Victoria, British Columbia
Canada’s southernmost city and British Columbia’s capital, Victoria, sits at the south end of Vancouver Island on the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Cruise ships sailing out of Seattle pass through the straight on their way in and out of port. Since Alaska is part of the USA and ships without USA registry and crew – which is nearly all cruise ships – can’t do a completely domestic cruise, Victoria is pretty much a mandatory port stop for Seattle to Alaska cruises. Most ships make late evening stops there, arriving around dinner time and leaving near midnight.
As one of the oldest cities in the pacific northwest, Victoria has lots of historic buildings and the second oldest Chinatown in north America. Both of Victoria’s most famous buildings, the Empress Hotel and the parliament buildings, sit near the inner harbor. If you arrive by seaplane, Victoria Clipper, or the Coho Ferry from Port Angeles you disembark in the inner harbor, but the cruise ship docks are out at Ogden Point, not in town. It is within walking distance if you don’t mind a bit of a hike, or passengers can take shuttle busses or taxies from the port. Fisherman’s Wharf is a closer walk than the inner harbor, or it can be a stop along the way when taking the seaside path. It’s also a stop for the Harbour Ferries which can take people to town when the ferries are running.
There’s not a lot right at the cruise ship dock, but there is a seawall walk with a lighthouse at the end.
Victoria has a mild climate with average winter lows in the high 30’s and average summer highs in the high 60’s (Fahrenheit). It has the least rain of anywhere on British Columbia’s coast due to the rain shadow effect of Washington State’s Olympic Mountains.
Victoria has a lot more to do than can be done in the average cruise ship visit. Since the ships usually come in fairly late some things are closed or too far to get to by public transportation in the available time. Booking an excursion through the ship is often the way to go if there is something specific you want to see or do there, particularly if it is far from town like Butchart Gardens or only open at that time for booked excursions as is often the case for tea at the Empress Hotel. You do not need to book an excursion to see the Empress from the outside, or to walk around inside and visit the shops. Some other shops around town stay open at least through the earlier evening hours and it’s easy enough to get to town for people who just want to look around on their own with the shuttles and taxis at the port for anyone who doesn’t want to walk into town.
Cruise Ship Excursions in Victoria
Excursions offered by cruise ships visiting Victoria include a walking tour, Butchart & Butterfly gardens, city highlights, museums, lighthouse, whale watching, parliament buildings, high tea, horse-drawn carriage tour, Craigdarroch Castle & brewery tours.
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