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We will be arriving in Vancouver on a Princess cruise and need to be at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel before 9:00 for a tour.  How long does customs usually take (coming from US) and is it reasonable to make it to the hotel that early?  We plan to walk to the hotel from the port.  

Thank you.

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Next to no time. Even if you have not stopped elsewhere in Canada first, so Vancouver is your Port of Entry, the manifest will be checked 'behind the scenes' by CBSA for immigration purposes - anyone 'dodgy' will have already been identified (and may be called by name on the ship to come meet with CBSA). SInce you're not a Canadian resident, the Customs part is also minimal - as long as you have not declared anything illegal or requiring a license to possess in Canada, it'll be token glance at your form, maybe a "How long do you plan to stay in Canada?" type question, then away you go. Say a couple of minutes processing time for most folks, but you might have a bit of a wait if you are among the later groups off the ship.


I'd always suggest Self-Disembarkation because it ensures any queues will be minimal - you beat all of the 'I need help with bagge' groups off the ship so there would be plenty of time for dropping bags with the Fairmont bell staff and the minimal risk of CBSA randomly selecting you for secondary questioning/bag inspection.  But even if it's a busy port day and you need to collect your bags, since the hotel is literally just the other side of th street from the pier you should be just fine with any Disembark group around 8:15am or earlier.

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for this information.  I to, am trying to figure time lines out.  So I understand leaving the ship in Vancouver and going through customs but wondering on the other end.


We are staying in Vanouver for a few days after the cruise, then heading back to the US.  Confused and concerned about time.  We catch an early flight out of Vancouver, with a plane switch in Seattle to Orlando.  Where do we do customs back into the US: Vancouver, Seattle or Orlando?  We have just over an hour in Seattle to switch planes but that was the connecting flight offered by princess easy fair so we booked it without thinking where we had to go through...

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As long as your flight is before ~9pm you'll be precleared by CBP before you board the plane in Vancouver. They operate 2 shifts, 4:30am to 8:30pm, so that all US-bound flights are treated as Domestic on arrival (i.e. no issues when connecting, so even an hour should be more than adequate for getting yourselves and your suitcases onto the next plane - just be sure you don't leave the secure area in Seattle!) An 'early' flight I assume you mean well before noon?


CBP's start time means that it's pointless arriving before 4:30am even for the earliest flights - the '3 hours preflight' recommendation means that there's always a horde of first-timers standing around unable to get through. That queue takes a while to get processed - so we arrive for early US flights on the first SkyTrain at a little after 5am - after dropping bags and going through security, the CBP backlog has also been dealt with so it's a nice quick process. We've even taken flights as early as 6am using SkyTrain - but we do have NEXUS to ensure we get priority queues for both Security and Preclearance (Global Entry works too - but you must have the actual card with you to show CATSA to get into the short Security queue).


If your flight is any time before 10am, arriving 2 hours before your flight will almost certainly be an hour more than you need to make it - even on the busiest cruise days nobody can get to YVR before 8am from the pier, and most don't start rolling in until 9:30am so you will never need to fight the hordes. Only if your flight is after 11am would you be better to arrive more than 2 hours early, just to ensure you do beat folks from the pier who will start arriving by cab and SkyTrain by not long after 8am and busloads of transfers from 9:30am.

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Thank you.  Our plane leave around 6:30 am and we will be going from hotel to airport. So that sound easy enough.  However in regards to suitcases.  I assume (silly me) that once they are checked in through the airline or customs or both then Delta will handle the transfer in Seattle?    


I will check Nexus and see if we have enough time to get it before we leave.  While we have done several cruises we previously always arrived back at US port and while researching this stuff it gets more confusing.


Also need took at Sky Train routes....tha k you

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1 hour ago, gremlinbangles said:

once they are checked in through the airline or customs or both then Delta will handle the transfer in Seattle?

If you're clearing customs in YVR then you're arriving in SEA as a "domestic" flight and Delta will just transfer the bags to the next flight.  I believe this applies to your flight.


In cases where you're not pre-clearing customs in YVR that is NOT the case, you arrive in the US as an international flight and have to pick up your bag after going through customs/immigration then hand it back off to the airline after passing the last officer.

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Thanks again.  Yes we will go through customs at YVR.  That's great news!  Other then getting up early and standing in line we will be good to go.  Glad we wont have to worry about stuff in Seattle.  We are so very excited.

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Hallux already gave you the skinny on luggage transfer (and I agree, it's just like domestic flights after preclearance); SkyTrain there's only one line that goes to the airport - the Canada Line. Unless you're very laid back travelers, with a 6:30am flight and no Trusted Traveler card you would probably feel more comfortable better taking a cab and aiming to arrive by 4:45am rather than the first train which arrives ~5:09am. By the time you check your bags and get through security the backlog of super early folks should be reduced enough there won't be much time wasted at CBP. Most downtown hotels are 30mins drive - and no traffic to worry about that early.


It's unlikely that Security queue will be more than ~10mins in the early morning even without GE or NEXUS, and the kiosks ensure that the CBP queue is also swift-moving, but the extra 30mins padding compared to SkyTrain will let you grab breakfast if the queues are light and give you a little less stress on the offchance the queues are a bit busier.


Since you guys don't have NEXUS already, I very much doubt that you'd be able to get it or Global Entry unless your cruise is one of the very last this season (both still have extra backlogs thanks to US government shutdown, and you always need to arrange an in-person interview the first time you apply - you can check on 'flyertalk' forum where there is a very active thread giving info on prcoessing time for first time and renewals, how long interview delays are at different sites - but even before the shutdown it was usually three months or more to get either the first time around).

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Thank you.  Sounds like a taxi for us.  I appreciate the information. This is the first time we are doing a land tour pre cruise and staying after cruise for a few days to explore Vancouver, then flying back.


If not think I want to struggle with the luggage on the the sky train from what I read our hotel is not along that line.



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