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martincath

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About martincath

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About Me

  • Location
    YVR & PDX
  • Interests
    Travel, eating, eating while traveling;-)
  • Favorite Cruise Line(s)
    NCL
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    Alaska

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  1. Last time we were here we did Chilkoot all-day tour - and we 'rescued' people who were supposed to be doing the train back to town, because a train burst into flames on the track and stopped all traffic (there's only the one set of rails). If you do bus first, train second then you have literally zero additional risk - because everyone including cruise-booked folks are on the exact same train as you! The only additional risk would be doing bus second, when if you are on an indy tour and the bus breaks down the ship has no incentive to wait for you. But given how good all the locals are at helping each other, that the Chilkoot guy had both a radio and a satellite phone in the bus and the schedule does have some padding, I'd have no worries booking indy in Skagway. Specific example from the exploding train day - when there was no sign of the train arriving (we had some folks on the bus who were meant to be transferring to the train, so even though me & the missus were on the 'all bus' version there was still a stop at the train station) he started calling around and within 10 minutes had the skinny on what was happening, immediately told all of the Chilkoot folks that he'd take them back by bus. But instead of just hitting the road, he then went around checking with other bus drivers and tour guides to say he had a couple of free seats - as did the other indy bus drivers. So lucky for the cruise folks, who had just been dropped off by their big bus which drove away immediately, seats were found to get them back to town. So ironically it was the cruise-booked people who were the ones most at risk! Their buses had left half an hour previously, were already on their way back over the border, so even if they had their radios or sat phones out and on while driving to get a call about having to return their passengers would have been sitting around for at least another half hour - probably more by the time the big buses could find a safe spot on the one road to turn around... That really brought home to me how much mutual-helping-out there is in these low population environments - fair took me back to my childhood in the back-end of nowhere (you know, the kind of place where a drive to the middle of nowhere is a treat because it's very cosmopolitan in comparison by having a post office instead of a blacksmith?), as regardless of how much we'd ***** (edit - huh, apparently we can't refer to female dogs on CC!) about the damn townies driving too slow taking day trips on our single-track roads, we'd still stop and change their tires for them or drive them to the nearest gas station, an hour or so round trip...
  2. This isn't Princess-specific; West Coast Departures would be the most relevant board to use. But the answer is actually really easy - change your hotel plans, because what you want is a) impossible to provide as there are zero airport hotels with shuttles to anywhere but the airport itself, and b) inefficient compared to using a downtown hotel. If you're even entertaining the Fairmont, your budget must be decent - there are PLENTY of downtown hotels that are significantly cheaper than the Fairmont at the airport. All of them will let you check-in early, and if your room isn't ready hold your bags for you. Even if Covid season cripples local hotel chains such that there are mass closures and much higher prices due to lack of available rooms next year, so you end up with only an airport hotel within your budget, it's still best not to go to the airport after disembarking. The very best possible case is still over an hour of wasted time getting there and back - and more likely 90-120mins by the time you factor in using hotel shuttle to SkyTrain as there aren't many hotels close enough to SkyTrain to walk quickly there. That's a big chunk of your waking hours for a single night stay before an early flight - and if you won't do transit, the cost of a cab/Uber to downtown and back means you could actually stay downtown by spending more on the hotel! Instead, store bags at the pier - the PP hotel charges only $5 a bag for the day, and you don't have to be a resident. Official pier storage is now $12 per bag, unless you take a tour with WestCoast who run it - then they cut the price in half, but that's still pricier than the PP! As to your early flight - traffic is nonexistent before morning rush, so a cab from ANY downtown hotel to YVR will be around 30mins. Unless you time the shuttle perfectly, it could actually take you longer than this to get to YVR from an airport hotel! None of them have more than 1 bus, so if you just miss one it won't be back for at least 20-30mins, and depending how early you want to go they may only do one shuttle per hour, or even none at all. The Fairmont is the only walkable hotel (it's part of the terminal building), there's one other hotel on Sea Island, all the others need to use a bridge and often a quite roundabout route even if they are within just a mile or two as the crow flies - drive time is therefore 10+ minutes for even the close ones, and some supposedly-airport-hotels can be further away than the downtown ones (which are all 10miles or less driving distance). Besides - the earliest flights to the US allow you to cut the pre-flight arrival time significantly. It's pointless showing up before 5am, even if your flight is say 6:30am - the 'three hours before your flight' recommendation is worthless when CBP do not open prescreening until 4:30am. The first 30mins is needed to clear all the first-time visitors who do not use CC or similar advice services and turned up at 3 or 4am for an early flight and are now standing in a line waiting for CBP... by 5am the queue is gone, and until the first batch of cruise buses arrive about 9:30am the queue simply never gets bad. Roll in at 5am, and you'll probably be at your gate with a Timmies within 30mins... the only time to be any earlier than this is if you need to check bags for a 6am flight - you need to drop a full hour before, so you should pad that by maybe 15mins and aim for a 4:45am arrival time (i.e. leave downtown at 4:15am).
  3. Googling the exact phrase shows this as an RCI-advertised resell of what is generally known as some variant on "Bennett scenic Journey" - and it's price is a whopping $90 extra on top of, say, Chilkoots version (click 'bus/rail tours' then select Bennett from the list) which visits the same places, uses the same train, a smaller bus, the option to choose whether you do train or bus part first, plus has detailed timings given. I think Dyea Dave, another very-well-reviewed local tour provider, will also sell you this for a similar if not identical price to Chilkoot. Cruise resells have only one advantage - if you are at the right dock! - which is that the trains for those can sometimes end up parked right next to the ship. Even if you were guaranteed to be next to the train - which is unlikely, since Carnival now owns the WP&YR railroad so you can bet that it's their ships which will get the train parked nextdoor - there's a shuttle bus around town for a couple of bucks, and the walk is worst-case just a few minutes on the flat.
  4. Then I'd also go with Chilkoot - you can do a 'train up, bus back' trip if you want to include the train, but if budget is a concern the bus-both-ways version is a fair bit cheaper (~$110 vs $140) and more efficient in timing (~6.5 vs 7.5 hrs, therefore giving more time in Skagway before/after). We've taken a couple of Chilkoot trips, great customer service and good pricing. NB: that there is a risk of you arriving at Caribou Crossing to find no seats left on the dog carts - Chilkoot warn specifically against booking a timed reservation as they cannot guarantee exactly when the stop will be, so they can't make sure you arrive at the right time for your reso... Info on the CC dog rides here. NB: this is in Canada, so that's a discount vs. USD pricing - and the dogs run faster in Metric ;-) Back to your original post - the quickest/shortest train ride is the 'summit' trip which is a round trip that doesn't let you get off the train, so no need for Canadian/US immigration as no border crossing. That's 3 hours long - which would allow time for another excursion. Given there's only one road out of Skagway, you'd end up repeating part of the train ride but from a different angle (the road is generally the other side of the valley, you see the train tracks for much of the drive). A separate 'musher camp & dog sled experience' which runs IIRC out of Dyea and takes ~3hrs also should fit within your day - pricier by far to do the train and this but you'd be able to get a lot more dog-focused info and a guaranteed ride (well, as guaranteed as any AK excursion ever is - even wheeled carts are still at some risk of bad weather, washed out trails etc.) Best? If your family doesn't have young kids who would be bored, then the longer the ride the better... you'll see more! But of course trying to fit a long train ride in as well as a dog sled experience gets more challenging... your only viable option for a longer train ride plus dogs would be a Caribou Crossing train & bus trip I think. Of course the cheapest way to do it all for a family would be to rent a car - this way you can make a reso at Caribou Crossing, just skip any more scenic stops on the way up if you are getting close to your reso time, hit them on the way back instead. You'd lose out on the guide's spiel, but you could get a Murray's Guide to ensure you know what you're looking at (either a book, or an audiobook) - given the lack of routes, getting lost would require some serious effort and it's only 2 lane roads so even if you're not experienced at driving on the wrong side of the road, you won't have multi-lanes or big intersections to worry about, and most cruise days the road has a steady stream of cars so you'll have very few opportunities to forget to stay right without the obvious visual cue of just following other vehicles.
  5. I doubt they'll offer to compensate much - frankly probably nothing at all based on past cases I'm familiar with. You only need to change your flights in order to keep either one of the bookings - either to Vancouver and from Hawaii, or to Anchorage and from Vancouver, instead of I assume to Anchorage and from Hawaii for your original B2B. Cancelling both cruises is a personal choice, as indeed that you chose to book a non-refundable fare - so your best case might be compensating for the airline change fee. And given how much income is being lost right now, the odds of them being generous are much reduced... especially if they're losing your money for both cruises instead of just one. Yes, it sucks, but given that the small print of your terms & conditions puts responsibility 100% on YOU for all compliance with travel laws, any compensation at all is being legally generous from their end regardless of the morality of it.
  6. Thanks for clarifying, as I didn't explicitly state '...you and your stuff to Vancouver,' above. I think if you removed yourselves, but left your stuff onboard, then technically it would shift to a Jones Act violation (now goods being moved between US ports, rather than people) but it would still be unlawful ;-)
  7. I think all the details of the legal matters have been dealt with already; as to the 'why did NCL let us book this and only tell us now?' issue that's simply down to NCL, like all cruise companies, not having the best IT setup - it's very common for illegal combos to get booked, but then some sort of manual check to be run periodically to spot them and contact affected customers nearer cruise time. It could be a LOT worse though - given the combo you are talking about, even if it is a 2020 travel plan it'll be at the end of the season so probably Sep, maybe even Oct - if you Search for other folks in similar situations you'll find that Princess have often let folks know only a month or less away from sailing; on the other side of the coin the cruiselines also regularly screw up by flagging legal itineraries as a breach of PVSA when they are not - making folks jump through all sorts of hoops unnecessarily like disembarking early in Victoria and making their own way to Vancouver. In your case, that's actually a potentially-viable plan if you really want to build an AK to HI cruise on the same ship - assuming the southbound cruise does stop in Victoria before reaching Vancouver, it's very rarely refused when you ask for permission to disembark early in Victoria (Canadian customs & immigration are well used to folks who want to do this, and they're always on-site anyway even on short port of call stops). You can fly harbour-to-harbour on floatplanes, use a bus or rental car to the ferry, or even take a whale-watching transfer with Prince of Whales to get you to Vancouver, then reboard next day legally for a totally-separate Vancouver-Hawaii cruise - it does mean extra pennies, as you won't get a refund for the unused night onboard and you'll have to pay ballpark $70-300pp to get to Vancouver plus a couple of meals and a night in a hotel. If this is in 2021 or late, personally I'd look at the timing of other vessels on the AK-Vancouver leg as already suggested above, as there's a good chance at least one Princess and HAL ship will still be running 7-day alternating north & southbound trips for longer, they tend to be both the first lines to arrive in the spring and the last to leave in the autumn. The odds of any ships moving up to AK at all this year though are slim to none, and both Princess/HAL confirmed they were abandoning this AK season's 1-way trips quite a while ago...
  8. No problem. Assuming QuickShuttle do return to normal operations, their Summer Schedule applies to almost all cruise dates (unless you are on the first few or last few cruises each year) - but given the situation they have not updated their website yet this year, with only the Winter sched listed. So here's a link to last year's Summer sched, which has a few bits of info about the locations as well as the times of the services. Note that when I said 'first QS of the day' originally I was wrong - always forget there's a super-early bus as well as a 'downtown hotels' bus that both run before the first pier service - and should have said 'first express QS from the pier' as this one has fewer stops for the same price, giving you a valuable extra ~30mins or so of padding. I'd still do a rental car in preference, even if it ended up the same price per person, due to the extra flexibility on route and timing - but if you decide you're not keen on driving somewhere unfamiliar, a theoretical 1:30pm SEA arrival time does give you enough padding that your odds of missing a domestic flight at 5pm should be pretty close to zero.
  9. Definitely NOT the Amtrak bus service - you want to be on the earliest-possible bus which is feasible to board after disembarking, which would be the first QuickShuttle of the day. This is pricier than other bus services, but does add the convenience of having Seatac as the destination as well as an earlier start time than others - it's been US$59pp for a while now, though this and all other prices I'm going to mention will of course have a good chance of going up notably in a post-COVID world if there is any sort of 'social distancing' employed on the vehicles, i.e. selling fewer seats. Other buses - assuming their schedules remain the same - start later than QS, so the savings probably are not worth the risk of using Bolt, Greyhound, or Amtrak bus (and Amtrak buses are as pricey as QS anyway, despite being the worst, oldest, crappiest fleet on the route - there is literally one sane reason to use an Amtrak bus, and that's if you were connecting to a train and want to get you and our luggage 'in the system' so any delays that miss a connection mean Amtrak are liable for hotels and transfers). Personally I'd give very careful consideration to a one-way rental car - while the pier offices don't open as early as you arrive, you could still be on the road well before 9am when the QS Express leaves. If you're the first folks waiting when they open (8am for most of the downtown car rental places) you'll be heading out of downtown before 8:30am - even earlier if you pick up your car at an airport location, as that is south of Vancouver and some operate 24hrs or close to it. Cost for car rentals varies wildly - and booked long in advance look overpriced due to drop fees sometimes being added. But book refundably, keep checking, and as your date approaches you'll find that the companies have a better handle on how well-balanced the demand is for one-way trips so their prices usually drop a lot. In theory you can find free trips - moving a US-plate car back to Seattle has to get done some time - but most likely you'll just see bargain rates. Any time I've looked up pricing within a month or so, finding a car for $100 has been easy - so with as few as 2 people it can be the same or less than the bus, and if you have 3+ people it's pretty much always going to the the cheapest way to go. While you will have to stop at the border, in your own car you can choose any of 4 practical crossings - if you have data on your phone, check the timings as you drive. If not, at the very least you get highway signs telling you the delay at the main 99/I5 crossing (Peace Arch) and Pacific Crossing (the 'truck route') so you can choose to head over to Pacific (about a 10min detour) if the delay there is 15+ mins less than Peace Arch. With any bus, unfortunately you always use the same crossing (Pacific), and while there is a dedicated bus lane it's very short - so car backups of more than 30-40mins mean the buses cannot reach their lane's access point. We've spent over two hours waiting in traffic on a bus before... Plus, the single biggest unknown factor is the other bus pax - if even one of them gets Secondary questioning, the entire bus waits... What time to leave? Simple - as soon as you can!!! Border delays, accidents on I5, Seattle traffic - do not take the risk! We drive this route 20+ times a year, and while we have honed all controllable elements of the trip to near-perfection at least a couple of times annually we hit an unexpected problem that adds delays of 1 to 3 hours to our trip - and every single time those delays are between the border and Tacoma, not the stretch from there to Portland. We have NEXUS - our average delay for immigration is <7 minutes, whereas those without it can generally assume that anything <20mins is a very good border crossing time. There is rarely a good secondary route if there's a problem with I5, so anything on wheels has to cope with whatever happens - another reason the train is great, but with a morning departure at 6:35am for most cruisers it's just not possible to make it off the ship in time, even for folks like you who dock at 6am rather than the more common 7am. Of course, it's possible some of the bus companies will have folded or reduce services - even Amtrak depends on subsidies from the Provincial/State governments to keep their service levels up - so any method you check into now needs revisited closer to your cruise, even assuming that the cruise is after the current port and border closures cease.
  10. Nope - you can still click scott's link above and go right to the relevant government agency news posts, so even if somehow all the media forget to post an update on a further extension of the ban or that it's being revoked, the info will be on that page as soon as there is any info. And it'll be straight from the proverbial horses' mouth.
  11. The question "How long is a piece of string?" is just as clear as yours Elaine - and equally unanswerable due to lacking required data. I'm trying but failing to understand why you're choosing to remain in wilful ignorance and waste more time here demanding an answer, instead of simply sending an email or picking up the phone to reach out to the provider... because no matter how many people respond to say "I used a passport card on my trip no problem" unless it was the same folks operating the same tour without changing any of their procedures their experience will not help if you show up with a card and get told "Sorry, we need the book before we can let you come with us." Again - passport card is a legal, legitimate, WHTI-approved method of crossing US-Canada border on land or by sea, not by air. So for any boat- or bus- or train- or car- or bike- or walking-based excursion with a provider that does not add any additional criteria it will work just fine. But without checking with YOUR provider about YOUR tour - or you confirming enough about your tour for someone on the boards here to know that they have taken that tour with that company before and used a card - it cannot be answered. And in the latter case there's still the risk that the company has changed their criteria, which wraps us back around to the K.I.S.S. solution of... ask the tour provider ;-)
  12. Nope - and literally nobody else on the boards knows either, because you have not told us who the excursion is with or where it actually goes. But I did tell you who to ask so you can find out - the excursion provider. FWIW I'm 99.9% sure that a passport card will be fine - assuming it's a US passport card, and your trip is a boat or bus or train based one only going to Canada - but you could be flying to a Canadian lake on a floatplane (passport book required), have a citizenship that is not US (passport book and possibly Visa and/or an eTA), or be using a super-picky excursion provider who demands full passport books just in case you need to be e.g. flown to the nearest hospital in the event of you falling ill or getting injured, or who simply don't want to train their summer student staff more than the bare minimum so demand the same form of ID from everyone to keep things simple.
  13. You said you had both book and card Elaine, so perhaps Alan was covering the bases in case you might only want to bring one with you on the whole trip, not just for the day of the excursion... What he said re: the cards is correct, passport cards are valid for any land or sea entry between US and Canada just like always - the fact you're on a day trip is irrelevant. However, the government rules are just the minimum - you always need to check with the folks running the trip as any vendor can choose to set more stringent restrictions themselves, requiring that you have an actual passport book for example, before they are willing to allow you to travel with them. e.g. the many 'fancy' cruise lines which demand a passport for all regardless of whether the route is covered by the PVSA 'closed loop' exemptions, and for a while in 2018(?) season the Carnival lines were all demanding passports be carried before they would book you on the White Pass Railroad excursions in Skagway, even the Summit trips which don't actually cross the Canadian border (this was revealed by a Seattle local who works at the pier, they were given explicit instructions to warn folks about having passports or no trip for them - the requirement changed on the WP&YR website later in the year to remove the incredibly-stupid requirement... probably because it was costing them a crapload of cancelled excursions due to how many folks on Seattle RTs don't travel with passports at all!)
  14. The race was canceled already, and with OPs line now extending their cruising moratorium for Alaska routes to July 1st there's no probably involved in either aspect.
  15. Since Scott hasn't been posting for a few days - and who can blame him under the current circumstances - my two cents: if you're mobile and a solo/couple, SkyTrain from YVR is worth the savings. 3 or 4 of you though and cab fare becomes only fractionally more expensive (fixed rate of CAD$32) - indeed, potentially cheaper if you arrive on a weekday before 6:30pm as the fare per person will be $9.25 for Adults, possibly a little more if the fares go up again July 1st. So unless you're shaving your budget to the bone the convenience of door-to-door service, a cab may be well worth the spend to skip the walk from the nearest station (Vancouver City Centre - about 500 metres straight along Granville Street to this hotel, so call it a half-mile total extra walking by the time you get to and from the platforms). Either way there's certainly no need to book anything, cabs operate on a walk-up basis and SkyTrain is public transit so no resos required, so you can leave it to arrival day and see how energetic you're feeling after your flight.
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