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YVR Flight times on disembarkation day


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I know that things can change given the whole pandemic and all but can anyone recommend the earliest flight time post cruise out of YVR? Will we have to go through customs at the cruise port and then again at whatever US airport that we have a layover at? Thanks.

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30 minutes ago, Darlene said:

I know that things can change given the whole pandemic and all but can anyone recommend the earliest flight time post cruise out of YVR? Will we have to go through customs at the cruise port and then again at whatever US airport that we have a layover at? Thanks.

Darlene, what's your hurry?  Take  your time.  😃  

Seriously, I'll be interested in any comments you may have after your trip. If I recall, you are going much earlier than we will be going.  


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Even pre-Covid, there were multiple earliest time recommendations @Darlene


If your entire party is mobile, can self-disembark carrying all their own bags and then move them a quarter mile over pretty flat sidewalk, and you don't mind using public transit, then even on a super-busy day with 3+ ships you could self-disembark and be at YVR well before 9am safely. That means a flight as early as 10am is possible - though if you have bags to check, since airlines tend to demand you check-in more than 60mins early with those a 10:30am flight would give you some safety margin.


If you cannot self-disembark, then you cannot handle SkyTrain and you need to rely on a taxi/limo etc. - how many ships are in port becomes crucial! Unlike SkyTrain which is frequent and far from full heading toward YVR in the morning even on weekdays, there is a huge bottleneck for cabs getting into the pier. Plus the round-trip to YVR and back is over an hour driving, limited cabs have airport medallions allowing pickup there, and even for the ones with a medallion they cannot just head straight to arrivals after dropping folks off at departures - YVR has a stringently-enforced queuing area for cabs to wait in before being allowed to go back to the terminal. In other words, once a cab has left the pier it will be 60-90mins or even more before it can get back again for the next load of pax.


Uber & Lyft are now legal, so overall things should in theory be better for everyone as every person using them means less competition for the cabs - but the bottleneck into the pier is still a big problem which adding more vehicles only makes worse, and I believe the plan is to have a different rideshare pickup point to help with that so you may also need to factor in using a porter (limited numbers of these, and they prioritise disabled folks) to get you and your bags to wherever the rideshare pickup point is.


So, when it comes to car-based transport, unless you are among the very first people off ALL of the ships, the wait for a cab quickly builds from a few minutes (simply due to the time it takes to load pax and bags) to an hour, to as long as three hours on some of the truly awful start-of-season 3/4 ship days when everyone in the process is having the relearn how things work. Even the end-of-season 3+ ship days when over 10,000 pax are (dis)embarking you should assume an hour's wait, but expect up to two hours when deciding on flight times.


Even if you are in the first 'with help' disembarkation group from your ship, you will find that hundreds of pax from EACH ship in port already beat you by self-disembarking - and if your ship is the last of 4 to get clearance you could have literally thousands of pax ahead of you in cab queues, using Uber app, and then also clogging the Check-in, Security, Preclearance, and whatever additional Covid-checking line is in place at YVR too... you might end up being lucky to make a flight that departs at noon! This is why all the cruise line transfers - which are the slowest, most expensive, and all-around crappiest options - will not accept a flight departure time earlier than 12:30 or even 1pm generally (you might see noon flights OK on a light day with one or two small ships in port).


On top of all that, if we actually do see a 2021 cruise season, the first month or two will suck harder than it ever has before as literally every single shore-side staff person will have had a whole extra year of forgetting how to do their jobs!!! If we don't restart until 2022 it'll be even worse for the retraining - and frankly I think that's likely for Alaska cruising, as there are so many small communities whose medical services would be overwhelmed quickly so vaccines will need to be effective and available before it's safe to start dumping thousands of tourists from all over into the coastal communities.


The good news is no US customs or immigration at any layover airport, as you get Precleared here at YVR. This is much more efficient than at most US int'l airports - but on very busy cruise days (3+ ships) does still cause delays even with the new kiosks. But usually it's the Security queue that is by far the biggest bottleneck - unless you are self-disembarking, I'd personally recommend just booking an evening flight to avoid all the huge delays that dumping thousands of pax into the airport between 9am and noon can cause. There's plenty to keep you entertained around Vancouver, and multiple options for stashing bags to let your tour unencumbered.


TL;DR version: pre-Covid 10am if you are fit, get up early, walk off and take transit if there's a queue already for cabs/Ubers/limos. 1pm if you need to rely on porters to move your bags and someone to drive you. Plus whatever Covid fudge-factor you personally want to apply. But the best options is to book a flight for the next morning (or several days later) and spend some time post-cruise - if you have a 9am or earlier flight booked, you are 100% guaranteed to avoid ALL of the cruise-pax-induced queues that can happen... and if it's safe enough that cruises are running again, the city will be safer than being onboard!


Edited by martincath
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