Fireworks at Butchart Gardens

Welcome to Cruise Critic! If you'd like to participate on our forums by joining in the conversation, please Register Now! Be sure to visit our FAMOUS Roll Call forums, where you can meet other cruisers sailing with you and share a tour or shore excursion and SAVE MONEY!

** Please post your recommendations ONLY in response to request...do not start a new thread. Thanks!
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts
BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
All times are GMT -4.
The time now is 07:01 PM.
#1
Missouri
7 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Hi! I'm new to this site, and I've been learning a lot of things from these forums so thank you for that! It's our first cruise to Alaska, and second cruise over all.

Our ship (HAL Oosterdam) is stopping in Victoria on July 8, Saturday from 6pm-11:59pm, and we booked the ship excursion to Butchart Garden. We are paying $90 per adult, and $50 per child. Our kids are ages 8, 7 and 4 years old. I was reading some of the posts on here and followed a link to the garden page which shows the entrance fees were so much lower, and my 4 year old even gets in for free. Is it really worth it to buy the cruise ship excursion, or is there a better way for my family of 5 to do the tour? I'm worried about the short time at port, but I also don't want to feel like I'm paying too much.

Thank you!
#2
Canada
18,567 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Fireworks night at the Gardens is extremely crowded. It can take an hour for a car to get out of the parking lot, whereas buses have special parking. I would not trust any other transportation other than a ship's tour to get me back to the ship with the assurance that they will wait for my party. I suppose you will have to weigh the heavy price tag with your peace of mind.

For comparison, I checked out a popular bus tour company with an "Express Shuttle" and it will cost you $195 for your family and your 4 year old is free. However, you have to get to the Empress hotel (a 20 minute walk or maybe a $10 cab ride from the pier at Ogden Point) and then you have to get back again after being dropped off at the end of the evening. Remember, though, that when you dock at a certain time the ship needs to be cleared by the local authorities. When we docked in Victoria on an Alaskan cruise, we were not cleared for over an hour. In that case, we would have missed the independent tour that I have mentioned. Here is the link:

http://sightseeingvictoria.com/tour/butchart-express/

A rental car might be another option but when I worked at Budget for 5 years, we closed at 6 and did not meet the later cruise ships. You could do some online research for that but honestly, I would not think driving yourselves to the Gardens is a good option, given what I mentioned about trying to get back.

At this point, as someone who lived in Victoria for over 30 years, I believe you have two options and that is the ship's tour, or a cab (which will be over $100.00 return - again, not something I would do).

The Butchart Gardens are fabulous, world-renowned. Having said that, are you sure this would be the best excursion for your family? Your children are very young and it's a lot of walking. Yes, the fireworks are spectacular but on your date, they start at 10 pm and last 30 minutes. Will the kids be up for that? Sincerely asking, just thinking about your littlest one in particular.

.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
~Karen

*I have fallen ill, so sadly, no more cruises.*

Already Cruised - listed not to brag, but so you can ask me a question if you'd like:
RCI - Serenade Nov 2015 S. Caribbean
Celebrity - Solstice May 2015 Alaska
RCI - Explorer Nov 2014 Repo/S. Caribbean - 40 ft. rogue wave, lifeboat damage

Princess - Grand Princess May 2014 Pacific Coastal
RCI - Serenade March 2014 - B2B W. Caribbean

RCI - Serenade Feb 2014 - Bahamas - a celebration cruise indeed!
*RCI Scandinavia 2013 - nope - cancelled due to my illness. ~ Maybe next year, God willing.
RCI - Jewel Nov 2012 - B2B Mexico
RCI - Jewel Repo Oct/Nov 2012 Boston to Tampa - Hurricane Sandy
RCI - Brilliance June/July 2011 Mediterranean
RCI - Mariner Oct/Nov 2010 Mexico
RCI - Oasis May 2010 E. Caribbean - 4 adults in one cabin; we did it!
Princess - Emerald Princess April 2009 E. Caribbean
RCI - Explorer Sept/Oct 2008 - 25th anniversary! Canada - Hurricane Kyle
RCI - Liberty August 2007 E.Caribbean - Hurricane Dean - 4 adults in one cabin; we did it!
RCI - Explorer April 2006 E.Caribbean
RCI - Vision Aug 2003 Alaska
HAL - Rotterdam - last leg of her final world cruise ever April 1995 Pacific Northwest
RCI - Viking Serenade Aug 1993 Mexico
#3
YVR & PDX
3,511 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
I second all the logistical concerns above. A cab or your own car would have you, best case, starting to leave the gardens at 10:45pm - enough time to get back for 'all aboard' at 11:30pm but not with much padding, especially if you have to return a rental car then get back to the pier! A kid who demands a pee break before getting in the car, a breakdown that even partially blocks the road/slows traffic, and suddenly you're a bunch of pier runners...

Renting your own car with kids that age also means acquiring 3 car seats (probably just boosters for the older two, but if they're on the short/skinny end perhaps even a 'real' car seat would be needed for all three). Even if a rental agency could supply that many, the cost would push you way over the cost of a cab - if you assume CAD$60 each way that should cover it, and Victoria does have cabs that hold up to 6 passengers (and no need for car seats by law, although you may feel differently about the safety of your kids in a cab than the law does...)

If you really want to see the fireworks - and they are good - then suck up spending the cash for the ship's tour, total ripoff that it is, or else plan another visit to Butchart on a land vacation where you can hang around overnight and not need to worry about making it back to a ship!
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Princess: Emerald, Golden x3, Island, Star x2
NCL: Gem, Pearl
HAL: Veendam
Edumacational kiddie cruises: SS Uganda
#4
Canada
18,567 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Originally posted by martincath
If you really want to see the fireworks - and they are good - then suck up spending the cash for the ship's tour, total ripoff that it is, or else plan another visit to Butchart on a land vacation where you can hang around overnight and not need to worry about making it back to a ship!
Agreed. As we know, the short 6 hour stop in Victoria is legally necessary to satisfy the PVSA, but is certainly not optimal for making the most of this beautiful city.
.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
~Karen

*I have fallen ill, so sadly, no more cruises.*

Already Cruised - listed not to brag, but so you can ask me a question if you'd like:
RCI - Serenade Nov 2015 S. Caribbean
Celebrity - Solstice May 2015 Alaska
RCI - Explorer Nov 2014 Repo/S. Caribbean - 40 ft. rogue wave, lifeboat damage

Princess - Grand Princess May 2014 Pacific Coastal
RCI - Serenade March 2014 - B2B W. Caribbean

RCI - Serenade Feb 2014 - Bahamas - a celebration cruise indeed!
*RCI Scandinavia 2013 - nope - cancelled due to my illness. ~ Maybe next year, God willing.
RCI - Jewel Nov 2012 - B2B Mexico
RCI - Jewel Repo Oct/Nov 2012 Boston to Tampa - Hurricane Sandy
RCI - Brilliance June/July 2011 Mediterranean
RCI - Mariner Oct/Nov 2010 Mexico
RCI - Oasis May 2010 E. Caribbean - 4 adults in one cabin; we did it!
Princess - Emerald Princess April 2009 E. Caribbean
RCI - Explorer Sept/Oct 2008 - 25th anniversary! Canada - Hurricane Kyle
RCI - Liberty August 2007 E.Caribbean - Hurricane Dean - 4 adults in one cabin; we did it!
RCI - Explorer April 2006 E.Caribbean
RCI - Vision Aug 2003 Alaska
HAL - Rotterdam - last leg of her final world cruise ever April 1995 Pacific Northwest
RCI - Viking Serenade Aug 1993 Mexico
#5
Missouri
7 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Thank you for your responses Langley Cruisers and martincath!

We live in St. Louis and we've been members at the Missouri Botanical Gardens for a few years now, so I'm hoping my kids will enjoy Butchart as much, if not more. Plus, they're used to late nights when we travel (Disney World has fireworks at 11pm!), so I'm not too worried about them falling asleep. I'm still bringing a small stroller, though.

I didn't factor in the time needed to clear the port after docking. It's probably why the tour doesn't leave until 7:15 pm when we dock at 6. I guess the cruise's excursion is the safest way to do the trip, but it hurts my heart and my wallet to know we can do it a different way for probably less than half the cost. I wish that tour had a different rate for the kids younger than 5, even just a few dollars to lessen the sting. I'd hate to miss the ship on our last day of cruising though, so I'll just have to suck it up!

Thanks again!
#6
Missouri
7 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Originally posted by Langley Cruisers
Agreed. As we know, the short 6 hour stop in Victoria is legally necessary to satisfy the PVSA, but is certainly not optimal for making the most of this beautiful city.
.
We'll be heading to Vancouver for three days after our cruise, so hopefully we'll be able to see a bit more. It's our first visit to Canada, and I agree the 6 hours in Victoria barely counts!
#7
YVR & PDX
3,511 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Originally posted by MomOf3As
We'll be heading to Vancouver for three days after our cruise, so hopefully we'll be able to see a bit more. It's our first visit to Canada, and I agree the 6 hours in Victoria barely counts!
A suggestion then - see if the cruiseline will let you disembark in Victoria. It's a common request, many other posters have confirmed being allowed to do it, but it's not 100% as CBSA need to be involved to clear your entrance into Canada properly (customs as well as immigration).

Enjoy the fireworks as late as you like on the night, stay in a hotel, then work your way over to Vancouver by ferry (a rental car will make this efficient, and allow you to see others parts of the island, but you can book coaches that connect with the ferry and drop you in downtown Vancouver if you want to avoid a car rental).

Given the savings on Butchart tickets alone will more than pay for a hotel for the night, and you'd also be able to cancel whatever transportation you have for Seattle-Vancouver, and you will literally only lose out on bed and breakfast, this plan would be both $ and time saving as well as allowing you all to get a little off the beaten track.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Princess: Emerald, Golden x3, Island, Star x2
NCL: Gem, Pearl
HAL: Veendam
Edumacational kiddie cruises: SS Uganda
#8
Canada
18,567 Posts
Joined Feb 2006
Originally posted by MomOf3As
We'll be heading to Vancouver for three days after our cruise, so hopefully we'll be able to see a bit more. It's our first visit to Canada, and I agree the 6 hours in Victoria barely counts!
Ooo, well Vancouver has some fantastic botanical and Japanese gardens! You can easily google this, but Van Dusen ranks right up there!

Have a great cruise and post-cruise experience.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
~Karen

*I have fallen ill, so sadly, no more cruises.*

Already Cruised - listed not to brag, but so you can ask me a question if you'd like:
RCI - Serenade Nov 2015 S. Caribbean
Celebrity - Solstice May 2015 Alaska
RCI - Explorer Nov 2014 Repo/S. Caribbean - 40 ft. rogue wave, lifeboat damage

Princess - Grand Princess May 2014 Pacific Coastal
RCI - Serenade March 2014 - B2B W. Caribbean

RCI - Serenade Feb 2014 - Bahamas - a celebration cruise indeed!
*RCI Scandinavia 2013 - nope - cancelled due to my illness. ~ Maybe next year, God willing.
RCI - Jewel Nov 2012 - B2B Mexico
RCI - Jewel Repo Oct/Nov 2012 Boston to Tampa - Hurricane Sandy
RCI - Brilliance June/July 2011 Mediterranean
RCI - Mariner Oct/Nov 2010 Mexico
RCI - Oasis May 2010 E. Caribbean - 4 adults in one cabin; we did it!
Princess - Emerald Princess April 2009 E. Caribbean
RCI - Explorer Sept/Oct 2008 - 25th anniversary! Canada - Hurricane Kyle
RCI - Liberty August 2007 E.Caribbean - Hurricane Dean - 4 adults in one cabin; we did it!
RCI - Explorer April 2006 E.Caribbean
RCI - Vision Aug 2003 Alaska
HAL - Rotterdam - last leg of her final world cruise ever April 1995 Pacific Northwest
RCI - Viking Serenade Aug 1993 Mexico
#9
Missouri
7 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Originally posted by martincath
A suggestion then - see if the cruiseline will let you disembark in Victoria. It's a common request, many other posters have confirmed being allowed to do it, but it's not 100% as CBSA need to be involved to clear your entrance into Canada properly (customs as well as immigration).

Enjoy the fireworks as late as you like on the night, stay in a hotel, then work your way over to Vancouver by ferry (a rental car will make this efficient, and allow you to see others parts of the island, but you can book coaches that connect with the ferry and drop you in downtown Vancouver if you want to avoid a car rental).

Given the savings on Butchart tickets alone will more than pay for a hotel for the night, and you'd also be able to cancel whatever transportation you have for Seattle-Vancouver, and you will literally only lose out on bed and breakfast, this plan would be both $ and time saving as well as allowing you all to get a little off the beaten track.
Oh, now that is something to consider! I will have to call Holland America tomorrow to ask if we can do this. That would be ideal if we could though. My only problem will be the car rental -- we're renting one in Seattle, driving it to Vancouver, then Olympic National Park, then returning to the airport in Seattle. I remember pricing a Vancouver-Seattle rental and it was significantly more expensive. I will still check it out. Thanks for the suggestion!
#10
Missouri
7 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Originally posted by Langley Cruisers
Ooo, well Vancouver has some fantastic botanical and Japanese gardens! You can easily google this, but Van Dusen ranks right up there!

Have a great cruise and post-cruise experience.
I haven't researched on things to do in Vancouver yet, only places to eat.

I'll read up on the gardens you suggested! We usually make it a point to visit botanical gardens and aquariums in most of the places we visit. I'm really excited to see Butchart though, I know it ranks highly in the top gardens in North America (though Missouri botanical gardens is spectacular as well!).

Thanks!
#11
YVR & PDX
3,511 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Originally posted by MomOf3As
Oh, now that is something to consider! I will have to call Holland America tomorrow to ask if we can do this. That would be ideal if we could though. My only problem will be the car rental -- we're renting one in Seattle, driving it to Vancouver, then Olympic National Park, then returning to the airport in Seattle. I remember pricing a Vancouver-Seattle rental and it was significantly more expensive. I will still check it out. Thanks for the suggestion!
Unless you're planning to drive around outside the city a lot, a rental car in Vancouver may be more trouble (and expense) than it's worth - and NB: the car seat situation, both WA and BC have pretty stringent rules about minimum kid size & weight even in rear seats. Factoring in that plus parking fees may make one-way rentals seem a better deal!


There are plenty of cars that need moved back & forth between Seattle & Vancouver that makes one-way rentals very affordable - especially if you wait until close to your dates, when they know exactly how many cars are in the 'wrong' city. A one-way Victoria- Vancouver to get here ensures a) Canadian spec car seats; b) no border crossing so generally less chance of a drop fee (some of the franchise-holders in both cities are the same people and there's no legal issue about leaving a Victoria car in Vancouver or vice versa).


Originally posted by MomOf3As
I haven't researched on things to do in Vancouver yet, only places to eat.

I'll read up on the gardens you suggested! We usually make it a point to visit botanical gardens and aquariums in most of the places we visit. I'm really excited to see Butchart though, I know it ranks highly in the top gardens in North America (though Missouri botanical gardens is spectacular as well!).

Thanks!
While there's no single equivalent to Butchart, we have individual gardens that are even better examples of their types as well as others of different kinds. In toto there are more high quality gardens here - and their entrance fees are much less than Butcharts even in combination! We have literally the best Chinese garden anywhere except Suzhou, one of the top-five Japanese gardens in the world, a free park with gardens of similar style to Butchart's Quarry garden (not as extensive, but infinitely better value, plus arboretum, ponds, tropical conservatory), Stanley Park is arguably the finest urban park in the world and also has many smaller garden areas (plus the aquarium).

Depending where your hotel is, you may find a car of a slight benefit to visit some of these gardens - most are outside the downtown core - but even then consider cutting your rental down to just one day in the city rather than all three. Since you seem to like plants, if you can swing a change to disembark in Victoria then I'd strongly suggest heading up the island to Nanaimo for your ferry to the mainland - and visiting Cathedral Grove in that neck of the woods. Some of the most accessible huge trees anywhere, and a genuinely moving 'nature' experience.

UBC campus might be well worth visiting especially if you have a car - they don't just have the Japanese garden above but also several excellent museums, another botanic garden (with treewalks) and a farm. The other 'must do' car attraction I'd suggest is Lynn Canyon - while not as developed as Capilano they have free parking on-site, a vastly-superior education program and a nice little cafe. The bridge is shorter but higher, and if it's been raining the water below craps all over the display at Capilano (pardon my French, but the very fact that Cap is a long bridge means it's over a wider river - and narrow rivers are where the exciting white-water happens). Plus, it'll save you $116!
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Princess: Emerald, Golden x3, Island, Star x2
NCL: Gem, Pearl
HAL: Veendam
Edumacational kiddie cruises: SS Uganda
#12
Missouri
7 Posts
Joined Jun 2017
Oh wow, thank you very much martincath! I haven't done a lot of planning on the Vancouver part of our trip yet since there's so much planning needed for the Alaskan cruise, so all the information you shared will be a huge help! I'll need to step up on my Vancouver research, but I will add the Japanese and Chinese gardens on my to do lists. I hope we can visit a lot of these places in three days!

We're renting a car so we con't have to carry our luggage around everywhere. Plus, with 3 children it's just easier overall and probably cheaper too. We're planning on bringing a backless booster for our 4 year old and 2 mifold travel seats for the 7 and 8 year olds, but you mentioned different specs for car seats in Canada? I only read that kids up to 8 need at least a booster. Another thing to add to my research list!
#13
YVR & PDX
3,511 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Originally posted by MomOf3As
Oh wow, thank you very much martincath! I haven't done a lot of planning on the Vancouver part of our trip yet since there's so much planning needed for the Alaskan cruise, so all the information you shared will be a huge help! I'll need to step up on my Vancouver research, but I will add the Japanese and Chinese gardens on my to do lists. I hope we can visit a lot of these places in three days!

We're renting a car so we con't have to carry our luggage around everywhere. Plus, with 3 children it's just easier overall and probably cheaper too. We're planning on bringing a backless booster for our 4 year old and 2 mifold travel seats for the 7 and 8 year olds, but you mentioned different specs for car seats in Canada? I only read that kids up to 8 need at least a booster. Another thing to add to my research list!
In 2012 we leapfrogged US standards with new ones that met all of yours and exceeded them in certain areas - plus all info had to be in French and English. Technically it's unlawful to use any car seat in Canada that doesn't carry a label confirming it meets our standards under any circumstances. Full details are here and here with good Plain English info (I was pouring over this stuff in detail just a couple of months ago as my sister flew our 1-year-old nephew over for a vacation and I wanted to make sure he wouldn't die on my watch!!!)


While the language issues are just semantics for Anglophone US citizens, your kids do need to meet the weight restrictions for each type of seat - at least 39.6lbs (18kg) to be allowed to use a Booster seat while in the US it's generally only 30lbs. If the 7 & 8 year old are remotely normal weight for their age not likely to be a problem but your 4 year old could easily be too small. Mifolds are approved in Canada as Boosters, with minimum weight 18kg/max 45kg - so if (s)he's big enough to be allowed to use a booster you could bring a third mifold instead since they do have Canadian labeling while it's highly unlikely that your backless booster does.


Less than 18kg/40lbs at any age means at least a front-facing car seat is mandated - and the 4yr old is recommended to remain rear-facing even though legally they can go front-facing at 1yr/9kg [~20lbs] in BC. Car rental places will supply seats for you if required - but compare the pricing with just buying one. Walmart sell the excellent Cosco Scenera Next for CAD$100 ($112 incl tax) - we bought one of these for my nephew as it was cheaper than renting one for a fortnight and we knew 100% that the seat was new, safe, and had never been in an accident.

TL;DR - if your 4yr old is 40lbs+ just bring 3 Mifold seats (and don't remove the Canadian labels!) but if they're under 40lbs you will need to acquire a real car seat with harness, not just a booster.

For comparison to your car rental/gas/parking costs - your 4yr old is free on transit. The other kids will pay Concession fares (Day pass CAD$7.75, while yours would be $9.75, for unlimited use of SkyTrain, Seabus, Buses in the whole area - Vancouver and neighbouring municipalities). Parking is limited and expensive downtown - unless your hotel is in the 'burbs it could cost $30-40 a night for the car, and pricey metered parking requires Credit card with a chip, a smartphone with data plan, or local cash in coins. Many parks & gardens are feasible to visit with a car - Stanley Park for example allows you to pay once for parking then park anywhere in any spot for the duration, so you can hop around without having to walk the whole 5 miles of seawall.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Princess: Emerald, Golden x3, Island, Star x2
NCL: Gem, Pearl
HAL: Veendam
Edumacational kiddie cruises: SS Uganda
#15
Victoria BC Canada
107 Posts
Joined Nov 2016
I live literally 5 minutes from Butcharts and even we take a bus on fireworks nights. The one time we drove it took 45 minutes just to get out of the parking lot. Butcharts is my number one recommended place to tourists, I think in this case you just have to pay the price. Enjoy!


Sent from my iPad using Forums
#16
Vancouver BC
253 Posts
Joined Jun 2013
Originally posted by MomOf3As
Thank you for your responses Langley Cruisers and martincath!

We live in St. Louis and we've been members at the Missouri Botanical Gardens for a few years now, so I'm hoping my kids will enjoy Butchart as much, if not more. Plus, they're used to late nights when we travel (Disney World has fireworks at 11pm!), so I'm not too worried about them falling asleep. I'm still bringing a small stroller, though.

I didn't factor in the time needed to clear the port after docking. It's probably why the tour doesn't leave until 7:15 pm when we dock at 6. I guess the cruise's excursion is the safest way to do the trip, but it hurts my heart and my wallet to know we can do it a different way for probably less than half the cost. I wish that tour had a different rate for the kids younger than 5, even just a few dollars to lessen the sting. I'd hate to miss the ship on our last day of cruising though, so I'll just have to suck it up!

Thanks again!
I agree on the customs stuff and the last time I sailed into Victoria on an NCL ship we had a hold up with 2 ambulances meeting the ship for 1 crew member and 1 passenger that were sick with the norwalk virus, then they did Canada customs and let people off.
Expand Signature
Collapse Signature
Kristy
"Learn to Travel, Travel to Learn"
#17
Sacramento, California
654 Posts
Joined Jun 2003
You could also visit the Dr Sun Yat Sen Chinese Classical Garden in Vancouver. It's in China town. With covered pathways, it is even nice on a rainy day.
#18
northern new jersey
339 Posts
Joined Oct 2010
Originally posted by MomOf3As
Thank you for your responses Langley Cruisers and martincath!

We live in St. Louis and we've been members at the Missouri Botanical Gardens for a few years now, so I'm hoping my kids will enjoy Butchart as much, if not more. Plus, they're used to late nights when we travel (Disney World has fireworks at 11pm!), so I'm not too worried about them falling asleep. I'm still bringing a small stroller, though.

I didn't factor in the time needed to clear the port after docking. It's probably why the tour doesn't leave until 7:15 pm when we dock at 6. I guess the cruise's excursion is the safest way to do the trip, but it hurts my heart and my wallet to know we can do it a different way for probably less than half the cost. I wish that tour had a different rate for the kids younger than 5, even just a few dollars to lessen the sting. I'd hate to miss the ship on our last day of cruising though, so I'll just have to suck it up!

Thanks again!
I did the Butchart Garden excursion with Princess July 2016. This excursion was the highlight of my Alaska cruise. I have no doubt you and your husband will enjoy it. One tip I was given by staff at the Garden was to always go left when faced with an option while walking the path.

The excursion also included the fireworks BUT the driver told us to be back on the bus at the same time the fireworks started so that we would not get caught in traffic. I was extremely disappointed in this directive being that the fireworks were part of the excursion. I did watch some of the fireworks and was back on the bus after about 15 minutes of viewing and very surprised to see many others already boarded. The bus never did leave early as there were those who watched until the fireworks ended which IS what the tour included. I enjoyed the tour overall and look forward to returning at a more leisurely pace, still I wish the driver had never instructed us to board the bus at the time the fireworks started since the price of the excursion included the firework display and was advertised as such.