While your ship cruises into Vancouver’s harbour you pass the beautiful Stanley Park on your starboard side and the North Shore mountains on your port side as you come under The First Narrows Bridge, also known as the Lions Gate Bridge. It is a very scenic cruise into this port and is worth the view from an open deck on arrival or departure. The city with its tall buildings is situated between waterways and mountains overlooking it, a very picturesque area with both float planes and bald eagles flying above.
The 1858 gold rush brought many people to Vancouver and when the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Vancouver, its population grew quickly. It was a major seaport and the link to The Orient and Europe. Now it is an urban metropolis surrounded by nature of mountains and water. A mild climate that allows for skiing a nearby hill in the morning followed by an ocean kayak or some golfing in the afternoon.
Home of the 2010 winter Olympics, Vancouver is a popular gateway when doing an Alaskan cruise. One of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada, it is known for its friendly hospitality and exceptional scenery. It has two main cruise piers; Canada Place Pier located downtown and Ballantyne Pier about 10 minutes drive east of the city.
The metropolis downtown core of Vancouver is a beautiful city from any angle, whether you are submerged in the bustle, laying on a beach or taking in the view from a local mountaintop. Vancouverite’s are known to enjoy the outdoors throughout the year and with relatively mild winter weather are able to bike, hike, and jog when they please.
The city itself with its looming sky rises, is full of trendy areas, parks, galleries and outdoor shopping. The main shopping street in town, running about 10 blocks long is Robson Street, filled with exclusive shops, souvenirs, restaurants and cafes it is a stimulating experience. Several indoor shopping centres are also found within blocks of the centre.
Gastown, the city’s oldest neighbourhood is located five blocks east and is a hip area of the city with cobbled streets, historic buildings, unique shops and interesting cafes with live music and excellent food.
Across the main Burrard Inlet waterway, connected by two bridges, is Grouse Mountain, a magnificent, picturesque location. A short tram ride to the top shows spectacular views of the city and surrounding areas. Once at the top there are hikes, cafes and wildlife exhibits and it transforms into a ski hill by winter. Also located in the North Shore Mountains is the breathtaking Capilano Suspension Bridge, spanning 450 feet across the dense rainforest where you can walk 230 feet in the air and hike through massive old growth forests to experience a beautiful and majestic part of Canada.
- Getting around
Vancouver has an excellent public bus system with stops located frequently which have timetables posted. Taxis are readily available from both cruise piers or throughout the city and are regulated.
The skytrain weaves its way from the city of Vancouver to many outer areas and is an easy and safe way to get places quite fast; there is a stop located a few blocks from the Canada Place Pier.
One of the best ways to explore the city centre itself is by walking; it does have some hills but it is by far one of the most scenic way to not only see the city but to really experience it.
Local shops rent out pedal bikes and rollerblades if you are feeling energetic and it makes for an interesting way to explore the city by means of bike lanes and scenic walkways along the oceanfront.
There is a sea bus that travels across the harbour to Granville Island and another at the opposite side of the city to take you the other direction to the North Shore, here there are shops and restaurants and a beautiful walkway along the waterfront.
When disembarking in Vancouver at either pier, a taxi or shuttle can take you to Vancouver International Airport in about 30 minutes drive and will cost approximately $30CND-$40CND in a taxi.
- Beyond Vancouver
While just the city of Vancouver can keep a person interested for days there are also some captivating highlights close by. A drive along the Sea to Sky highway, an extremely scenic main road, takes you into the mountains to the infamous Whistler Resort. A ski village with world-class skiing and restaurants, it was the home of the winter 2010 Olympics ski and other snow events. A great place to visit all year round with shopping, hotels, and dining, it transforms its alpine beauty in the summer to become a place to walk, hike and downhill mountain bike.
Past the city is the Vancouver Zoo, a huge park showcasing animals from around the world, each in their own recreated natural habitat.
Vancouver Island and the city of Victoria, is accessible by a 1.5-hour ferry ride and in the opposite direction about 200 miles inland is the renowned Okanagan Valley; the only desert region in Canada. Known for its abundance of wineries, producing award-winning wines, a lake runs the length of the valley and it is a spectacular destination for its beauty and is a summer playground for boating and camping while the winters showcase ski resorts with champagne powder.
- Local activities
Explore Granville Island
Granville Island is located about ten minutes from downtown by car or preferably a scenic water taxi across the harbour.
Full of arts and culture, unique gifts and excellent waterfront dining, Granville Island is vibrant place to explore. The open concept public market is a sensory experience full of vendors, crafts, flowers and exciting foods and gift ideas.
Canada’s largest Aquarium
Located in Stanley Park is Canada’s largest Aquarium featuring a west coast sea life exhibit, a tropical rainforest to walk through and sea creatures from the Amazon to the South Pacific Oceans; there is also larger marine animals such as Beluga Whales, dolphins, Sea lions and otters. With shows throughout the day and educational, hands-on demonstrations, it is a great choice for families or anyone looking for a fun and memorable experience.
A walk in the park
Stanley Park, a tranquil forested park located at the edge of the city. An enjoyable way to spend your time, there are always events happening in this massive park, which is full of small wildlife and its west coast atmosphere of massive cedars and hemlock. Vendors, artists and performers are found along the paths and horticultural gardens are woven throughout.
The entire peninsula is surround by the infamous Stanley Park seawall, a five-mile scenic route popular for walking, biking, jogging and rollerblading along the ocean.
- Local cuisine and drinks
Vancouver is a multi-cultural city and this becomes apparent in the diverse and delicious cuisine. Excellent restaurants abound including Italian, Chinese, Indian or Japanese; the quality of sushi in Vancouver is among the best. There are many local pubs and trendy lounges while one of the newest raves are the food carts situated along the street serving a variety of original and high-quality local food making it a great way to have a quick, reasonably priced meal.
Vancouver is home to several breweries and with the selection of vineyards, local wines are available throughout the city.
- Where you are docked
Canada Place Pier, the home of the Canada Pavilion for Expo’86 is centrally located and within walking distance from the city centre. Recently extended it can hold up to three large cruise ships and offers state of the art facilities. It is also the location of Vancouver’s Trade and Convention Centre, IMAX theatre and The Pan Pacific Hotel.
Ballantyne Pier can hold one or two large ships and also has been recently renovated and is spacious and well organized with new facilities. This pier is a beautiful sail into or out of the port, past Canada Place but a taxi is strongly recommended to get into town as well as if you are planning overnight accommodations before joining or after disembarking, stay in the city centre as opposed to closer to this pier as it is in the industrial part of town.
- Regional weather
Vancouver experiences a mild oceanic climate. Winters are often mild in temperature but filled with rain. By contrast in the summer months Vancouver can experience levels of drought. Vancouver due to it’s location is one of the warmest cities in Canada despite the warmest months (July, August) being quite cool by comparison to other cities during the summer, it is the all round year temperature that makes Vancouver a very comfortable location to be.