Vancouver, Canada is referred to as Vancouver B.C. (for British Columbia), at least by Washingtonians because Washington State in the USA also has a city named Vancouver. North of Washington and west of the Canadian mainland there is also Vancouver Island where Victoria sits, a city visited by ships out of Seattle on their way back from Alaska to satisfy the foreign port requirement. Just to be confusing, the city of Vancouver is on the mainland, not on Vancouver Island. Normally many cruises leave from Vancouver to Alaska in the summer. In case anyone wonders why so many things in the area are named Vancouver, one of the early explorers of the region was named Captain Vancouver so they are all named after him.
Canada Place where cruise ships dock in Vancouver is right in the downtown area, steps away from Waterfront Station where you can catch the skytrain or seabus, and city busses stop nearby. A free shuttle to Capilano Suspension bridge has a stop at Canada Place, and seasonally there’s a free shuttle to Grouse Mountain as well. For cruise ship passengers only, Canada Place has luggage storage, which comes in handy if you have some time to kill between disembarking your ship and catching a train or plane. Canada Place is an attraction in itself. The building’s sails are an iconic landmark of Vancouver’s waterfront. Besides a hotel and convention center at Canada Place, there’s the Fly Over Canada flight simulation ride, a port discovery center with touchscreen infographics, and the Canadian Trail which has sections to represent each province and territory and simulates a walk through Canada from coast to coast. There’s a booth near the port building where people can get information or book tours.
I’ve had several cruises starting or ending at Canada Place on several different lines, the most recent ending there on a Princess cruise. My first time at that port we sailed out of it on the Norwegian Sun and hadn’t yet discovered how convenient it is to take the train and sky train to the port. We drove there that time, finding that waiting for the shuttle would have been a better idea than walking to the ship from the nearby parking lot even though we could see it from there – because finding the entrance and getting to it from that parking lot was not easy. Of course now that I know it is in the parking garage that would help.
Stanley Park is a huge park on a peninsula at the edge of downtown Vancouver. It has a paved walking trail with an adjacent separate biking and skating trail running along the water’s edge all around the outskirts of the park. There are trails throughout the park, which also has gardens, forest, a train ride, carriage rides, an aquarium, outdoor swimming pool, golf, tennis, outdoor splash park, and numerous playgrounds and picnic areas. There is bus service to the park, but unfortunately Vancouver’s sky train does not have a station near there. There are even restaurants within the park. There is a seaside trail from Canada Place to the park for those who have the time and inclination to walk a couple kilometers to get there.
Very near Canada Place Vancouver’s Lookout Tower atop the Harbour Centre building rises above the area’s other tall buildings. The very top is a revolving restaurant, with an observation deck just underneath. Two separate elevators in the lobby await visitors, one for the restaurant and one for the viewing level. You have to buy a ticket to take the one up to the observation deck. It goes directly up with no stops along the way. The viewing area circles around the tower with windows all the way around giving visitors a 360 degree view. Signs posted along the way give highlights about what you can see from that particular spot. A greeter near the elevator provides little stools for children too short to reach the windows so they can see out too. These small lightweight stools are easy for them to carry around as they make their way around the tower to see all the different views. Of course there’s a gift shop before you get back to the elevator. Before 2009 it was the tallest building in BC.
The oldest area of Vancouver, called Gastown, is just about a kilometer from Canada Place, so not too far to walk. The gastown area has some Victorian architecture, a steam clock, and vintage lampposts. There’s even a statue of the neighborhood’s founder, Gassy Jack Deighton whose tavern was the area’s first attraction. Gastown has wine bars, sports bars, a vibrant cocktail scene, a variety of restaurants, art galleries, and unique shopping opportunities.
It’s just a bit over a kilometer from Canada Place to Vancouver’s premier shopping district on Robson Street. There’s a stadium at one end of the street, and plenty of eateries along the way, but the shopping is what Robson Street is famous for.
Most years summertime in Vancouver is bustling with cruise ships, but for 2021 Canada has denied entry to all cruise ships because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cruises out of Vancouver have already been cancelled, and if the cruise lines can’t find a workaround the Jones act the rest of the Alaskan as well as northeast cruises will follow. The Jones act requires all foreign flagged vessels to have at least one foreign port stop, which ships from Seattle to Alaska would not have without a stop in Canada, nor would ships on cruises in the northeast who normally stop in Canada’s maritime provinces or Quebec. If the USA government were to suspend the Jones act for the year and allow cruise ships to sail without a foreign port the Alaskan cruises out of Seattle could be saved, and northeast sailings too, though they generally have more than one Canadian port so would have to rework their itineraries a bit more. If they don’t suspend that requirement the other option would be for Canada to allow cruise ships to drop anchor in Canadian waters and clear customs, which would cover the requirement of a foreign port. That could be a fair bit of free money for Canada without ever having a cruise ship at the dock because the cruise lines would most most likely be willing to pay a pretty good fee for that service in order to not have to cancel the entire season.