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Disembarkation in Vancouver and time to get to airport...


diekmanj
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We are sailing on the Volendam in mid-June from Vancouver on a round trip through the Inside Passage. We've never been to either the Vancouver port or the airport, so are unfamiliar with either one.  We will be arriving back in Vancouver at the end of the cruise on a Wednesday. It appears that we arrive at 7:00am. How early can we expect to be able to disembark? And how long will disembarkation take? Can we request to disembark in an earlier group?

It appears that there is only one other ship scheduled in port that day-the Norwegian Spirit (2414 passengers). What should we expect about getting out of the port and over the the airport? We would like to take the SkyTrain if possible.

We would like to catch a flight to Anchorage that departs at 1:20pm. Since we're all U.S. citizens, we'll have to go through immigration/customs at the Vancouver airport. Since we don't know what to expect, I'd appreciate any information you can share with me. How long does it generally take to get through immigration/customs at the Vancouver airport? I know the recommended time used to be to allow at least 2 hours. But I also know that things have been unpredictable and different at airports more recently, so I assume it may be longer.  How long do you think we should plan for? We haven't booked the flight yet, but are hoping to very soon if it looks like it will work and we will have enough time. I'll appreciate your advice and suggestions.

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You will complete a Canadian Custom form and return it to the Front Desk the day before the ship docks in Vancouver.  No other Canadian Customs is required unless your form is suspicious.

 

You will receive a letter offering you choices for a disembarkation time starting around 8:00 AM OR you can leave the ship with all of your luggage (self-disembark) around 7:30 AM. Note that the checked luggage is moved from the ship to the terminal based on the time you choose to disembark so you must obey your chosen ship disembarkation time.  All passengers must be off the ship by 9:30 AM. 

 

My last waiting time in the terminal taxi line was about 20 minutes. Trip by taxi to the Vancouver airport takes about 45 minutes in traffic and cost me $35 CAD.  Airport processing and Security screening could take up to 30 minutes before you get to the US Customs area.  Allow no more than two minutes for a quick passport check there before heading to your departure gate.

 

In summary, if you are off the ship by 9:00 AM, you will not have a problem making the 1:20 PM flight or any flight after noon.  In fact you will probably have a lot of waiting time at your gate because you arrived so early.

 

Hope this helps.

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As stated above, 1:20 PM should not be a problem.

 

As to the Skytrain, this is a good option (IMO), especially on a Wednesday since commuting travel will be heavy if you go by taxi.  The Skytrain requires that you handle your luggage by yourself (of course), so you might as well self-disembark the ship with the early group.

The Skytrain costs about $3 pp (Canadian) so is alot less expensive and it is quicker (IMO) most times than a taxi as you do not have waiting time getting a taxi and you avoid rush hour traffic.

To catch the Skytrain, starting at the pier, go past all the buses lined up, up the ramp to the street, go up the street (to your left) for about 2 blocks, turn left and go about another block - should take about 5 minutes.  Look up your route on Google Maps to be sure.  Be certain to take the Skytrain to the AIRPORT, as there are two different routes there.  Trains run every couple of minutes.  Check out exact directions from the West COast Cruise Critic message board as I am going from my memory on this.

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You can also take an elevator upstairs to the lobby of the Pan Pacific hotel and out the door to the street. We did this this past September and it couldn't have been easier.

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I think you got almost all the pertinent info, but just to fill in a couple of blanks about the very specific details: ignore the first, really obvious, SkyTrain entrance just outside the pier (it goes to the wrong platform, for an entirely different route out to the eastern 'burbs - and while you *can* make your way around the station internally to the correct one, it's much more hassle with up and down levels required so better to just stay on the sidewalk...)  and turn left on Cordova.

 

The main station building is impossible to miss - huge, on your left, big pillars outside, lots of doors - and while the ticket vending machines are also easily spotted inside, they don't save you any money if you are all adults but not Seniors. If everyone in your party has a credit card with a tappable chip (or Apple/Samsung/Google Pay enabled on their phones) don't even bother buying a ticket! Instead, open the fare gates by tapping them with your card or phone. Do the same to exit and you'll be charged the correct number of Zones for the time of day, at inter-bank rates of currency conversion from $CAD. If someone doesn't have a way to tap, or really wants to save the extra buck for being a Senior, the TVMs are fairly simple - all you need to know is that you need a 2 Zone Fare to YVR on a weekday morning.

 

When you are on the correct platform (Canada Line, right underneath the main concourse when you first enter, there are stairs and escalators and an elevator if bags are heavy) there will be alternating trains to the airport (just says YVR) and to Richmond-Brighouse - all the signage and the front of the train clearly say which way the next train is going. If you still somehow manage to get on the wrong one, there is more signage and verbal announcements - get off at any station, get on the next train, no need to change platforms or tap gates.

 

If you self-disembark in the first group, I'd guess that you will be arriving at YVR approx. 8:15am - before any other cruise pax, but after local same-day business flyers and the first tranche of early Eastbound flights, so all queues should be pretty quiet. The kiosks for US CBP are quick & easy, Security is slightly less annoying than in the US, so the only oddity is how checked bags work - because of CBP Prescreening you do not just hand them over to the check-in staff and watch them zip away on a conveyor belt. Instead there's a designated bag drop after check-in - signed, and generally if you follow anyone with a big bag that's where they're going too!

 

Even if this was a 3 ship day I wouldn't be worried about a US-bound flight at 1:20pm; with just 2 ships your biggest issue is likely to be that you get to YVR so early that you will not be allowed to check your bag! They often enforce their 'no more than 4 hours before your flight' policy - but if it's quiet enough you might be allowed to drop your bag a bit early though. Worst case, check out some of our awesome public art, go watch planes land and take off in the viewing lounge, grab a coffee etc. until you're able to get your bag dropped.

 

There's more nice art & stuff past Security too, but I'd still bring a good book as I reckon you will have at least 3 hours to kill at YVR before you get to board a 1:20pm flight!

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Thank you all for all of this great information! All of this information is so helpful and what I needed to know. I really appreciate all of your responses! It's nice to know all these details and direction and suggestions. We've never actually been in Vancouver before, so all of this is helpful for us. We have been just south of Vancouver when we went to Vancouver Island on the BC ferry.

Looks like we should be fine to book our flight to Anchorage. And the information about the times and where to go will give us a much better idea of how to plan the day. I'm sure that we will be fine if we end up with extra time at the airport-much better than being short on time.

We will be a group of 5 for this trip-3 adults-me, my husband, my sister, and my parents, who are seniors. I will have to ask them about the SkyTrain tickets.

 

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2 hours ago, rnr4thatsme said:

How difficult is the Skytrain to manage with luggage for an average person?

IMO, not very difficult.  We are early 70s and in decent (not great for sure) shape and we can manage.

 

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6 hours ago, rnr4thatsme said:

How difficult is the Skytrain to manage with luggage for an average person?

Provided you mean the Canada Line to or from the airport I'd go so far as to say Dave may be overselling the difficulty! If you're staying in town pre- or post- and were considering accommodation along the other lines though, personally I would recommend against using SkyTrain unless you're an efficient packer traveling with carry-ons only - zero luggage space on any other line, there is literally nowhere you can put a large suitcase that doesn't break the rules and risk you getting kicked off or fined. Automated trains mean no drivers, so enforcement of rules is rare - but unless you're way out in the boonies a cab or uber just isn't enough more expensive to justify taking any risk whatsover IMO.

 

But if it is the Canada Line, you're golden - if you can wheel your bags along a flat floor and manage to pull the wheels over the tiny gap to access an elevator, then that's all you need to be able to do. All platforms are the same height as the train floors, gaps are very narrow, elevators are available at all stations, it's designed as a fully RORO system.

 

Baggage space on the Canada Line is under the seats, nothing overhead so no lifting needed - if it's busy (i.e. sitting a big bag in the aisle next to you would be getting in the way of other pax) then you really should also be capable of tipping your bag to the ground and sliding it under the seat, but if the carriage is half-empty you can (NB: this is technically breaking the rules, so if any Translink staff or transit cops board the train they might ask you to do it right!) skip stashing your bags underneath. If you've got wee stubby legs, you may even be able to fit a big suitcase in front of your knees when seated - the legroom on the Canada Line is huge, at 6'1" I can easily leave my 21" carryon bag ahead of my legs and my 28" roller case under the seat.

 

Since for cruising purposes most travel is from terminus to terminus, you also never need to worry about not getting a seat - going straight to the airport you're evenagainst rush hour commute direction so the southbound Canada Line is quiet. Flying into town timing is a bit more random - but even if your flight lands at 7am so you're fighting peak northbound commuter numbers, the branch line from YVR is only fellow flyers, no residences there! By the time you hit the main line at Bridgeport, you're already in your seat 3 stops prior, no standing for you 😉

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On 3/8/2023 at 12:51 PM, martincath said:

Provided you mean the Canada Line to or from the airport I'd go so far as to say Dave may be overselling the difficulty! If you're staying in town pre- or post- and were considering accommodation along the other lines though, personally I would recommend against using SkyTrain unless you're an efficient packer traveling with carry-ons only - zero luggage space on any other line, there is literally nowhere you can put a large suitcase that doesn't break the rules and risk you getting kicked off or fined. Automated trains mean no drivers, so enforcement of rules is rare - but unless you're way out in the boonies a cab or uber just isn't enough more expensive to justify taking any risk whatsover IMO.

 

But if it is the Canada Line, you're golden - if you can wheel your bags along a flat floor and manage to pull the wheels over the tiny gap to access an elevator, then that's all you need to be able to do. All platforms are the same height as the train floors, gaps are very narrow, elevators are available at all stations, it's designed as a fully RORO system.

 

Baggage space on the Canada Line is under the seats, nothing overhead so no lifting needed - if it's busy (i.e. sitting a big bag in the aisle next to you would be getting in the way of other pax) then you really should also be capable of tipping your bag to the ground and sliding it under the seat, but if the carriage is half-empty you can (NB: this is technically breaking the rules, so if any Translink staff or transit cops board the train they might ask you to do it right!) skip stashing your bags underneath. If you've got wee stubby legs, you may even be able to fit a big suitcase in front of your knees when seated - the legroom on the Canada Line is huge, at 6'1" I can easily leave my 21" carryon bag ahead of my legs and my 28" roller case under the seat.

 

Since for cruising purposes most travel is from terminus to terminus, you also never need to worry about not getting a seat - going straight to the airport you're evenagainst rush hour commute direction so the southbound Canada Line is quiet. Flying into town timing is a bit more random - but even if your flight lands at 7am so you're fighting peak northbound commuter numbers, the branch line from YVR is only fellow flyers, no residences there! By the time you hit the main line at Bridgeport, you're already in your seat 3 stops prior, no standing for you 😉

I'm glad that you posted this. Good to know! So taking one of the other lines to the cruise terminal might be challenging with all our baggage? Maybe we'll plan on another way to get to the cruise terminal before the cruise.

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6 hours ago, diekmanj said:

I'm glad that you posted this. Good to know! So taking one of the other lines to the cruise terminal might be challenging with all our baggage? Maybe we'll plan on another way to get to the cruise terminal before the cruise.

Yes, the other transit lines do not allow baggage, only the airport route does.

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10 hours ago, diekmanj said:

... Maybe we'll plan on another way to get to the cruise terminal before the cruise.

From your other responses, with 5 people and bags to move I'd suggest either UberXL or the local rideshare Kabu, whose 'plus' service offers 5-pax-plus-bags vehicles. Local cab firms are overwhelmingly 4 seat Prius cars; even their accessible Vans have the middle row removed to remain with 4 passenger seats. If you roll your bags onto Expo or Millennium lines after rush hour, you'll probably get lucky and not see any staff so the fact your bags will be on seats, blocking aisles, or in designated wheelchair spots comes down mostly to your personal ethics - and if you do get unlucky, provided you leave when asked you've only lost the ticket price, the fines are only deployed when people resist orders to leave.

 

But the best option, since from your other responses you've never been here before, would be to simply stay downtown for maximum sightseeing and dining ease which may remove the need for any transportation on cruise day if you can roll your bags around on sidewalks. Even if you did want cabs to get to the pier, you'd be looking at $10 or less per vehicle from most downtown hotels. If even one of you felt like a walk you could easily move all the bags and 4 people in a van taxi... for less than the cost of 4 single zone SkyTrain tickets!

 

The Canada Line does give good access to several modest airport area hotels, but all the other lines have very few hotels near them and the neighbourhoods are heavily residential - you'd have to spend a lot of time on transit every day to do stuff. If you're looking for budget accommodation, the YWCA Hotel (which is slap bang downtown, one of the best-rated hotels at any price in the city, and freshly renovated this very year) has rooms that could have been designed for your party - five beds and a private bathroom - that will be cheaper than any hotel or B&B that isn't a literal fleapit and probably even less than any legal AirB&B, even one in the burbs, that you can find...

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  • 3 weeks later...

martincath Thank you for all of this information! I really appreciate it. I'm sorry that it has taken me a while to respond...got busy with life. This is so helpful to me for planning our trip and getting around Vancouver. Thanks for the suggestions about UberXL and the other options. I will look into them. And thanks for the suggestions about hotels. We are considering one near the airport, though may look into the YWCA-sounds very nice! We will be arriving on either the Amtrak Cascades train or the Amtrak shuttle bus. Planning to spend the night in Vancouver before boarding the cruise ship. Sometime we would like to return to explore Vancouver, but not planning to on this trip. We live in the Pacific Northwest in Oregon outside Portland, so it would not be that difficult to return to Vancouver sometime. Any other recommendations for hotels? 

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14 hours ago, diekmanj said:

martincath Thank you for all of this information! I really appreciate it. ... Any other recommendations for hotels? 

You're welcome. With 5 people it's more likely to work out at a good rate per person if you can all fit into a single suite of rooms (or the Ys 5-single-bed family room, almost certainly the cheapest option anywhere in the region) so I'd be looking at the 'Condo Hotels' that offer 2-bedroom suites - with a sofabed that should work out decently for five adults.

 

Times Square Suites (for a future visit when you drive up would work particularly well - they have underground secure parking that was free in TheBeforeTimes), we had friends stay there who said it was a nice property as well as being in a solid location for local wandering. There's also Rosedale on Robson, even more central, for this trip when you're train or bussing up (can't speak to the rooms, but I did dine in their pub Rosies a few times when we lived a block over). Lastly, the Sylvia hotel on English Bay does have one suite that sleeps 5 - I think you have to call them to book it rather than being able to do so online. It's a fabulously Vancouvery location, a nice heritage building, and had a full refit of the old pipes completed about 5 years ago now - perfect for the beaches and sunsets or wandering up into Stanley Park, with tons of dining options on nearby Denman & Davie streets.

 

Personally I'd avoid the Amtrak shuttle buses like the plague - their only benefit is frequency compared to the train. More expensive than the train for a less convenient service = no thanks Amtrak! There is one very sensible reason to take them - connecting to another Amtrak service, so that if there's a delay you are 'in the system' with Amtrak on the hook for hotels etc. if you miss that connection! Otherwise at best you get the same bus for a higher price than if you book it directly with the local subcontractor (Cantrail), at worst you get an actual Amtrak-owned bus which is ancient and in terrible shape.

 

If you really want to arrive as early as possible without driving, I'd book Flixbus (bought out the old Bolt fleet, which was the best in the region, and also the new operating face of Greyhound services in this neck of the woods) who do service from Portland all the way here on a single ticket - we've ridden every possible bus and train service between our pads, Bolt was hands-down the best bus option with Amtrak hands down the worst and Greyhound in-between. Amtrak would give you options of several earlier trains to Seattle then a transfer to the shuttle buses, but there really is no comparison in how much easier it is to do the border formalities at the train station instead of schlepping your bags off any brand of bus into CBSAs border post - so given you are all grown-ups, I'd definitely advise taking the 3pm northbound Cascades train all the way. Without delays, you should be in your beds by midnight.

 

While your one-way cruise precludes driving up and parking here, I'd also look at a one-way car rental - prices have been all over the map since TheBeforeTimes, but compared to paying for 5 sets of bus/train tickets you might be able to find a comparable or cheaper rate for a big SUV or minivan that holds you all and of course your trip timing then becomes entirely up to you instead of limited by available transit links. This is where being a Costco member really pays for itself - best rates and also a free second driver to split the trip with, we've sometimes paid for our annual membership with the savings on a single rental!

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martincath Thanks for letting me know all this. We have a Costco membership. I have thought of driving up to Vancouver. Time-wise, it would be easier and more flexible. My husband and I drove up to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal several years ago on a trip to Victoria. We took our vehicle with us to Vancouver Island. But we haven't been to Vancouver. I'm sure sometime we'll explore your city.

That's very interesting about Flixbus. Ive never heard of it before, but have heard of Bolt. Sounds like an interesting option.

My dad really wants to take the train up to Vancouver-he enjoys the train.  My parents live in southern Oregon on the Amtrak Coast Starlight route. He is actually disappointed that he cannot take a train all the way to Alaska. He's always wanted to visit Alaska. My mom wants to go on a cruise. My parents have never been on a cruise before. So this trip is a mix of both to celebrate their 50th anniversary. We will be riding a LOT of trains on this trip-Amtrak, White Pass Railroad, and two routes of the Alaska Railroad.

Thanks for the heads up about Amtrak shuttles! We've ridden Amtrak before on a couple routes, but never taken the shuttles. I'm glad that you let me know about them. I'm not crazy about the time the shuttle arrives in Vancouver. I think I will have my parents take the Coast Starlight up to us, then we will all take the Amtrak Cascades train the following day to Vancouver. That way we can avoid the shuttle and break the trip up better.

Thanks for the suggestions about hotels. I will look into them some more. It sounds like some really nice hotels and areas.

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14 hours ago, diekmanj said:

...My dad really wants to take the train up to Vancouver-he enjoys the train.  My parents live in southern Oregon on the Amtrak Coast Starlight route... We will be riding a LOT of trains on this trip-Amtrak, White Pass Railroad, and two routes of the Alaska Railroad... I think I will have my parents take the Coast Starlight up to us, then we will all take the Amtrak Cascades train the following day to Vancouver.

If your parents can be flexible on the timing like this, great - I think the worst possible option for a train buff would be riding a bus on a route where they could take a train, especially the Cascades with track right alongside the water at many points while I5 runs further inland.

 

Fifty years together too! Good for your parents! Maybe you and they are both already familiar with some of the surviving Portland restaurants from the time of their first dates, but the resto attached to the Amtrak station, Wilf's, clocks in at just shy of fifty years old - and they have some lovely little private dining nooks for a family dinner after they arrive on the Coast Starlight (no lunch service since before the pandemic unfortunately, otherwise it would have been idea to eat in before boarding the Cascades). One of the few places you can get a tableside Caesar these days, very old-school!

 

Heck, they even do weddings and vow renewals inside the station building, or even on the roof...?

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  • 2 months later...

martincath Thanks for all the help and suggestions for planning our trip. I'm sorry that it has taken me a really long time to respond. We had a death in the family and a couple serious medical problems with other family members in the past couple months (not any of us going on this cruise), so haven't replied yet, but meant to. I really do appreciate all the help. Our trip is getting close! A little over a week now. We ultimately decided to follow your suggestion about a one-way car rental to Vancouver instead of the train as the timing will work better. My parents and sister will still be taking the train partway and then we will pick them up and drive the rest of the way. And they will ride the train back to southern Oregon from Vancouver, WA at the end of the trip. I think we will all be good on riding trains by then, as we will have done a few hours on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad into the Yukon, The Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward and back, and 12 hours on the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Fairbanks. I am hoping we can do another trip up to Vancouver on the train another time when we don't need to board a ship the following morning and have more time to enjoy the area.

We're looking forward to celebrating my parents' 50th anniversary on the trip. Those are some fun Portland ideas you gave me! We haven't done much in Portland in quite some time, but may have to check out some of these older restaurants.

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14 hours ago, diekmanj said:

martincath Thanks for all the help and suggestions for planning our trip. I'm sorry that it has taken me a really long time to respond. We had a death in the family and a couple serious medical problems with other family members in the past couple months (not any of us going on this cruise), so haven't replied yet, but meant to.

My condolences on the death and illnesses, and no worries about the delay - plenty folks don't reply at all, so even a much-belated thank you is greatly appreciated, especially under the circumstances!

 

Ask any time about PDX dining - having been unable to cross the border for a chunk of time, then Covid restrictions for ages on top of the many closed restos we're slowly working our way back to prior familiarity levels, but almost all the really historic restos that did survive didn't change much (exceptions being Besaw's - which to be fair changed significantly already during the 2016 relocation, but with Cara's cancer diagnosis and stepping back as now co-owner with a new chef it's literally nothing like it used to be since reopening this year... and until Fullers reopens post-fire, hopefully this month, I can't tell how badly the decor/vibe will be altered there - but Urban group didn't change it much after taking over in 2019).

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We stayed at the Auberge. It was wonderful. The porter helped us get our luggage for a party of six down to the cruise port. It was a free service but we tipped him. We simply asked on Friday and told them what time we wanted to be there

 

Regarding getting back to the airport, we kept our luggage. We were able to easily walk off with it around 8 am. I requested an uber xl and it was there in 4 minutes. We walked about a block to the right to meet him. There were six of us and a lot of bags so we needed another uber. It was there within 3 minutes. The xl cost around $45. By 930 am, we were through all security and customs. I know it gets busier and takes longer if you cannot do the early walkout with your luggage. 

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  • 1 month later...
On 6/7/2023 at 9:36 AM, Jenhilmc said:

We stayed at the Auberge. It was wonderful. The porter helped us get our luggage for a party of six down to the cruise port. It was a free service but we tipped him. We simply asked on Friday and told them what time we wanted to be there

 

Regarding getting back to the airport, we kept our luggage. We were able to easily walk off with it around 8 am. I requested an uber xl and it was there in 4 minutes. We walked about a block to the right to meet him. There were six of us and a lot of bags so we needed another uber. It was there within 3 minutes. The xl cost around $45. By 930 am, we were through all security and customs. I know it gets busier and takes longer if you cannot do the early walkout with your luggage. 

Is it an easy roll off, we are seniors can handle rolling luggage but not lifting or stairs?   Thanks so much

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