Cruising from Vancouver ? Top 3 Packing Mistakes

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Cruising from Vancouver ? Top 3 Packing Mistakes

Top Tips from a former ships officer when cruising to Alaska from Vancouver:

There is nothing quite as special, majestic or humbling as cruising through the inside passage to Alaska.  Take it from me- over the past 15 years I have had the pleasure of sailing around the world with one of the biggest cruise lines in the business- but my favorite itinerary has to be hands down, the Alaskan run from Vancouver out of Canada Place.   For those of you who are about to embark on your first journey to the Last Frontier from Vancouver,  here are some essential packing tips I wish my guests would have known.

1.Pack Accordingly

When you arrive at Canada Place you will drop off your big pieces of luggage before going inside for check in.  If your cruise line has already given you luggage tags, make sure that each piece of luggage has a tag firmly attached to it.  If not, make sure you get a ships luggage tag with your room number and name put on it from the luggage handlers at the luggage drop off point in Canada Place. The last thing you should check before letting go of your luggage to the luggage handlers is that each bag you leave with them has your name, ship and sail date on it- if you don’t see a luggage tag on your bag, don’t assume one will be put on it later.  Also, Canada Place will frequently have more than one ship from the same cruise line sailing out on the same day.  If this is the case make sure your luggage tag has the correct ship name on it as well.  Keep in mind that once you leave your luggage with the luggage handlers it will go into the system with thousands of other bags until it is eventually dropped off in front of your stateroom door.  This can take anywhere from an hour to several  hours.  It is not uncommon for your luggage to be delivered to your room even after the ship has sailed.  This means it is very important to keep a few things with you in a carry on bag.  

2.How To Pack The Best Carry-On

Do not pack your passport in your big pieces of luggage and then give them to the luggage handlers to put on the ship as you will have to clear United States Immigration and check in prior to getting on the ship.  You will need your identification and documents such as your passport before getting on the ship.  Nothing frustrates the ships staff more on turnaround day than having to stop everything to look for one guests black suitcase amount thousands because they left their passport in it and are stuck outside the ship at check in with no identification.   

In addition to any necessary documentation, keep any essential medications you might have with you.  With thousands of bags moving throughout the pier and multiple ships, bags can still get lost. Clothing can be easily replaced but your medications are not always available when travelling and even if the ship’s doctor has them, you will have to pay for them up front and they will be very expensive. A good rule of thumb is If you can’t live without it for a few days, keep it with you.  I once had a guest who didn’t bother to check if his dialysis equipment and chemicals made it onboard the ship before we sailed, and 3 hours after we left Vancouver he came to check at guest relations where it was.  It turned out that the courier company hadn’t dropped it off at all and no one was expecting it.  The Captain was not amused.

3.How To Speed Up The Arrival of Your Luggage To Your Room

Something else to remember is that one hundred percent of the luggage is screened and X-rayed prior to being delivered to your room onboard.  If you have packed a prohibited item in your luggage, it will more than likely be held by the ship or shoreside security, and you will be waiting by your stateroom door wondering where it is.  The top offenders that I’ve seen which are usually prohibited items onboard but always manage to get into packed luggage are power bars, travel irons, hair curling irons, alcohol and small knives or scissors.  These items will almost always have your luggage flagged by security and you will have to go personally collect your things with them so they can confiscate whatever item you packed, then give you a ticket for the item to be collected at the end of the cruise.  Only after all that will you be able to receive your piece of luggage.  You might think your tiny knife you use to cut your pills, or the miniscule manicuring scissors you always use are small enough to slide through the security net but think again. Each cruise line has a full list of prohibited items somewhere on their website if you are unsure, and it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with it.  Another thing to note, is that for all of you out there who think you are the first one to try and smuggle spirits onboard the ship disguised as water, trust me the shipboard security has seen it before a thousand times and will know.  

About the Author

Jeff Potts is the co-founder of Cherry Tours, a luxury boutique tour company in Vancouver, Canada that specializes in pre and post cruise tours and packages.

As a ship's officer Jeff specialized in Alaska, Hawaii and California cruises and has extensive experience in Australian, South American, Caribbean, Trans Pacific, Trans Atlantic, European and Baltic itineraries.

"Over the years I've worked my way through the ranks so to speak and was fortunate enough to hold positions such as Shore Excursions Manager, Guest Relations Manager and Cruise Director. Recently my wife and I (who I proposed to from the bow of our vessel while sailing through the Inside Passage) retired from working on ships to pursue our new careers on land in Vancouver which I was lucky enough to be born and raised in."

 

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Cruising To Alaska From Vancouver? 3 Secrets You Must Know

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Cruising To Alaska From Vancouver? 3 Secrets You Must Know

1. Arrive into Vancouver at least a day before your cruise sails. Of course I may be slightly biased, but Vancouver is going to be one of your top ports of call during this cruise. So often I've seen cruisers fly into Vancouver on the day their cruise departs and completely miss this wonderful city. In addition, the added stress level of making your ship on time is no way to start your vacation if all does not go according to plan. All it takes is one missed plane connection, a mechanical difficulty, a problem at the border, or bad weather and your entire vacation could be ruined. Trust me, the ship will not wait for you in Vancouver if you are late, and you are solely responsible for making it to the ship on time. Not only that, but the tides and currents sailing out of Vancouver make it so that the Captain in many cases must leave on time, or run the risk of being held in port for hours until it's safe again to depart. There are incredible tours and sightseeing options in Vancouver and if you can swing the time it is definitely worth it. The same is true of your departure day- why end a perfectly good cruise vacation by stressing out on whether or not you will make it off the ship in time to make that ridiculously early flight home?

2. Getting to the ship. There are several ways to do this depending on whether or not you are going to totally disregard tip number one and try to go straight to the ship, or whether you are going to head straight to your hotel. 2015 marks the first season in a long time that only Canada Place will be used for cruise departures and thank God for that! Those of you who may have cruised from "the other" pier known as Ballantyne Pier in the past, will certainly agree with me that it was a disappointing start to your cruise to say the least. Ballantyne Pier is poorly located outside of the downtown core and far from the majority of hotels in the city. Fortunately for you, Canada Place is where your ships departure destination will almost certainly be this year. The cruise terminal is located at Canada Place which is very close to a multitude of hotels, taxis and the Canada Line; Vancouver's fully automated rapid transit train line. Some cruise lines offer bus transfers to the ship or hotel however my recommendation is to do the math first. A taxi from Vancouver Airport to Canada Place with a 15% tip will run you around $35 to $45 dollars Canadian and takes around 30 minutes. Most ship purchased bus transfers will cost you around the same per person so they may not be the best deal unless you are travelling solo. If you don't mind dragging all your luggage around and walking a few blocks the Canada Line train costs just under $10 per person and is around a 30 minute trip to the pier- not bad if you have a backpack, but with luggage I'd recommend against it. After you get off the train you have to walk to the ship which is around ten minutes from train to the ship luggage drop off point. My first choice would be to arrange a pick up from a pre cruise tour company or perhaps a private sedan to take you to your hotel. There are plenty of tours and luxury rides available online or at the airport and you should arrange this before you get on the plane. A private sedan or limousine will usually run you around $60-$80 Canadian plus gratuity. If you are coming in early be aware that most hotels check in time is between 3pm and 4pm, however any decent hotel will try to accommodate you early or at the very least offer to store your luggage upon arrival until your room is ready.

3. When is the best time to arrive at the ship? Well, if you like sitting around, standing in lines or waiting at immigration go first thing in the morning. If you're like me and would prefer to spend your day enjoying Vancouver or sleeping in a bit you should think carefully about what time you arrive to the cruise terminal at Canada Place to board your ship. The time it takes you to board the ship from getting dropped off at the pier can vary anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours depending on when you arrive and how many ships are in port. Keep in mind that the ship is more than likely dropping off a few thousand guests who have just completed their cruise. It usually takes until at least 10am to clear out the ship from the departing guests, and another hour before they will allow newly arriving guests to start the check in process. If your first port of call is a Canadian port such as Victoria or Prince Rupert you will probably be spared going through United States Immigration at the pier in Canada Place. If your cruise is however like the majority of Alaskan cruises and your first port is in Alaska, you will more than likely go through the US immigration inspection just prior to the ships check in process at Canada Place which is why you need to have your passport handy. The procedure usually runs in this order; luggage drop off, security screening, US immigration processing, cruise line check in, and then, the moment you've been waiting all this time for-boarding the ship! Even if you are the first person onboard the ship at 11am, most of the ship including your staterooms won't be accessible to you until around 1pm when the ships staff have finished cleaning and preparing everything for you. What this means is that the first two to three hours of check in you will be sitting or standing in a huge line, and then when you do get onboard, if it is before 1pm you will be forced to wait in a public area of the ship with your carry on luggage until they announce that your rooms are ready over the ship's PA. My advice is enjoy Vancouver, and show up a bit later in the early afternoon for check in instead of trying to get to Canada Place at 9am so that you can stand in line with 2000 other guests. Having said that make very sure of course that you check your sail-away time and don't leave it to the last minute either. You should be at the pier a minimum of 90 minutes before sail-away time at the very latest as the check in process is usually closed at least an hour before sail away.

So there you have it, the first of many tips for this years Alaskan Cruise Season. Don't miss next time when I will tell you all about what to expect on your first day onboard, from how to get room upgrades, to what needs to be done the first day of the cruise, and what can wait until day two. Until then, thanks for reading and Bon Voyage!

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Local Sites in Vancouver worth Exploring

Travel is not for the light-hearted. Many may experience travel as a means from getting from point A to point B, but for others it is an enriching journey meant to enlighten the soul and let the forcibly subdued imaginations slow down and re-envision the possibilities in this world. Such a journey may seem impossible, but Cherry Tours Vancouver works so that your hearts see more than travel: they can experience happiness, imagination, wonder, and the kindness of people. This kind of travel occurs in “off the beaten path” boutique experiences that allow you to explore areas on foot, so that you are in them rather than driving past them, and works to show you parts of Vancouver only the locals know of. Here are just a few of the many things you may encounter on your Horseshoe Bay & Sea Safari Experience as provided by Cherry Tours:

Experience Vancouver Locally

                Discover Vancouver’s first urban park filled with rainforests, mountains and scenic views of the English Bay. Discover the nine intricately carved and colored totem poles rich with history and cultural enigma. Walk around Stanley Park as you see the locals enjoy their time off or go for a walk to enjoy the majestic views and then continue your tour to Dundarave Village West Vancouver: a local village filled with warm and blossoming flowers for most seasons or winter holiday lights that mirror the yearlong festive mood of the people who live there. Prepare yourself for a boutique luxury experience with a local gourmet chocolate tasting and pastry excursion; a scintillating experience for your taste buds in a seaside West Vancouver village. Finally, explore Horseshoe Bay’s small west coast village as well as the expansive and infamous marina with ferry rides and more. Local adventures can set apart an exceptional tour from the pool of promising names. Experiences like gourmet chocolate tastings and exploring local villages are an inspiring and moving experience for those who choose Vancouver tour packages with Cherry Tours.

Experience Vancouver’s Wildlife

                Local experiences don’t only mean encounters with the people. Many tours exclude including the many creatures that come with the land, who often serve as much of a symbol of the place as the people do. Enjoy and feel one with nature in a 2- hour wildlife sea safari experience, filled with an interactive glance at the wonderful creatures that enrich Vancouver’s coastline. Whether you are an animal lover or not, this experience is one that can truly put a smile on your face, and make you squeal with excitement when exploring a part of Vancouver no one really sees.

Experience Vancouver by Boat

                You may have done enough tours on a bus that drives by a site so that the only thing you really learn about a place is its name, or the excruciating treks that seem to give you no break, or even the cruises that are exciting in their own right, but don’t give you a chance to explore a place by foot. With Cherry Tours Vancouver, you can explore frontiers with your own two feet and then return on a majestic boat ride under the symbolic landmark Lion’s Gate Bridge and pass by locals in and around Stanley Park as parents watch their children, couples walk the shoreline, and children stop from play to wave as the ships pass by. Conclude your Sea Safari by cruising all the way to Coal Harbour Pier in Downtown Vancouver as you relax after an entertaining safari and chocolate tasting experience!

Experience Vancouver Efficiently

                No one says that to participate in a local and boutique experience you must sacrifice efficiency. Whether you are waiting to continue onwards to your new destination and want to discover Vancouver in a day, or enjoying the sites in Canada for a longer while, you can sign up for this journey any day of your stay. You can even join Cherry Tours on the very last day before you have to check out by noon, or get back on to the ship before it leaves. Further, let Cherry Tours Vancouver drop you off at the airport so that you don’t have to worry about the trip!

                If you know that an opportunity to experience Vancouver through the lens of a local with a true taste of what the city can mean to you, consider the Horseshoe Bay Sea Safari & Chocolate Experience.

                Visit www.cherrytoursvancouver.com to find out exactly how travelling to Vancouver can enrich and create memories to last a lifetime.

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A Magical Wellness Experience in Whistler

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A Magical Wellness Experience in Whistler

One of the best parts about an adventure is that every moment is an opportunity to explore. However, on your way passing through the area to your final destination: whether you are part of another tour, or are truly staying at a hotel a few days to explore the wonders of Vancouver, consider Cherry Tours, especially in your final days of your stay in Canada. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the final day is all about dealing with hotel bills, rushing out by noon, and lugging your baggage around for several hours before finally frantically catching a shuttle or taxi to the airport. Your last day in your adventure is actually the most important. It should reflect the perfect closure to your experience filled with relaxation and a subtle exploration of the wonderful and calming sites that only the locals really know about. Consider then, the several whistler packages of Vancouver such as the Whistler & Scandinave Spa Experience as a part of Cherry Tours. Not only do your final impressions of a truly unforgettable city get to touch your soul until the very last moments, but you get all the security and efficiency that you search for on the last day of your stay.

Imagine a Local Experience

                Envision being able to explore the local sites by foot as you roam through the beautifully colored fields of Whistler Village against the backdrop of a vast mountain range in the back. The quaint styling of the area will make you feel like you are in a fairytale. See the warm homes of the locals interspersed beautifully among the rocky geographic base of the Whistler Mountains. Explore the beauty of the sites and the wondrous energy of the people who live there and are happy to share.

See the Landmark Sites

                Along with your one-of-a-kind adventure of the unique village, also get a chance to be introduced to the landmark tourist sites that have quickly come to represent Vancouver and its people. The Lions Gate Bridge in its entire expanse covers the Burrard Inlet and is considered a national historic site. On your way up experience the drive of the Sea to Sky Highway which travels down from the seaside right past Shannon Falls and among the mountains until you reach Whistler, where you’ll discover in all its enigma on foot. It’s a beautiful and relaxing drive, and the Vancouver sites may be popular, but with the carefully planned experience of Cherry Tours, it is truly an intimate trip worth every minute.

Relax at the Whistler Scandinave Spa

                Once you have explored a little bit, take the time to relax in the authentic Nordic-inspired spa that fits right in with the rest of Whistler village. Right along Lost Lake and the neighboring forest, relax with a high-quality spa experience where you don’t have to worry about catching a taxi, carrying your luggage, or even keep an eye on the clock for your next flight because right now: you are in paradise, and the real world can wait. As you relax in the Scandinavian baths, let your body be cleansed before you return to work and experience the elusive strength of the peace that is preserved in the resort. Take a walk along the natural landscape in the Eco Spa, or enjoy a revitalizing massage in between baths. In short, let this Cherry Tours experience rejuvenate you before you return home.

Benefit from an Efficient and Convenient Tour

                Your trip to Vancouver may be quick, but it doesn’t mean you allow yourself the time to relax and explore. The last thing you need when suffering from jet lag, is an added tired and frustrated disposition in your bustle of getting to the ship, the flight, or leaving the hotel in time. With the Whistler Spa Experience, you will be dropped off at the airport, you don’t have to worry about your luggage, or getting anywhere in time, or spending your last vacation day sitting at an airport terminal as you begin to countdown the minutes until boarding for several hours.

                A quality tour can be worth spending that final day, or even your first depending on your situation; especially, when that tour prizes the quality of your experience and the efficiency of your stay. If this sounds like a trip you may appreciate filled with adventure and relaxation, consider the Whistler & Spa Experience from Cherry Tours.

Visit www.cherrytoursvancouver.com to find out exactly how your stay can become an awe-inspiring journey you will never forget.

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Booking the Perfect Vancouver Vacation

A vacation is no small expense. It takes time, money, and patience and when you do get the chance to get away, you don’t want to feel like you are being herded or on a school field trip. But what do you look for? How do you make sure you aren’t spending every waking moment of your vacation planning instead of enjoying, and still manage to get a tour that doesn’t make you feel like you barely saw the city? You want a tour that doesn’t keep reminding you that you’re on a tour, but rather gives you the means to experience Vancouver and let it touch your soul. Choosing the perfect trip can be a difficult decision, but here are a few things to look for so you can save time in your search and still book an amazing experience:

Look for Small Groups

                  Group tours are difficult to keep up with as is, so look for smaller group sizes in your tours so that you feel more like you are setting off for an adventure rather than for a high school retreat. This may mean limiting your search to individual touring companies rather than large-scale franchises as those generally are accompanied with large buses and even larger groups. Some touring companies even allow personal experiences that only consist of your party and the personnel so that you get an even closer and intimate experience. Generally, a group less than 18 is a good number of people to enjoy and laugh with as well as still give you your chances to explore on your own.

Look for Tours that Want to Make it Personal

                  Touring companies that want you to see anything and everything the city has to offer within a limited period of time are more likely to give you a superficial experience of the city. Visiting the Botanical Gardens, Museum of Anthropology, Lion’s Gate Bridge,  Granville Island, and Spanish Banks Beach all at once is likely to mean you won’t have a meaningful experience in either. These kinds of tours are common. When someone asks you what you did on your trip to Vancouver, you quickly realize all your answers are images of things you could have found on a quick Google Image search. Look for experiences that work to ensure you get the local taste and preserve your adventure experience. This may mean tours off the beaten path, or in small local sites with cute experiences you are likely to remember for the rest of your life. For example, small wine tastings, samplings of the local staples, or visiting relaxing hotspots for the locals are all indications of a tour that wants to make sure you leave with colorful memories and a soul yearning to return once again.

Look for Global Guides

                  Guides should know what they are talking about, of course. But beyond that, they should understand what travelers want from their experience, what they would appreciate, and what they would like to see when touring certain attractions. Look for guides that have been abroad, who have a comprehension of cultures and travel, and are able to understand specifically that you wish to explore and discover:  to make a connection with your destination. Finally, notice they should be global guides. Nothing is worse than having to feel like you are having to sacrifice your safety because a driver has to trade-off between telling you about the sites or keeping his eye on the road. Look for companies that make that distinction.

                  Booking the perfect tour can be difficult, but with directed research, this tour will give you an illuminating experience that will leave you filled with joy and hopes of a future return to Vancouver.

Experience more and make each moment count with Cherry Tours Vancouver

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The Best Poutine in Vancouver?

It's delicious, mouth-watering and even though you could eat it forever there will come a point where you just can't take any more... Yes, we're talking about Canada's national fast food dish - Poutine!

Although Poutine originated in the region of Quebec, it is now a Canadian favorite. Made with french fries, gravy and cheese curds, there are many variations to suit every taste.

Vancity Buzz has gathered a list of Vancouver's best spots where you can enjoy Poutine. Mean Poutine located in the downtown epicenter of the city wins first place, closely followed by La Belle Patate in the charismatic West End neighborhood.   Check out some more spots that made the list right here.

For more details on Vancouver's top experiences and how to maximize your time in our beautiful city please take a look at our website.

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