Downtown Vancouver and Canada Place
By Tom Ogg
Language and Currency
What is Vancouver Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
The Official language of Vancouver is English and the currency is the Canadian dollar.
Vancouver is one of the most wonderful cities in the world. In fact, it was named the second best place to live in the world in 2002 and you will find out why on your first visit. It is a cosmopolitan city with excellent shopping, restaurants and entertainment. Yet only minutes from downtown is nature at its best. Located on the ocean, Vancouver is home to about one-half a million full time residents.
I would strongly suggest that everyone arrive in Vancouver at least one day prior to their cruise for a couple of reasons. First, if you are arriving on Horizon Air (Alaska's computer line) their ability to match you up with your baggage is horrible. It seems on every group I take to Alaska someone is traveling without their luggage. I have had my bags delayed by Horizon Airlines on three separate occasions. Second, don't try to arrive mid day and make the sailing the same day. If your flight is delayed for any reason you will possibly miss the ship and the first days of your cruise before you can catch up with the ship on its next port call.....don't risk it!
Finally, there is so much to see and do in Vancouver that your time is well spent arriving at least a day early.
Vancouver's weather is excellent year around. There is plenty of sunshine in the summer months and it can get downright hot. The normal summer temperature is about 70 degrees and it rarely snows in Vancouver during the winter enjoying an average temperature of around 40 degrees.
OK, this is your vacation and I have strongly advised you to arrive a day early in Vancouver. The best way to get to your hotel (or the pier if you must arrive the same day as your sailing) is to simply grab your bags, clear customs and then hail a taxi to take you directly to your hotel (or pier) It takes about 30 to 40 minutes (depending on the traffic) for the ride and cost about $US25 to $30. The reason I suggest this is that the airport is always hectic and fiddling around with motor coach transfers is irritating to say the least. The trip into downtown Vancouver from the airport is interesting and you might start your touring by having the taxi driver detour through some of the upscale residential areas that you pass on the way.
There are actually two separate cruise line piers in Vancouver. Canada Place has just been extended to handle 3 mega ships and also had an increase in its ability to process both embarking and debarking passengers. Canada Place is right downtown Vancouver and sprung from the Expo 1986 as the Canada Pavilion. Canada Place is also home of the Pan Pacific Hotel and several restaurants and bars. If you are in town a day early be sure to go to Canada place around 5 pm to watch the ships depart for their Alaska cruise. It is a fun experience and will certainly get you excited to get going on yours. HINT: If there is a long queue for taxis upon debarkation and you can move your luggage yourself, simply walk out of the terminal, through the parking lot and up onto the street where dozens of taxis are waiting for fares.
Ballantyne Pier (reopened in 1995) can handle another two ships. While Ballantyne Pier is an excellent facility be forewarned that you must go through the worse section of Vancouver to get there. Do not try to stay in the area that the pier is located within (or anywhere near it) as it is just not safe or pleasant whatsoever. Stay in downtown Vancouver until you want to arrive to board your ship at Ballantyne Pier and then take a taxi from your hotel directly to the pier (costs approximately $US8 to $10 and takes 15 to 20 minutes). Do not attempt to walk to the pier from downtown!.
I make it a point to always arrive to the pier early so as to be one of the first to board the ship. As you are boarding in a foreign country, currently you will be required to go through an immigration check that stacks lines of folks up even after they have checked in for their cruise. In order to start your cruise off on the right foot, arrive a day (at least) early and then on the day of the cruise arrive early at the cruise terminal and board early. If you fly in the same day as your cruise you will probably arrive at the pier and be greeted by long lines of other like minded people who are just as stressed.
Downtown Vancouver offers world class shopping and it is quite easy to find. The main shopping streets are Burrard Street that runs kind of from the north to the south (Canada Places lies at its northern foot) and Robson Street that kind of runs from the east to the west. Both streets offer fabulous shopping (There is a Starbucks on almost every corner) There is more shopping on all of the side streets and also streets that parallel Burrard Street to the east. Another great shopping area is in the historic Gastown district that lies east of Canada Place a few blocks. It offers many shops of interest to tourist looking for the proverbial Vancouver tee shirts and such.
The Gastown Shopping Area
Just about everything you can imagine that would be available in a world class shopping environment is found here. Fine clothes, designer boutiques, jewelry, fine art and collectibles, sporting goods and just about anything else you can think of.
Vancouver is rich in shopping, dining and entertainment venues but one of my favorite things to do is to wander around Stanley Park that adjoins downtown Vancouver. Stanley Park is within walking distance of downtown Vancouver (just take any of the east/west streets to the west) and once you cross the bridge into Stanley Park you will think you are in the wilderness. Of special interest to me is Beaver Pond located in the center of the park. With wild raspberries surrounding the small lake that is chocked with wild water plants and lots of wildlife, I could spend the entire day just exploring the pond itself. However Stanley Park has much more than this, streams, tidal flats, forest, gardens, numerous hiking trails and a to-die-for rose garden. The Vancouver Aquarium is located in the heart of Stanley park if you want to view the local ocean environment.
View of Downtown Vancouver from the Edge of Stanley Park
Grouse Mountain is only about 15 minutes from downtown through Stanley Park and over the Lions Gate Bridge that you will sail under when leaving Vancouver. Grouse Mountain offers a year round recreational environment accessed by its ski gondola that will take you to the summit where you will be rewarded with an excellent overview of the entire area (including all of Vancouver) and access to lots of activities including hiking and mountain biking. . .
Vancouver offers many museums and a wealth of outdoor activity for those that want to pursue it. Fishing charters, biking, sailing, it goes on and on. There are excellent bay cruises that take you around Vancouver's fabulous ocean areas and beaches and a city tours is always a great way to get acquainted.
I would give both Vancouver and Stanley Park this rating.
Lots of them, too many to mention. Finding a great restaurant in Vancouver is about as hard as finding sand at the beach. Just take your pick. I especially enjoy happy hour at the bar in the Hotel Vancouver.
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