Vancouver BC has a popular cruise ship port with ships sailing mainly to Alaska docking there throughout the season. The port, called Canada Place, is a tourist attraction in itself as well as a cruise port. It’s also next to Waterfront Station where people can catch the sky train or seabus. City busses also stop nearby as do free shuttles to Capilano Suspension Bridge, or seasonally to Grouse Mountain. Of course ships aren’t the only way into Vancouver. People also come by car, bus, train, or plane. I’ve taken several cruises that started, ended, or both in Vancouver. While Alaskan cruises are their mainstay, my cruise that started there ended in Shanghai and the one that ended there started in LA. The round trip one was a typical Alaska cruise though. With Canada closed to cruise ships this year the port area will likely be a far quieter place than usual – with nearby merchants getting a major hit to the pocketbook.
Vancouver is a great city to visit, whether as pre or post cruise stay or as a stand alone trip. There’s quite a variety of things to do there. I’ve taken the Amtrak there on one cruise and back on another, which is convenient since there’s a skytrain station across the street from where the Amtrak train comes in as well as a skytrain stop by the port. When my daughter was in town we took the Greyhound bus to Vancouver, which I would not recommend even if the border was open and they were still running busses there.
THE GREYHOUND NIGHTMARE
When my daughter came to visit from Australia with her 2 kids two of her friends tagged along with 3 kids between them. Add us and that’s 10 people. Rather than take 2 cars we used public transportation for our road trip adventure, starting with a trip to Vancouver BC. While we would have preferred traveling by train, unfortunately it did not have any convenient departure times so my daughter booked us all on the Greyhound bus instead. About a month or so before the trip she got an email saying there was a change and to call them. No information about what changed or why. Since she was still in Australia at the time I called Greyhound for her. It turned out they had made the time for the return bus (which was already ridiculously early) even earlier, with a 2 hour layover at a bus station before the next leg. The service representative was not helpful and would not say whether or not there was an earlier bus for that next leg, just that if there was she could not change our tickets to it. If there was one she said we could ask at the counter to change, for a fee of nearly as much as the original ticket price per person – which really adds up when there’s 10 people. She said it was the counter person’s discretion whether or not to charge that fee, but the actual counter person said they can’t wave it. She also could do nothing to help Sheri’s friends as we were not listed on their ticket so they had to call after arriving in the USA. The person Sheri’s friends talked to about changing their tickets was just as rude and made it sound like she couldn’t help them at all, though she finally did end up sending an email with amended tickets.
Once time for the trip came the counter person at Everett Station was very rarely at the counter at all. The one at the customer service desk just said she didn’t work for Greyhound and couldn’t help. Anyone needing help at the Greyhound counter had to send someone from the nearby coffee shop to the back room to find her. We did finally manage to check in and she said she would announce the bus when it arrived. She was not forthcoming with any information about the bus as time for it to come got near, just kept saying she would announce it when it arrived – something she never did. Time for the bus to arrive came and went with the only announcements of bus arrivals being for those headed to Seattle. No bus showed up on their bus tracker app and as more time passed when anyone could find her she would just give a later arrival time or say the bus was on the way and would be there soon. Finally she put up a closed sign and snuck out the back without a word to any of the passengers still waiting on that bus.
The girl at the Amtrack counter (who was very diligent about announcing Amtrack’s busses and trains) then said the Greyhound bus had come and gone. The next one came 3 hours later and if we didn’t get on that one we were going to switch to the train which left an hour after that. We met a college boy who had been standing out on the platform the whole time waiting for the same bus and he never saw it either. Though there is supposed to be a bus tracker on each bus so waiting passengers can follow its whereabouts on an app, apparently the driver has to turn the tracker on and that one did not. The second bus did have a tracker on, but at the time it was finally supposed to arrive a bus pulled in labeled Seattle – which from Everett Station is a southbound bus while we needed northbound. Upon asking the driver what happened to the bus to Vancouver BC he said this was it and he just hadn’t changed the sign yet. So apparently if our original bus didn’t skip that station entirely it must have come in marked as Seattle too so the guy on the platform didn’t get on, and if the counter girl bothered to announce it at all she announced it as Seattle so nobody waiting inside went out either. They did announce quite a number of busses for Seattle. Other than not changing his sign in a timely manner the driver was nice, but it’s no wonder that company may not be in business much longer when all of their customer service people are rude and unhelpful whether on the phone or in person, drivers only turn the tracker on if they feel like it, and they don’t even mark the destination on the bus properly or correctly announce where it is actually going from inside the station.
Our hotel was about half a block from Stanley Park, which is a huge park on a peninsula at the edge of downtown Vancouver. Unfortunately there are no skytrain stops near there. It is within walking distance of Canada Place, though it is not close. From where we stayed we entered the park on a trail that led to the seawall trail near an area called second beach. The seawall is 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 lots of things within the interior of the park, but we walked quite a distance on the seawall passing under a bridge and past a lighthouse before coming to a little waterpark and a pathway into the interior of the park leading to the aquarium, train, and other things including a little restaurant called Stanley’s Bar & Grill. We sat down to order and the waitress said if anyone wanted to go on the train they should go there first because it would probably close down soon for wind. None of us had any plans to ride it before then, but she talked Sheri’s friends into it so they took off with their kids and went for a ride. The waitress said it would take about 15 minutes, but that was the train ride itself. Add on walking there and back and time for getting tickets and waiting to get on and all and it took quite a lot longer. They all had fun and were glad that they went though. Not far from the restaurant there’s a bus station where city busses come right into the park.
parkrun started in England and has spread to many countries around the world. These weekly 5K events provide free timed runs to participants and are ran by unpaid volunteers who work hard organizing the events. Anyone is welcome. You don’t have to be fast or even to run. Some people walk the course, some push prams (strollers) and a few bring dogs. There are courses in some places not suitable for prams or where dogs are not allowed, but Richmond is on a paved mostly flat trail and is not one of those. Sheri, Hannah, and I went to parkrun while everyone else slept in. We took the skytrain, which is part of Vancouver’s public transportation. Since there were no stops near our hotel by Stanley Park we took a cab to the nearest one before the run, but walked back to the hotel afterword. There’s a stop quite close to the course with a Tim Horton’s between the skytrain and the run. Many people from the run go there for breakfast afterword so we joined them. The course runs back and forth across a public trail along a waterway with an airport near the far side so you get a lot of views of the undersides of airplanes during the course of a run – though not nearly from as close as at Saint Martin’s Maho Beach. Richmond is a small parkrun that in normal times attracts more visitors than locals due to their proximity to the airport. People register online for their home parkrun, but can take their same barcode and run anywhere in the world where parkrun events take place. This was my granddaughter Hannah’s 50th parkrun so she got a shoutout during the pre-run briefing. People there were quite friendly and some of the faster runners stayed around after finishing to provide encouragement and congratulations to others as they ran by or finished their runs. Quite a few acknowledged Hannah for finishing her 50th. There are no parkruns near where I live so this was just my second having ran one prior in Australia. They get a lot of Australian visitors there, and Sheri and Hannah were not the only ones this run. There were also people from Europe, but I was the only one from the USA. It’s just starting to catch on there and not as popular as in some other countries. parkrun tourism is a thing among avid parkrunners, with some of them so dedicated they run a race in one part of the world and then hop a plane, cross the international date line, and run another on the same date somewhere like Richmond with a course near an airport. Our road trip took us to Leavenworth and then Seattle after Vancouver. Sheri, Hannah, and I stayed an extra night near Seattle after the others left and did another parkrun in Des Moines.
Quite near Canada Place Vancouver’s lookout tower sits on top of the Harbour Centre building. It’s not just a tourist tower, but rather an office building with a tower perched on top. Entering at street level, we had to go down a floor to find the ticket counter to go up the tower. There are two dedicated elevators that just go up to the lookout, one for people with reservations at the restaurant on top, who can go up without buying a ticket, and the other for people with a ticket to the observation deck. The ticket counter is near the elevators and there is a giftshop next to them as well. The ride to the top takes 40 seconds in a glass elevator. As we stepped out of the elevator, a greeter posted there tried to hand the smallest kids little stools. Anxious to get to the window the kids walked by obliviously until they realized they couldn’t see out and went back for the stools. Visitors work their way around the circular viewing area stopping along the way for different views. Windows go all the way around the tower for a 360 degree view of the area as you work your way around. Signs posted along the way give highlights about what you can see from that particular spot. It’s a good way to get oriented to the area and see what else you may want to go to nearby.
CAPILANO SUSPENSION BRIDGE
We found a free shuttle to Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has 4 stops around downtown Vancouver, including one at Canada Place. The bridge is on Grouse Mountain, but not as far up the mountain as the tramway, though you can catch a city bus between the two. We had plans to go to the bridge and then have dinner up on top the mountain because the price of a meal was about the same as the price of the gondola ticket, but if you have restaurant reservations you can ride up for free. We got to the bridge after dark, but it was all lit up with seasonal Christmas lights. The bridge was quite crowded. There were also trails around the surrounding area with a variety of light displays and a sleigh set up for photo ops. There is an entry fee to get into the bridge area. We caught the bus up to Grouse Mountain and got off to find that the skyride had just closed due to high winds. They said we could still get to the restaurant by bus, but since our whole point of booking the dinner reservation was to ride up the skyride we cancelled and got back on the bus before it left. Unfortunately that bus did not go all the way back to town so we had to get off by the bridge and take the free shuttle back. There were a lot of people waiting to get on so they were passing out tickets in order of arrival to denote whether you got the next bus or one later. We had next bus, but their every 15 minute schedule was off due to heavy traffic and it took it an hour to arrive. On the walk back from the shuttle stop closest to our hotel (which wasn’t all that close) we found a little family run Thai restaurant and stopped in for dinner. They didn’t have a table big enough for everyone so the kids got one table and the adults another.
Vancouver is a great city to visit, with many other things to see or do than were mentioned in this blog.
Copyright My Cruise Stories 2021