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david,Mississauga

Vancouver's Improved Embarkation

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A lot has been written about the delays in embarking in Vancouver and detailed comments have been posted about improvements. Our recent experience was three weeks ago today, the 10th of June.

 

 

Our last Vancouver embarkation was four years ago on a Holland America ship. That day had three ships with over 7,000 passengers embarking. Because we went early it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It is often said the most convenient time to arrive for embarkation is very early or at the last minute. Those who arrived late that day did not do well at all.  There was so much of a delay due to insufficient U.S. officials that all three ships departed at least an hour late.

 

 

This year is the first year in a long time that Cunard has offered Alaska cruises.  Cunard promises priority check-in to passengers in the “Grills” and to those in the top two levels of their loyalty programme – but only in Southampton and New York. We rarely travel in a suite but our loyalty has given us Diamond status with Cunard. My wife has difficulty with her knees and, although she usually does not request wheelchair assistance when travelling except when flying internationally, we had our travel agent contact Cunard. The Cunard agent recommended she accept wheelchair assistance for boarding the Queen Elizabeth. My dear wife can walk a fair distance, slowly, but standing a long time is particularly painful, so she agreed.

 

Because we always stay the night before a cruise at the Pan Pacific hotel atop the terminal, we were able to have the hotel’s porter collect our luggage from our room (and our friends’ room). We were advised we could by-pass “baggage drop-off” and go directly to the Hall C check-in. But those who request assistance are told to present ourselves to staff at the lower-level drop-off area so we took the hotel’s elevator to the cruise departure level.

 

The Intercruise staff who provide shore services for the cruise lines were friendly and helpful as they have been at other ports where they provide this service. Having arrived at that spot about 10:45, we waited on a bench for a short while and a man with a wheelchair came by a few minutes after being paged. He took us up to Hall C of the convention centre where the Cunard check-in had commenced.  To my surprise, there was a Priority check-in sign, but he took us to the designated wheelchair check-in area. There was a large number of check-in clerks, a many as I have seen in New York and Southampton. 

 

After an efficient check-in, we were taken through the adjacent hall where the Disney ship was having its check-in. There appeared to be 150 people in the queue to check-in. After a long trip down a hallway it was back down in the elevator to where we started. It was quick going through security and the U.S. border control. At this hour, and there being only two ships in that day, there appeared to be only a small queue in both areas.

 

 It was amusing that a person at security told us we had to go to a desk and register the two bottles of Champagne that we had in our hand-luggage. Cunard does not require this nonsense, but I went to the desk and advised the two people there that we were going on Cunard and surely we could bring on board as much as we want, as usual. He smiled and said “Of course, just go through.”

 

The boarding area had several rows of chairs but no-one was waiting. Embarkation had already commenced. I don’t know when it started, but given the number of people who had boarded before we did it could not have been later than 11:00. We were seated with a beverage in the lido at 11:15, just a half hour after arriving at the first point. Staterooms were available between 12:00 and 12:30, which is Cunard’s usual embarkation time.

 

As for disembarkation 10 days later, my wife told the purser’s staff that she did not need and had not requested a wheelchair for that. We were offered priority disembarkation – just five minutes after the suites – and there was no customs or immigration inspection because that was done (such as it was) in the previous port, Victoria. After a short walk to the baggage hall and a short wait for a taxi we were off to the airport.

 

We were very pleased with the improvements at Vancouver.

 

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