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Guide To Vancouver Cruise Port, Canada

Updated on September 24, 2015
Vancouver Cruise Terminals
Vancouver Cruise Terminals

Let's Go Vancouver

Nestled between snow-topped mountains, huge verdant forests and the blue ocean Vancouver counts as one of the world’s best cities. The city sits on the western coast of Canada, protected from the stormy Pacific by the huge bulk of Vancouver island.

In the late 19th century the demand for wood was huge, and the giant Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir forests in the area were an unused source. Lumbering businesses moved in to make the most of nature’s bounty. In 1867 the first sawmill beside Burrard Inlet, Stamp’s Mill, commenced operations. The area by the the mill was called ‘Gastown’ after the name of a bar owned by one of the locals. In 1870 the governor of British Columbia developed a plan for the new town of Granville, sited adjacent to Gastown.

In 1871 British Colombia united with the Dominion of Canada after agreement was reached that a transcontinental railroad was built. Granville was picked as the west coast terminus. In 1886 the city’s name was changed, in spite of protests, to Vancouver, and the first Canadian Pacific Railway train pulled into the newly-built railway terminal. But only three months later, on June 13, 1886, the Great Vancouver fire destroyed large parts of the city. The destroyed buildings were replaced during a frenetic period of reconstruction.

Vancouver continued to grow throughout the twentieth century. Today Vancouver is a main commercial port, and the center of a thriving business zone.

Vancouver’s development is largely thanks to the steep coastline's ability to function as a ship’s anchorage without any need for dredging. Firstly wood were shipped from the docks, then also grain after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Also the docks functioned as a base for small vessels taking goods to settlements up the coast from Vancouver.

Descriptions of spectacular vistas came back with the travelers on these smaller boats. In the early 1900s Canadian Pacific Steamers, Union Steamship and Canadian National Steamers were offering 7 day summer cruises along the coastline to Alaska. Though by the 1950s the number of cruise ships operating from Vancouver was reduced to just Canadian National Steamers’ Prince George and CPR’s Princess Patricia. 1957 heralded the founding of Alaska Cruise Lines, which owned Yukon Star and the Glacier Queen. The company, now called Cruise West, was acquired by Holland America in 1971. In 1975 Holland America Line positioned the new cruise ship Prinsendam at Vancouver to capitalize on the developing market. Before long Princess joined Holland America, sending 2 cruise ships, which in turn attracted other lines to station ships in Vancouver for the season. The number of cruise passengers carried on growing to reach the seven figure mark in 2000.

In 2000 Seattle began to offer cruises, and the new competitor greatly cut Vancouver passenger numbers. The number of vacationers leaving on cruises from Vancouver fell sharply to 600,000 by 2010.

Stanley Park Totem Poles
Stanley Park Totem Poles

Sightseeing in Vancouver

Vancouver’s best known tourist attractions are positioned a short way from Canada Place. A frequent HOHO bus makes travel around the city  center trouble-free.

Harbour Center Tower
A fast elevator ride brings you to the roof of the 581 feet high Harbour Center Tower, where there’s a superb view encompassing the modern city, soaring mountains and the wide sea.

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden
In the heart of Vancouver’s booming Chinatown, sits the gorgeous Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. The Garden is built to reflect the blending of the four main elements: architecture, water, plants and rock, to generate perfect balance.

The 19th century beginnings of Vancouver are in the characterful area of Gastown. Though the first wooden houses were entirely razed in the1886 fire. See the famous steam clock hiss and the statue of ‘Gassy Jack’ in Maple Square then have a well-earned stop at a welcoming coffee bar. 

Stanley Park
Stanley Park is the largest urban park in North America. It’s home to the Vancouver Aquarium and an interesting assortment of Totems. Fit walkers can contour the 6 mile sea wall, along a pathway which gives lovely views over the ocean.

Grouse Mountain
Vancouver’s very convenient winter ski resort is a favorite in summer too. Summer activities include hiking, helicopter flights, mountain ziplining, birds in motion, paragliding and lumberjack shows. You can see wolves and bears in the 5 acre Refuge for Endangered Species. Bus number 236 from Lonsdale Quay goes to Grouse Mountain,the journey takes about twenty minutes. A short time in the Skyride lifts you to Peak Chalet.

The spectacular Tracy Arm Fjord
The spectacular Tracy Arm Fjord

Cruise Routes From Vancouver

Winters in Alaska are hard and long, so Vancouver’s cruise season is firmly May through September only. Vancouver is the sole gateway to the famed Inside Passage, the narrow strait flanked by the mainland and Vancouver Island, which is the best way to Alaska. The calm nature of this itinerary to Alaska is preferable to the Pacific ocean itinerary out of Seattle.

The most popular route is the week long return cruise visiting Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan and Glacier Bay. You’ll see huge glaciers calving into the ocean, coastal towns with rich histories and majestic coastal and mountain landscapes.

An alternative is a 6 night one way voyage from Vancouver calling at Ketchikan, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Juneau then crossing the ocean to terminate at Whittier or Seward. You can return by taking another cruise, or by plane flying from Anchorage airport. This choice allows you to extend your vacation with a tour into the magnificent Alaskan interior.

At the end of the season a range of memorable repositioning cruises are on offer: to destinations like Florida, Hawaii and California.

For a complete listing of cruises leaving from Vancouver, see cruises from Vancouver.

Canada Place Cruise Terminal
Canada Place Cruise Terminal
Ballantyne Cruise Terminal
Ballantyne Cruise Terminal

Vancouver Cruise Terminals

Canada Place
Canada Place has its historic beginnings as Canadian Pacific Railway terminus pier B-C, which enabled speedy transfer of corn from rail to docked ships. The terminal is housed in the former Canada Pavilion from the 1986 World Exposition and has a distinctive 5 sail shape, which represents the city’s long seafaring tradition. Beside the cruise terminal, the large complex contains a World Trade Center office, Port Metro Vancouver offices, a VINCI car park and a Pan-Pacific five-star hotel. Available facilites include luggage carts, a snack bar, restrooms, customs and security.

Ballantyne cruise terminal was expanded and redesigned in 1995, and today offers well-organized passenger processing. On account of its previous use as a trade port, the terminal surroundings have a commercial docks appearance. Services available include restrooms, security, baggage trolleys, food and drink concessions, customs and taxi ranks. 

For the port website see Port Metro Vancouver.

Directions to the Cruise Ports

By Car From the US

Canada Place
Head across the Canadian Border on I-5. This turns into Rte 99. Carry on northwards and cross the Oak Street Bridge. Make a left turn onto 70th Avenue. Next turn right on Granville Street. Carry on driving north across the Granville Street Bridge. Continue straight on by taking the Seymour St exit. Continue north along Seymour St to West Cordova Street. Make a left onto West Cordova St. After 2 blocks turn right onto Howe Street, to shortly get to Canada Place. Parking are available at Vinci car parking.

Head across the US/Canadian Border via I-5. I-5 turns into Route 99. Exit at turnoff 36 and make a right to Route 1. Then turn left onto Knight Street. Knight Street turns into Clark Drive. Continue on Clark to the foot of Clark then turn right on Stewart St. Proceed approximately half a mile to reach Ballantyne. There is no car park at the terminal, but an idea is cruisepark, positioned on the waterfront between Ballantyne and Canada Place.

By Air

From Vancouver International Airport
The modern Canada Line Skytrain, constructed for the 2010 Winter Olympics provides an efficient transfer between the airport and Waterfront station with a journey time of half-an-hour. Departures are frequent. Canada Place cruise terminal is a quick walk from the station. Note that Ballantyne is a taxi ride away. Another option is to take a cab from the airport to the required cruise terminal. It takes around 45 minutes.


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    • capitula profile image

      capitula 11 months ago

      Great to see that the Port of Vancouver has added incentives for ship operators to run quiet (undersea) ships, through lower port charges. It will be interesting to see if any of the major cruise lines qualify.

    • capitula profile image

      capitula 24 months ago

      Port Metro Vancouver's season wound up 2015 as late 15 December, with the departure of Ruby Princess for LA. It looks like it was another good year, with more than 800,000 passengers recorded.

    • capitula profile image

      capitula 3 years ago

      Port Metro Vancouver have just announced their 2014 results. Figures for 2014 are broadly in line with 2013, not great, but OK. One excellent item noted in their reports is that Royal Caribbean have joined HAL and Princess in making full use of the Port's excellent shore power system, helping to improve Vancouver's air quality.

    • capitula profile image

      capitula 4 years ago

      Vancouver continues to rebound strongly as a cruise port, fighting back against Seattle, though the cancellation of Celebrity Millenium's last four cruises of the season will be a blow.