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DandDM

Bellingham to Vancouver by Train

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Posted (edited)

I'm a huge proponent of arriving to the port city a day before a cruise, but thinking of breaking that tradition for this "no-brainer" trip.  Looking for some support for this idea, or conversely, reasons why it is not a good idea.

 

The scenario is that I will be in Bellingham for work, and my employer has arranged lodging up until the day we leave on the cruise (a Wednesday).  Therefore, I am looking at the Amtrak train leaving Bellingham at 10AM and arriving in Vancouver BC at 11:45 (priced at $14pp).  We have arrived by train before (but always the night before) so am aware of the logistics with customs and getting to the cruise terminal.

 

My thought is that if the train is a little late, have a cushion with a 4:30 cruise departure.  And if something drastic happens to the train schedule, we should be able to find out about it the night before, or even the morning of, and be able to arrange a bus seat, rental car, or perhaps even a private fare arrangement.

 

I guess the concern is that something happens after we board the train that keeps up from getting to Vancouver.  Or that we cannot find alternative transportation the day of the cruise. 

 

Thoughts?  Should I bite the bullet and pay for a hotel room in Vancouver?

 

Thanks,

Edited by DandDM
Clarification of Vancouver BC

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It's always better to be in Vancouver than Seattle; and Bellingham doesn't even come close to having as much fun stuff to do (especially if you're there for several days already - you'll be bored after night one).

 

But in terms of riskiness of your travel - it's minimal. I have heard of one train that failed to arrive in time for a cruise since the track upgrades reduced landslides significantly (and even before that, it was only in Spring rains that anything tended to happen). Even if there is a landslide, Amtrak run buses either around the slide or on the entire route - if you are one of those end to end, they may actually be faster than the train (they try to put people all going to the same places on the same bus - if you get stuck on a bus going to every station it'll be longer due to detours so could be late picking you up at Bellingham, last US stop, but from there though there are no stops except the border!)

 

Since the morning train originates in Seattle and sits there overnight, it WILL leave on time. Only if something goes wrong with the track or a bridge, while the train is actually traveling, will you have a significant delay - and while that happens, it's less likely than, say, any given flight being delayed due to some mechanical issue. Amtrak 'late' status on such a short ride means they only have 15mins grace - so it is common for trains to be late. Freight continues to unlawfully get priority on the corridor, water traffic always legitimately gets priority (and there are some bridges that need to rotate or raise to allow ships through en route) so late trains are likely, but the most common delay is in the 20-30 minute mark on that route.

 

The longest we've ever taken being processed on arrival is still <30 minutes, and that was in the last plebe carriage let through - if you spring for Business you'll be in the first batch of folks let off.

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2 hours ago, martincath said:

It's always better to be in Vancouver than Seattle; and Bellingham doesn't even come close to having as much fun stuff to do (especially if you're there for several days already - you'll be bored after night one).

 

But in terms of riskiness of your travel - it's minimal. I have heard of one train that failed to arrive in time for a cruise since the track upgrades reduced landslides significantly (and even before that, it was only in Spring rains that anything tended to happen). Even if there is a landslide, Amtrak run buses either around the slide or on the entire route - if you are one of those end to end, they may actually be faster than the train (they try to put people all going to the same places on the same bus - if you get stuck on a bus going to every station it'll be longer due to detours so could be late picking you up at Bellingham, last US stop, but from there though there are no stops except the border!)

 

Since the morning train originates in Seattle and sits there overnight, it WILL leave on time. Only if something goes wrong with the track or a bridge, while the train is actually traveling, will you have a significant delay - and while that happens, it's less likely than, say, any given flight being delayed due to some mechanical issue. Amtrak 'late' status on such a short ride means they only have 15mins grace - so it is common for trains to be late. Freight continues to unlawfully get priority on the corridor, water traffic always legitimately gets priority (and there are some bridges that need to rotate or raise to allow ships through en route) so late trains are likely, but the most common delay is in the 20-30 minute mark on that route.

 

The longest we've ever taken being processed on arrival is still <30 minutes, and that was in the last plebe carriage let through - if you spring for Business you'll be in the first batch of folks let off.

This is great info, thanks!  And agree that Bellingham is not our preferred starting point, but I will be working there through regular business hours Tuesday then have the hotel room for another night... I have been impressed with their craft beer scene, but starting to feel really old amongst the college crowd. 

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3 hours ago, DandDM said:

This is great info, thanks!  And agree that Bellingham is not our preferred starting point, but I will be working there through regular business hours Tuesday then have the hotel room for another night... I have been impressed with their craft beer scene, but starting to feel really old amongst the college crowd. 

Yep, there's totally enough local beer for an enjoyable night in Bellingham, but more singular than plural in our case 😉 Not that it's a bad wee town by any means - seems like half of Alaska moves there every winter judging by all the AK plates, there are some beautiful drives in the area, and the Ye Olde Historic Downetowne is less twee than many. With a free hotel, I'd be taking the morning train myself in your shoes - and the later the better to some extent, as the queues at the pier will be lighter if you show up after 2pm or so (though even better to have the train on-time and let all those folks go clog up the noon peak queue while you do lunch somewhere!)

 

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We just took that Amtrak train from Portland to Tacoma and while it was maybe 15 minutes late per their schedule, as far as reliability I would be quite comfortable with your timeline.  While we always arrive a day early your plan seems reasonable.....enjoy your cruise.

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16 minutes ago, Qcruise said:

We just took that Amtrak train from Portland to Tacoma and while it was maybe 15 minutes late per their schedule, as far as reliability I would be quite comfortable with your timeline.  While we always arrive a day early your plan seems reasonable.....enjoy your cruise.

Thanks for the feedback!

 

We went ahead and purchased the tickets, and opted to spend the extra for business class seats.  Per my recollection, those cars unload first, so we can be first in line for customs.

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Another vote for doable.  Otherwise, get one of those morning buses.

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Yes business class does unload first and clears customs and immigration first.

 

Dennis

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