Vancouver by Train

Royal Princess at Canada Place – you can see Waterfront Station next to the ship and Vancouver Lookout on top of a tall building behind Waterfront Station

If you happen to live near the coast in Washington or Oregon, it’s pretty handy to take a train to the port when sailing out of Vancouver BC, especially if your ship leaves from Canada Place. The Amtrak Cascades runs from Eugene, Oregon to Vancouver with a number of stops along the way. I’ve taken it both to Vancouver for boarding and from Vancouver after disembarking, though not on the same cruise since one started there and the other ended there and neither were round trips. This was during normal times. Currently there are neither trains to Vancouver nor ships sailing from there due to Covid, but the stoppage is not permanent and both will be an option again in the future.

lower level of the train car with assigned seats

The train’s website offered a variety of prices for different seating options, but that either didn’t apply to that route or didn’t apply to the Edmonds station, one or the other. Only one option was available and everyone embarking or disembarking at Edmonds rode in the same car. The station is small and the platform far shorter than the length of a train so just the one car opened its doors there. In Edmonds passengers are asked to come an hour before their train departs. They did check in bags there, but then you just sit and wait. Any other Amtrak station I’ve been to if you come that early there isn’t even anyone around who works for Amtrak and they take your bags when you board the train. Which is just Vancouver, Wenatchee, and Leavenworth, so I can’t say how it goes at the rest of their stations even in normal times, and of course things are different now.

Amtrak train at Pacific Central Station in Vancouver BC

It’s a lot cheaper to take the train to Vancouver than it is to take a plane, and far cheaper than paying for parking at the port if you drive there. It’s actually cheaper than most busses too, as well as faster and more fun than riding a bus. The time options are more limited than for busses, but the morning train will get you there and the evening train will get you back, or either way there’s always the option of spending a night in Vancouver before or after the cruise. Just make sure to pick the right Vancouver when buying your ticket because this train stops in Vancouver Washington as well as Vancouver British Columbia. Cruise ships on the other hand do not go to Vancouver Washington.

upper level of the train car has first-come-first-serve optional seating

When traveling to Vancouver to board the Holland America Westerdam for a cruise to Shanghai, the train was pretty fast up until it got near the Canadian border. The stops at USA stations were pretty brief. Everyone had assigned seats in the lower level of the train car, but the upper level observation cars were open for anyone to go sit where they please – other than when customs came through and everyone had to be in their assigned seat. There was also a dining car with a limited selection of food available, and restrooms. My last train trip was before Covid so besides where this train goes, what it offers may also be more limited now.

the dining car is more just buy your food and go back to your seat than sit and eat there

Parts of the route are along the edge of Puget Sound, quite scenic and places you don’t see when traveling by car. The train moves a lot slower once it gets into Canada. When we took it there everyone in our train car was boarding a ship either that day or the next. One of the next day people said they had taken that train often and went a day early because it sometimes ran late. It got to the station right on time the day we rode it, but didn’t let anyone off for about an hour after we got there. We still had plenty of time to get to the ship though.

the town of White Rock near the Canadian border has a giant white rock on the beach

Taxis are available right at the train station, but there were a lot more passengers waiting than there were taxis so we walked across the street and took the skytrain, which would be my preference anyway. It’s quick and convenient and a lot cheaper than a taxi. The Main Street/Science World skytrain station is right there next to the Pacific Central station where the Amtrak comes in.

Canada Place

From there it’s just 4 stops down the line to Waterfront Station, which is next door to Canada Place where the cruise ships dock. If you take the right exit from Waterfront Station you probably have less than a 100 yard walk to the entrance to the parking garage, which is where you go to board ships at Canada Place. Just cross over where the cars enter and take the sidewalk ramp down on the far side.

inside Pacific Central Station there’s a big open waiting area with little shops and eateries

Assuming they go back to the previous schedule once train and cruise ship travel resumes in Vancouver, when disembarking there the morning train is too early for same-day travel. You could not get off the ship in time to catch it, so you have some time to kill before catching the evening train. There’s no luggage storage at the train station, but for cruise ship passengers there is luggage storage available at Canada Place. That’s a much more convenient location anyway since you are already there and it’s in the heart of the action where most of the touristy things are. There’s an information booth that also books tours. Free shuttles to places like Grouse Mountain or Capilano Suspension Bridge stop there. Waterfront Station has seabusses as well as skytrains so you can also go off exploring that way. Taking the waterfront seawalk or a city bus to Stanley Park is also an option. Gastown is nearby, as is the Vancouver Lookout, and for shoppers, Robson Street. So it’s not hard to find something to do between leaving the ship and boarding the train.

little park next to the sky train station across the street from Pacific Central Station

We spent a day in Vancouver after disembarking the Royal Princess on a cruise from LA. Once you’re ready to leave pick up your luggage at Canada Place if you stored it there and take the skytrain from Waterfront Station 4 stops to Main Street/Science World. From the skytrain station it’s literally a walk in the park to get to Pacific Central since the skytrain station is next to a little park that Pacific Central is across the street from.

Besides Amtrak, busses and Canadian trains stop at Pacific Central Station

They didn’t start boarding procedures until fairly close to time to board the train and there wasn’t anywhere to check in bags ahead of boarding the Amtrak at Pacific Central Station. You do need to fill out one of the customs forms on found on a table near the center of the station before getting in the boarding line though. If you don’t have the form they send you away to fill it out and you have to start over at the back of the line. At least that’s how it worked for the people ahead of us in line who had no forms when we were there. Seats were assigned on a first come first serve basis, and people did start lining up awhile before boarding actually started. We didn’t bother to get into the line until it actually started moving and had no problem getting 3 seats together. We didn’t spend a lot of time in our assigned seats, preferring the upstairs observation car instead, and had no problem finding seats. We had our pick of any of them since we were the first people up there.

sunset from the train

Depending on the time of year the journey back could be scenic or in darkness. In May when we rode the train back from Canada it started out light, but got dark along the way. We had some pretty good sunset views over the water in between.

Copyright My Cruise Stories 2021


About LBcruiseshipblogger

MyCruiseStories blog tells stories about adventures in cruising on ships big and small. Things to do onboard and in port. Anything connected to cruising. Also food, travel, recipes, towel animals, and the occasional random blog.
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