Are you deciding whether to extend your cruise vacation by a day or two in Vancouver BC? Let me make it easy for you, the answer is yes! Extending your itinerary beyond the cruise is a fabulous way to enhance your travel experience. Vancouver BC is a major port for Alaskan cruises and most cruise lines embark and disembark at this gorgeous harbor daily.
It’s also a bustling city full of activities, restaurants, and entertainment you do not want to miss before departing or disembarking on a cruise. It’s definitely worth the extra time on either leg of your trip. The land excursions can be arranged through your cruise line or you can prepare it yourself. Sometimes you may be able to get hotel discounts booking through the cruise line. We ended up just booking our own accommodations and created our itinerary for Vancouver BC.
We did an Alaskan Cruise with Crystal Cruise Line that started in the Seward port near Anchorage that finished in Vancouver B.C. Today’s guide will recommend the best places to stay, eat, and do to maximize your extended itinerary whether you begin or end in Vancouver BC.
Staying an extra day or two would be easy to fill with wonderful things to see and do in Vancouver B.C. These places are easy to get to from the Canada Place Cruise Port located right in the heart of the downtown area. You can easily stretch this itinerary to 3 days to get a thorough tour of all these places if you have the time. They are each many acres of fun!
- Stay at the Pan Pacific Hotel
- Visit these places:
- Take a carriage ride
- Eat here:
Pan Pacific Hotel
We’ve stayed at the Pan Pacific Hotel twice, once post cruise and just visiting another time. We recommend this place because it’s conveniently connected to the Canada Place Cruise Terminal where the cruise ships dock and has the best unobstructed water views in downtown Vancouver BC.
We were glad to not have to roll our luggage around very far after disembarking the ship. The booked the corner room called the Pacific Club Harbour King the both times we stayed here because it’s fabulous. We love the panoramic views and spacious comfort the room provides. Being on the club floor granted us access to The Club room and services that included daily breakfasts, snacks and drinks throughout the day, as well as a private concierge specific to those guests.
The facilities at the Pan Pacific Vancouver BC include a rooftop pool and hot tub, workout center, and a third party spa that partners with the hotel. We did not use the pool or fitness center but I did use the spa.
I DO NOT RECOMMEND SPA UTOPIA. They are a third party provider to the Pan Pacific Hotel and they are independently owned and operated. Since the hotel itself does not have it’s own spa facility, they partnered with Spa Utopia since they are located in the same center.
I’m an avid spa gal who receives massages most everywhere we travel. Spa Utopia is probably the worst service I’ve ever received from anywhere in the world. They charge high prices for shortened services and a mediocre massage. They advertise 60 minutes and my massage was 40 minutes hands on time.
I was surprised with the poor service because I asked the appointment booker beforehand how much hands on time was the actual massage. She said 60 as advertised. Then I asked again after my shortened massage service, and another rep said 50 minutes. I wasn’t late to my appointment and the masseuse was actually late, so my massage was cut to 40 minutes. I escalated my issue to the Manager Beverly and she gave me the rudest nonsensical answer and provided no apology or remuneration for my issue.
Bottom line is for the price you actually get per minute, you might as well go to the Shangri-La Hotel where they absolutely know what world class service is all about.
Places to Visit
There are so many museums, gardens, theaters, and much more to visit in Vancouver BC. Here are a few great ideas we’ve been to that makes for a convenient visit on a short itinerary.
Van Dusen Botanical Garden
- ADMISSION: Price range depending on season
- Adults CA$8-12
- Seniors CA$6-8
- Children CA$4-8 depending on age
- Children 4 and under Free
- TYPE: Self-Guide but guides available with reservation for 1 hour tours
Vancouver BC is a beautiful city full of gardens that bloom every season except Winter. One of the most widely known gardens both locals and visitors love is Van Dusen Botanical Garden. It has 55 acres of spectacular landscapes and over 7,500 species of flora.
My favorite exhibit is the Elizabethan Hedge Maze. It looks really cool and it’s fun to go through. What’s also unique out this garden is the award winning LEED Platinum Visitor’s Center. It’s actually shaped like an orchid when seen from an aerial view. It’s was named the Most Sustainable Building of the Year in 2014.
Crazy Taxi Story
This garden was also where I had the craziest taxi incident. After I was ready to leave to go back to the hotel, I hailed a taxi. UBER is not available in Vancouver BC!!! Two taxis saw me at the same time and fought their way to get to me first.
The taxi that got to me first was red. I heard the second taxi that’s yellow honked obnoxiously when he saw me accepting the ride from the red taxi. I didn’t think it was a big deal, first come first serve- right?
Well, according to the yellow taxi that was a different story. After he saw me get into the red taxi, he floored it to block us from the exit and would not move! He started an altercation with my driver in their language. He then came up to my window like he was going to nab me and said, “get out of this car and into my taxi or I’ll call the police.”
Oh heck no! I just stayed in the red taxi until I saw him get back into his car. We must have sat for at least 10 minutes still blocked in when I got out of the car and went back inside the garden’s visitor center to get help. The security escorted me back to my red taxi. When the yellow taxi saw security with me, he drove off.
I’m not sure what’s going on with Vancouver BC taxi drivers, but that was the most dramatic taxi experience I ever had. Hubby Mike had to leave before me to get to a conference so he missed the hideous episode. I really hope UBER can make their services available soon here!
- ADMISSION: Free
- TYPE: Self-guide
Stanley Park is a local favorite in downtown Vancouver BC. It borders the beautiful harbors and full of history. It’s known to be one of the first areas to have been explored in the city. You’ll see locals and visitors alike bike, jog, and walk all around the park that stretches for about 5.5 miles. The park is huge sized at 1000 acres.
Biking and jogging is one of our favorite past times to do in Vancouver BC. If you walk at leisure, it can take 2-3 hours to circle the park. We enjoyed our first bike ride there with our brother and his girlfriend a few years ago. She showed us the famous Totem poles that are unique to the area. They are carved out of red cedar and each tells a real mythical story. They are not worshipped or idols.
The Seawall and White Rock Beach
- ADMISSION: Free
- TYPE: Self-guide
Stanley Park is part of the great Seawall of Vancouver BC. It’s the longest uninterrupted waterfront pathway in the world! It stretches from the Vancouver Convention Centre to Spanish Banks Park approximately 17.5 miles long.
It’s a fantastic bike ride where we stopped at the town of White Rock. It has a wonderful beach and pier perfect for the family.
- General ADMISSION
- Adults CA$50
- Seniors CA$46
- Children CA$22
- DURATION: 1 Hour
- TYPE: Group or Private upon request
If after or before a trip you’d rather relax, Stanley Park has carriage rides that offer a wonderful tour of downtown Vancouver BC. I personally love horses and make sure they are humanely treated. The tour guide mentioned that their horses enjoy a wonderful retirement on a horse farm when they retire them.
During peak season, you can catch a ride every 20-30 minutes. In low season, the intervals are every 30-45 minutes. The carriage is old-fashioned and looks like a classic San Francisco trolley. It can hold up to 26 people. You can also get a private tour where the carriages are smaller.
Where to Eat
If you all know us, you know we love to eat well. Vancouver BC. has no shortage of fantastic food. The restaurant scene is highly competitive and the market has some of the most discerning palates you will find. You can find any cuisine and plenty of it in this town.
It’s no surprise you’ll find the freshest seafood here as well as locally sourced vegetables and other ingredients. Here are a few local favorites we like to frequent when we’re in the area.
Miku Sushi is walking distance from the Pan Pacific Hotel. It has an amazing menu of all kinds of sushi. I’m not even a big fan of sushi, but I’m a raving fan of Miku Sushi Restaurant. It’s really that good!
Any of their house special Aburi Oshi Sushi is delicious! They lightly flame sear these dishes into caramelized perfection. Their Miku Roll is also wonderful. The restaurant has sweepong water views of the harbor and stays quite busy. We recommend getting a reservation.
I have very discerning taste when it comes to Thai food. I love Thai cuisine but it needs to be cooked right to do it any justice. Usually it can take several tries before finding a great Thai restaurant in any city, but with limited time we don’t want to be disappointed. We lucked out when we found Sawasdee Thai Restaurant.
There were so many highly rated Thai cuisine restaurants that we literally just picked one. It was only about a 10 minute cab ride from our hotel too. The Red Curry in the coconut shell is INCREDIBLE! You messed up if you come here and do not try this delectable curry. It had chunks of fresh young coconut meat that complimented the dish so well. Plus, it looks awesome!
If you’re more of a noodle dish person, they have an amazing drunken noodles also. But if you love Thai curry, do not hesitate to get this!
Forage Restaurant is a trendy foodie restaurant but still laid back. It has more of a smart casual ambiance. The food is a lot of fun and sustainably sourced. Their seasonal menu brings new and interesting dishes every time we visit. One of favorite dishes was the sampler where it felt like bits of Vancouver on a board.
This sampler was more than enough for 2 people but we enjoyed it like it was a party. The desserts were a little eccentric where they would use vegetables for dessert, but somehow was able to bring the natural sweetness from the carrots and beets. It was rather interesting but the textures worked.
And for dessert or a snack any time of day, this award winning Gelateria keeps us coming back for more. They are pricey and the servings are kinda small, but they have great flavors and use high quality ingredients.
My favorite is the yuzu, it’s really amazing with the coconut. I get this combo every time. We do go each day we are here just so we can try other flavors they come up with. There are tons of ice cream and gelato shops in Vancouver BC, but if you don’t want to waste time finding a good one- go here!
HOT TIP: The best gelatos are usually found covered in metal containers. The open cased ones with the fancy fruit designs are much more attractive but usually do not taste as delicious.
C’est La Fin
We hope you will extend your vacation before or after a cruise in Vancouver BC. Don’t worry if you want to stay even longer! It’s easy to fill a schedule for weeks if you wish. Last week we took readers on a journey to the surrounding areas of Vancouver BC. Within 90 minutes of the city, you will find Whistler and Squamish areas for the adventure in you.
Get tips on how to book your very own private day tour from Vancouver BC. By creating your itinerary and having a local guide by your side, it is a fantastic way to compliment either leg of your cruise vacation.
Also, if you are curious as to which cruise line to take for your once in a lifetime trip, here’s our story and itinerary for the most incredible Alaskan Adventure we could have asked for. Crystal Cruises is the best luxury line for those that want the white glove service all the way. They are considered to be the Four Seasons of the sea.
Our Alaskan cruise began in Anchorage and we had a pre-cruise adventure included in the Insider’s Look here.