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Vancouver Arrival

June 5, 2022 – Arrival in Vancouver and returning home to Victoria, BC, Canada

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

I’m awake at 5:30AM, get dressed and go up to the Crow’s Nest on Deck 11 forward where the Explorations Cafe is located. The staff are preparing for opening at 7AM, but I’m interested in watching the ship pass under Lion’s Gate bridge as we sail into Vancouver. It is raining and gloomy outside, but I manage to take a time lapse video with my iPhone that captures the few minutes it takes the ship to pass under the bridge. The North Shore industrial terminal is on our left and Stanley Park is on our right as the ship makes its way through Burrard Inlet to the Cruise Ship Terminal at Canada Place in Vancouver harbour, arriving right on time at 7AM.

Time lapse video of the Nieuw Amsterdam passing under Lion’s Gate bridge, entering Vancouver harbour

I grab my last cappuccino from my favourite barista and head back down to my stateroom on deck 5, where I’m facing the dock at Canada Place. My preordered breakfast arrives at 7:30AM, right on time – my last lox, cream cheese and bagel for breakfast while aboard the ship. My debarkation time slot is second to last, so I have lots of time to relax and let everyone leave the ship. No doubt some are in a hurry to get to flights home and other onward travels. When my turn comes to leave the ship for the last time, my keycard is scanned by ship’s security, and I’m soon in the Canada Place terminal with throngs of other travellers.

Cruise passengers make their way into the city from Canada Place

It is actually pretty well organized, with lots of staff to point everyone in the right direction, and keep people moving. The Canada Border Services officers are waving everyone through, taking our customs declaration forms, but they don’t want to see passports, vaccination cards, or our bags. Perhaps this is the benefit of everyone onboard having previously entered the required personal information into the ArriveCan app. I’m soon directed to a line to wait for the bus that transfers us to Vancouver Airport. A half hour later I’m dropped off with my bag at Domestic Departures, and walk a bit further outside to the shuttle pickup area. A free South Terminal shuttle soon arrives, taking me on a 20-minute drive out the main terminal area and back into the south terminal area.

The south terminal used to be Vancouver’s main airport, which I can remember taking flights from when I was a kid in the 1960s. Now, it is home to Pacific Coastal Airways and other small airlines serving people travelling to small BC destinations. I arrive at 11AM, but my flight doesn’t leave until 6:30PM, so I have the whole afternoon to kill before I fly home. I surf the Internet for awhile, but I’m soon bored, so I have a plate of fries at the Galiano Cafe for lunch.

Air France Boeing 777-200ER climbing out, bound for Paris
Air France Boeing 777-200ER climbing out, bound for Paris

I’m looking at a lot more waiting time before my flight, so I go outside and soon discover a plane spotting platform on the north side of the terminal. It has a great view of the executive jet facilities next door, and the main, southern east-west runway, which is being used for takeoffs this afternoon. Plane spotting using my long 100-500 lens keeps me busy for a couple of hours. I spot a couple of executive jets landing or taking off, an Air France flight taking off for Paris, a Japan Airways flight destined for Narita, along with the usual traffic. Vancouver YVR is a very busy airport.

I clear security and wait for my flight in the only secure boarding lounge in the South Terminal. My flight to Victoria aboard Pacific Coastal Airways takes off a few minutes early, since everyone has checked in and are onboard. The flight takes about 20 minutes, and os clear enough for me to take a few photos out the window with my iPhone as we fly over Georgia Strait and the southern Gulf Islands before arriving at Victoria Airport at 6:30PM. We retrieve my bag and drive home, where my Jack Russell Terriers are waiting to give me a frenzied welcome.

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Inside Passage

June 4, 2022 – the Inside Passage between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia, Canada

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

Map of my photos taken between Ketchikan, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia, including the Inside Passage
Map of my photos taken between Ketchikan, Alaska and Vancouver, British Columbia, including the Inside Passage

I have breakfast in the main dining room, but they don’t have a group to seat me with, so I eat alone. The Nieuw Amsterdam emerged last night from protected waters after leaving Ketchikan into Hecate Strait, and is proceeding down the Canadian Inside Passage: Queen Charlotte Strait, Johnston Strait and Georgia Strait. The ship will wait overnight in the strait before arriving in Vancouver harbour the following morning around 7AM.

I take some photos of the rain and fog outside as I sip my morning cappuccino in the Crows Nest Explorations Cafe. I’m eventually driven out of there by the noise and crowds playing some game with a host, so I wander around the ship at loose ends. Since the shipboard Internet hasn’t worked for me for the last several days, I complain to Customer Service. They can’t get my connection working either, despite insisting it is working for others, so they give me a 2-day credit.

Crow's Nest - Explorations EXC & Explorer's Bar
Crow’s Nest – Explorations EXC & Explorer’s Bar

I meet friends on the Lido pool deck for lunch, which is protected today with a closed canopy. I have a Beyond Meat version of The High Dive burger and fries, along with a beer. My friends tell me the crew have said are only around 700 passengers aboard, but there are 1,700 passengers boarding in Vancouver tomorrow. I believe the ship holds about 2,100 passengers, so currently they are only one-third of capacity. Having so few passengers aboard but with a full complement of crew means we have been spoiled on this voyage with excellent service. Although some of the crew are new, and they are operating under new protocols like having to wear masks the whole time they are on duty, they have all done very well. I know the passengers have appreciated their work…I certainly have!

Lido Bar setup for evening service
Lido Bar setup for evening service

I go to my favourite premium restaurant this evening at 6PM. Tamarind is an Asian Fusion restaurant which I find offers superb service, very creative and tasty food, and it is located mid-ship on the top deck, offering wonderful views while dining. There is a dedicated sushi chef and eating area for those who go for that cuisine. Personally, I like my seafood cooked and served in a traditional way, so I stick to their main dining area. They also offer a lovely bar, which offers a nice, quiet area during the day, since Tamarind only operates in the evening.

Mongolian barbeque lamb chops - Tamarind
Mongolian barbeque lamb chops – Tamarind

I have a Classic Martini to start, made with Tanqueray 10 gin. Some Shrimp Chips with soy sauce & sweet and spicy sauces goes well with my cocktail as I take in the view of northern Vancouver Island sliding by as we sail south through Queen Charlotte Strait. My starter is Lobster and Shrimp Potstickers, served with smoked shoyu and pickled ginger. I have a couple of glasses of Le Grand Courtage Brut Rose French wine with my main course: very tasty and tender Mongolian Barbecue Lamb Chops, with baby bok choy, toasted sesame seeds, mirin plum sauce, with Dungeness Crab fried rice. I finish off with a dessert called Mango Posset – coconut macaroon, passion fruit jelly, mango sorbet. I leave a glowing review – JoeTourist recommended!

I go to see the Step One Dance Company: Presents Off The Charts in the main stage at 9PM. It is a pretty good song and dance show, flashing back to the 1960s, 70s and 80s performing artists. There is also a singer from the BB King venue adding her wonderful voice to the blues review part of the performance.

I walk around the Promenade Deck to get some exercise and fresh air before returning to my stateroom. It’s time to pack and put my bag out for pickup this evening, in preparation for disembarkation in Vancouver tomorrow.

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Victoria to Vancouver

May 22, 2022 – Flying from Victoria to Vancouver

2022 Yukon & Double Denali Alaska land/cruise

I finalize packing this morning, since I leave this afternoon on a 1:05PM flight to Vancouver – the first leg of my Alaska Cruise with Holland America.

We leave for Victoria airport at 10AM, which is incredibly early, but I want to check in and navigate security without having to stress about the new procedures. The Pacific Coastal Airways agent tells me I have about a half hour before the security area will be very busy, so I proceed directly there. It is all very easy – all I need is my boarding pass QR code, my passport, and my federal COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination QR code. I have a couple of hours to kill, but after a few flights depart, my aircraft arrives and the flight is announced. We take off 5 minutes early at 1:00pm in a Pacific Coastal Airways Beechcraft 1900D (10 rows of 2 seats). Chad is our pilot, Tyrone is our copilot, there is no flight attendant, and there are about a half dozen passengers aboard the flight. Once we arrive at the South Terminal of Vancouver Airport, three of us collect our checked bags and then take a shuttle to the main terminal. I walk back to the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel, which is right inside the terminal at the east end and check-in.

Joe having a martini with lunch in the Fairmont Vancouver Airport hotel bar overlooking the gates and mountains

Once I unpack a few things, I go downstairs to the bar for some lunch. There are seats right beside the windows that look out on the gates and aircraft aprons, with the North Shore mountains and the City of Vancouver visible in the distance. My lunch is rather expensive ($60 with tip), but I don’t care since I am hungry and feel like a martini to celebrate my first time travelling in over two years. When I return to my room, I freshen up and have a nap. After waking up, I go for a walk through the pocket park, which is just east of the hotel, located between the main road approach to the terminal (Grant McConachie Way) and the servicing areas for the aircraft. The Canada Line Skytrain runs overhead, but it’s good to get outside for some exercise – the fresh air smells good believe it or not!

My room faces south over the southern 08/26 east-west runway with the South Terminal visible in the distance. The main road approach to the airport is directly below and the Skytrain is there as well. Despite all this, my room is quiet and very comfortable. Since I had a late lunch, I don’t bother with dinner.

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Ft. Lauderdale to Canada

April 3, 2020 – returning home to Canada from Fort Lauderdale

2020 South America cruise

Fort Lauderdale

By mid-morning, we are called to leave the Rotterdam, so we put on our face masks and gloves before leaving the ship. US customs and immigration wave us through, as does US Health, since ship’s staff pre-processed the required paperwork the previous day. As we board our buses, many of the staff in the terminal wish us well, and one woman is waving a Canadian flag – very touching and much appreciated! We wait in the buses for about an hour, and then the Broward County Sheriff officers take us on a half-hour motorcade to a private area of the Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood airport (FLL). I must say, it’s a very impressive ride!

We are then checked in by US officials and airline staff, and walk aboard the aircraft to find our seats and get settled. We wait for over two hours while the rest of the passengers board the aircraft. The Eastern cabin attendants are fully-suited up (see banner image above) and only offer basic services. The 1978-era Boeing 767-200 aircraft is a wide-body cabin with 2-3-2 seats across two isles, and has a capacity of 375 passengers. Every seat is taken. Once we take off for Toronto, we have several hours to get into the bagged meal given to us as we boarded.

Canada

After our arrival in Toronto, we are processed by Canadian Border Services and Public Health Canada, given a kit describing the quarantine conditions we will be operating under for the next two weeks, a digital oral thermometer and a new mask. They take my temperature, ask me some health questions, and get me to dispose of the mask and gloves I’ve been wearing all day on the aircraft. I’m on my way to Terminal 1 and my local flights from Toronto to Vancouver, and then Victoria. I barely make it aboard the Toronto-Vancouver flight, since the shuttle driver doesn’t know where she is supposed to take us, and once we arrive at the terminal, the Air Canada staff are confused about how to get us to the gate!

The flight to Vancouver is otherwise uneventful. Once we make the short hop from Vancouver to Victoria, my travel buddy and I drive (independently) to our respective homes respecting the Canadian quarantine rules we are now bound by for the next two weeks. Air Canada manages to lose my checked bag, but the baggage claim clerk takes a description of my bag and assures me they will deliver it tomorrow afternoon (which they do).

Flight path from FLL - Toronto - YVR - YYJ
Flight path from FLL – Toronto – YVR – YYJ
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Victoria to Houston flights

March 6, 2020 – Victoria, BC, Canada to Houston, Texas, USA

2020 South America cruise

I’m up before 7am, and have a quick breakfast before the Current Taxi arrives at 7:30am to take me to the airport in a Tesla Model 3. My travel buddy arrives an hour later, and we check-in at the Air Canada counter, give them our big bags, and get our boarding passes. They don’t charge for our checked bags, since this is an international flight. Thankfully, I have time in the waiting lounge for a cappuccino from Spinnakers On the Fly.

Our Air Canada Bombardier Q400 prop plane to Vancouver leaves on time, spends five minutes waiting at the stop line, but arrives on time. We make the trek across the airport from the domestic terminal to the USA pre-clearance area, which is not at all busy and a breeze to get through compared to the last time I went through this area. There were no questions about health at the kiosks and the immigration agent didn’t care either. I guess we would have had a more careful inspection if our passports were from the countries currently affected by the coronavirus.

Vancouver airport and the city as we head south

Once we find our gate, we go to a restaurant in the boarding lounge area to have some lunch. We both notice that it is much quieter than the usual expected chaotic crowds. By the time we finish our meal our aircraft is loading, so we walk on board and get settled in our seats. We take-off on time at 12:15pm, flying over Georgia Strait before heading south to Denver, our first stop on United Airlines flight 1184. The flight deck tells us our flying time should be 2:15 instead of 2:50 on this Airbus A319.

Despite being the same flight number, we change planes in Denver, flying in a Boeing 737-900 to Houston. Midway through the flight, the captain reduces flying altitude from 35,000’ to 26,000’ to avoid some rough air over Texas between Dallas and Houston. The Gibbous Moon is visible in the east both before we land in Denver (see laminar clouds and the Moon in the banner image above) and again after we take off for Houston as night falls. The flight crew estimate we will arrive about 10 minutes early, which I’m always happy about.

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Dragoon to Phoenix to Victoria

March 10, 2019 – Returning home – Dragoon Mountain Ranch to Phoenix airport to Victoria, Canada

2019 Southern Arizona Astronomy

Joe driving the Tesla Model 3 north back to Phoenix as we pass Picacho Mountain
Joe driving the Tesla Model 3 north back to Phoenix as we pass Picacho Mountain

We leave Dragoon Mountain Ranch just after 7AM with three of my friends in the Tesla Model 3, heading to Phoenix airport. We make a couple of quick stops along the way, arriving right on time at 10:30AM. I find the Terminal 4 doors where I return the Tesla to its Turo owner. At this point, we split up to find our flights, and one friend going to Sedona for time with family takes a bus.

I’m incredibly early for my 5:30PM flight to Calgary, so end up waiting around in the ticketing area, since I can’t even check my bag until two hours before the flight. After finally checking my bag with WestJet, I have a late lunch downstairs and then go upstairs through security and into the gate area. My flight is delayed from 5:25PM to 5:40PM, but the boarding goes quickly. We takeoff at 5:47PM, and the flight duration aboard our Boeing 737-700 is 2:43 instead of 3:06, so WestJet is obviously trying to make up some time.

Time is tight to clear Canadian Customs & Immigration and find my next gate in Calgary, but full credit to the WestJet staff in the airport, since they have expedited the way for those of us with tight connections. Our Boeing 737-600 takes off at 11:15PM and the flight duration will be 1:14 to Victoria. Once we are airborne, the flight attendant dedicated to our dozen-seat Plus Economy section serves us drinks and snacks more-or-less continuously. I have a gin and tonic, and eat as many snacks as I can before we start our descent!

After arriving just after midnight, I take a taxi from Victoria airport to home – a very long and stressful day, but a wonderful trip overall!

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Victoria to Phoenix to Dragoon

March 2, 2019 – flights from Victoria, BC, Canada to Phoenix, Arizona, USA, and onward to Dragoon Mountain Ranch

2019 Southern Arizona Astronomy

Bombardier Q400 aircraft

My friend and I take a taxi to Victoria airport several hours before our 6:30AM flight leaves – WestJet flight from Victoria to Vancouver on a Bombardier Q400 regional jet. The pre-dawn light on the scenery out the window is nothing short of spectacular over Georgia Strait, so I take lots of photos of the islands before landing. (see banner image above)

After we arrive at Vancouver airport, we have two hours between flights, and it takes most of that time to walk kilometres to the US-bound gates (E-series), and to pre-clear US Customs & Immigration. I have to remove my drone and my notebook computer when clearing airport security at both Victoria and Vancouver. I still haven’t had a coffee by the time we board our flight to Phoenix!

We are number five for takeoff at 9:38am from Vancouver. The WestJet captain announces that we will be flying at 33,000’ with a 2:39 flight time on the Boeing 737-800. The flight is not full, and the legroom where I’m sitting in Economy is amazing! I have my usual hummus and crackers when food service is offered aboard the flight, and have some Coca Cola as well.

Mount Baker & the San Juan Islands – enroute from Vancouver to Phoenix

It is a spectacular sunny day as we climb out of Vancouver bound for Phoenix, so I take photos with both my iPhone XS and my Sony a7 III. I don’t bother with the in-flight Internet at $10.99 for 90 minutes, since the duration of the flight is only 2.5 hours. I read some workshop material on my iPad since there are no views today as we fly over the Grand Canyon enroute to Phoenix..

After landing, we retrieve our bags and since we pre-cleared US Customs and Immigration, we are free to be on our way. I make contact with the Turo rental guy for the Tesla Model 3 I’ve rented, and he meets us curb-side in the airport arrivals area. My friends and I manage to squeeze all our bags, gear and ourselves in to the Model 3, which is a bit smaller than the Model S I rented last year. Getting out of the Phoenix airport proves to be a bit of a challenge, even with the in-vehicle navigation, however eventually we are on I-10 heading south to Tucson and onward to Dragoon Ranch.

On final approach to Phoenix airport aboard a WestJet Boeing 737-800.

I decide to stop at the Florence Tesla Supercharger midway between Phoenix and Tucson, not because the vehicle needs a charge, but because I want to have a few minutes to have a look at the Model 3’s controls and find out how it charges, since this is my first time driving this vehicle. Since I haven’t had a coffee all day, it would also be nice to have a cappuccino or even a regular coffee, but the food places near the Supercharger don’t serve coffee! I pull out of there once the car has 50 miles of extra charge and drive about a half hour further down I-10 until I see an interchange with a McDonald’s sign. We pull into the parking area and have a proper rest stop, where I finally have my first cappuccino of the day! My friends and I also have some lunch and take advantage of the restrooms before we continue down I-10 through Tucson.

My last stop for about a half hour is at the Tucson Tesla Supercharger at Rita Road east of the city, since I want a decent level of charge by the time I get to our friend’s place on Dragoon Mountain Ranch, so we don’t have to rely on slow charging when we drive out of the ranch to see the sights. We also stop at the Safeway in Benson to stock up on food and beverages before completing the drive, arriving after sunset. Two more in our group arrived earlier today, so they have dinner ready for us. I’m very tired after the flying and driving, and starting the day at 4AM this morning, but I have a good sleep tonight.

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Calgary to Victoria

Dec 20, 2018 – Flying from Calgary to Victoria, Canada

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

My flight from Toronto lands in Calgary a few minutes late at 1:00AM local time, but no biggie since my flight to Victoria doesn’t leave until 7:00AM. There are seemingly endless passageways to get from the gate to the terminal building, and there are no staff around to direct us. Once in the terminal, there are precious few signs to help us find our way. The airport is going through a major expansion, but they need to do better.

A YYC LINK electric tram pulls up and the driver offers to take me to the domestic terminal, which is where I need to be for my next flight. After being dropped off in Terminal A and before I find my gate, I spot an A&W which is open at this late hour, so I stop to have one of their new Beyond Meat Burgers, fries and a root beer. It has been 12 hours since I’ve eaten a real meal, so I find the veggie burger quite tasty!

I walk further down the virtually empty terminal and easily find my gate, where I flop down for a couple of hours’ sleep. Of course I’m exhausted, but by 5AM the Starbucks adjacent to the gate opens, so I have a Tall Cappuccino, which perks me up a bit. By 5:30AM passengers and staff start showing up at the gates, and some early flights are being announced.

The flight to Victoria leaves a few minutes ahead of time, with flight time estimated to be about an hour. I take some nice shots out the window of downtown Calgary and the Bow River at night. The onboard WestJet Connect Internet is working, so I can keep myself busy on this short flight home.

We start our descent into Victoria 125 miles out as the First Officer announces landing at 7:25AM local time in Victoria. We arrive at Victoria airport 17 minutes ahead of time in pouring rain and some gusty wind. I take a taxi home instead of the shuttle, since the weather is so bad.

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Victoria to Toronto

Dec 1, 2018 – flights from Victoria to Toronto

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

Spinnaker’s On the Fly bistro – Victoria airport

I take a taxi from home to the Victoria airport this afternoon, check my bag and clear security into the very quiet boarding gate area. I buy a turkey cheese sandwich from Spinnaker’s On the Fly bistro in the gate area; eat my dinner upstairs near my gate, and then go back to buy a cappuccino for dessert. This is the first time I’ve used the upstairs gates where the jetways for bigger aircraft are located.

Our Boeing 737-700 WestJet flight to Calgary boards and departs early. The captain comes to the front of the cabin to tell us the flight level will be 41,000’ and flight time 1:09. He warns us it is cold and snowing in Calgary “not like here!” He tells us three lightbulb jokes before returning to the cockpit – a first in all the time I’ve been flying!

Our flight arrives in snowy Calgary early, so we have to wait on the apron for a few minutes until the gate is ready for us. The pilot is outside the cockpit as we leave, so I compliment him on the good landing. He says “yeah, he did a good job”, which I interpret to mean the First Officer landed the aircraft. The gate for the red eye flight to Toronto is right across from our arrival gate, so that makes it easy!

This full Boeing 737-800 WestJet flight to Toronto is supposed to leave at 12:15AM but after waiting for delayed bags, we are de-iced for the second time before we finally take off at 12:50AM. Flight duration is estimated at 3:37 with a 6:15am arrival in Toronto.

Once we are above the snow clouds over Calgary, I spot Orion out my south-facing window, flying at 35,000’ altitude. I find this red-eye flight quite boring, but I manage to snooze a bit and listen to music on my iPhone. The flight map display on my iPhone only prolongs the agony:

  • 2 hours left – over Saskatchewan
  • 1:11 left – over Red Lake & Ear Falls, between Winnipeg and Lake Superior – 670mi/1,080kms to Toronto
  • 0:35 left – over Sault Ste. Marie, 300mi/490km to Toronto
  • We land in Toronto at 6:24am – a bit late
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Vancouver to Victoria

July 9, 2018 Monday – Burnaby & Vancouver to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018
Haida Bear by Bill Reid - UBC Museum of Anthropology
Haida Bear by Bill Reid – UBC Museum of Anthropology

I discover this morning that the hotel has two Level 2 chargers and dedicated EV charging parking spots opposite the reception area, so I ask them to turn the chargers on so I can top up before checking out later this morning. I see a full 48 amps from the J1772 connection, so I gain about 75 kms before I check out. I walk three blocks down Kingsway to get a cappuccino at a Starbucks and then go for breakfast in the hotel breakfast room (an adjacent Chinese restaurant) before packing up.

I drive over to the Kitsilano area of Vancouver to meet my cousin and her friend. We go to the UBC Museum of Anthropology, which I haven’t visited since it opened about 40 years ago when I lived in Vancouver! The artifacts, totems, textiles, and other displays in the Museum are spectacular. We stay about an hour and a half to take it all in before leaving to go for lunch at an Italian trattoria on West 4th Avenue, close to my cousin’s place.

I then say my goodbyes and drive to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. I arrive in time for the 3PM sailing, but I end up waiting while two sailings leave before boarding the 5PM ferry. I go to the Seawwest Lounge, pay $12, and help myself to coffee and snacks while I work on the photos and videos from my road trip. It is a spectacularly scenic sunny day as the ferry sails through the southern Gulf Islands to Swartz Bay. Although I have enjoyed this 2-week road trip, it is good to finally be back home!