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Vancouver (Photo:Cruise Critic; Dan Breckwoldt/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Vancouver

It's not hard to understand why Vancouver is so appealing. This vibrant metropolis caters to all age groups and interests, and even the most navigationally challenged visitors can find their way around with ease.

About Vancouver


Pro

One of two docks is connected to a hotel, great for pre-cruise stays; embarkation is a breeze

Con

Vancouver's other dock is located a bit farther from the city's main attractions

Bottom Line

There's lots to see and do, and much of it is pedestrian-friendly or within a short cab ride


Find a Cruise to Vancouver



But before Vancouver was Vancouver, it was Gastown, built out of the need for a bar to serve thirsty lumber mill workers. In the mid-1800's, an enterprising man called Gassy Jack supplied a barrel of booze and poured drinks for the men who built him a saloon in a day. Until that point, the landscape was little more than towering evergreens on a rocky foreshore, and the residents were primarily aboriginal. Although Europeans first saw the region's potential, by the 20th century, immigrants were arriving from around the world in record numbers.

Today, Vancouver is an ethnic melting pot, with 35 percent of the two million residents being foreign born. This multicultural city has also been consistently rated as one of the most livable cities in the world by the Economist Intelligence Unit. And the 2010 Winter Olympic Games gave the city a chance to shine in the world spotlight; the city's Olympic cauldron still stands at Coal Harbour.

Arriving in Vancouver by air or sea gives visitors a sampling of what to expect from this Canadian seaport. Ships seem to barely clear the underside of the Lions Gate Bridge as they make their way past the massive green space of Stanley Park on the way to Vancouver Harbor. The park dominates the west side of the downtown area, and visitors and residents alike can be found walking or cycling on its seawall perimeter or paddling a kayak in the waters surrounding it. Just 12 blocks east of the park, the Canada Place cruise ship terminal has its own distinct character. It was built to resemble a ship with its motif of five large sails on top of the pier, and a Pan Pacific hotel is conveniently located at the stern of the mock superstructure.

It's easy to explore Vancouver from Canada Place because the city's most popular attractions are located within a two-square-mile area referred to as the downtown peninsula. A unique selection of harbor ferries, hop-on-hop-off buses and light-rail transit (the SkyTrain) makes its easy to get around.

On the north side of the peninsula, Gastown lies just a 10-minute walk east of the terminal building, encouraging history-minded travelers to discover Vancouver's roots. An additional few blocks east will put you in Chinatown, North America's second-largest after San Francisco's. The southwest portion of the peninsula borders False Creek, where the hip and fashionable can check out the ultra-trendy ambience of Yaletown. And across the creek, everyone from foodies to art lovers to maritime buffs can browse Granville Island's public market, artisan studios and nautical shops. From Granville Island, you can take a harbor ferry west to Vanier Park, located in Kitsilano, or to the east end of False Creek, where Science World sits.

With the coastal mountains as its backdrop, and just 24 miles north of the Washington state border, Vancouver serves as the leading gateway to Alaska, a reputation that has lasted for the past 30 years. Cruise passengers can take advantage of a city with world-class accommodations, international dining, varied attractions, easy accessibility and the notoriously friendly and contagious Canadian attitude.

Where You're Docked

Vancouver Cruise Port Address:
Canada Place, 999 Canada Place, Vancouver BC
Ballantyne Pier, 655 Centennial Road, Vancouver BC

There are two separate cruise terminals in Vancouver. The prime location for ships is the Canada Place terminal, which is smack downtown and within a few steps of hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions. The 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).

If your cruise originates in Vancouver, getting to the Canada Place cruise terminal upon arrival is a cinch. The Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is located south of the city, in the neighborhood of Richmond, 14 kilometers (nine miles) from the downtown peninsula. The Canada Line of the SkyTrain runs every eight to 20 minutes (depending on the day and time) from the airport to the Waterfront station right near the cruise terminal. The ride takes about 25 minutes.

If your cruise departs from the Ballantyne Pier, it's best to take a cab.

Good to Know

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.

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, and the two-dollar coin is called the Toonie. The most convenient way to exchange money is to use your ATM card at a bank or kiosk. Other options include Money Mart, which has many locations around the city (the closest one is at the corner of Napoleon and Pender), some open seven days a week, or Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange (800 W. Pender), conveniently located near Canada Place but closed on weekends.

The U.S. dollar fluctuates at par with the Canadian dollar, but check www.xe.com or www.oanda.com for the latest rates.

Language

English is spoken as either a first or second language, but you won't go too far before hearing Mandarin or Cantonese.

Also note: Although some consider it a foreign language, Canada measures in metric. For distances, you'll see kilometers (km) rather than miles, and for temperatures, Celsius rather than Fahrenheit.

Shopping

Take advantage of your duty-free exemption with a slender bottle of B.C. ice wine. (Be sure it's labeled VQA: Vintner's Quality Alliance.) The Granville Island Public Market is the place to find foodie souvenirs, such as fine loose-leaf tea, gourmet flavored salts and locally sourced honey. For big spenders, Coastal Peoples Fine Art Gallery (with locations in Yaletown and Gastown) sells museum-quality First Nation and Inuit artwork that includes hand-carved masks. Sports fans can buy a souvenir Canucks hockey puck.