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Milhouse

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  • Location
    Vancouver, BC
  • Interests
    Travel
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    Celebrity, Royal Caribbean
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Istanbul, Santorini

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  1. Walking in and around the downtown core and particularly the seawall is relatively easy and flat but going end to end does get a little far. The most unique museum in Vancouver is likely the Museum of Anthropology that has a large west coast first nations collection. The building and grounds are somewhat unique too. I enjoyed it the last time I visited which was years ago but haven't felt the need to go again. The only problem is that it's out at the University of British Columbia (my alma mater) which is like an hour trek on public transit from downtown. Not sure if visiting the MoA is worth it alone unless you want to visit the university campus grounds which has some interesting architecture and a few view points. What might be more bang for you buck from a cluster of sites are the Museum of Vancouver and/or the Planetarium which is also near by Kitsilano (Kits) Beach and somewhat close to Granville Island. But I wouldn't consider the museum and planetarium must see level. There are also a few museums downtown like the BC Sports Hall of Fame (not sure if you'd be interesting in local sports history), Vancouver Police Museum (I've never been), etc. but I also wouldn't necessarily consider them must see either. There is the Art Gallery in the heart of downtown which occasionally has some interesting/well known exhibitions. It also had a really popular cafe that was known to be a bit of a hidden gem. But the operator of the cafe changed just before covid and I haven't been working downtown to give it a go.
  2. As Lowyfer mentions, standard caveat is that suggestions are dependent on what your interests are but here's my quick take some of the better & easier ideas that can be drilled down further if any interest you. With two days and no vehicle, I'd focus sightseeing in the downtown core and periphery, though many other sites are accessible by public transit. IMO, the best of Vancouver are outdoor areas/sights and neighbourhoods. In early June, it's starting to transition to dry weather but you may need to prepare for showers. Seawall walk/circuit: Vancouver has a fairly extensive seawall that takes you around some beautiful areas of Vancouver and some of the major sites. We do various parts of it at least once a week. Granville Island: Just outside the downtown core. Has a public market, arts & craft vendors, some good places to eat, local brewery, and great views of False Creek. Vancouver Children's Festival might be going on. We like going there every few weeks as part of our walk to grab lunch or foodstuff. Stanley Park: Lots to explore in the park; seawall, beaches, totem poles, lighthouse, 9 o'clock (PM) gun, etc. Aquarium is here. Don't feed the animals though, long story. English Bay: Great view of sunset. Lively area and a hive of activity at night. Canada Place/Convention Centre/Jack Poole Plaza: Iconic buildings, the 2010 Olympic cauldron, interesting art pieces, great view of the harbour and North Vancouver Gastown: Historic neighbourhood with cobblestone streets. Pretty touristy. A few things to take a picture of: Steam clock, Gassy Jack statue, etc. A lot of pubs in the neighbourhood so is pretty lively at night. Shipyards Night Market: This happens Friday nights across harbour in North Vancouver. Pretty easy to get to. Live music, food trucks, arts & craft vendors, great view of downtown Vancouver. Robson Street: Retail Shops and places to eat. Denman Street: Lots of places to eat. Davie Street: Retail and places to eat. Granville Street: Retail shops and places to eat. Can get sketchy particularly on the south end by the bridge. It's a major nightclub district at night if that's your thing, otherwise avoid. Foodwise, early June should be spot prawn season. If you want to seek out local product to eat, it would be spot prawns, salmon (typical), or (smoked) sablefish (aka black cod). Vancouver has some really good food trucks though the scene isn't as good as Portland. Good ones you might find downtown are: Tacofino, Disco Cheetah, Mom's Grilled Cheese Truck, Japadog (though, kind of gotten a bit expensive for a hotdog & tourist trappy).
  3. The downtown core and just beyond is very walkable, though some stretches are more interesting and lively than others. The missus and I regularly drive downtown for dinner (got to know where the good free parking is 😃) and do a bit of a walking circuit, normally including a part of the seawall. There are also some areas though (like in all major cities) which, I wouldn't go as far as saying is dangerous, but are or can be not very pleasant. For example, if you are referring to the Sun Yat Sen gardens, the gardens are nice but the vicinity can get a touch sketchy at times; though that doesn't stop us from picking up some pastries on the block over every so often. Beyond the obvious ones that pop up at the top of any google search (Granville Island, Stanley Park, Seawall, etc): Shipyards Night Market. Friday nights starting roughly in May. You have to take a $3-4, 10 minute commuter ferry across the harbour. Live music, food trucks/vendors, crafts, etc. Restaurants nearby. Great view of downtown Vancouver. Depending on the weekendas we get into the warmer, drier months, there are a lot of festivals in and around downtown. There's obviously more the further out but may not be worth your time for a first time visit with only a day or two.
  4. Many/Most businesses in Vancouver have adapted to covid by preferring to (and sometimes only) take non-cash payments (credit cards, debit/ bank cards, app payments, etc) versus taking cash. (And ideally, you'd have a no-forex fee credit card.) So, I think your need for cash is going to be limited, though I can't rule it out completely. (eg. A few small businesses want to limit credit card transaction fees and will only take cash or Canadian debit/bank card.) Many businesses will be happy to take US greenbacks (so don't worry about perceptions) but will offer a horrible exchange rate. At worst, I've seen signs at some businesses saying they'll take US dollars at a straight 1:1 exchange rate whereas you should be getting $1.25ish. But it may still be a more convenient soluton if you're not using a lot of cash. If you want to exchange greenbacks for loonies I recommend the following places which have a way better exchange rate than the the forex booths at the airport and the banks: Charlie's Currency Exchange. It's a small hole in a wall in downtown Vancouver on Granville Street (along the entertainment district). It's got one of the best exchange rates for US dollars when dealing with hard currency with no additional fees. It looks sketchy but my friends and I have used them many times over two decades. Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange. It's located in the financial district and is a five minute walk away from the Canada Place cruise terminal. They have almost as good of a posted exchange rate compared to Charlie's also with no additional fees. I go here because I can make larger transactions using my debit/bank card (not credit card) whereas Charlie's only takes cash. One trick that may or may not work is that you can get a very slightly better rate by just asking for the preferred customer rate. (Back in the day, you'd have to print out this ridiculous card off their website to get the preferred rate. They finally realized how wasteful it was and changed it to just asking for it. I just ask "Do you still offer a preferred customer rate for asking?") There are other small currency exchange scattered thoughout the downtown core but I havent used them.
  5. There are a lot of pieces to reopening Canada to tourists. Things are constantly in flux that I'm having a hard time keeping up. But if I err on some of the info below, I'm sure someone will chime in to correct it. 😀 In July, the borders were re-open to fully vaccinated Americans. In early September, the borders were open to fully vaccinated travellers from all other countries. The government is currently still banning direct flights from some countries (ie India) though. In both cases, there are additional conditions: Have to be fully vaccinated with approved vaccines by Health Canada (AZ, Pfizer, Moderna, & J&J with mixed vaccination recognized) Travellers also have to provide a negative covid test taken withing 72hrs of arrival. Note only certain types of tests are allowed I think. The vaccination info needs to be filled into the ArriveCAN app/portal prior to arrival. Some travellers will be selected for random testing upon arrival (no fee). The above allows travellers to skip quarantine and not have to take a covid test upon arrival, unless they are randomly selected. Non-fully vaccinated travellers will still have to quarantine and test upon arrival. Cruise ships are still prohibited in Canadian waters but that reopening was moved up to Nov 2021 from Feb 2022. Once in Canada, certain provinces, like BC, have recently started to temporarily implement vaccine passports to do certain things like eat in a restaurant. In BC, international travellers need to show their proof of vaccination used to enter Canada and their passport. However, I don't think it will still be in place by next summer as it was put in place as a prevemptive measure with delta and people doing more indoor activities as we head into the fall/winter.
  6. Definitely it was. The local news had a few segments over the last while interviewing vendors and tour operators (primarily in Victoria) that depended on cruise tourists and were concerned the suspension of the act would be made permanent. The premier of BC indicated that this was one of his discussion points with the federal government to ensure they were on the same page. However, in all practicality with respect to covid response considerations, step 4 of BC's restart wasn't going to occur until at least early September so I wouldn't have expected the cruise ship ban ending earlier than that. In addition, I don't think health requirements to get off the ship have been defined yet either.
  7. Google Maps is really handy for getting around too in terms routing and what subway/rail lines to take. What I would find confusing as a first time traveller in Tokyo (and Japan) are all the different types of trasport (eg subway vs rail) and companies. For simplicity, I find a tourist subway pass is a good way to go. But sometimes a using the Yamanote circle rail line is more convenient for certain stops/routes.
  8. Agree with CruiserBruce that no one here will be able to definitively confirm Victoria/Vancouver will open back up to cruise ships again. I'm pretty optimistic though too. With Alaska bound ships skipping BC, there is pressure to opening the ports back up though. I think a couple of checklist type items that would support the reopening to watch for are: When the US/Can border open in general. I'm hopeful it will be at the end of July. When BC gets to step 4 of the reopening plan which opens pretty much everything back up including large indoor events like concerts. I think they moved up the earliest target start date for step 4 from Sept 7 to 3. Whether or not the Delta variant or other variants of concern increase cases and hospitalizations significantly in North America in the fall/winter. The other question though is what kind of entry restrictions might be in place like if or when you have to test even if vaccinated.
  9. Alaskan Senators Murkowski and Sullivan introducing a bill (Alaska Tourism Recovery Act) to try to temporarily alleviate the need for a Canadian port of call as essentially required by the Passenger Vessel Services Act might save part of the Alaskan cruise season while freaking out BC ports of call, hoping it won't be made permanent.
  10. I find Wikitravel.org typically has very good and relatively up to date info on the various options and respective price estimates on how to get into the core from a city's local airports.
  11. We love the Kansai region around Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, etc. While it's disappointing that you lose an overnight in the area, yes, it's generally an easy and quick trip from Kobe to Kyoto (or Osaka or Nara, etc). The thing to watch out for is that there are different stations and routes to get from Kobe to Kyoto with the optimal likely being taking the shinkansen bullet train from Shin-Kobe station to Kyoto. Check out Hyperdia.com for train timetables. I think Nagasaki instead of Beppu is a win. We visited both during a southern (or technically western) Japan trip focused around Fukuoka a few years back. Nagasaki is a nice small city with a number of attractions and sights. Beppu is kind of a small onsen town. We visited during an overcast day and we didn't find it that interesting. We stopped in Yufuin on the way to Beppu and while smaller, found it more interesting. WRT to ideas pre-cruise, IMO, it's not unrealistic to visit Kyoto/Osaka at least from a time perspective as it's like a 2.5-3hr shinkansen trip from Tokyo. Return tix are kind of pricey though and it might be worth getting the JR pass for $300 if you are going to DIY at some other ports of call that require some train travel. Apart from that, there are a number of interesting day trips from Tokyo like: Hakone, Nikko, Kamakura, etc. The highlight of Hakone is a nice lake with potential views of Mt Fuji if the weather cooperates. There's a daytrip circuit (better overnight) that you can do to check out the region. I think you can use a JR pass but we bought the Hakone Freepass that gave us access on the train, ropeway, and boat. We went last year though part of the circut along the ropeway/cable car was shutdown due to volcanic activity. Nikko and Kamakura are nice daytrips for shrines and temples. Again, easy transport by train though you may need to get help identify which train/platform.
  12. FWIW, in one of the briefings by the BC Provincial Health Officer (and BC Health Minister), a few weeks back, when asked about the reopening of the Vancouver port for cruises July 1, she says she's been in contact with her counterparts in the Yukon, Alaska, and Washington state and she indicated they all seemed to be on the same page that none of them would be expecting cruise ships in their waters in the near future. That was before the official announcement of the Oct 31 date by the (Cdn) feds. I can't see either Washington or Alaska wanting to deal with a potential headache if there ended up being an outbreak on a ship.
  13. Tuesday's daily news conference by the BC provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, and health minister, Adrian Dix. See 28m15s mark for the question and response about the port of Vancouver opening up for cruise ships July 1. Key points: They're not in favour in opening the ports by July 1 and have had conversations with their counterparts in the federal government (as the port is federally regulated). They've also had conversation with counterparts in the Yukon, Alaska, and Washington state and all don't expect to have cruise ships in their waters and ports in the upcoming months. Current rules such as 14 day self isolation upon arriving/returning to BC would apply to cruise ship pax also
  14. We used NinjaWifi last year based on a review on TokyoCheapo. Their article appears to have been updated Nov 2019 and has a summary of different pocket wifi options. NinjaWifi seems to use Softbank's network. Use the link off the TokyoCheapo website for an instant promo/discount code and deselect the insurance option to save a few yen. We picked up the device at Narita and dropped off at Haneda airport. No usage problems and did what I needed it to do. The device I got was a small pager sized unit. It did require a midday charge or battery pack to function all day though.
  15. We were fortunate to be able to visit Singapore in May and June the last couple of years during land trips. Gardens by the Bay was definitely a highlight. We didn't do the conservatories during the first trip but did the second trip and I'm pretty happy we went. It's bit pricey but we found they had a wow factor for us, particularly the Cloud Forest with the waterfall and elevated walkways. We did a combo ticket that included a the OCBC Skyway walk (treetop walk) which was I thought was just ok. As mentioned by unrealHeather, they also offer a nice respite from the sun and humidity. Yes, you'll see more additional flowers and plants from the regular gardens which is itself a huge grounds area. Not sure if timing will work but the lit grounds at night with the supertrees and Marina Bay Sands hotel in the background is really nice (and the lightshow). We went around visiting different hawker centres, neighbourhoods, and other sites during our stay which is likely not practical for an eight hour visit (eg Little India, Orchard Road, Sentosa Island, etc) . I think what your guide is proposing is doable but it is a lot of walking, though jumping on the MRT/metro can save some steps. However, we did an evening walking circuit from Clarke Quay which is a bit of a bar/restaurant area along the north side of the river, past parliament, to the Merlion, and back along the south side of the river, walking past restaurant row along Boat Quay and then back to Chinatown both trips which kind of aligns a bit with your circuit so maybe adding Clarke Quay and Boat Quay might be an option if you're looking to tack on but again, likely more of an evening thing. Chinatown is worth a visit IMO with some interesting sites (temples, markets, etc) but kind of touristy of course with souvenir/trinket selling. While it has an interesting covered dining street and its own hawker centre, try to make it to Maxwell Food Centre, ideally before or after lunch to ensure most stalls are open and to avoid the lunch crowd. Really delicious and inexpensive dishes here. Favourite tacky photo op: Framing a picture with the Merlion spouting water into your mouth. 😄
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