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martincath

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About martincath

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    YVR & PDX
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    Travel, eating, eating while traveling;-)
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    NCL
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Alaska

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  1. You might well have skipped some steps RKAC - there have been 'sealed bus' transfers offered in the past, where legally-speaking you remain under US jurisdiction from the ship to the airport and therefore bypass both Canadian and US immigration requirements at pier and airport. Your body may have physically been in Canada, but your 'legal existence' traveled on a magic bus made of Apple Pie flying the Stars & Stripes ;-) Availability has always been spotty, sometimes just some lines offer them and there's been no announcement by YVR/Canada Place on their availability for years - such a deal requires cooperation between CBSA, CBP, cruise line, port authority and airport authority (and indirectly costs Vancouver tourist income, as folks doing them cannot take tours or go shopping, they literally get a bus ride with no stops straight to the airport). Some of them even go all the way to the border without stopping, for transferring pax to SEA. It's wise to never expect such treatment, instead assume you will have to jump through every hoop and then you might be pleasantly surprised!
  2. Since RKAC has actually made use of the wheelchair assists, they may have more specifics - but to put your mind at rest the Porters and Pushers who will be moving you & your bags around are allowed to go back & forth between secure and open areas at the port and the airport. So while you will do Immigration checks before seeing your luggage (both on arrival pre-cruise at YVR, and again on arrival post-cruise at Canada Place, since I see from elsewhere you are doing a B2B) you will have your luggage with you when you do Customs. There's really just one exception to that - which you didn't ask specifically about but is worth pointing out - which is when you get Prescreened by US CBP before flying home. Even if you've done Prescreening in Canada, Ireland etc. before there have been a few changes in the last handful of years - kiosks make things much faster in general, and your bags get dropped before you see CBP instead of having to drag them through. A photo is taken of your bag as it is dropped on the conveyor - which is linked to your boarding pass. When you go through CBP you'll see screens displaying the bag photos - you may get some manual involvement from CBP (asking you questions in-person rather than just taking the print-out from the kiosk) and if so almost certainly the first thing they'll ask is (while pointing at screen) "Is this your bag?" If they have a problem with your declaration/you are randomly selected for a bag search, the bags get diverted until checked. If all is well, they are released for loading onto the plane without you ever seeing them until you get to your destination. It's a pretty slick operation, vastly more efficient than getting screened at your first US airport. Of course, in a post-Covid world there's likely going to be some extra step involving temp checks/screening for a negative Covid test/proof of vaccination etc. etc. slotted in to the existing customs/immigration/security shenanigans too, but they won't be unique to wheelchair transfer pax (I have no doubt that Porter & Pushers will need to add some sort of regular Covid testing/proof of vaccination to their required security clearance checks...)
  3. 3 nights apiece sounds like you might not have enough time now - maybe consider skipping the cruise and just spending the full fortnight in the mountains? ;-)
  4. I'd keep it simple and split the drive closer to half & half, stopping in Kamloops. Decent resto options, choice of hotels, nice mountain views all around (though pretty much anywhere before Hope gives you those) and while it would still be more likely a 4-4.5 hour drive than the theoretical <4hrs, you'd be able to have a nice leisurely breakfast but easily reach a downtown rental office before they close. Or if folks in your group enjoy wine tasting, taking the longer route via the Okanagan would be a worthy detour - there are some quality wines produced, lots of tasting rooms, some top-notch restos, and a ton of hotels & guesthouses around the lakes especially in Kelowna. Next day would be a ~4hr drive on paper, so allow 5hrs and still easy to get into Vancouver mid-afternoon before rush hour. If you've all done Vancouver before then why not focus on parts you have not visited - although unless you are hikers I think 3 days each is overkill for Jasper & Banff. If your group just wants to see, rather than do, nature then an overnight in each would be enough to drive around and look at the views; 2 nights would give at least one full day for tours like the glacier bus (which I am sure will end up safer than ever after the results of the investigation are out) - if you can find hotels of course, you are correct that Labour Day usually means minimum length bookings in the park areas. This is where booking a package tour might be of benefit - there are lots of 'car rental plus prebooked nights in hotels' tours available, and they can get around minimum stay lengths much better than indy bookings.
  5. You're welcome. Yes, tragic - my wife just managed to speak to one of her colleagues this morning who we were worried about as they were touring there and knew this was an activity they planned to do. Fortunately they did it a couple of days earlier. I'd reconsider a one-day drive from Jasper to Vancouver - or at least go with a much later ETA and return to airport accordingly. In theory it's less than 8.5 hours, but given how much of the drive is on roads with single lanes, limited overtaking potential, and heavy tourist traffic - especially RV renters who don't know the road or their vehicles well and are thus the bane of all other traffic - the realistic drive time will be more like 10-12 hours (even if you just do gas & food stops and avoid any scenic viewpoints or attractions, expect at least one set of roadworks due to how often rockfalls happen - heck, you might even have to deal with snow!)
  6. Just to add a tidbit to BQs answer - in Sitka the water-based-wildlife big hit would be sea otters. Anyone booking only a single Whale-watching trip should choose ISP or Juneau from that list of ports - these both have 100% success rates across the board (though for most this does mean 'backs and blows' rather than bubble-netting, breaches etc. - BQ is absolutely right that you want to be out on the water in whale-heavy areas for as many hours as possible if it is a priority!) Sure, your friend *might* see a whale off Sitka but even a full-length tour from there won't hit any of the common whale feeding grounds - and I suspect a triple-combo with raptors and bears might be skimping on the duration of the boat tour to fit everything in too... Given the wealth of options in Juneau compared to ISP, unless she wants to do a land-based bear tour there for in-the-wild viewing I'd whalewatch from ISP. Assuming budget isn't an issue, Prince Rupert would be great for bears in the wild - the boat tours out to Khutzeymateen come as close to a guarantee as it gets, and the season runs mid-May to the end of July so should fit your cruise - and it also has comparatively little else to do; by going bear-watching here instead of Ketchikan you can do Misty Fjords flightseeing or even by boat there; whalewatch in ISP and if time, a light hike into town and along some of the woodland trails near the port; Sitka get a boat charter booked ASAP and go for the otters, and unless it's a really short port day the raptor centre would be easily added; Skagway is obviously the train - dog sledding could be combinable, but on land not a glacier, unless it's a really long port day or the short Summit-only train excursion would be good enough; leaving Juneau for glacier dogsledding and a ton of other stuff in and around town depending on timing. Overall I'd be inclined to prep for disappointment on the glacier dogsledding - it's the most-canceled excursion because anything impacting flights impacts it as well as conditions on the glaciers themselves, even if it is perfectly safe to land a chopper on and walk about a bit does not mean a safe route for the dogsleds is available. Even early July there would have been a lot of melting already, unless it's a freakishly cold year - and in general temps are trending upward.
  7. With a Calgary-Vancouver one-way I think that you may well find it cheaper to book airport to airport even with the extra padding of airport car rental tax that applies at YYC, as it does here at YVR - so do compare pricing of airport as well as downtown rental offices (Costco if you are a member is near-impossible to beat on rental prices, even before the free second driver on all bookings is factored in; both it an Kayak enable easy comparison across a few different locations at a time). If you're mad keen to drop the car at 4:30am you'll have to use an airport location anyway - none of our downtown rental offices open that early, Vancouver is not a morning city when it comes to work (any time before 9am is for doing yoga on top of mountains - you can't even find a good breakfast resto open until 8am or later!) - and if you meant 4:30pm the risk is that if you are delayed by even 30mins you may find some downtown offices closed too (few open beyond 6pm outside peak tourist season, and you are after Labour Day which means Canadian Summer is officially over). If you do find that downtown offices are the same price (or even a little more expensive - as getting back from the airport will cost a few bucks even if just one driver heads out to return the car then takes SkyTrain back downtown) then literally any downtown office will work, so just go with the cheapest. The difference in cab fare, even if you look at outside-the-core places like the railway station or south Granville St, will be maybe $15 - and you can even get a cab credit from some offices to knock $5 or $10 off the cost. Enterprise I believe still do their standard pickup/dropoff of renters too, so any of their locations will cost you only time waiting rather than $. All the offices are easily found on Google maps, and it's trivial to enter directions between them and your possible hotels. We have had folks on bikes and even walking with the Google Cams strapped to them, so you should be able to use Streetview to see the entire route to and from any points in and around downtown - there are vanishingly-few errors on Googles maps these days, they even have better coverage of transit schedules than Translink's own route planner as their walking time between stops data is much more accurate.
  8. It might be - but if it is you are almost certainly being overcharged for the package of hotel & transportation, and even if it isn't the 'free' transfer to the hotel is guaranteed to be jacked-up to the point of insanity. The thing most folks don't realize about Vancouver is quite how short distances are from the pier to ANY downtown hotel - compared to US ports where the pier is often far away from the touristy parts of the cities. Instead of giving a fair market rate for each city, they tend to just lump transfers into a standard price which means the value varies a lot depending on cost/availability of cabs, Uber, public transit in each place. Vancouver is possibly the worst value city for transfers due to the fact you can actually walk, even with luggage, to the majority of downtown hotels in less than 20mins. The worst local example - Princess (and other lines too) will happily charge people US$25-29 a head to transfer you to the Pan Pacific hotel... which is literally above the pier in the same building! But even the furthest-away downtown hotel, in the worst traffic, would cost you less than CAD$20 per carload by taxi (most hotels the fare including appropriate tip will be ~$10). Even going to the airport the distance is less than 10 miles, a taxi from any downtown hotel to there runs <$35 in typical morning traffic (commuter flow is the other direction, so barring a bridge accident or roadworks on all 3 main routes from downtown it's common for cabbies to offer a technically-illegal fixed rate fare of $35 - because they know at that time of day the meter will only hit $32-33 tops). Sometimes cruiselines book many rooms at a steal of a price, so even with extra padding for 'free' transfers they can still be cheaper than you can book directly with the hotel - but not often. At the end of the day you'll have to check your paperwork to see whether transfers are included or not, but if they are when you check the price of the hotel independently remember that the actual cost of transfers here will be very unlikely to exceed CAD$50 per carload of pax for pier to hotel and hotel to airport.
  9. I'd agree with everything above - it's basically pointless arriving before 5am as CBP are still dealing with the backlog of folks who started queuing before they opened at 4:30am, but since we got the Kiosks installed several years ago even huge queue of folks is processed within the first half hour. Chicago - even though O'Hare (no flights from YVR to Midway) can involve a lengthy walk to the next gate you should be fine with 90mins, it's just as if you were on a Domestic transfer since you Precleared at YVR. If your flight lands on time, you may even be able to grab a quick bite (I always try to grab a Torta at Frontera whenever I pass through O'Hare, it's one of the better foodie airports especially thanks to the 'same price as downtown' policy).
  10. I hope they have a smooth, safe, and minimally-interactive-with-others drive!
  11. SOP of never confirming anything over the phone remains in place for CBSA then. It's ALWAYS up to agent discretion to let people in, regardless of visas, citizenship etc. (unless Canadian)! That said - even though it's legal to drive through Canada to Alaska and is still happening, the most responsible way for him to get his car home would be to 'drive' the Maritime Highway from Bellingham; especially since I assume it's the Eagle River by Anchorage, close to a port (rather than a cabin on Eagle River down nearer Ketchikan without any roads ). But failing that, taking someone to split the drive - provided you do stick to the route without any deviations to go and see/do things, the few Americans who have been fined and/or quarantined were found hiking in parks rather than driving to Alaska as they had claimed at the border - is safer than him doing it himself. With two drivers you can travel twice as far each day safely, meaning fewer overnight stops in Canada, so reduced COVID risk as well as the 'spending fewer hours behind the wheel' aspect.
  12. Given our Premier here in BC was just complaining about reports of Americans crossing the border by claiming to be heading to Alaska, but then actually hanging around not just on the BC Mainland in places where they are far, FAR off the route there but even crossing to Vancouver Island during their drive-to-Alaska-honest-guv(!?) - it's trivially easy to cross in a car. If you don't want your tires slashed etc. (multiple reports here on Vancouver Reddit forum about folks with Alberta and US plates parked on streets being vandalized in various ways) then stick to the most direct route, even leave a note on your window during any stop for a meal or overnight that you are going to Alaska with minimal stops to play safe. But assuming you do intend to drive to AK, then that's literally all you need to tell CBSA - they are currently not even asking for proof of accommodation bookings, Alaskan residency or anything else. So provided you pass the usual 'no criminal record' type stuff, and have no Covid symptoms (depending which border crossing, you may be interviewed by folks from local health board or government about that rather than CBSA doing it) you'll probably find the border crossing easier than normal due to almost no queue time anywhere. Given you list an IL and AK location Diesel, even if CBSA upgrade their questioning and requirements based on the current public outrage about a relative handful of US tourists being a**holes and just pretending to visit AK, you won't have any issues as I imagine you have property there - even the Canadian politicians who are championing more stringent questioning are only demanding things like proof you have somewhere to go in AK, either property of your own or a booked rental of some type (plus a bond so that if you don't cross the border when you say you will, you get effectively fined - but frankly I just can't see that actually happening!)
  13. I'd agree that Heidi's suggestion is very logical - there's no qualitative benefit to sleeping downtown before an 8am flight, so an airport hotel should offer noticeable savings without any wasted time if you stash bags for the day and only go out there once. Do take note as your date approaches of any changes to operating hours of CBP at YVR, especially if your flight time changes to any earlier - with the extra time needed for Preclearance (and potential Covid screening in future) a lot of folks show up very early but for many years CBP have not opened until 4:30am, and at least the first 30 mins is spent dealing with the big queue of people who arrived before that. As soon as that queue is dealt with, the queue will be small until ~9:30am when folks start rolling in by the busload on cruise transfers. Even if there is more palaver in the future with additional screening processes, there's simply no point hitting CBP before 5am regardless of how nervous a traveler you are.
  14. Here's the thing - cruiseline whalewatches are overpriced to the point of insanity (if they were offering a loan with the same % markup, it would literally be illegal in Canada due to usury laws). There's only one reason ever to do them - you are solo AND you have issues that make it impossible for you to do it yourself. Given that they actually specify this is not a good trip for the mobility challenged, you would be better off both qualitatively and financially to simply rent a car, drive yourself & mom to St Andrews by the Sea (where all the whalewatches go from), take an indy tour booked directly with one of the several companies there - and contact them all in advance to see whose boats are the most 'Mom friendly.' Here are links to the four still-operating local whalewatch companies: Quoddy Link Jolly Breeze Fundy Tide Runners Island Quest You'll immediately notice that the pricing is ludicrously lower than the line's excursion - and it's in Canadian Dollars too so a hefty discount on top! even if you do not drive, for two of you it would be cheaper to hire a cab for the whole day (ballpark $30 an hour) to drive you there and back and just wait for you while you take the trip. But if you can drive, it's a steal of a deal even if you load up on optional coverages, hire a GPS for the day etc. Highway drive, really no chance of getting lost, and since the car will have Kph on the speedo dial you don't even have to worry about 'foreign driving' as you still just match the speed limit signs to the speedo dial numbers - all the other road signs follow almost identical formats to the US.
  15. Yes, Provence is local - it's run by a chef originally from Marseilles - and it's definitely more on the bistro end compared to Le Croc; seafood is their strongest suit IMO (especially if you make it during Spot Prawn season, when they always offer some tasting menus with multiple preparations for a very decent price). Current menus are still somewhat restricted compared to normal, but contain enough to give you a solid idea what they're about - and they've been one of the better spots during Covid, selling groceries and 'cook at home' kits, feeding all their staff for free, that sort of thing. We're definitely talking about the same Fairmont resto - almost like a conservatory, huge windows with a roof deck outside? It was mothballed for years, but like I said it proved so popular during the time afternoon tea was being served up there they started running it in high season when folks could sit on the roof and enjoy the view - not much call for rooftop dining in rainy season here;-) I figure that since our local booze rules are being relaxed for outdoor dining areas of restos, and all the medical advice suggests that eating outside is safer than inside, as soon as the hotel reopens the rooftop will be perhaps the first dining area to be reopened - though given no conferences allowed for a long time, some of the bigger conference rooms would also be ideal to allow very large distances between tables if the regular resto downstairs, Notch8, is selling out.
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