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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. Yup, we have a few, mostly around the airport. If you're looking to minimise costs then the cheapest deals are probably still at the Accent Inn chain - they have one close to YVR and another just east of Vancouver in Burnaby that I believe both do extended parking deals for up to 2 weeks. The YVR one has better transportation options though - the Canada Line works with luggage, whereas the Expo line which goes relatively near the Burnaby location does not (there's no luggage space at all in these carriages, and even if you travel offpeak it remains against Bylaws to put bags on seats or in aisles, though enforcement risk is low as there are no drivers). I'm not sure if anyone downtown offers this any more - parking is way more expensive than Portland due to all the water around Vancouver, land prices have been ballooning for years so even on-site hotel parking isn't guaranteed, let alone an extended period of your car taking a spot with you not actually in the hotel. The Coast Plaza was the last hotel I knew definitely offering it, and they closed a couple of years back.
  2. martincath

    NZ Visa?

    As stated above, the app isn't available yet. There's a signup link on the page though - give them your email and they'll let you know when it's available.
  3. martincath

    NZ Visa?

    Or you could go to the proverbial horses mouth and check directly on the NZ gov'ts page of Visa Waiver countries here. Which confirms that unless you plan to stay more than 3 months, you don't need one (but your passport must be valid for 3 months after your expected departure date rather than the date you arrive). But I think you're confusing a Visa with in-advance 'permission to enter' applications from Visa Waiver countries - NZ is bringing one of those in on October 1st this year, with the same name as the Canadian one right down to the capitalization (eTA). You WILL need one of those filled out before boarding your flight! Again, never use a third party website as at best you will acquire the correct permission but pay more for it, at worst you'll have your identity stolen - use official government sites ONLY. For NZ, that's here (a quite informative page explaining the new requirements, and when the system will actually be available - not until July, so anyone who has bought anything from a 3rd party app has been ripped off!) They also address the issue of folks arriving by cruise ship on that page - cruisers will need them, just like folks flying in. The only complication at the moment seems to be the new IVL (International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy) of $35pp - it's supposed to be collected at the same time as the eTA, so hopefully the eTA system will be up & running on July 1st otherwise folks who travel between 1 July and whenever the system actually starts might either get in free or have to stump up $35 on arrival!
  4. If you thought Granville was skeevy, it's just as well you didn't walk where I was warning about... 😉 Granville is our official downtown Party Zone - late licensed clubs & bars, drunken buffoonery a-go-go especially in the wee small hours after SkyTrain stops so folks hang around, being loud, waiting for the 'Vomit Comet' nightbuses - but still plenty of touristy hotels, condo towers etc. around. East of Victory Square, especially along Hastings, is where things begin to seriously decline - that's the heart of the DownTown EastSide, the poorest urban post code in the country, and the only hotel closer to the edge than the Ramada is the Victorian at the next cross-street. Don't get me wrong, as a tourist you won't be rolled for your wallet - we're still in Canada after all - but you can expect to see all the urban vices in plain sight pretty much any hour of the day. The biggest market for fenced goods used to be just outside the Police HQ, that's how much of a cr*p is not given - and the cops moved away before the market did!
  5. Yup, 100% (unless SF is missed because of terrible weather or something) - US Law requires the Port of Entry to be where immigration checks happen. You may do Customs just once in LA (odds are good the ship will sail far enough out to open casino, shops, Duty Free so they need to capture whatever purchases/wins happen on that leg too, and why do it twice?)
  6. The good news is that odds are high that you will be able to get on and off as you like until All Aboard time then, with just Security to worry about. The downside is that you'll do US immigration in San Francisco - and they have fewer desks at the terminal and even less experience of handling cruiseships than Vancouver does (it took three hours for Golden Princess to be cleared by CBP on our trip there, and that's with ~60% of the pax load of Joy). Don't book any tours that require a deposit or upfront payment in SF!!!
  7. Craft beer we have a metric buttload of - we went past Peak Beer about four years ago IMO, as that's when the demand for new breweries outstripped supply of experience brewmasters who can afford to live in Vancouver(!) For anyone who already knows the basics of the process I therefore recommend not bothering with brewery visits, unless you have a strong style preference and one of the locals plays right into your wheelhouse - then it's worthwhile hitting up the tasting rooms as you will be able to sample small batch brews that might never appear anywhere else. In general though, it's always better to have access to a curated list of beers from lots of suppliers than it is to be sampling just the products of one brewer (as let's face it, even the best brewers excel at some beer types more than others, nobody makes the best IPA and Stout and Lager and Weiss etc., etc.) I still think that there's no bar in Western Canada that beats the Alibi Room for selection, but since it's a wee bit into the scary side of town folks who would rather have more salubrious surroundings could do a lot worse than hitting up Tap & Barrel who have several bars with huge patios. On the actual brewery side of things, Steamworks and Yaletown Brewing are the two longest-standing independent breweries (Granville Island has been 100% owned by a Macro for decades now), with about 30 years apiece, and are both in easily-visited touristy downtown locations - but if you want to do more of a 'beer crawl' of tasting rooms then you need to get out of the main tourist zone and come to the dark side, in (Y)East Van, where most of the breweries are found. You can easily pick half a dozen breweries within walking distance of each other from a choice of a couple of dozen - but without knowing the type of beers you prefer to consume I'd be loathe to make specific suggestions! Distilleries are also operating locally, but most are doing the same as 'craft' distilleries in the US - they don't make their own booze or even age much of it on-site, they buy it in bulk from some of the large distillers out there. I'd say that we have some decent actually-local Gins starting to appear, but on the whiskey front things are a lot ropier - it's only been legal for ~5 years and a good whiskey needs a long time in barrel to get complex! Whiskey's not my main bag personally (I'm a terrible Scotsman on that front) but given the cost of a bottle of spirits compared to beer, I'd suggest again hitting up a good bar - Shebeen (hidden in the back of the Irish Heather) has probably the biggest range of whiskies in the city, so grilling the bar staff there about what the best local brands are would be a good start (and if course sampling a few before you invest in a bottle). If you're into Gins as well, then Juniper (Chinatown) or Botanist (near the pier in the Pacific Rim hotel) both have a wide range including local products.
  8. Yes, in theory, BUT it's all down to how long the cruise line is willing to pay for CBSA/CBP/Security staff to be on-site... as contractually they only need to be there until 5pm on normal cruise days, anything else is billed at OT rates and if you have the full set of immigration folks that's not cheap (whereas Security monkeys are). If you check trip reports for some of the other oddly-timed sailings, like NCL Bliss/Joy who can't get under the bridge except at low tide or a couple of the fancy ships which stayed overnight in port over the last couple of years, you'll see that information about earliest and latest possible boarding times was all over the map every cruise. Routing actually has an impact too - if the first port of call is in Canada, no US Preclearance is needed which means CBP & CBSA can go home at their usual time and have no impact on you. If first port of call is in the US though, you will go through US Preclearance every single time you get on-board, and also go through Canadian immigration whenever you get off! The ship would basically be treated as if it were already inside the USA, with the Canadian border at the pierside. Best thing to do IMO is to plan for dropping your bags during the day, but not actually checking in until you are ready to stay on-board. And if it is one of the NCL cruises - welcome to utter incompetence of communication. You can't trust anything that they tell you more than a couple of days in advance, as you will see for yourself if you do peruse those old trip report threads!!!
  9. Kellie - Granville isn't on the Canada Line. It does connect via the interior of a large mall to City Centre Station (which is on the Canada Line) but it's a shorter walk from Waterfront to that hotel. All streets in Vancouver are city streets with sidewalks (well, the alleys don't have sidewalks - but if it has a name, there's generally a safe and separated pedestrian pathway both sides). We actually don't have any highways at all except right at the very outskirts of the city, thanks to having invented the city planning methodology known as 'Vancouverism' - you can thank the inhabitants of Chinatown mostly, who derailed the plans to run a highway right through downtown and Stanley Park. Without them, we'd be a much crappier city to live in today! YWCA is indeed further away than the Ramada Limited, but it's on a much more pleasant block (stuff doesn't get real gritty until a block east of the Ramada, but it's right on the verge of the skeeviest parts of the city) and it's a significantly-better-rated hotel on all review sites. And check the scale of your maps - it's still only a mile from the port, as our entire downtown core is nice & compact! Since you'll only have to get to the pier once, personally I'd place a custom-built modern concrete hotel that's inside one nice 'hood (Yaletown) and an easy walk into Chinatown, Gastown, and the Seawall around False Creek (and a $10 cab ride from the pier, in traffic) over a refurbished old building with thin walls that offers really just a slight proximity improvement as a bonus. Odds are that the Y is enough cheaper over three nights to pay for that cab ride and at least one nice dinner for the group too 😉
  10. If you can self-disembark I'd have zero hesitation in taking that flight (if you can't, then you're also probably hosed for taking SkyTrain as you need to be able to handle all your own bags from pier to train without a porter!). With 2 ships there's a small risk of the other clearing first, so all of their self-disembarking pax beating you to the cab queue, but since you're already planning SkyTrain that's not really a factor. Important thing is to get to YVR by 9:30am - not so that you have two hours, which you absolutely won't need if you make it by then, but so that you beat all those annoying cruisers who will start arriving in big groups once the cruise shuttle buses start rolling in (and the first of them leaves about 9am from the pier). Beat the buses and an hour should be enough to get all the way to your gate from when you arrive at YVR - but get caught behind a clump of folks who have done zero research about anything (because if they have they would know just how godawful a deal the cruise transfers are and not taken them!) means not just a large number of people adding to the queues, but long processing time per person on average because these are also folks who are more likely to be clueless about how to use the kiosks, what to do at airport security etc. Personally I'd recommend skipping brekky and lining up ASAP - usually the first folks start getting off well before any official time and also before any announcements get made. A theoretical 7am docking is usually more like 6:30-6:45am, with first folks off the ship by 7:15am - if you're one of those you could be at YVR before 8am and at your gate before 9am (so you'll have well over two hours to have a leisurely breakfast after you've dealt with all the queues). Actually that's a lie - personally I'd really recommend extra time in Vancouver, then pick a flight as early in the morning as you like when you're leaving days later 😉
  11. Check weather sites for accurate statistical info John - e.g. I like Weatherspark, because they present the raw data in several different ways including some really nice visuals. Here's their Ketchikan in September page - I'm sure you can figure out getting the other towns from there. Key thing is to remember that your weather will ALMOST certainly fall within the two extremes of hottest/coldest, wettest/driest - the odds of your one day in any of the ports being a new record-setting day are vanishingly-slim! So if you have appropriate clothing for the worst weather in the wettest/coldest of your ports, and the best weather in the hottest/driest of your ports, you'll cover all your bases. On the ship, especially near glaciers, ambient temp can feel a lot colder than on land (moving ship, plus wind, plus giant blocks of ice in the vicinity = cold) so do not skimp on your layers - a scarf, toque (beanie) and gloves all bundle up small and a pair of waterproof over-pants also cuts wind very well (though personally I prefer long undies on days I know it'll be cold - they trap warmth right next to your skin so are even better at keeping the heat in). If you're a typical Texan, more adapted to heat than cold, you will definitely want your extremities well-covered on glacier days! Realistically even in summer Alaska means packing layers - and in Fall even more so. IIRC you were talking about driving up over the Rockies pre- or post-cruise and altitude means cold again plus even snow in Sep/Oct, so read up on layering techniques if you're not already familiar and pack appropriately. Worst-case the shops will likely have sales on, so you'll be able to add extra warmth layers easily enough by picking up local sweaters & fleeces - just be sure that your top layer is a size bigger than normal so you can fit the warmth layers underneath!
  12. If you want more opinions, I'd start a new thread so that folks reading the title know about the date change (way more people have cruised this region in the Fall than in Summer, so you'll have a lot more past-cruiser opinions re: specific ships/lines). The key extra choices you will gain by shifting time but not length are 1-week-or-less round trip cruises out of MA, NY, NJ which stop in Saint John instead of heading up the St Lawrence. For example, Disney offer 5 day New York RTs with Bar Harbor, Saint John, and 2 Sea Days; NCL do 7 day NYC RTs which add stops in Portland ME and Halifax to this. IIRC there are similar offerings from Carnival/NCL/Princess/RCCI, while HAL continue to mostly do back & forth 7 days (Quebec-Boston/NYC/NJ with no Fundy stops) or 10-12 day RTs which do both Fundy and St L. None of these will check off your dad's prior request for fjords, but the 7 day routes will generally offer 2 Canadian ports (almost always Saint John & Halifax) and 2 or 3 US ports, with each day less cruising dropping one port (NB: always at least one Canadian port to ensure compliance with PVSA rules). There's even one option that puts Newfoundland back on the table, along with some more obscure Canadian ports - Cunard does NYC/QC with stops in Corner Brook NL and Sept-Iles QC, plus an overnight in QC - but unfortunately no Saint John/Bay of Fundy. Personally I feel that NYC round trips are better than Boston, as they tend to offer 5 ports rather than 4 - e.g. Regal Princess stops in Boston, Newport, Bar Harbor, Saint John, Halifax - and you can even go 'all Canadian' on a short cruise (Regal finishes this season with a NYC-Halifax-Saint John-back to NYC 5 day). While Boston's a great town to hang in with a major airport, NYC of course offers even more stuff to do and more airports so both your pre-/post-cruise time and non-stop flight choices are wider. Extra background waffle: fundamentally there are limitations for any ship making port stops en route to actually travel all the way up to Quebec City, let alone Montreal - if they only have 7 days they can't make efficient use of the Bay of Fundy as it takes extra time to get into Saint John and backtrack out again, whereas there are multiple other ports that don't involve much if any deviation from the most direct route. This isn't a problem if you have 10-12 days, but it's too much backtracking on a 7 day itinerary. After an enforced low speed zone was put in a couple of years ago in the Gulf of St Lawrence due to the presence of extremely-endangered North Atlantic Right Whales (several fines lwere evied on cruise ships breaking the new speed limit) with the promise that it will happen again if whales are hanging around in the shipping routes, I think cruiselines are also a little more gunshy about routes - they cannot assume cruising at typical speeds any more when building itineraries, which makes a 7 day one-way even Quebec-Boston very tight if Saint John was included... cruisers get very annoyed if you cut port times!
  13. Since you gave no criteria except 'near the port' this very-recent thread covers it perfectly. If you do have other requirements from your hotel that TripAdvisor ratings don't already provide feel free to return and ask in more detail.
  14. Sounds like your dad confirmed which port and area was his priority then OP - and unfortunately for your timing, he chose the ones which are impossible to combine with your available date range & preferred cruise length... HAL does not visit New Brunswick on their 7 day cruises, and Royal only offers 9 day cruises (which do have a stop in Saint John). Since you say you prefer, rather than require, that the cruise be 8 days or less cruise length sounds like the most flexible of your criteria - so book one of the Royal RTs out of New Jersey. Those are literally your ONLY options that check off the reduced requirement list (except other, even longer, cruises).
  15. "OMG, they're the WORST! You couldn't have chosen crappier excursions if you tried!" he lied, unconvincingly 😉 Actual comments: unless your 8 year old enjoys trains and tolerates hard wooden seats for extended periods, the train ride in Skagway might be better-replaced with a bus ride instead - but if it's just the 'already taking a train' element that concerns you, forget that entirely as the trip is utterly different (Ye Olde carriages even if it's usually a boring diesel train, rickety wooden trestle bridges, cliffs and steep drops a-go-go - this is more like a Wild West train ride than Amtrak...) have a backup plan for the flight options (especially dog sledding, the most likely thing to have a weather cancellation); I don't think you have quite enough time at Butchart unless the times listed are on-site rather than when you leave and return... although again, I'd be a wee bit iffy about an 8 year old at the gardens as there's literally just one thing that is designed with kids in mind (and riding a super old school merry-go-round may be fun but it'll get old fast). If one of you is going to entertain the kiddo while the other pays attention to the gardens you have even more need to be there longer - I would never recommend spending less than 3 hours on-site. Perhaps a good timeslot to leave the kiddo onboard in the kid's club instead? I'm also not a fan of horse trolley tours - not from an animal rights perspective, but because unless you have the outside seats your view is always compromised (it's a bunch of benches on a trailer with a roof - only the outside person on each side really gets a good view, as the front middle has a raised driver seat and two horse butts blocking the view forward). A pedicab or 'bike yourself around' tour would be better IMO - the Royal BC Museum (which has IMAX movies as well as a broad variety of exhibits) and Bug Zoo might also fall much more into the kid's wheelhouse (unless the kid is horsey, in which case an actual private carriage tour would be greatly superior to the trolley and customizable in what you see)
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