Tampa, Florida to Toronto, Ontario to Vancouver, B.C. Canada
At first, I was a bit apprehensive about flying on Air Canada, especially so given that they were using the same type of Airbus planes that had a recent disaster. A couple of weeks before we left, they switched over to Embraer and Boeing planes and that change was fine with me. Air Canada also allows two suitcases per person. When you are planning to be out for 21 days you need your stuff along with you!
The day before we were to drive to the airport, my daughter suggested that we should spend the night at the Tampa airport, she was right and we did exactly that. Why take the chance of a flat tire and a missed flight? We had a one hour drive from Sarasota to Tampa.
The first hop went without a hitch, but the Toronto airport was excessively huge and we had to walk long distances to get to our Vancouver connection. That was also where we first cleared Canadian customs and the lines were long. We had to claim our luggage, go through customs and then re-check our luggage and then pass through security. We hadn’t flown in a few years so new customs and security procedures were a shock. All this activity had to take place within the time limit between our two flights and it was close! The Air Canada Boeing 767 flight from Toronto to Vancouver was fine except that here’s where trouble hit. There was a thunderstorm in the Vancouver area and after we landed it was decided that no planes could unload — FOR THREE HOURS — so we sat helpless on the tarmac along with a dozen other planes. It was apparently an employee safety policy that shut down the entire airport, but the rain hardly existed and the lightning was way off in the distance. We come from Florida, the lightning capital of the world, so I didn’t appreciate their cautious procedures too well. We were to arrive at 8:00PM local time, so make that 11PM with the delay and add three more hours to that with our time zone change. So to us, body time was 2:00AM!
We finally deplaned as did quite a few other flights simultaneously, so the luggage pick up zone was stuffed with people. One of our suitcases (mine) was late coming through and we had to stand around waiting for that. The Holland America greeter in his red jacket was a pleasant sight to see and a good person to know. He made sure that all of his group made it to the bus that would ultimately take us to the Fairmont Waterfront. I’m an old farm boy turned engineer, retired. You can imagine that I don’t like crowds and riding in sardine cans and now I’m going to go on a cruise with over a thousand other people! Right off, I got my first taste of dislike for busses. Riding through Vancouver on a rainy night in a bus is not wonderful and when we finally did get to the Fairmont, there was another long line waiting to register.
We got our room keys around midnight or 3:00AM body time to us. After we get into our room and start to settle in, the hotel FIRE ALARM was screwed up or someone was screwing with it. The alarm went off several times and there was this stupidly distorted PA system speaker in our closet with announcements that I couldn’t understand and not only that, they repeated them in French. All of that activity was over false alarms. Did we have a relaxing night? Granddaughter Annie hit the bed when we first got there and slept through the whole ordeal. Later, I finally got to “come down off the roof” after being sky high with that airport delay thing and fire alarm crap. I strongly recommend that you take the option to spend a night before your cruise. You will need the rest, the safety margin and you will need to be prepared for what’s next to come the following day.
The Fairmont Waterfront is right across the street from Canada Place where the cruise ships dock. We could have had a bus tour of the city, but after the previous night’s bus ride, I had enough of that. We decided to simply walk over to Canada Place with our carry-on suitcases in tow, but that wasn’t so simple. Canada Place, combined with the Pan Pacific Hotel is BIG with more levels than you expect and no evident pathway for us to follow. There are two ways to get from the Fairmont to the cruise ship, cross the street or go through the tunnel. Big mistake! That tunnel takes you to places where you can get lost! We finally made it, only to end up in a switchback style line for customs, a line for security and another zig-zag line to get approved for the cruise. I had previously printed on-line passes that may have helped saved time, but I have no idea how much.
It seemed ridiculous to take a 24 hour trip through Canada only to go through customs twice in a row because after all, the ship is going to Alaska in the United States. Why not leave on the ship from Seattle? The cabotage provisions of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 restricts the carriage of goods or passengers between United States ports to U.S. built and flagged vessels. In addition, at least 75 percent of the crew members must be U.S. citizens. Moreover foreign repair work of U.S.-flagged vessels’ hull and superstructure is limited to 10 percent foreign-built steel weight. This restriction largely prevents American shipowners from refurbishing their ships at overseas shipyards. Apparently that law is not very effective as far as cruise ships are concerned! The result is more annoying to the passengers than to the cruise line owners. What delightful fun and we had no idea what fun security would be until we returned home on an “international” flight from Vancouver via Dallas / Ft. Worth. More on that later.
All aboard! That’s like walking the gang plank into another world that would be our home for the following week. Our room wasn’t ready because the previous load of occupants just got off and the stewards have to clean and prepare the rooms. Fortunately, our checked luggage was transferred from the hotel directly to our cabin. We went to the Lido restaurant on deck eleven as that’s where all newbies congregate for lunch. You’ll have to look at my pictures of the Lido and the deck plan. The ship is big at first, but once you hike around and get acquainted, it seems to get smaller. Finally, I might just get to relax and enjoy.