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Arrival in Vancouver & home to Victoria

Oct 24, 2022 – Arrival in Vancouver, BC, Canada & flight home to Victoria

2022 Hawai’i Cruise

I’m awake as the ship passes English Bay and under the Lion’s Gate Bridge, sailing into Vancouver Harbour. The ship docks at Canada Place at 7:15AM – precisely as the captain predicted yesterday! I get dressed and go down to the Grand Dutch Cafe for my usual cappuccino, blueberry muffin and yogurt/fruit parfait. There is quite a line, so it takes about 20 minutes for Kaye to make my cappuccino, but I’m in no rush. After breakfast, I return to my stateroom and finish packing. By that time, the announcement is made that the ship is cleared and disembarkation is starting. 

Since I’m a 4-star Mariner, I can disembark anytime I wish up to 9:30AM. It feels pretty good to be able to bypass all the passengers waiting for their group numbers to be called as I have my keycard scanned for the last time, and roll my bags down the gangway and into the terminal. The CBSA agent welcomes me to Canada after I give them my declaration. They don’t ask to see my passport, so I walk out the terminal and turn left onto Cordova Street to walk the block in the rain to the Skytrain terminal to board the Canada Line to the airport. I mistakenly get onto the train to Brighouse-Richmond instead of YVR, but no worries since I get off at Bridgeport and board the following train to YVR three minutes later.

The South Terminal shuttle is waiting right outside the pedestrian bridge at the US departures, so I’m checked in at Pacific Coastal Airways in short order. Now I wait five hours for my 3PM flight departure to Victoria. I settle in to work on my travel photos, but have a cappuccino from the Galiano Cafe first, and then an hour or so later I have some delicious seafood soup for lunch.

Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet taxiing at YVR
Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet taxiing at YVR

I spend an hour or so this afternoon plane spotting from the platform outside, taking photos of each aircraft as they takeoff and climb out. A Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet taxis past the platform to the private terminal next to South Terminal. Perhaps there is a VIP aboard? My flight is delayed 20 minutes but otherwise the flight goes smoothly. The pilot must have had a takeoff time slot booked, since he really hustles down the taxiway to the button, not even stopping at the stop line before taking off! The flight to Victoria was a bit bumpy, since we were flying at 2,000′ below the clouds. We fly a straight in approach over Sidney to Victoria International Airport, and roll onto the taxiway 15 minutes after our takeoff from Vancouver. There is an Air North Boeing 737 aircraft on the apron in Victoria, reminding me of my flight to Whitehorse back in May.

My family is waiting for me in the baggage claim area. My checked bag is one of the first to appear on the belt, so we are out of there in quick order, driving home in the rush hour traffic.

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Victoria to Vancouver

Oct 7, 2022 – Fly from Victoria to Vancouver & stay overnight

2022 Hawai’i cruise

Skytrain bridge over the Fraser River
Skytrain bridge over the Fraser River

After lunch at home, we drive to Victoria airport, where I take a Pacific Coastal Airways flight to Vancouver South Terminal (YVR), flying over the Strait of Georgia looking SE on a smokey afternoon. I take the shuttle from the South Terminal to the main terminal, and get off at the first stop (International and USA departures), walk across to the Skytrain terminal, and take the Canada Line to City Centre Station at Pacific Centre – about a half hour trip costing CA$9. The Skytrain is quite scenic as it crosses the Fraser River.

I’m staying at the Metropolitan Hotel (a Marriott), which is a half block walk from the Skytrain station. For nostalgia’s sake, I walk back to the intersection of Georgia and Granville Streets to take a few photos, and then do some last minute shopping at the London Drugs store on the corner where Birk’s Jewellers used to be when I lived here in the 1970s. The Birk’s clock is still there, but is now buried in the high-rises. After returning to the hotel, I have dinner at the hotel’s Gala bar and restaurant – a chicken clubhouse & Granville Island Pale Ale, before retiring for the night. I board the ship tomorrow.

Panorama of Georgia at Granville – Hudson’s Bay, London Drugs, Pacific Centre
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Houston to Buenos Aires flight

March 7, 2020 – Houston, Texas, USA to Buenos Aires, Argentina

2020 South America cruise

Clouds off the coast of Peru lit by the setting Moon
Clouds off the coast of Peru lit by the setting Moon

Neither my friend nor I sleep much on this long 9.5-hour flight…just half hour naps once in awhile. I admire the Moon setting over the Pacific Ocean as we approach Lima. The light from the Moon illuminates the clouds below us – very pretty. Later, with a darker sky once the Moon has set, I observe the Southern Milky Way.

United flight path from Houston to Buenos Aires
United flight path from Houston to Buenos Aires

The sun rises as we fly off the coast of Chile, so I can see the thick cloud cover below us. The aircraft has travelled down the coast on a southerly route, but makes a turn to head southeast to Buenos Aires two hours before our arrival. When the heading changes just north of Coquimbo, Chile, we lose our 50 mph tailwind and pickup a 15 mph headwind increasing to 25 mph, which explains why we were flying this heading down the west coast of South America.

We cross over the Andes Mountains and then the Pampas as we approach Buenos Aires. The headwind picks up to 58 mph as we get closer to the airport. Buenos Aires airport is quite large, and our 777 is given the second-to-last gate, so we have quite a hike to get to the immigration hall, where there are well over a thousand people waiting to be processed. We manage to pick a just-formed line, and get through in under a half hour, claim our checked bags, and clear customs. The Holland America reps are waiting for us in their orange shirts to take our checked bags from us, and we board a bus which transfers us to the dock area.

The cruise check-in process is a bit convoluted, since we now have to clear Argentinian immigration again, fill in a health questionnaire about the coronavirus, before being processed by Holland America. We obtain our key cards for the ship, and give our passports to Holland America for safekeeping and so they can clear us at each port-of-call.

Once we go aboard and find our stateroom, we get cleaned up a bit and go for lunch in the Lido. By the time we return to our stateroom, our checked bags are waiting for us. I call home to let my family know I’ve arrived without a problem and I’m aboard the ship. Later, we have dinner in the Main Dining Room. My friend has a pork rib entree that looks great and I have very tasty Flat Iron Steak with grilled onions, and a cappuccino for dessert.

We are both obviously very, very tired after our 22-hour marathon travel session, so a good sleep is welcome! Tomorrow, we get to explore Buenos Aires before our departure.

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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 long trek across the Vancouver 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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Barbados to Calgary

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

Dec 19, 2018 – Flying from Barbados to Calgary, Canada

I’m looking at 24 hours of elapsed time between leaving Barbados and arriving home in Victoria, Canada. I have a midnight to 7AM layover in Calgary, so this whole flying home trip will be an endurance contest. I know I’ll settle down once I return the rental car and find my gate at the Barbados airport, but I’m experiencing pre-trip jitters this morning.

I have a shower mid-morning and a snack before loading my big bag in the trunk of the car. I check out at Noon, drive to the airport and have the car filled up at the Esso gas station before dropping it off in front of the terminal. The Stoute’s car jockey gives an enthusiastic wave to the woman behind the counter, so I’m free to go!

I’m first in line for the bag check at the WestJet counter – a nice young man tags my big bag through to Victoria and prints out my boarding passes for me. I have already checked in online and have the electronic boarding passes on my iPhone, but I’ve found the paper ones are still the best to use, and scan quicker at the gate. Before I enter the secure area, I have to exit Barbados by giving the immigration officer my Departure Card, which was issued previously when I entered Barbados after debarking the Royal Clipper in Bridgetown.

Barbados to Toronto – Although I’m over two hours early, it isn’t long before the WestJet Boeing 737-800 rolls to the gate and arriving passengers from Toronto enter the terminal. Our aircraft boards passengers from the front and rear doors using stairways from the apron (see banner image above), since Grantley Adams International airport doesn’t have jetways. Just after takeoff, there is a gorgeous view of the old Moon in the blue sky during the day over the south coast of Barbados as we make the turn to the north.

Coastline on the northern tip of Barbados shortly after takeoff
Coastline on the northern tip of Barbados shortly after takeoff

I’m in seat 5A – the same seat I flew down in on all three flights to Jamaica, and ditto on my return flights home. Hey, I like a window seat just forward of the wing, I’m only a row away from the Premium cabin, and I get to use the forward washroom.

I splurge and purchase 24 hours of in-flight Internet service for $35 with WestJet Connect Internet, so I won’t be bored on these tedious flights home. I enjoy myself using the Internet while flying to Toronto. It certainly has some latency, but is usable for most of the flight. It does cut out once in awhile and then has to reacquire a signal.

Once we are levelled off, I order the Butter Chicken dinner, which is not too big, but very tasty, costing $9. The cabin crew on this flight give everyone much better service than on my flight to Jamaica. There is a beautiful display of colours over the Atlantic to the east as we fly offshore from the Bahamas at sunset. We are flying at 36,000′ according to the flight map displayed on the WestJet app on my iPhone.

The aircraft makes a wide, sweeping approach over Toronto before landing, affording beautiful nighttime views of the city. However, after landing at Toronto’s Pearson airport, the marathon starts. I only have an hour to go through Canadian immigration and customs, retrieve my checked bag, find the WestJet transfer desk to put my checked bag back in the system, go through security again, and find my gate. Finding the single elevator that takes us to Departures is a challenge, however I arrive at my gate five minutes before boarding begins. I’m in a real state by this time, so I sit down for a few minutes to calm down before my group is called!

Toronto to Calgary – After all that stress, the flight is late leaving. Flight duration is estimated to be 3:35, and the flight level 36,000’. The Internet access isn’t working since we took off about a half hour ago, so I raise my concern with the head flight attendant. She promises to “check with the guys”, which I take to mean she will talk with the pilots about the problem. Nothing comes of it, and the Internet is not available for the whole flight. We fly for what seems endlessly across the frozen prairie, which is visible tonight due to the bright illumination from the Moon.

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Toronto to Montego Bay

Dec 2, 2018 Flight from Toronto, Canada to Montego Bay, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

After landing in Toronto at 6:24am, I have about three hours to wait for my next flight on WestJet to Jamaica. My departure gate is only a few gates away from the one I arrive at, so that makes it easy. Since there was no breakfast service on the incoming flight, once I find my next gate, my first task is to find some cappuccino. Of course Starbucks is always very handy, so I have a tall cappuccino and some banana nut bread.

Cheese Blintzes

My friends show up at the gate about an hour later and want some breakfast, so we go to nearby Caplansky’s Deli. They have some eggs and coffee. I have cheese blintzes, which are stuffed with ricotta cream cheese, and come with blueberry compote – very good and only $6!

Our Boeing 737-800 WestJet flight is soon boarding, so we join the usual organized confusion at the gate, but board with no problems. Our female captain says our flight time will be 3:56 to Montego Bay, flying at 35,000’. It takes the crew well over an hour to serve snacks and beverages to the Economy section. I buy my usual hummus and crackers, knowing that will be all I get for lunch.

We fly over Chesapeake Bay less than an hour after our departure. A couple of hours later after flying offshore from the US Seaboard, there are lots of beautiful tropical islands to take photos of (see banner image above) as we overfly The Bahamas. We next overfly Cuba. There is a northern tropical island offshore, but Cuba isn’t spectacular, since it is a huge landmass and it is covered in clouds.

Airport ground crew waiting for clearance to unload the aircraft WestJet at Montego Bay
Airport ground crew waiting for clearance to unload our aircraft at Montego Bay

After we land in Montego Bay, we are asked to remain in our seats for quite a long time, despite being at the gate. It becomes apparent why when the police come aboard and escort a family off the aircraft before anyone else. There was a heated discussion while we were in the air between a flight attendant and a woman assisting her grandmother to the forward washroom. Obviously the flight attendant decided to bring the matter to the attention of the captain, who must have called the authorities in Jamaica.

Joe in front of Deja Resort in the warm sunshine

After that drama plays out, everyone debarks and then we hit the extremely crowded Immigration Hall, where everyone waits a good half hour to enter the country. We retrieve our checked bags and clear Customs in short order, however finding our hotel shuttle in the confusion outside the terminal proves to be a challenge. I call the resort, and they promise to send their shuttle. Almost immediately after I hang up, my friends spot a sign in a vehicle window reading “Deja Resort”, so we hop in and are driven the short distance. Our rooms aren’t ready, so we wait about a half hour in the lobby.

After travelling for over 20 hours since I left home, it feels good to be free of airlines, airports, and throngs of people, and to be standing on solid ground under the tropical Sun! After having some fried fish, rice and veggies for dinner, I’m ready for bed.

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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