be a circumstance where casting your net wider could pay off in leaps & bounds - each fleet has to get their own cars back to their 'home' country even though it's now legal for Canadians to drive US-licensed rentals back into Canada, so it's utterly random who has the most need to move those cars thus who's offering the best deals. An in-province rental will be cheaper and definitely much more available, even for a one-way - in fact Montreal-Quebec City is one of the popular free car 'rental' routes in Canada (rather than pay for a truck or hiring a driver, rental agencies cut deals all the way down to $0 plus a free tank of gas and full CDW insurance for Joe Public to drive cars back to where they want them - the downside is lack of much advance notice, but if you check e.g. Transfer Car close to when you're cruising you might get lucky). Yes, Princess and the other lines make it simple - but simplicity comes at a price 😉
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