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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
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Alaska

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  1. If you are intrigued by what @Gardyloo suggested then yes, Granville Island market traders will sell you live Dungeness and cook them for you on request... and fresh bread, salads etc. are also available from the many and varied stalls and stores in the public market building. But if you plan to eat outside at the picnic tables and watch the buskers (no need to worry about the mess from such a fun meal when eating outside!), do also watch out for the cheeky seagulls who will happily snatch your food if you leave it unattendedπŸ˜‰
  2. Yes - sorry, I should have linked to their websites when I mentioned them. Kirin is technically 'Northern' (Beijing area), though they have such an extensive menu that most of the Cantonese staples are on there too while Dynasty is Cantonese, with some modern angles but very much grounded in tradition (UK Chinese food = mostly Cantonese derived, with the long-standing Hong Kong connection). Quite the opposite! 1 AKC usually feeds around TEN people in a feast format! At the end of the day, a resto will be happy to cook up a whole crab for even one person if you pay for it - but the price will still be basically the same even if you negotiate for a reduction due to them needing less rice, noodles, veg, soup etc. The crab's the pricey part of the meal!
  3. Depending on your definition of 'near' and 'close' then Kirin should almost certainly be viable (they have 2 downtown branches, one right in the core and another near City Hall), Dynasty might (on Broadway, closer than the second Kirin branch, <1 mile from most downtown hotels), and even SSWs original resto @ Main & 23rd (2 miles from Chinatown) may be on the table. Nowhere in Chinatown offers these feasts as the restos there are all small. The issue is going to be your lack of diners - you have to order an entire crab, the smallest I've ever seen sold in the city are ~8lbs, and the price out of season is almost never less than $40 a pound so you'd be looking at a very, very expensive meal split between three. A pound of AKC per person is usually enough to fill you up due to all the other stuff that comes with the crab. Otherwise unfortunately it's the same in Vancouver as everywhere else - precooked, frozen, reheated legs. Find some others on your roll call to share a meal if you want to see the difference between fresh and frozen crab.
  4. Except when it's actually in-season you have relatively few options - the large, well-established restos with 'crab hotels' to keep them alive. The crabs are all sourced from the same place, the standard dishes are usually much the same in all the restos that offer a feast, all of those restos sell enough of the meals that you can assume that everyone involved in the prep is competent, and the entire concept is inherently pretty spectacular - so honestly I'd say this is more about 'which location is most convenient for a crab feast?' than whether you'll be actually getting any discernible difference in quality of the crab. You certainly can see differences in the rest of the meal though - so if your group is big enough (8-10 or more) to start considering adding extra courses being picky about which resto makes more sense, but I'd still say more in terms of 'what else is on the menu?' than 'is this resto significantly better than the others?' For my money, you have two sensible options - a) stick with the folks who invented the concept and have therefore been doing it longest - Sun Sui Wah. They've got an actual-Vancouver branch (the original one) as well as one out in Richmond - and while it's not as convenient for downtown hotels as Kirin or Dynasty, cab fare split among a big enough group to justify ordering a feast is a very modest add-on cost per person. Plus, that way you can also add a course of roasted Squab, which is SSWs signature dish that they do better than anyone else in town. Or b) go to Dynasty, who are relative newcomers with barely a decade in the business BUT have done more to raise the bar for quality Cantonese food downtown than anyone else (until Dynasty opened, pretty much all the awards for best local <insert dish> were going to Richmond restos - Dynasty were winning more prizes than anyone else in the region for the first few years they were open until the others started to up their game). They do several preparations of AKC that nobody else does (or rather than nobody else DID, as any successful new concept does tend to spread among the other restos!) like crab & avocado salad, egg custard with dried scallops & crab, and salted duck egg yolk sauce on the deep-fried crab knuckles. Of course you're not going to be disappointed with Red Star, Kirin or any of the other 'big boys' who offer the feasts year-round. Unfortunately even though cruise season seems to start earlier each year, it has yet to move so early as to overlap into peak AKC time... but if you cruise in May or early June you've got a pretty good chance of finding the other, even-rarer, local seafood extravaganza - Spot Prawns. Their very limited season starts in mid-May, traditionally with boats landing the first catch at Granville Island for the annual festival - you can buy bags of live prawns or have them cooked right in front of you in a classic seafood boil, and all the locavore restos tend to offer spot prawn dishes on their menus until the catch limit is reached (which can be less than a month).
  5. Best King Crab, in cruise season, is always in the same place - Vancouver. It's the only place to get 'em fresh! Every other place the only difference is in what seasoning/sauce they add to the already-steamed-then-frozen crab. Whereas here, if your appetite is big enough or you bring enough other folks along, you can take part in a literal feast in any of several large Chinese restos - beginning with the choice of and display of your live crab followed by 3+ different preparations of it in various forms, all of which actually involve cooking the crab with flavourings from scratch (the classic 'split and stuffed with garlic' roasted leg is probably most popular, and the garlic flavour actually gets into the meat this way). You can add as many different courses as you want to pay for - price varies considerably based on time of year, as the longer the crabs have had to be kept alive and fed in their tanks the more expensive they are but you can probably assume that the cheapest feast would be around $400-500 (which would feed ~8 people with ~5 courses total, 3 of them crab). But personally I'd rather eat Dungeness anyway, which may actually be more exotic than King to a Floridian - you can probably find King legs more easily in your home state since the frozen legs end up on steakhouse menus everywhere whereas Dungeness are more of a West Coast thing.
  6. Far too many ideas for such a short time πŸ˜‰ You'll really have to prioritize to the best possible things for you - which means unless we share the same hive-mind, I can't pick those for you! I'd suggest that you read TripAdvisor - the simple ranked lists give a solid idea of the relative popularity of all the big attractions, and skimming some of the wordier reviews should give more insight into WHY people like them (you probably already know whether your own tastes are safely in the 'same as most folks' vein or lean in a different direction, in which case the 'best' things for most folks won't be the same as for you). Then there's the practical logistics angle - if you decide on visiting stuff that's in the downtown core, you can simply leave your suitcases at the pier (Pan Pacific Hotel right upstairs will hold bags all day). If you find yourself leaning toward sites that are elsewhere, returning for your bags may suck a lot of time - so using PorterGenie could be worth the extra cost (they will meet you, hold your bags as long as you pay for, then deliver them to you wherever you ask them to meet you again e.g. at YVR). Are you mobile? Is everyone else in your group? Can you ride bikes? Does anyone have any serious dietary issues? What's your budget? Are you lazy or active? Answers to these will reduce your options from near-infinite to perhaps a very small number (not many wheelchair-accessible tour vehicles around for example, so if you need one that's cutting down your possible tour providers significantly); if you're blowing your entire budget on the cruise and need to find dirt-cheap or free options to fill your day that also cuts your choices - but not by that much if you can walk, as we have several free walking tours (guided with tips expected through TourGuys, but also completely free now the Greeter program is running locally) and a multitude of self-guided possibilities around various themes like outdoor artwork. In short, without knowing an awful lot about you & your traveling group, it's impossible to steer you toward the best things for you - if you're willing to share details of your budget etc. you might get some good targeted suggestions, but if not I'm afraid you have to do more research yourself! The good news is some info is pretty fixed - by the time you grab dinner downtown (airport is limited, expensive, and with the exception of the Fairmont hotel - which is not in the secure area - really does not offer anything particularly great for dinner, so eating downtown will give you significantly better bang for your buck in both value and flavour) you really only need to fill time from disembarkation to 6pm at the latest - which means you have several packaged tour options as well as HOHO tours that can easily take up your whole day if you want a general 'show me lots while someone talks to me about what I'm looking at' package. You could even do a 'take my bags, show me around, then drop me at the airport' tour that would have you at YVR not too ridiculously early (you don't need to be at YVR too early, even for US-bound flights, as you won't be Precleared on a flight at that time - CBP work limited hours and stop at 8:30pm. That means one less queue, so 2 hours preflight should be plenty generous enough) if you're not too fussy about food and are happy to eat at the airport.
  7. Agree that it's certainly doable, even on a busy day if you take SkyTrain - the problem with a taxi is that even if you are among the first off YOUR ship, how many other ships are also in port that day and did any of them start disgorging their hordes before yours did...? If there's no queue for the cabs then it will be faster to hop right in one than walk to SkyTrain - but as soon as the wait for a cab hits even 10 minutes, SkyTrain becomes faster even if cabs are not being slowed by traffic. The other thing you can do right now to expedite matters is get your application in for NEXUS or Global Entry - these both help with Security queue and Preclearance queue at YVR (TSA Pre is completely worthless though, as no TSA). There are quite a few posts around from self-disembarkers confirming that they were at YVR before 9am, using both cabs and SkyTrain, so if you're organized there is very little risk of missing the flight.
  8. Unfortunately HAL, like all other lines, subcontracts bus-related services to other companies (including QuickShuttle as well as various other local charter and tourbus people). I recall Roz posting about how dreadful her experience was - IIRC there were too many people booked for one coach, but not enough for two, so some of you ended up in a very cramped minibus with no AC? But there have also been similar rants about QS - indeed I recall one that was so extreme it got pulled from the forum! Any individual driver can suck, bus can have broken equipment, etc. etc. etc. Personally I find QS to be a bunch of weasels when it comes to how they operate - deliberately obfuscating what they provide onboard (naming your 'play movies on the bus' service 'Y-Fi' so that anyone calling to ask "Do your buses have WiFi?" can be lied to with a straight face was their most devious moment, but their worst move which guaranteed I'd never use them again was when they swapped their pricing from CAD to USD with no warning and kept the numbers the same - instantly gouging another 25% out of all pax at the time, and these guys are a local Canadian company, not a US company operating in Canada like Amtrak. Even Greyhound sold fares from Vancouver in CAD). But I digress - different folks have had crappy experiences with all the companies who run this route, so anyone with a lot of trips under their belt tends to have a favourite one which hasn't screwed them over personally... yet πŸ˜‰ So, while there are no guarantees that any given service will live up to it's reputation, on paper the HAL transfers are superior to QS because they have no stops other than the border and the airport (therefore should be faster, as even the 'express' QS service stops several times) and, while it's not guaranteed, there is also the possibility that you can get a 'sealed bus' transfer where you don't even have to do immigration & customs - in these cases the buses leave from the pier without you officially entering Canada and head straight to the US, where CBP do a token verification that the bus has not made any stops and let you through without the need to drag bags inside. Bolt, Greyhound, QS cannot offer this on their regularly scheduled services as they all have stops in Canada - only with a cruiseline transfer is it possible, as you start in the secured-and-administered-by-the-US part of the pier and don't stop until reaching actual US territory. EVERY other bus the default is that you must drag your own bags, with no porters available and the driver not helping you, from curb to inspection and back to curb. Sometimes you get lucky, a driver will help with bags or if the border is really busy CBP might skip the bag check (IME this only happens when everyone onboard is a US/Canadian citizen so low risk) - once in a blue moon they even send agents out to the buses and check passports onboard instead of making you get off, but you should assume the norm is 'schlep your own bags' and be pleasantly surprised if you don't have to. While I agree that a day of sightseeing and the evening train is the nicest way to go, if all you want to do is head south right away with minimal hassle a cruise transfer definitely meets the criteria. A rental car would be faster - you can pick one up at 8am if you self-disembark, and because you can choose to use any of the border crossings and only have to worry about yourselves rather than a busload of other pax you'll probably spend less time waiting there too - but you'd have to schlep your own bags to the car then figure out an unfamiliar city with no highways, so it's not for everyone. If you don't mind driving though, even 2 people in a car can save money compared to a transfer or QS ticket - and sometimes you can get ludicrously cheap deals on US-plate cars which need to get back home, just keep shopping around for rental rates and jumping on deals.
  9. No need to explain it to me - but to enable OP to assess whether your opinion that the Fairmont YVR doesn't enforce their own policies is based on experience or guesswork. So, since your lack of denial implies my first assumption about your stay at YVR was correct (overnight, not day room) - were any of those other day rooms in a Fairmont? It does seem very unlikely given there isn't a Fairmont at all in LA until next April, both SF locations are downtown so have dreadful traffic between them and both SFO or OAK, and the 'San Diego' Fairmont is actually 20 miles north in Del Mar so hardly convenient for either pier or airport - but I don't want to assume that your lack of mention of Fairmonts is merely an attempt to make your experience of totally-different hotels somehow relevant...
  10. As a fellow Vancouverite I'm assuming you book a regular overnight room before you fly out early - a different beast from a 'day room' rate. If you could just show up two hours early or check out late with no extra charge by signing up for a free membership, it would make mock of the whole concept of charging different rates for 8 vs. 6 vs. 4 hours - and also make the limited hours of 8am-8pm problematic to administer. The website is very clear - as quoted above by OP - about time limits and there's nothing in the loyalty program verbiage that suggests any guarantee of early access even to regular overnight rooms until you reach Gold status with the new Accor program, and even then they don't say how early. The old Fairmont President's Club, before the Accor rebranding, didn't guarantee early check-in until Platinum status either. Even the fanciest of hotels is limited in what they can do when they're running close to capacity πŸ˜‰
  11. On a day room, where they specifically charge for a number of hours? I'm dubious - we've been members for almost 20 years and they certainly haven't always let us check in early even on regular stays. Even when we've booked the Gold floor we have not always been able to get into our room early!
  12. A next-day nonstop on Alaskan makes sense if you don't want to do any post-cruise Vancouver time in Seattle - consider renting a car one-way and make a day of it en route with stops wherever you feel like (there's a lot of pretty countryside between us and Seattle), or if you're up for a late night the evening Amtrak train gives you most of the day in Vancouver and then the least-painful border crossing to anyone without NEXUS (preclear at the station before boarding the train, but unlike YVR the worst queues never get really bad as you only ever have to worry about the other pax on your specific train). The problem is that the Fairmont limits you to a maximum of 8 hours in the room at day rates. So if you want to stay until 8pm, that means checking in no earlier than noon... which means you are still stuck with your bags from when you get off the ship until you can check in. If you wanted to drop your bags then sightsee, you're still stuck on a ~9-5 day like other hotels - plus you waste a full hour round-trip on SkyTrain to downtown and back compared to just heading out to YVR once. So if you're planning to do any local sightseeing before a red-eye, I'll reiterate that a more sensible plan would be storing bags at the pier as soon as your disembark, and paying for a downtown hotel overnight and leaving it early (or just paying for lounge access at YVR) if you want to grab a shower or nap before your flight. Compared to 8 hours in the Fairmont you can probably book an overnight rate in many downtown hotels, not just the YWCA (which is a 'real' hotel, not a hostel, and a very popular and well-reviewed one). Of course if you feel that the Fairmont's pricing is worth it for a private bed & shower on-site at YVR, booking their 4 hour package would save you cash and still let you check out at 8pm - and checking in at 4pm gives you enough time to take in a few sights downtown before heading out there. On the tour front, the only realistic way you'd get a tour that completely filled all your time before a red-eye would be booking a private custom tour as even the longest 'standard package' local day trips still have you back in town too early (technically day trips to Victoria, which run 12-14 hours depending whether you fly or take the ferry, could fill your whole day and evening but of course then you have the risk of being a flight or ferry ride away at the end of the day - and they also pick up around 8am so you'd need to be hustling off the ship too). Even with a late flight though you can easily kill time with a regular day tour, the HOHO, or just walking around downtown between sites - most longer day tours get you back to town about the same time HOHOs stop running (between 5 and 6pm) so by the time you go for a nice dinner, get your bags back from the Pan Pacific, and hop in a cab/SkyTrain to YVR you can easily find it's going on 9pm. If you were on the 10:30pm flight you mentioned above you'd be checking in with ample time (domestic first leg means as long as you meet the checked-bag cutoff of 45mins before you shouldn't have any issues, so 90mins early is double what you require).
  13. From Toronto, your dirt-cheap option would be getting friends to drop you off for a Swoop flight from Hamilton to Abbotsford, transit into Vancouver, then Bolt Bus to Seattle. Not something I'd wish on anyone who is able to afford more convenience though! A buddy who lives in Toronto actually did this last summer, and even if Swoop hadn't canceled his planned flight thus bumping his plans on by an entire day it would have been a long and hassle-filled trip (and he was hanging out a few days before heading to Seattle, so didn't need to worry about a flight delay making him miss the bus etc.) I don't think anyone flies nonstop BUF-SEA, so even on the nicer cheap airlines like Southwest/JetBlue you'd have to connect, potentially far off of the direct path - personally I'd just eat the extra cost of a nonstop on Air Canada or WestJet (and codeshares) YYZ-SEA, but if you don't mind a long connecting flight to save a few bucks you do have options from BUF. Oh, and Bruce is right that you should ask the Mods to move this over to Cruise Air, you'll get eyes on it from several experienced flyers who don't check West Coast...
  14. Checking bags cannot be done officially until at least 10am (some time between 10 and 10:30am, depending how many ships are in port, i.e. how long it takes of offload the incoming pax) - but unofficially 9:30am is usually a pretty safe bet. So taking the last possible disembarkation slot makes sense - worst case you may need to wait around a short time before checking them. OTOH you could also expedite your sightseeing by storing the bags for the day - which personally I feel is well worth the extra $5per! Just head upstairs to the Pan Pacific bell desk and ask to store them for the day - the price hasn't gone up in a decade, and they've never needed you to be a hotel guest either. Even if that does change next year for some reason the official storage at the pier will still be an option, it's just pricier (went up to $12 a bag when WestCoast took over running it this year - but they also give you a discount rate if you book one of their tours, e.g. the HOHO bus). Given that the Seawall is right outside the pier, and you can access that 24/7 (and Stanley Park doesn't have gates) two of the most popular things to do can be done as soon as you step off the ship even if you're the very first people. Usually self-disembarkation starts well before 8am, so you could gain an extra two hours of quality sightseeing if you get off as early as possible and pay to store the bags...
  15. If you're seriously considering a day room at the Fairmont YVR, then here's a superior-and-also-cheaper option that will also save you time and get you a decent night's kip: book a flight EARLY the next day and overnight downtown at the YWCA hotel. It's cheap, clean, safe, and a great location to walk around the city from. No wasted time going out to YVR to check in and return, no ridiculously overpriced room for a few hours, a full day to spend in Vancouver sightseeing, and by getting a 6-8am flight next day you avoid not only the minimal risk of your ship being delayed into port and missing a flight, but also any risk of long queues at YVR (all those annoying cruisers who head straight to the airport cannot possibly get there before you πŸ˜‰) and you also get home at a civilized hour. In comparison to a red-eye that's not long enough to actually sleep, arriving home early evening will likely be more productive, and certainly less hassle, than getting home by noon but immediately needing a nap, then trying not to nap too long so you can sleep again at your normal bedtime so you are functional for work next day... Other sensible choice if you have pre-cruise time in Vancouver is to head down to Seattle, as you will get many more flight options from SEA - including nonstops. So you can either do a redeye from SEA or overnight in a cheap hotel there and take an early one next day.
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