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Roz

Less Than Stellar Experience - HAL Transfer to Seatac

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The conventional wisdom on this board is to book HAL's transfer from Vancouver (Canada Place) to SeaTac, rather than use a private transfer such as Quick Shuttle.  I've used Quick Shuttle numerous times and have been pleased with their price and service.  I decided to give HAL's transfer a try after my recent Alaskan cruise, and was dissatisfied with several aspects of the service.  This information may prove helpful to those on future cruises ending in Vancouver.

 

1.  We had to retrieve our own bags in the terminal and schlep them to the bus (I use the term "bus" loosely; I'll explain below).  My understanding was that our tagged bags would be taken directly to the bus.  We were directed into the wrong line and then had to backtrack.  Canada Place in general is a mess.  I was an in transit passenger the week before and no one seemed to know what to so with us, but I digress.  That will be a separate post. 

 

2.  There were 13 of us, but the "bus" (actually a 12-passenger van) could only hold 11 of us + the driver.  I don't know what they did with the other 2 passengers.  We were supposed to be transported in a motor coach, which is what Quick Shuttle uses.  The van was very crowded and uncomfortable.  

 

3.  According to proponents of HAL's service in this forum, the bus was supposed to be sealed to make the border crossing easier and quicker.  We spent 50-55 min. at the border, and had to schlep our bags out of the van and into the inspection station.  It would have taken longer had our driver not interceded on our behalf and explained that we were all US citizens.  We were able to get in a separate line from the 5-6 buses and vans already there and being processed.  I've spent as much time or less (mostly less) at the border on Quick Shuttle.  

 

4.  The price of HAL's transfer was $69 vs. $59 for Quick Shuttle.  And as a senior I can get a $4 discount.  So $55 vs. $69.  

 

Roz

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Sorry to hear of this.  My DD and I will be doing the same thing in July so I've a head's up thanks to you.  Guess we'll see how it goes.

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I would say the conventional wisdom is use private transfers, not cruise line transport, in 95+% of the situations.

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33 minutes ago, CruiserBruce said:

I would say the conventional wisdom is use private transfers, not cruise line transport, in 95+% of the situations.

 

I misled into thinking that HAL provided a seamless transfer, which turned out not to be the case.

 

Roz

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I will second everything that Roz said.  Was very cramped and uncomfortable for close to 5 hours. HAL should not advertise that transfers are via motor coach when they are actually a small van. Was told originally that our luggage would be taken directly to the motor coach from our cabin as we were coming in from all US ports.  Was horrible hauling 2 weeks worth of luggage all over the terminal through Canada Customs and then to the van..

 

Our other issue was that the ship didn't see any record of us having the coach transfer.  Was told that out TA didn't book it correctly.  I booked the transfer myself with HAL and our "TA" was actually our HAL PCC.  I contacted her and she had the ship person in Seattle contact the ship to straighten it out.

 

Bad on HAL for totally mis-representing the product that they were offering.  By the way Roz, the two that didn't get on the van were taken to the motor coach next to us that was going to SeaTac. We had no other options at that time short of catching a cab to YVR and buying last minute one way tickets to Seattle for $$$$$. and were stuck using the small van that HAL so graciously provided.

 

 

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With all due respect, we had an issue in FLL at Christmas where the three transfers for members of our traveling group were supposed to be one thing, but the transfer agent--not HAL--really messed up on all three. Yes, it could be construed to be HAL's fault as they had the contract with the agent providing the transfers. The vast majority of the time it probably works the way HAL understands it is going to work, but sometimes there may be a problem (a few too many people for one bus?) and you were the unfortunate victims. I trust you have made a written complaint to HAL.

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6 minutes ago, oceanmom said:

With all due respect, we had an issue in FLL at Christmas where the three transfers for members of our traveling group were supposed to be one thing, but the transfer agent--not HAL--really messed up on all three. Yes, it could be construed to be HAL's fault as they had the contract with the agent providing the transfers. The vast majority of the time it probably works the way HAL understands it is going to work, but sometimes there may be a problem (a few too many people for one bus?) and you were the unfortunate victims. I trust you have made a written complaint to HAL.

Once we finish up our unpacking and kick the inevitable cruise crud we will. I fully understand that there may not have bee a full bus load but dont advertise "deluxe motor coach".  Yes the van was a Mercedes but still basically a van with 3 rows of bench seats.

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Roz....I always find your posts helpful and informative.  Thank you for this information.  We are frequent Alaska cruisers.  We have been lucky so far that we can get home from YVR via Alaska Airlines with one connection in PDX at great times.  That can change at any time so will keep your info handy.

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Complain.  I often use cruise ship final tour/transfer service on my cruises.  It is a good way to wind down.  However my last HAL cruise tour/transfer was not a pleasant experience and I made a point of this on my cruise evaluation and insisted on a refund.  

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Sorry this happened to you.

 

Going from Seattle to Vancouver or vice versa is the only time we have used HAL's transfers.

 

Guess we have been lucky.  We always ended up on the large buses -- complete with bathrooms.  Buses were sealed when coming from Canada to the US -- thus zipped right through the border.  Our luggage was already on the bus when we got on it.

 

 

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Just curious as to how long the trip from Vancouver to SEATAC or vice versa takes? 

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Depending on the backlog at the border can be 4 to 6 hours by bus

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Sounds like a good reason to be a traveler who only travels with a carryon - no schlepping tons of baggage 😉 (sorry I just had to)

 

I would not take a 4-6 bus ride to save some money.  Sorry - it's not worth the savings to me.  I fly out of YVR when I leave Vancouver,

 

Curious if HAL did an "oopsie" on reserving busses for the transfers and missed out on the usual busses.  How many other ships were in YVR?   They may have had to do a last-minute grab of transport and the company they did either did not know how to correctly set up the vans for a border crossing or did not bother.   Did the drivers go to the ordinary lane because they were vans and not busses?  Sorry that you all got stuck in that situation.   How many hours did it actually take you to get to SEA this time if the "usual" is 4-6 hours?  

 

 

 

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Sounds like there were not enough people to justify a coach, so they went with a van to save money.

 

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Curious why people drive over the border and fly from Seattle? Is the price difference really huge? Or are there not a lot of flights from Canada to the US? I will be on the SD to Vancouver itinerary next April. Have not booked airfare yet as it is still very far away.

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44 minutes ago, kaiiak said:

Curious why people drive over the border and fly from Seattle? Is the price difference really huge? Or are there not a lot of flights from Canada to the US? I will be on the SD to Vancouver itinerary next April. Have not booked airfare yet as it is still very far away.

 

For me it's flight availability. There's one direct flight (Air Canada) between Newark and Vancouver each day. I have multiple flights to choose from if I fly to Seattle (Alaska Air, United, maybe others). So I spend a day or two there, have dinner with some friends, then take the train to Vancouver. This time I am flying home from Vancouver, but I have to spend a night there in order to catch the very early flight home. I'd rather stay the extra time than take connecting flights. 

 

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48 minutes ago, kaiiak said:

Curious why people drive over the border and fly from Seattle? Is the price difference really huge? Or are there not a lot of flights from Canada to the US? I will be on the SD to Vancouver itinerary next April. Have not booked airfare yet as it is still very far away.

I can fly from Seattle on Southwest much cheaper, and bags fly free. 

 

Roz 

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1 hour ago, kaiiak said:

Curious why people drive over the border and fly from Seattle? Is the price difference really huge? Or are there not a lot of flights from Canada to the US? I will be on the SD to Vancouver itinerary next April. Have not booked airfare yet as it is still very far away.

Some people do it just because they like SeaTac Airport so much!

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1 hour ago, Roz said:

I can fly from Seattle on Southwest much cheaper, and bags fly free. 

 

Roz 

This. Southwest gets me where I need to go on time, generally early, they are very competitive, seats are comfy, and my bags fly free.

 

Thanks Roz for the info. We had been looking at this scenario ourselves. Hate you had such a rough transfer. Always irritating to end a good cruise on a sour note.

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8 hours ago, avian777 said:

Some people do it just because they like SeaTac Airport so much!

 

😂 I honestly go out of my way to avoid SeaTac like the plague.  I will even forgo good deals on cruises because of it!  No choice next year but you can bet I’ll try!

 

One memorable trip had me 3 hours from arrival to gate for my return trip home.  3 hours!  I was literally running down the concourse to make my flight.  Thankfully the flight was delayed... but it was also oversold.  The attendants kept upping the offers to passengers willing to give up their seats... to the point of almost ridiculousness.  All of us... and I mean every one of us... just looked at each other and laughed.

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When the HAL transfers to Seatac work as designed they are great.

Luggage is taken from stateroom to the bus.  Quick trip through the terminal and onto the bus.  Bus is sealed and sails through US Border with at most a quick passport check on board. Passengers cleared US Customs before leaving for Alaska and since escorted though the terminal and onto the bus have not been "into Canada".   We were told that once on the bus we could not get off even in the terminal.

 

About 4 hours later at Seatac and in our car.

 

Alternative is hauling all of our luggage through the terminal then to a cab for YVR.  Once at YVR lines for US Customs and Security.  Waiting for flight and finally waiting for baggage at Seatac.  All of this usually actually takes longer and much more stress.

 

This one was a huge fail on HAL's part. It appeared they actually had more than a full bus and added the small van. Roz didn't mention that at the border while the driver went inside to plead our case the engine was shut off and only front windows of van open.  It is illegal in Washington to do that with a dog let alone 11 people crammed in.

 

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7 hours ago, frankc98376 said:

This one was a huge fail on HAL's part. It appeared they actually had more than a full bus and added the small van. Roz didn't mention that at the border while the driver went inside to plead our case the engine was shut off and only front windows of van open.  It is illegal in Washington to do that with a dog let alone 11 people crammed in.

 

 

Oh dear, I forgot that part.  And some people in the van weren't feeling good to start with.

 

Roz

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Just back from the Noordam where we took both the HAL Anchorage airport to Seward shuttle and the HAL Vancouver to Seatac shuttle.  Both were pleasant, easy and on time.

 

We had been told that because we booked our hotel in Anchorage independently, we would have to go to the Egan Convention Center instead of the airport for our transfer to Seward.  No biggie but because I booked a hotel (Fairfield Inn & Suites Midtown) with a free shuttle to and from the airport, I asked the HAL rep in bag claim about it and she told me I could go to either the convention center or the airport.  Next morning, DD and I arrived back at bag claim and were on the first bus to Seward.  Checked luggage was given over upon arrival at the airport to HAL and it magically appeared in our cabin later that day.  The bus was comfortable and it took a bit over 3 hours to make the transit to Seward.  Lots of road construction along the Seward Highway as it is that season.

 

Just like 'frankc98376' describes above for a "normal" Vancouver to Seatac transfer, we filled out a CBSA form our 2d day and turned it in to the front desk for the "Direct to Bus" service.  We placed our bags out like everyone else on the night before disembarkation.  On disembarkation day, we waited in the Vista Lounge until our color was called so we could tromp down the "glass alley" to our bus, completely separate from others.  No Canadian customs check beyond the form filled out earlier.  We boarded our large coach bus for the 3 & 1/4 hour ride to Seatac with our checked luggage already placed in the sealed storage underneath.  We were 20 minutes at USCBP at the border where our passports/entry documents were collected by a customs agent and taken inside.  Once returned, off we went.  Interestingly, while we waited, we watched as a "Quick Shuttle" bus was unloaded, all luggage and passengers taken inside who then, one by one, began to exit with their luggage again to return it to the storage under their bus.  We were told that USCBP can, at their discretion, search any bus, passenger and sealed luggage compartment they wish and I guess it was "Quick Shuttle's" turn.  We were also told that, so far this season, no HAL arranged bus had been unloaded by USCBP.

 

Strangely, experiences seem to be more and more inconsistent with HAL.  I would do this again with HAL in a heartbeat but can understand Roz's frustration with her experience.  YMMV too.

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10 minutes ago, 0bnxshs said:

Just back from the Noordam where we took both the HAL Anchorage airport to Seward shuttle and the HAL Vancouver to Seatac shuttle.  Both were pleasant, easy and on time.

 

We had been told that because we booked our hotel in Anchorage independently, we would have to go to the Egan Convention Center instead of the airport for our transfer to Seward.  No biggie but because I booked a hotel (Fairfield Inn & Suites Midtown) with a free shuttle to and from the airport, I asked the HAL rep in bag claim about it and she told me I could go to either the convention center or the airport.  Next morning, DD and I arrived back at bag claim and were on the first bus to Seward.  Checked luggage was given over upon arrival at the airport to HAL and it magically appeared in our cabin later that day.  The bus was comfortable and it took a bit over 3 hours to make the transit to Seward.  Lots of road construction along the Seward Highway as it is that season.

 

Just like 'frankc98376' describes above for a "normal" Vancouver to Seatac transfer, we filled out a CBSA form our 2d day and turned it in to the front desk for the "Direct to Bus" service.  We placed our bags out like everyone else on the night before disembarkation.  On disembarkation day, we waited in the Vista Lounge until our color was called so we could tromp down the "glass alley" to our bus, completely separate from others.  No Canadian customs check beyond the form filled out earlier.  We boarded our large coach bus for the 3 & 1/4 hour ride to Seatac with our checked luggage already placed in the sealed storage underneath.  We were 20 minutes at USCBP at the border where our passports/entry documents were collected by a customs agent and taken inside.  Once returned, off we went.  Interestingly, while we waited, we watched as a "Quick Shuttle" bus was unloaded, all luggage and passengers taken inside who then, one by one, began to exit with their luggage again to return it to the storage under their bus.  We were told that USCBP can, at their discretion, search any bus, passenger and sealed luggage compartment they wish and I guess it was "Quick Shuttle's" turn.  We were also told that, so far this season, no HAL arranged bus had been unloaded by USCBP.

 

Strangely, experiences seem to be more and more inconsistent with HAL.  I would do this again with HAL in a heartbeat but can understand Roz's frustration with her experience.  YMMV too.

Quick Shuttle always has to unload at the border as they make other stops in Vancouver on the way out.  HAL passengers are coming directly from Alaska and have already cleared US Customs before boarding.

 

I too share Roz's frustration as we were in the 10 passenger van for 5  or so hours with her (and we had resoiratory crud that we got on the ship.  At least an hour at the border.

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