Whale Watching in Vancouver with Prince of Whales

If you ever find yourself visiting Vancouver, Canada, I really recommend to do a whale watching tour.

A whale watching tour a great way to see the city of Vancouver from the water, explore the waters and the marine life just off the coast. Prince of Whales Whale Watching apparently has a 95% success rate in seeing whales on your tour and even offer a “Sighting Guarantee”. This means if for some reason you don’t see whales on your tour, you’ll be able to keep going back until you do!

Orca Whales surfacing during our whale watching tour with Prince of Whales Whale Watching

Check In:

I experienced this whale watching tour during the pandemic, which strict Covid protocols were put into place and enforced. I felt very safe and even took my 85 year old Grandmother along with me. You are currently required to wear masks for the entire duration of the tour (even if you are outside on the decks). Social distancing is also maintained onboard.

It is strongly recommended that you arrive and check in for your whale watching tour at least 30 minutes prior to your tour time. This is to make sure that you are present for the initial briefing and sign the release form if you weren’t able to online beforehand.

Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures in Vancouver is located on beautiful Granville Island. I highly suggest making a day trip out of your stay on Granville Island, either grabbing some snacks and exploring the Granville Public Market before or after your whale watching tour. We made sure we grabbed some Lee’s Donuts for the trip!

Make sure you grab some snacks at the world famous Granville Island Public Market

The Equipment:

Prince of Whales Whale Watching tours in Vancouver use catamarans that seat 95 people, however they are equipped with many more seats than that for optimal comfort for indoor and outdoor viewing. During the pandemic they are not running at full capacity and are currently running at only half capacity, around 50 guests maximum. On our tour there were only 37 people.

Onboard Experience:

Onboard Prince of Whales catamaran ships, you’ll find a comfortable indoor seating area (some seats have tables which is perfect to enjoy your picnic lunch or snacks) with a snack bar (they were serving complementary tea, coffee, hot chocolate and bottled water) and plenty of outdoor seating areas, including right on the bow (at the front of the ship). They also provided sea life colouring pages and crayons for kids I noticed, which was a great touch to keep kids occupied as we sailed out to where the whales were reported to have been seen. There were also two, very clean bathrooms onboard available for use. Make sure you check out my YouTube video for images of the ship and the onboard experience!

On our whale watching tour we had four naturalists and a photographer who were very knowledgeable. Guides made their rounds to everyone and had personal chats about what we were on the search for during our tour. They also had lots of different visuals to explain what we were looking for, how to identify whales, a map of our area to point out our location and did a great job educating all ages on our local marine life here in the Vancouver area. They even had a map that they were updating live with what we had seen and the locations we saw them in the Straight of Georgia which is also known as the Salish Sea.

The guides also had some stories of how some of the whales got their names, I’ll never forget how “Stanley” got his. Let’s hope one day he returns to the Burrard Inlet to give the Canucks a shot at winning the Stanley Cup haha! The guides take photos of the whales and use markings on their tails and backs to identify which whales we are viewing with their catalog of images.

Overall Whale Watching Tour Experience:

Both my Grandmother and I had an amazing time. We saw two pods of Orca Whales, Harbour Seals and Stellar Sea Lions. The first pod we were able to get very close as they surfaced near the ship, the captain turned off the engines and it was just amazing to see them and hear their breath as they surfaced. The second pod or Killer Whales we saw were living up to their name. They were on the hunt. They were actively thrashing around, jumping out of the water and aggressively diving.

“Stanley” a popular male Killer Whale
Orca Whales are very social creatures, here are two with their noses out of the sea and one on its side with the fin showing
Such a great day, viewing the Orcas with the snow capped North Shore mountains in the distance

I highly suggest this whale watching tour if you’re visiting Vancouver as a day tour before or after your Alaska cruise, or even if you’re a local looking to do something special.

Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures also has a location in Victoria, so if you’re visiting Victoria on a cruise you can book a whale watching tour there as well.

If you’re interested in seeing the experience, I created a YouTube video (going to be released on Sunday, May 30th) on my whale watching experience with Prince of Whales.

Disclaimer: I did receive this experience as a gift from Prince of Whales Whale & Marine Wildlife Adventures in partnership with Tourism Vancouver. I was not required to write a blog post, YouTube video, social media posts or give a positive review in return. This is my own positive experience that I wanted to highlight. As always, all thoughts, opinions and images are my own. I only team up with products and brands that I love and think you’ll like as well! Thanks so much for supporting the brands that support Wanderlust Journey.

Ruby Princess – 1 Night Repositioning Cruise

Repositioning cruises can be a lot of work. Most travel agents and seasoned cruisers cringe the moment you say the words repositioning cruises. I get it, it’s a lot of effort for less than 24 hours on a ship, however I feel I have a system down pat that is as effortless as possible. Research your options as early as possible to make the day go as seamless as it can. This cruise was a one day repositioning from Vancouver to Seattle, in the Fall the repositioning cruises will be from Seattle to Vancouver.

By 8:00am my Aunt and I were caravanning into the USA to drop a car off in Bellingham at an airport parking lot for cheap, safe parking. I had booked the Bolt Bus back to Bellingham as it’s a very reasonable option (it was $8.00 USD from Seattle to Bellingham), so we could just clear customs ourselves and get back to White Rock without having to backtrack.

Once back in Canada we picked up our other travelling buddies (a coworker and my Grandmother) parked back at my Aunt’s and boarded the express bus to Bridgeport Station from South Surrey, exchanging to the Canada Line straight to Waterfront, right around the corner from Canada Place (the Vancouver Cruise Ship Terminal). We arrived just after 10:00am and could have arrived earlier. If there is more than one ship in port, they are directing people to go upstairs after a certain time into a “holding area” in the convention centre. We were given a green card and a number and sat down. They do have free wi-fi in the holding area, which I can see would really help and offset some of the painful waiting time during peak times. We didn’t have to use it however as our assigned number was called within twenty minutes or so. They have the holding area so that they can control groups of about 50-100 people to go through security at once, it is good as at least there are chairs, access to water and washrooms in the convention centre. Once through security we were lined up and sat in rows in another holding area to go through US Customs. There is a Nexus line, so if you had Nexus (my coworker didn’t so we sat in line with him), it would save you more time. We waited here about another twenty minuted and we were called to go through Customs.

I’m so happy I was able to use the priority line at this point, when I check in I have Elite Captain’s Circle as I have completed their travel agent training program. This gives me quite a few awesome perks which I’ll talk about in a minute, however skipping the very long check in line at this point was a huge advantage. Within ten minutes we were boarding the Ruby Princess, Black Elite cruise card in hand. By this time they were boarding, so we didn’t get to take advantage of the embarkation lounge for Platinum and Elite passengers. We were welcomed onboard and we headed straight for our rooms. I had booked a balcony stateroom, however was able to get an upgrade to a mini suite at no extra charge.

We were assigned D304, a wheelchair access mini suite. I have to say I really liked our room. It was massive. If ever offered, I would totally take a wheelchair accessible room again. I didn’t mind not having a bathtub, when I cruise I’ve never taken a bath anyways. In the bathroom, my Elite bathroom amenity kit was placed (it included an eye gel mask, lip balm, linen spray and a few other extras). The extra room also meant an extra large balcony! The room steward had our free mini bar set up (Elite perk) and three glasses of champagne waiting for us (mini suite perk). Great start to a cruise!

We headed to Da Vinci’s Dining Room for a seated lunch. The food was really good however the portions were a little on the large side, so I couldn’t finish my dessert. We then went off to explore the ship. It’s a pretty big ship, the Ruby Princess has a guest capacity of 3,082, so it’s a medium to large ship for sure. It has 4 pools (one is adult only, near the front of the ship near The Sanctuary), mid-ship you will find Movies Under the Stars (a jumbotron overlooks another pool) and at the aft Skywalkers Lounge with some pretty awesome outdoor space above.

Then the annoyances began to surface. I endured the lengthiest by far muster drills ever. I lost 45 minutes of my life and was not happy about it. It was so disorganized, as people were still boarding the ship during muster. They should have postponed it until the last guests had boarded, that way we could have been enjoying the ship, instead of sitting unnecessarily for almost an hour (clock is ticking on these short cruises).

After the self guided ship tour and muster station mayhem, my Aunt, Grandmother and I decided a snack was a good idea, we stopped by the Pizza and Ice Cream Bar for a very fresh (and delicious) slice of Margherita pizza and a vanilla/chocolate twist ice cream cone. Gotta test all the food options right?

We headed back to our room and enjoyed a cerveza on our balcony as we pulled away from Canada Place, it was Cinco de Mayo, so a Mexican beer was very fitting! Once we sailed away, we went to the aft of the ship to Deck 19 where we awaited sailing under Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge, a definite highlight! With just a few feet to clear, we sailed under, waving to bystanders on the bridge. After a few videos and photos, we were en route to the Elite sailaway party in Skywalkers lounge. They offered complementary hors d’oeuvres and drink specials. In keeping with the Cinco de Mayo theme, it was margaritas all around and they were delicious.

It was then time to walk off the snacks with a little bit of shopping. We headed down to the Promenade Deck, where we checked out our boarding photos and checked out the boutiques. I bought a magnet (I always buy a ship magnet) and a shot glass. My mug cabinet is getting a little full, so I swap it up from time to time to shot glasses from mugs to save on space. It was time to go back to our room, relax a bit before dinner. Our view from our room was facing East, so we were facing Vancouver and that side of the coast as we sailed. There is something so calming about sailing on a ship, I love it. Makes me really excited to sail again in August (this time for longer and on the Mediterranean Sea). Cruising is my happy place for sure.

We ate dinner in Botticelli’s Dining Room at the aft of the ship. We were seated at the very back of the ship at one of the windows. It was such a nice view of the sunset. Shame that’s where our pleasant dining experience ended. Our waiter was very inattentive, I had to ask for a wine list. The girls seated beside us (a bachelorette party) clearly were just onboard to party and very inconsiderate to everyone else with the noise level. It was just very disappointing. I was disappointed in the service level I am used to when cruising and disappointed in the group next to us acting like children in a what is supposed to be a nice dining room. It kind of tarnished my view of Princess Cruises to be honest. I know one day cruises are an anomaly, they can be rowdy, however that is usually kept to the clubs after dark or in the buffet. I was surprised. The food however was delicious and the company at our table was great.

After dinner, we trekked all the way forward to the Princess Theatre where we saw the show “Magic to Do”. This was probably the best show on a cruise ship I had ever seen! It was so good! Definitely a highlight of this cruise. By the time the show had ended it was past 11:00pm, we said our good nights and headed back to our respective staterooms. I sat on the balcony for awhile wrapped up as it was quite chilly and watched the lights in the distance slowly fade by. It was a very smooth sailing, never felt the ship sway once.

I woke up very early, I guess I sensed us pulling into the harbour near Seattle. I again bundled up and went out onto the balcony where the Eurodam (a Holland America ship) was just ahead of us docking, then it was our turn to maneuver into position and alongside the pier. We all got dressed and headed upstairs to Horizon Court (the buffet) where we had coffee and breakfast. The waffles are worth the wait, just saying. So crispy and delicious, plus they have lots of toppings to choose from. The buffet selection was very good and very fresh. Once breakfast was over it was time to check out of our room and wait in the Elite disembarkation lounge until we wanted to leave the ship. It was a very quick trip and it had some ups and downs. I was really disappointed in the level of customer service onboard and others noticed the same. I had better customer service in general on my Norwegian Cruise this past Fall and they are supposed to be lower than Princess.

Upon leaving the ship, my shopping bag had developed a hole from my water bottle leaking, which my shot glass fell out and broke on the gangway (thankfully I was able to repair it once I got home), just kinda summed up my trip with Princess, I was left disappointed. We got off the ship only to wait in another long line for passport control, two lines, one from the Eurodam and one from the Ruby. Then joined another long line for taxis.

It was a $20.00 USD cab fare from the Smith Cove Cruise Ship Terminal (Terminal 91) to where the Bolt Bus was going to pick us up, and we got there in plenty of time. Once we boarded the Bolt Bus, we were in Bellingham an hour and a half later. The airport parking had arranged for the shuttle to meet us at the bus terminal, so it was a easy ride back to my car and back home.

Overall, I had a great time. I do like these one day cruises. Talking to other guests, it seems like the customer service and lack of friendliness is contained to the Ruby Princess. So I am willing to give them another try. I’m not sure if I’ll be doing another one this year however, too many other trips to look forward to and not enough time 😉

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Norwegian Pearl – 1 Night Repositioning Cruise

Back in June I was given the opportunity to sign up for a one night repositioning cruise on the Norwegian Pearl on September 25th, which I totally jumped on! The cruise left Seattle, WA and travelled to Vancouver, BC. To get to Seattle, I took the Amtrak train from Vancouver. The train ride was very relaxing, and going through White Rock it really gave a different view. Usually I’m walking along the pier watching the trains go by, this time I was on it 🙂 By Amtrak it is a 4 hour journey from the Pacific Central Station in Vancouver to the King Street Station in Seattle. The train does have priority, so we only had to wait a couple times briefly for a cargo train to finish passing. Once I got to Seattle, it was a $8.40 USD cab ride to Pier 66 where the Norwegian Pearl was docked. I arrived at the pier at 11:30am, checked in, waited 5 minutes then we were boarding the ship. They did say that the rooms were quite not ready when we entered the main atrium, however mine was. I was assigned a balcony stateroom (10586), Category BA. The NCL Pearl is going into dry dock February 2017, I’m going to be honest, it needs it. The carpets in the staterooms are quite loud, it’s currently a colour  theme that fits the Caribbean, not necessarily anywhere else haha. The bed was quite comfortable, bathroom is quite small. The Pearl has a coffeemaker in the room, great for coffee on the balcony in the morning. I was hoping to take a look at a room service menu (as I heard that NCL started charging for room service on some items) however I couldn’t find one in my room, possibly because it was just a short cruise.

After settling in a little bit, I went to the Summer Palace to eat lunch. This is the main dining room on Deck 6 at the very back of the ship. It’s definitely starting to look a little tired. However the food and service was excellent. I had a Caesar Salad to start, followed by a delicious burger and a peanut butter cup chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Did I mention the food was good? After lunch I explored the rest of the ship. The Starlight Theater was beautiful and I can’t say enough great things about the Mandara Thermal Suite (except for a customer service issue at the end). The sauna has an amazing view! If you are ever on this ship, it is a must do, the saunas are part of the female/male only areas which for me is an even bigger plus. I really loved the heated mosaic loungers, the only downside is that they are not facing the windows as I’ve experienced on other ships. The outdoor areas have lots of deck space, the back of the ship has a rock climbing wall and a huge multi sport area. The promenade deck has oversized checkers, chess and shuffleboard. There are so many lounges onboard, having a drink while listening to live music is always an option. The “sail away party” was held midship at the Tahitian Pool, great atmosphere and enjoyed sailing out of Seattle with the daily drink special of a Long Island Iced Tea ($7.95 plus 18% gratuity). It was strong! Thank goodness there are free drink stations around the ship, I refilled mine with regular iced tea and made my drink last about three times over.

After the sail away party, I headed to the Thermal Suite for some relaxation before dinner. It was so nice watching the sunset from this area of this ship. Afterwards, I headed back to my room, took some more sunset photos from my balcony and got ready for dinner. The only main dining room open tonight was the Summer Palace again, Indigo was closed for this cruise. The food was good, I had a bit of a chill so the French onion soup and fried brie starters took my chill off, followed by steak frites and a raspberry chocolate torte for dessert! After dinner, they had live entertainment in Spinnakers Lounge, there wasn’t enough people onboard to use the Starlight Theater, which I understand. The entertainment was great! What you would expect from a live cruise ship show. By this time the shops downstairs did open and I bought myself a couple shot glasses and my cruise ship magnet 🙂

It was a crazy busy day so after shopping I went to bed and had an amazing sleep! I woke up briefly to cruising under the Lions Gate Bridge and docking ever so gently at Canada Place. I fell back asleep for another hour and enjoyed the view of downtown Vancouver from my balcony. I did have breakfast at the Garden Café Buffet, there were quite a few great choices and pretty good coffee. The one issue I did have was they charged me for the spa, when I had a free pass. Apparently this happened to a few other guests and they simply handed us a card to contact guest relations off the ship. Kind of disappointed that they didn’t handle it onboard, especially as the agents were quite rude to the customers next to me. Didn’t leave the ship with the greatest memory, but it was a pretty good trip overall. I’ll definitely sail with NCL again and hoping they sort out the spa pass issue soon 🙂

I love cruising and can’t wait until my next full voyage!

Cruising is certainly my happy place! 😉

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