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Port Review: Vancouver, Canada

Joanna Hall

This vibrant Canadian city remains a major jumping off point for Alaska cruises, and when you first visit you will quickly realise why Vancouver is so appealing.


Built on rising hilltops and forested peninsulas, Vancouver’s dramatic skyline is bounded by sparkling waterways and framed by towering mountain peaks. It’s also a vibrant metropolis which appeals to all age groups and interests, while also being particularly friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. Urban pleasures lie within easy reach of its untamed wonderlands, and the city's diverse neighbourhoods reflect the population's many diverse cultures. Canada’s biggest west coast city, situated just over the US border, is also a dangerous place; you’re not necessarily going to get mugged or pick-pocketed, but it is an extremely hard place to leave. Most locals have stories of friends who came for a visit and then never returned to where they were from.

The Facts

Location: south west Canada.

Language: English.

Currency: Canadian Dollar.

Docking/Anchoring: Ships usually dock at one of two locations. The main cruise terminal is at Canada Place, right in the CBD, while Ballantyne Pier is east of the city centre in an industrial area.

Transport: From Canada Place, you are literally a few minutes walk from downtown and there are plenty of taxis around. Ballantyne Pier is about a 10 minute drive from the city. Most ships put on shuttles from here but you can also take a taxi into town.

Don’t Miss

Stanley Park is an oasis of green attached to the northern end of the city and at 1000 acres, it is bigger than New York’s Central Park. It’s surrounded by water on three sides and an eight kilometre seawall circumnavigates the park which is the city’s most popular biking, blading, jogging and walking track.

No trip to Vancouver would be complete without a ride on one of the city’s aqua buses, or mini-ferries, which cruise around False Creek to the south. Tickets are relatively inexpensive, and the aqua buses are a great way to see the south and east side of the city and catch a bit of river life as well. 

Granville Island is a peninsula under the Granville Bridge and home to Vancouver’s biggest market selling all manner of fresh foodstuffs and flowers. In days gone by, Granville Island was a bustling industrial centre. The transformation began in the 1970’s and now Granville Island is an intriguing and eclectic mix of markets, restaurants, bars and cafes, art schools and a recreation centre which features kayaking and sailing.

Best Photo Op

There are classic photo ops all over this city, but from nearby Grouse Mountain you can capture the harbour and the city skyline by day and night - if you get to stay in port long enough 


Each district has its own shopping appeal, and a good place to start is Robson Street which is right in the heart of Downtown. It’s been dubbed the “Rodeo Drive” of Vancouver and is famous for its designer boutiques and upmarket restaurants, but in truth you can also find some great shops with good bargains. The Pacific Centre is a mega-mall which is also right in the heart of Downtown on the corner of Georgia and Howe and its 100 stores cover everything from fashion to jewellery, electronics and health and beauty.

Food and Drink

Vancouver is a typical Pacific North West city and therefore prides itself on its great food, great coffee and great drinks. For restaurants, the CBD is littered with a big choice of international cuisine, nearby Chinatown is where you’ll find authentic Asian and Yaletown is a former industrial area which is now an upmarket suburb with some trendy eateries and great bars.

Pick of the Excursions

One of the most popular excursions is the Stanley Park and City Highlights tour where you’ll cruise through Chinatown, Gastown which is Vancouver’s founding site, Stanley Park and the pretty English Bay beach.

The Capilano Canyon Walk and City Highlights Tours reveals the best of the outdoors in Vancouver with a trip through Stanley Park, along with a walk across the 50 metre high Lynn Suspension Bridge overlooking a lush ancient forest before heading into Capilano Canyon with its rainforest of some of the world’s oldest trees including giant cedars and towering Douglas firs.


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