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Tips for Visiting Vancouver Before Your Alaska Cruise

Vancouver is one of Canada’s major cities, and it’s also a wonderful place to visit before or after your Alaska cruise.

Royal Caribbean typically bases a few of its cruise ships in Vancouver for the Alaska cruise season (in addition to ships departing from Seattle, Washington). Since Vancouver is outside of the United States, there are a few nuances that make the cruise experience a little different from other embarkation ports.

Whether you’ve booked an Alaska cruise from Vancouver or are planning to book one, here are some important tips for enjoying and planning a cruise from Vancouver.

Fly two days early

When you need to fly on a cruise, you should always arrive at least one day before the cruise starts to guard against travel delays that interfere with your ability to board the ship.

If you are traveling from the east coast, arriving two days before the cruise is a better idea due to the time change.

The shift up to three hours later means you’ll have a hard time staying awake after 9 p.m. Coming two days early gives you more time to adjust to the West Coast time zone and once on the ship you can stay up later for fun evening activities.

Another benefit of arriving more than a day early is that it gives you plenty of time to explore Vancouver without feeling rushed or fatigued from the trip.

Drive, train or fly

To actually reach Vancouver, you can get to the city in a number of ways, and each has its advantages.

The easiest way to get to Vancouver is to fly. Vancouver has a major international airport, although getting a direct flight isn’t that easy.

Depending on where you live, multiple flights may be required, with stopovers in other cities along the way.

An alternative to flying to Vancouver is to fly to Seattle, which tends to be cheaper (for Americans) and has many more direct flights.

Once in Seattle, you can either take the train, rent a car, or even take a car service to Vancouver.

As of 2022, Amtrak train service between Seattle and Vancouver has yet to resume, but the Cascades train ride is a nice ride. In the meantime, Amtrak offers bus service to cross the border.

There is no separate line if you buy The Key

When you check in for your cruise, there is no special queue for customers who purchase The Key.

Vancouver is one of the few places where priority access is not offered for The Key (Australia and Singapore are the other places).

The weather changes a lot, so plan ahead

Just like in Alaska, it will likely rain then turn sunny again, then alternate between cold and warm, before starting the cycle all over again.

The weather in Vancouver can vary widely, so plan to experience it all. The main thing is to have a good waterproof jacket, as well as warm clothes. But don’t rule out a hot spell, because it’s summer after all.

While you probably don’t need super warm clothes (unless you’re visiting at the start or end of Alaska cruise season), being able to weather the rain is a good idea while you explore the city.

The Pan Pacific Hotel

If you are looking for the ultimate comfort for the day your cruise starts, you may want to consider staying at the Pan Pacific Hotel.

The Pan Pacific is built above Place du Canada, where your cruise ship will wait to board.

Customers who purchase a cruise package can actually have bell services come to their hotel room on the morning of the cruise and bring their luggage directly to the cruise ship. No need to drag the luggage downstairs and give it to the porters.

Sure, the Pan Pacific isn’t the best deal in town or the cheapest hotel you can find, but if you value convenience, a stay here might not be a bad idea.

Fun places to visit

Like any big city, you’ll have plenty to explore in Vancouver.

Depending on where you are staying, there are plenty of fun things to do around town. Assuming your hotel is closer to the cruise port, here are some suggestions:

  • Stroll through Stanley Park, which offers walking, jogging, and biking trails. There is also the Vancouver Aquarium here.
  • Gastown is an area full of excellent restaurants and shops.
  • Even if you are not staying at the Pan Pacific hotel, you can go there to watch the cruise ships depart.
  • The Granville Island Market is an indoor market with many food and fresh produce outlets, showcasing artisan products and unique gifts.
  • The Vandusen Botanical Gardens are beautiful

I also recommend grabbing a coffee and a bite to eat at a Canadian staple: Tim Horton’s. The Tim Bits are great, as well as their sandwiches.