The first cruise ship of the season arriving in Vancouver is the Star Princess on April 11, 2017. And then it’s turning around again for a 10-day round trip voyage to California. But she’ll be back on April 21, this time for a round trip passage to the Hawaiian Islands. The Alaska cruises out of Vancouver usually begin in May and end in September, but 2 or 3 cruise ships will do a round trip voyage to Hawaii either at the beginning or end of the Alaska cruise season.
If you’re cruising out of the Port of Vancouver, here’s what to expect before you board your cruise ship.
Arriving by air
If you don’t live locally, and are flying into Vancouver Airport, you can get to the Port of Vancouver by taxi for around $30, or take the Canada Line, which is the sky train, subway, tube or whatever you call it where you come from. The Canada Line from the Vancouver Airport to the Vancouver cruise ship terminal costs around $9. This is a 2-zone fare of $4 plus an extra $5 YVR add on. This price is subject to go up at any time. Whether you take a taxi or the Canada Line, it takes about 30 minutes to arrive at the Port of Vancouver cruise ship terminal. For more information on public transit, go to TransLink’s website.
Arriving by car
Check in for Alaska cruises is at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver at the Pan Pacific Hotel.
For passengers arriving by car, being dropped off by someone, they can drive into the underground parking lot to the passenger pick up/drop off area. Cars are allowed there for a few minutes at no charge, long enough to drop off passengers and their luggage, and then leave again.
There are several parking spots and often there will be a backlog of cars waiting for a spot. There are parking attendants directing traffic and assisting drivers to back in to available spots.
If coming by private vehicle, there are porters who will put your luggage on a dolly to take to the cruise ship. Make sure you have a luggage tag on your suitcases that you printed out from the cruise line’s website when confirming your reservation.
If you don’t have a tag, keep your luggage with you and go to the podium where a staff member will manually fill one out with the room number, and then it will be taken to the ship. The last thing you want is a lost suitcase, so make sure there is a tag on it, identifying the ship and cabin number, before handing it over to a porter.
Arriving by Skytrain
We arrived by Skytrain, a different one than the airport Canada Line. We got off at the last stop at the Waterfront Station at around 11:45am. Check in for Holland America’s Zuiderdam started at noon, so we were in good time. We wanted to check in as soon as possible and get on board the Zuiderdam and start exploring. It was a good idea that our luggage was on wheels. We carried backpacks for our walk to Canada Place and into the underground parkade. It took about five minutes to walk down the sidewalk, past the area where cars were dropping off passengers.
We continues on, heading for security.
This was our mistake.
Checking in luggage
When we reached the check in area where passengers from the various cruise ships were being sorted into the correct line up, an attendant saw us with our luggage and directed us back to the luggage check in. This is the same area as the passenger drop off/pick up with private cars.
We had a guaranteed category type cabin. This means we paid for a certain category and were guaranteed a cabin in that category or maybe slightly better. We didn’t have our cabin assignment before we left home, so we didn’t know what cabin number we’d been assigned, and were unable to print out luggage tags ahead of time.
That’s just the way it goes when booking a guarantee. Sometimes you don’t know your cabin assignment until you arrive at the port.
An attendant at a desk handed us luggage tags. We didn’t know our room number, but he had a reservations sheet and found it for us. We filled in the tags, attached them to our suitcases, and the porters took them away.
Security and US Customs
Now armed with only my purse, carrying our travel documents, and our cameras, we went back to the sorting area. The only ships in that day were the Zuiderdam and Princess Cruise’s Sapphire Princess. We proceeded to the metal detector. Our carry-on baggage was put through a conveyor belt x-ray. A man ahead of us tried unsuccessfully to go through the metal detector but kept setting it off. They stopped him and motioned me to go through. I did with no problems. My now-ex was behind me and set off the metal detector. He has a metal plate in his foot which he explained to the security guard. She waved her wand around him and sure enough it started pinging at his foot. She waved him through.
Next, we were stopped by a lady sorting out the passengers by country, asking everyone from Britain and Australia to go straight and directing Canadians and Americans to another line. This was the US Customs. Our line up had two customs officers. The line up for all other nationalities had five customs officers. Our line up was going faster, and we had a ten-minute wait here.
Once we got through customs, we were sent to a large room, a big holding area for all the passengers to check in. There were about 25 agents behind desks ready to check in the Holland America cruise passengers. Most of the desks were empty so we were ushered to an agent right away. She told us that very soon the area would be full of passengers and they would be checking in 400 people per hour. She took our photos and issued us the cards we had to carry with us at all times. This card was our room key and also to be used if we made any shipboard purchases. She gave us a map of the ship and told us we could board and go up to the Lido deck where lunch was being served.
We headed to the gangplank and photographers were waiting to take our welcome aboard picture which would be available for purchase later on board. It was now about 12:10 pm. The whole check in process was very speedy for us.
Later on we heard from some passengers who arrived a little later in the afternoon and they had a one to two hour wait before they came on board the Zuiderdam.
Yes, we were lucky that day. On subsequent cruises out of the Port of Vancouver we’ve had lengthy delays.
But that’ll be saved for another blog post.
What are your experiences at the Port of Vancouver’s cruise terminal?