Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:15 pm
Vancouver integrates the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest with hip urban sophistication.
This metropolitan gem offers the arts and culture you’d expect from an urban paradise, and it offers so much more that makes it an idyllic nirvana. Visitors call Vancouver the New York City of the Pacifc West Coast. What could be better than to combine the energy and sophistication of Manhattan with a West Coast Canadian vibe?
Vancouver has nestled itself between the Strait of Georgia and the Canadian Mountains, and blanketed itself with a ring of evergreen forests. Take in exhibitions like the Vancouver Police Museum or Maritime Museum, or visit the Vancouver Aquarium, which has a top-rated conservation program coupled with unparalleled research and education.
Seeing the sites in Vancouver is easy because of two conveniences: inexpensive public transportation and free WiFi.
Public Transit and WiFi
Use the SkyTrain for your travels from the Waterfront to the airport on Sea Island. Trains run every seven minutes, and you’ll find them fast and reasonably priced (less than $10 one way) whether zipping across the city, or making several stops along the way. Riding a driverless train is pretty exciting, too. The TransLink site has a wealth of information, including schedules and maps, fares, and other useful information for navigating the Vancouver metro area.
When you’re ready to connect, look for Shaw Go WiFi and follow the directions to create a guest account.
Several blocks to the east of the Waterfront lies a chronicled neighborbood with a wild past. When Gastown emerged during the 1930s, it rivaled New Orleans with its revelry and love for carousing, but has since become a hip epicenter of culture and trade. This national historic site has seen a renaissance and renewed interest with the emergence of tech companies and a youthful population who make this area their home. Be sure to check out the Gas Town Steam Clock at the corner of Water and Cambie Streets!
Take a tour of Stanley Park, the 400 hectare green space northwest of town. This naturally forested park boasts totem poles from the First Nations tribes, the Empress of Japan statue (also know as the Girl in a Wetsuit), 25+ kilometers of bike trails and so much more.
Opt for a bicycle tour (some are less than fifty dollars) that offers lively interaction and excellent exercise as you explore Robson Square. Then you’ll cycle along the Vancouver Waterfront to make your way to Stanley Park, which is an inspirational example of natural Pacific Northwest beauty. The ride along the seawall makes for memorable moments. It can be hard to avoid the temptation to stop and take pictures every ten meters. It’s really that gorgeous, but you’ll need to save some of your phone’s battery life for the other pictures, including the scenic views of Vancouver and the surrounding areas from Prospect Point as you look out across the Lions Gate Bridge.
You can also walk drive, or take transit if you’d rather save your energy for another adventure, such as a trek across the Capilano Bridge near Grouse Mountain.
Lions Gate Bridge
Take the Lion’s Gate Bridge by foot, bike or car to reach the North Shore. The short 1.8 kilometer journey through the sky becomes magical when mist fills the air, and it’s an experience most travelers never forget. You’ll feel as though you have journeyed far from the urban bustle of Vancouver, but you’re only ten minutes from downtown.
Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Bridge free shuttle provides you with a more direct route to the temperate rainforest nestled to the north of Vancouver. For about $30 USD, you can walk across the bridge at dizzying heights. You’ll hike amid old growth firs populating an ancient forest. You’re going to want to wear your sensible shoes, have your camera ready and take a printed copy of your ticket with you. If you can overcome any apprehension about heights or motion sickness, you’ll savor the experience for a long time to come.
Airport food is usually just something to fill your tummy so you don’t eat the armrest on the plane. It can taste like an arm cushion, too. The Flying Beaver Bar & Grill (a sister restaurant to Victoria’s Flying Otter Grill), however, offers great bar food consisting of unbeatable breakfasts, awesome sandwiches served with a side of greens, and satiating dinners. The harbor views are equally spectacular, especially if the weather allows you to sit outside on the deck — take the corner seating if it’s available.
Ride the ferry (two hours) or a seaplane (20 minutes) to nearby Nanaimo, where you can sample locally made chocolates while shopping or go ziplining. If Seattle is in your future, try taking the train for another opportunity to enjoy incredible scenery.
Vancouver offers plenty to do for intrepid explorers of all temperaments who want to experience the sophisticated crowning jewel of the Canadian West Coast.
Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:28 pm
While the cruise season in Vancouver is relatively short, many ships embark or disembark from the pier at Canada Place, heading to or coming from Alaska, California or Hawaii. It’s a great city to take time to explore before or after your cruise, but it can be tricky to find the perfect hotel. Whether your budget is small or you want to splurge, you’ll find a great place to lay your head with our list of the best cruise port hotels in Vancouver.
300-999 Canada Place, Vancouver BC. V6C 3B5 | 604-662-8111
If finding a hotel close to the cruise port is a priority, then look no further than the Pan Pacific Hotel Vancouver. Sitting in a tower above the cruise pier at Canada Place, you literally ride the elevator from your room to the cruise check-in. This 4-diamond hotel offers the ultimate in luxury, from its beautifully appointed rooms and suites to the internationally renowned Spa Utopia and Salon. Enjoy spectacular views of Vancouver’s downtown or the not-so-distant mountains from the 8th floor rooftop heated saltwater pool. Enjoy breakfast and lunch with waterfront views at the Cafe Pacifica or have a drink on the outdoor patio at the Cascades lounge before savoring West Coast-inspired cuisine at the award-winning Five Sails restaurant.
Their Alaska Cruise Package offers breakfast for 2, a late checkout and complementary luggage transfer downstairs to the pier. On-site long-term parking is also available. Remember, prices are in Canadian dollars, which makes for a good deal for most international guests. Click here for great deals on the Pan Pacific Hotel Vancouver.
Miles to Port : Onsite
Airport Transfer : No
Port Transfer : Luggage Porter
Long-Term Parking : Call for Details
Breakfast : $
Swimming Pool : Outdoor, Heated
837 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC | 604-678-8899
he luxurious Auberge Vancouver Hotel is ideally situated to the Canada Place cruise terminal – only 2 blocks away – and offers fantastic shopping, dining and attractions right outside the door. The finishes and furnishings are of the highest standard which is evident as soon as you step into the opulent lobby. Enjoy amazing mountain views from the large, well-appointed rooms and suites complete with daily, complimentary delivery of a newspaper, bottled water and gourmet chocolates, right to your room. Take a dip in the large indoor pool or whirlpool after having a relaxing hot stone massage at the Spa. Work off any unwanted post-cruise weight at the state-of-the-art onsite Terminal City Club Fitness Centre. A complimentary continental breakfast is served daily and any type of cuisine is just a short walk away, or enjoy a pint of cold beer and fish and chips at the onsite Lion’s Pub.
Cruise guests are pampered to as the hotel offers complimentary luggage porter service to the pier and will arrange for transportation for guests, unless you want to enjoy the fresh sea air by walking the 2 blocks to the cruise terminal. If you drive to Vancouver, the hotel has special parking rates for cruise guests in their secure, underground parking – just call for details. For more information and great rates, click here.
Miles to Port : 0.5 (2 blocks)
Airport Transfer : No
Port Transfer : Complimentary Luggage Service
Long-Term Parking : $ – Call for Details
Breakfast : Complimentary Continental
Swimming Pool : Indoor
1110 Howe Street, Vancouver BC | 604-684-2151
Located only one mile from the cruise pier at Canada Place, the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Vancouver Downtown is a perfect choice for those looking for a reasonably-priced hotel. The hotel has been recently renovated and is steps from trendy bars, shopping and restaurants, including famed Robson Street. Enjoy the indoor pool, fitness center and free WiFi as well as the onsite UnWind – West Coast Social restaurant and lounge. The stylish and comfortable rooms offer quality linens, mattresses and pillows, leaving you refreshed for your cruise adventure.
Miles to Port : 1
Airport Transfer : No
Port Transfer : Yes – with Package
Long-Term Parking : No
Breakfast : Hot – Complimentary with Package
Swimming Pool : Indoor
1128 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC | 604-684-1128
Enjoy upscale amenities and first-class service, all at a reasonable price at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel. Located 2 blocks from the cruise terminal among great shopping, restaurants and attractions, you’ll love the mountain and ocean views from your room or suite. Enjoy a dip in the heated indoor pool or a workout at the fitness center before having a delicious meal at the onsite restaurant, Showcase. Get a refreshing night’s sleep on your pillow-top mattress and enjoy the spa-like bathrooms.
The hotel offers a Pre and Post-Cruise Package in Vancouver which includes a hearty breakfast buffet for 2 (a $27 pp value) as well as one-way taxi transportation to the cruise pier at Canada Place. Click here for more information on the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel.
Miles to Port : 0.5
Airport Transfer : No
Port Transfer : Yes – One Way
Long-Term Parking : No
Breakfast : Hot – Complimentary with Package
Swimming Pool : Indoor
Last updated on February 25th, 2020 at 12:43 pm
Fall cruises to the East Coast are a popular option to truly experience the beauty of Canada. Beautiful cities like Halifax or quaint fishing villages give you a glimpse into life in a small Canadian town.
On the other side of the country, Vancouver offers a big city feel with a mild climate, beautiful natural scenery, laidback lifestyle mountains, lakes and the Pacific coastline.
Which Cruise Lines Cruise to Canada?
A number of the large cruise lines offer scheduled cruises to Canada, most notably in the fall. Norwegian, Holland America, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Princess Cruises as well as luxury lines like Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Crystal all offer cruises to Canada. You can easily depart from New York or Boston and head north visiting stops in Maine and then into Canada, with stops often in Halifax (Nova Scotia) and Saint John (New Brunswick). Many also depart from Montreal or Quebec City before heading eastward.
Have You Visited Canada?
Although a large portion of the U.S. population lives within a days drive to a Canadian border crossing, many have not ventured to the north to check out what Canada has to offer. As a Canadian myself, I obviously have a bias toward loving my own country and find it easy to promote the country in which I live.
No matter what Canadian cruise destinations you choose, we hope this Canadian crash course will make your trip memorable and avoid any possible problems or misunderstandings.
Canada is BIG
Just like the United States, Canada is a large country with many distinct regions. Canada is divided into 10 Provinces and 3 Territories. Think of Canadian provinces like States in the U.S. Understanding Canadian geography will give you a better understanding of just how vast the country is.
As an example, if you started on the west coast in Vancouver, British Columbia and drove straight through to the tip of the east coast, you will drive almost 7000 KMs (4300 miles.) Once you get the end of the road near Sydney, Nova Scotia, you aren’t quite at the end yet. You would then need to catch a ferry to get over to the province furthest to the east – Newfoundland, which is an island Province.
Since Canada is so large, you can understand why Canadians find it weird when our American friends say things like “I have a friend in Toronto (a city with 3+ million people) his name is Dave. Do you know him?”
Canada’s population is about 35 million people, most of which live in cities like Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, London, Winnipeg or Vancouver. This handy list of Canadian cities will give you a reference for cities throughout Canada.
Canada Adopted the Metric System in the 1970’s
Canada uses the Metric system, not the Imperial system like the United States. This means that we use Kilometres, not Miles, Centimetres, not Inches, Kilograms, not Pounds and Litres, not Gallons. United States, Burma and Liberia are the only countries in the world to continue to use the Imperial system so if you travel outside the United States, it’s likely handy to learn the conversions or download an app to your smartphone to handle this.
As a side note – Canadians use British English when we spell, so when you see words such as “centre” or “neighbour,” they are spelled correctly.
Weather in Canada
Canada’s weather can vary greatly across the country with summertime temperatures ranging from the 70’s to the 90’s in degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s NOT cold in Canada all year round, unless you happen to visit areas far north near the North Pole.
For example, the most northern city in Canada is Iqaluit (Nunavut) where the summer temperature is usually in the 40’s or 50’s degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind, the distance from Toronto to Iqaluit is 2300 kms (1400 miles) which is similar to the distance between Boston and Fort Lauderdale.
While it’s cold in the far north, only a very small portion of Canada’s population lives in the far North. The majority of Canadians live in areas where the weather would be more like Seattle, Detroit or Boston as an example.
Winter may surprise you as well. While much of Canada has snow on the ground between December and February, not every community in Canada has snow all winter. Many of us in Southern Ontario for example (near Detroit) have experienced more than one green Christmas in the past 2 decades, while our friends in Boston or New York (just an 8 hour drive away) had plenty of snow at the same time.
If you expect to go skiing in September when your cruise ship stops in Canada, you might be disappointed! (We would love to have you back in the winter though, to enjoy a ski resort in Collingwood Ontario, Whistler BC or Mont Tremblant Quebec.)
Sales Tax in Canada
Don’t be surprised when you visit a store to see 10 to 15% tax on top of the purchase price.
You read that right: 15% Sales Tax in some locations.
Depending on the province or territory, the tax rates change slightly as we have both a Provincial Tax and a Federal Tax. The Federal Tax rate in Canada is 5% and each individual provinces tacks on an additional percentage for their cut, which ranges from 0% in Alberta, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to 10% in Saskatchewan.
Currency in Canada
Canada uses the Canadian Dollar as our national currency. Currently $1 US Dollar will buy you approximately $1.30 Canadian. You will find that most goods have a similar cost to the United States, so American vacationers get a great value by visiting Canada right now. This currency converter will help you plan your trip.
Our paper-based money as of 2014 is made of a plastic-paper meant to stop counterfeiting. We have denominations of $100’s, $50’s, $20’s, $10’s & $5’s. Beyond that, we have coins for everything else. $2 coins are called Toonies, , $1 coins are called Loonies (not because we’re crazy, but because the bird on the coin is a kind of duck called a “Loon”.) We also have quarters, nickels and dimes.
Thankfully as of 2014 we no longer have pennies. All purchases are rounded to the nearest 5 cents, unless you’re paying with a credit card.
If you are planning to travel to Canada, get some Canadian currency before you leave the United States. Some merchants in Cruise port cities may accept U.S Dollars however your exchange rate may not be as favourable and you will likely get Canadian money for change.
Visa, Mastercard & Debit Cards
Travelling with a Visa or Mastercard is the easiest option as both are widely accepted in Canada. Debit cards are a bit different. In Canada, our national debit system is called “Interac” which we have used since the late 1980’s. Basically, for Canadians with Canadian bank accounts, we have debit cards that immediately deduct the amount from our chequing account when used at an ATM for a cash withdrawal or purchase at a store POS system.
Most American ATM cards will work in Canada, but it might be worthwhile to carry some Canadian cash and a major credit card just to be safe.
Liquor in Canada
The Canadian drinking age 19 years of age in most provinces and 18 in Quebec! If you’re 18, 19 or 20, Canada is the place to go if you want to drink legally.
Be aware though – Each Province and Territory has different laws surrounding where alcohol can be sold. In many provinces, liquor is sold through Government owned and operated stores which means that local convenience stores may not be able to supply you with your beer and wine.
Laws in Canada
Generally speaking, we have many of the same laws as the United States. To go through them one by one would be difficult. If you think it’s illegal, it probably is and if you’re unsure, you might want to Google it before you do it. Seat belts while driving are required, no texting while driving is allowed, no drinking and driving is allowed and watch your speed on the highway (remember to look at the KM/hr gauge.) If you rent a car, you will find driving in Canada no different than in the United States.
However, if you plan on renting a car when you dock at a port in Quebec, there are a few unique road rules to consider:
1) Road signs will be in French (though many have international symbols).
1) In Montreal, you cannot turn right on a red light. You also can’t cut through private property to avoid stopping at a red light (ie cutting through a corner gas station to turn right).
2) When driving on a highway (freeway) you can’t pass another car on the right.
3) Left lanes are for passing only. Don’t be the slow driver holding up traffic behind you – you will get a ticket.
4) If you live in New York State or Maine, any Quebec driving infractions (i.e. demerit points) are transferable.
Smoking is not permitted in public buildings, restaurants, public transit, shopping centres, etc.
One other thing you might want to know – We’re just not into guns. This isn’t meant to be a political discussion about the right to carry a weapon, just be aware that civilians cannot carry guns at any time (other than hunting) and our gun-related crime is quite low. If you try to enter Canada with a gun (especially a handgun) you’re going to have a very hard time getting into the country!
Travel Documents for Entry to Canada
A United States Passport is required to enter into Canada. At one point several years ago, a driver’s license was accepted but in recent years it’s become mandatory to carry a passport. If you’re not an American Citizen, check Passport requirements with your home country before trying to enter Canada.
Houses in Canada
While a Grade 6 Geography lesson might have displayed pictures of igloo’s as the main type of housing in Canada, Canadians do not live in these anymore – and haven’t for many many years. Even if they did, we couldn’t live in them year-round because we don’t have snow during the summer anywhere, other than the tops of the Rocky mountains.
Our houses look almost identical to those found throughout the United States. If you went on a cruise hoping to see something totally different, you’re out of luck.
Sports in Canada
Let’s talk about sports. Canada = Hockey. It’s that simple. We have 7 Canadian NHL teams and we’re REALLY into supporting those teams. Besides the NHL teams, nearly every community in Canada, no matter how small, has a local hockey rink where Saturdays and Sundays are spent watching minor hockey.
Baseball isn’t as popular in Canada as Hockey, but we do have one MLB team – the Toronto Blue Jays. If you’re on a cruise, you’re not going to make it into Toronto. Even if you stop in Quebec City, it’s still an 8 hour drive one-way to get to Toronto. On a side note, if you ever do return to Canada, Toronto is a wonderful city to check out!
Football is a semi-popular sport in Canada, but not as large as it is in the United States. Our national football league is called the CFL (Canadian Football League) and it consists of 9 teams. The games are fairly well attended, but the players don’t earn millions of dollars like NFL players.
People in Canada, eh
Generalizing all Canadians as the similar to one another is much like suggesting that all Americans are the same. Since the country is so large, there’s great diversity in people across the country. People in Newfoundland are quite different from people in Toronto, complete with their own dialect of English that is distinct to Newfoundland.
Think of the differences between people in Texas and people in New Jersey. Regional dialect, food, culture, pace of life; Almost anything you can think of that defines people from different regions of the United States applies across Canada.
In Quebec, most people speak French as the official language of that Province is French. The East Coast of Canada is known to be very friendly to visitors and the West Coast of Canada is known for it’s Seattle-like lifestyle.
Food in Canada
Canada is a multi-cultural nation, with almost every nation in the world represented so our food diversity goes far and wide. Here are a few examples of food and beverages that differ between Canada and the United States.
Iced Tea – If you ask for Iced Tea in Canada, you most likely will get sweetened tea. We don’t usually serve cold, unsweetened tea like in many places around the United States.
Ketchup Chips – These wonderful chips are popular with Canadians. Think Paprika and salt on chips. They leave your hands bright red, but they’re not for everyone.
Butter Tarts – Somewhat like a pecan pie, in a smaller single-serve pie shell, usually with raisins but sometimes pecans as well.
Donair – Found in Nova Scotia – Similar to a Greek Gyro, but with a twist. The sauce is what makes it different. It’s a sweet milk-based sauce that pairs well with the flavour of the meat, Tomato and Onion.
Poutine – French fries with gravy and cheese curds. These can vary by region, but the best Poutine is going to be found in Quebec.
Bienvenue au Canada!
To sum up this entire post, let me state that Canada is friendly, rich in history, and is naturally beautiful from shore to shore and season to season. We would love to have you visit us on your next cruise. Welcome to Canada!
*Disclaimer: This piece was not meant to offend our American friends in any way if you don’t find this information helpful. As I’m sure my American friends enjoy some light-hearted joking at our expense we do the same here. We have found that even though we’re so close geographically, many Americans don’t know much about us so this piece was meant to educate and inform.
We’re a polite bunch so if this offended you let me say one of our favourite national phrases: I’m sorry.