My sisters and I disembarked the Royal Princess in Vancouver in the morning, with hours to kill before our evening train. During normal times Amtrak runs two trains daily on the Amtrack Cascades route from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver BC, which is a really handy way to get to the cruise port in Vancouver for anyone along that route. I’ve used the morning train going to Canada for embarkation, but the morning train from Canada leaves too early for cruise ship passengers to return to the USA unless they choose to spend a night in Vancouver before leaving – which is a good option as there are plenty of hotels and lots to see or do there. Not that there are currently any cruise ship passengers in Vancouver since Canada’s ports are closed to cruise ships because of the pandemic.
Since we were leaving town the same day we took the evening train, which meant we had plenty of time to disembark and make it to the train on time with a whole lot of time to spare. We didn’t have more luggage than what we could handle on our own so we chose the self disembarkation where you carry off your own luggage rather than turning it in the night before and having to wait until it is ready to pick up in the port to leave the ship. If you have self disembarkation you can leave as soon as they announce that you can, but we don’t always leave immediately. At some point they want people out of their rooms, which is usually when we go, generally somewhere around 8:30am.
Since we did not want to spend the day dragging our suitcases around, the first thing we did once we left the ship was to look for the luggage storage for cruise ship passengers advertised on Canada Place’s website, only to find it was not open yet. We were sent to the Pan Pacific hotel in the Canada Place building, who was providing luggage storage service for cruise passengers at that time. It cost $5 per bag, which the bellhop said was a better price than the $9 per bag Canada Place planned to charge once they got their service up and running. The hotel had limited space for bag storage, but we were the first ones to drop bags off that day so we had no problem leaving ours.
I had figured on picking up the bags in time to get to Central Pacific train station about an hour before our departure, but the bellhop recommended much earlier. There was nobody at the station ready to check in passengers or luggage or anything until somewhere within an hour of the train’s departure so afterword we wondered if the bellhop may have thought we meant to take a skytrain to the airport rather than meaning that we were actually leaving the country by train since he was adamant that we needed to arrive far earlier than we really did. The train station does have benches to sit on, and at that time of the day the doors are open and there are some shops, places to eat, and restrooms inside. When we caught a bus early one morning from Pacific Central the station was deserted and the doors locked until nearly time for the bus to depart. In the past there was luggage storage at Pacific Central, but the lockers have been removed and there is no luggage storage available there now.
Due to Barbara’s leg injury we scrapped our original plan for the day, which was to walk to Stanley Park along the sea walk and spend the day there. We bypassed the information booth where people can get tickets to all sorts of things and saw the free shuttle to Capilano Suspension Bridge and also one that looked like it went to Science World as well as one that appeared to go directly to Grouse Mountain rather than taking the shuttle to Capilano and a bus to Grouse Mountain from there as we had done the previous winter. A hop on hop off bus also stopped at Canada Place so there’s all sorts of options for people who have time to kill in Vancouver. Science World is a good option for train passengers as it is close to the train station and has luggage storage.
Waterfront Station is right next door to Canada Place so we went there and got the day pass tickets that allow rides on the city bus, skytrain, and seabus all day long. We had thought to take the bus to Stanley Park, but the sea bus left from Waterfront Station and since we were already there and hadn’t ridden it before we gave that a go instead.
The seabus rather resembles a self moving barge that people ride inside of. It went across the water to Lonsdale Quay which had shops, restaurants and a kid’s splash park along the waterfront.
We hadn’t gone far before we saw an old-fashioned 4-masted sailboat docked at a nearby pier. Thinking it might be the Cuauhtemoc, a training ship from the Mexican Navy which I had run across previously in Seattle with Linda and in Hawaii with John, we went over to investigate. This one turned out to be the BAP Union from Peru, which is newer and larger than the Cuauhtemoc. One of the sailors said there are quite a few countries with similar sailing ships used both for training and sailing around the world as ambassadors for their countries.
The first sign we saw said tours had started a half hour previously, but as we stood for awhile in an unmoving line we saw a gangway getting moved around, but nobody getting on or off. Linda spotted another sign saying tours wouldn’t start for another half hour so we decided not to wait. The line started moving before we got off the dock, but having lost our place to a now much longer line we didn’t go back. It would have been difficult for Barbara to get around the steep ladders and stairways on a ship of that sort with her bad knee anyway.
The seabus had two boats running back and forth so one was always at or headed to either end. When we wandered back there we didn’t have to wait long. The boat we came on had a nice window we could see out of while seated, giving us a great view of Vancouver through the back window on the way there. The one we returned on had the window placed higher so passengers would need to stand to see out.
We wandered around Canada Place a bit and then took the seawalk down as far as the seaplane base before sitting and watching the activity on the waterfront for awhile. Since the bellhop at the hotel had said we needed to return so early we didn’t have time for anything else so we picked up our luggage and took the skytrain from Waterfront Station to Main Street/Science World Station, which is across the street from Pacific Central Station where the Amtrack trains stop in Canada. You can catch Canadian trains there too as well as busses.
After heeding his advice it turned out we got to the train station an hour earlier than we needed to, but better early than late. We wandered around a bit and looked into the train station’s shops and eateries before settling onto a bench to read while we waited. Another person waiting nearby pointed out the table of customs forms in the center of the station, which everyone needed to have filled out before boarding the Amtrak train to the USA. Thanks to him we were prepared. We saw someone else get all the way through the line only to be turned back because they didn’t have the form. They had to go fill it out and start over again at the end of the line. People taking Canadian trains departing to other areas in Canada would not need them of course. Greyhound busses also use the same station, but when we took the bus from that station before the crack of dawn when nothing at the station was open they gave us the forms on the bus rather than having them filled out in advance. They’ve also given us the forms on the train when we’ve taken it to Canada.
With the border to Canada set to open soon people from the USA will once again be able to kill time in Vancouver – if they have had their COVID vaccination that is, as the border is only opening to vaccinated tourists.