Why go to Vancouver?
Dock is connected to a hotel, great for pre-cruise stays; city is destination in own right
Terminal is always busy; check-in, crowds and queues for taxis can be a nightmare
There's lots to see and do, and much of it is pedestrian-friendly or within a short cab ride
Vancouver Cruise Port Facilities?
There are two separate cruise terminals in Vancouver. Your ship will most likely be at the Canada Place terminal, which is smack downtown and within a few steps of hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions. The rarely used Ballantyne Pier is less convenient, a 10-minute drive east of the city center (in a seedy, industrial area of town from where you will want to take the ship's shuttle or taxi into the downtown area).
Pick up free maps and tips on what to do and see at a Tourism Vancouver information desk, located on the street level of the Canada Place cruise terminal/convention center building. A larger visitor center is located across from Canada Place, at 200 Burrard Street.
You'll find baggage storage services at the Canada Place terminal, provided by CDS Baggage (604-683-3696; cruise passengers only; airport baggage transfers also available), plus wheelchair and mobility scooter rentals from Scootaround (888-441-7575; pre-booking recommended) in the main lobby.
The underground Waterfront station of the light rail SkyTrain's Canada Line is also connected to the Canada Place terminal, and it's about a half-hour ride to Vancouver International Airport.
Two luxury hotels, the Fairmont Waterfront and the Pan Pacific, are located at the Canada Place complex -- so if you're embarking, you can watch your ship sail in from a harbor-view room. Both hotels will also pick up your luggage from your room and expedite it to the ship; it will magically reappear in your stateroom (11 a.m. cutoff time for pickup).
You'll find a food court with more than a dozen options in the Waterfront Center complex, and more casual restaurants across the plaza at the new convention center. There's also a walkway along the water with fascinating history placards and a float-plane port where you can see the little pontoon planes buzzing in and out.
Within just a few blocks are shops, attractions and even more restaurant choices.
Good to Know?
Be prepared for rain -- this is the Pacific Northwest, after all! Fortunately, the summer months tend to be the driest in Vancouver, but we still recommend packing an umbrella and a light rain jacket.
If you're exploring on foot, be aware that there's a fairly unsavory neighborhood between Gastown and Chinatown, known as the Downtown Eastside.
Surprise -- there are three Fairmont hotels downtown and one at the airport -- so be sure to know which one you're headed to if you're staying there.
By Tour Bus: The Big Bus narrated tour of downtown Vancouver lasts 90 minutes, but passengers can hop on or off at 22 different stops along the route at any time. Choose a one- or two-day pass. An alternative hop-on, hop-off tour is offered by the Vancouver Trolley Company, which sells tickets that are good for one or two days. Both services stop at Canada Place.
By Public Transit: Less daunting than it sounds, Vancouver is very easy to navigate on your own. The public transit system, known as TransLink, encompasses local buses, the SkyTrain (light-rail transit, including service to Vancouver International Airport) and the SeaBus (a ferry connecting Vancouver with the North Shore). Vancouver public transit now runs on a reusable Compass card system, which allows users to register their card and protect its balance in case it is lost or stolen. The card can be used across all transit systems with an easy tap, and is available for purchase at vending machines, convenience stores and even online. Single-ride tickets are also available, if you're not going to be using the system multiple times. Tip: SkyTrain fares are calculated on a zone system; from the airport to downtown is two zones.
By Ferry: False Creek Ferries serve nine different docks with four routes that ply both sides of False Creek, including Granville Island, the Maritime Museum in Kitsilano and other attractions. You can buy single, zone-based fares or a day pass. The Aquabus also operates along False Creek, with eight stops, including Granville Island. It's also priced according to your destination, with day passes available. Both are also fun for simply for joy-riding, to get a different perspective on the city.
By Rental Car: To go outside of the downtown core or to Vancouver's North Shore and beyond, you might want to rent a car. Enterprise and National have rental locations at the Pan Pacific Hotel, located right at Canada Place. Other rental outlets are also represented downtown and include Avis (757 Hornby Street) and Hertz (1270 Granville Street).
By Bicycle: Sign up for the Vancouver bike-share system, Mobi, and pay a small daily subscription fee, then pick up and drop off bikes at one of more than 100 stations around Vancouver. You can ride for 30 minutes at a time without additional charges. Alternatively, rent a bike for the day from Spokes Bicycle Rentals (1798 Georgia Street West; 604-688-5141) or Reckless Bike Store (110 Davie Street; 604-648-2600). Your rental shop will offer you a helmet, lock and map of the city's bike trails.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Canadian money comes in the same denominations as U.S. money, with the same names: quarter, dime and so forth. However, there is no paper Canadian one-dollar bill. Instead, there is a one-dollar coin, nicknamed the Loonie (because a loon is depicted on one side), and a two-dollar coin called the Toonie. The U.S. dollar fluctuates against the Canadian dollar; for current currency conversion figures visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
You'll find an ATM inside the port building, just before security; there's also one in the Waterfront Center, beneath the Fairmont Waterfront, across from the cruise terminal. There are also numerous ATMs within a few blocks at downtown banks.
English is spoken as either a first or second language, but you won't go too far before hearing Mandarin or Cantonese.
Also note: Some might consider it a foreign language that Canada measures in metric. For distances, you'll see kilometers (km) rather than miles, and for temperatures, Celsius rather than Fahrenheit.