What can cross an ocean without wings, change locations quietly in the dark of night and carry at least a week of supplies for at least 2,000 people? Cruise ships do this and more, all under one “roof”!


If you live in or near Vancouver, a cruise in and out of Canada Place:
a) does not require a flight
b) requires unpacking only once
c) is reasonably priced compared to other vacation options
d) all of the above


If you picked d, congratulations — perhaps you have already experienced these benefits. But if you hesitated to answer, now may be the time to discover the advantages of cruising if you live near a port.

Flight delays, cancellations, ferry wait times and traffic headaches have notoriously interfered with vacations in the past year, making cruising a less stressful and safer option.


Cruising in and out of your home port is affordable. The one-time fare includes almost everything – think mobile all-inclusive. A vast assortment of food options, beverages, entertainment, games, fitness centre, spa, casino and both organized and independent activities can all be had onboard.

[Dining at Tamarind]

Holland America Line’s speciality dining, alcoholic beverages, soda and gourmet coffee are generally available at an additional charge via various add-ons.

[Less than perfect weather on a sea day does not stop us diehard pickle ball players!]

A cost comparison of a vacation requiring payments for transportation (fuel, ferries, flights), meals, and daily activity all separately demonstrate that a cruise can be a bargain. With the variety of activities and excursions, cruising can be a great option for group trips, whether it be multi-generational families or friends with different abilities and interests.


When I moved to Vancouver in December 2021, I made it my mission to travel all of the itineraries I could that offer a return trip to and from Canada Place. Multiple cruise lines, with different options from ship size to activities onboard, operate out of Vancouver, but personally, I am loyal to Holland America Line (HAL). Priorities to me – delicious quality food, cleanliness and elegant sophistication – have been met on each of my eight trips with them.

[Seattle at night]

Cruise season in Vancouver begins in April and ends in October, with a round-trip cruise to Hawaii bookending most of the season. I’ve reserved a 17-day return trip onboard the MS Koningsdam for October 2023 and cannot wait to walk and wheel my luggage over, board the ship and sail away from the start of the city’s rainy season.


A high percentage of cruises in and out of Vancouver travel up the West coast to Alaska. Holland America operates three ships continuously during the Alaska season. Two of them have the same seven-day itinerary but allow flexibility in day of the week departure (one weekend, one weekday) as well as ship size and style.

The third ship follows a 14-day itinerary, heading further north to Kodiak. Land and sea options are also available (it’s best to speak to your travel agent or HAL directly to discuss the best option for you).

Vista Lounge
[The World Stage; Holland America Line photo]

I have been fortunate to have travelled through the fjords and glaciers of Norway and Chile, both regions renowned for their natural beauty, but was reminded about the rugged magic in our own backyard when I cruised to Alaska in September 2022 (I had previously been 15 years ago, when on my first cruise).

[View of the Koningsdam from atop Lions Gate bridge, September 2022; Karen Sytnick photo]

Navigating along the inside passage and into Glacier Alley rivals any of the top scenic routes in the world. An Alaskan cruise, a bucket list trip for people from all over the globe, is easily accessible to us as residents of Western Canada and the US.

[Billboard Onboard; Holland America Line photo]

The Pacific Coast is another destination serviced by the Port of Vancouver. Multiple itineraries either start or end south down the West coast (San Diego, San Francisco, and even Mexico) and require a one-way flight, however there are a few options round trip by ship.

[View from the top of Astor Column of Noordam anchored in the Astoria harbour]

I took a five-day cruise on the MS Noordam in May 2023. Most cruises are at least seven days, but you can find a few shorter ones, ideal for those with time constraints. These may also have less exposure to open seas for those worried about motion sickness or straying far from land, two potential concerns for cruise virgins.

The five-day itinerary was compact and convenient. With only one sea day, it was easy to stay connected even without wifi, an option for someone without vacation time. Once on board, the sights and sounds of Canada Place’s convenient downtown port location with its seawall vibe blending with float planes, helicopter sand seabus traffic made the time fly until the late afternoon departure.


The sail-away from the Port of Vancouver was spectacular, with a unique perspective of Stanley Park, Lions Gate Bridge and cargo ships anchored in the Burrard Inlet.

[A little classic Oregon in Astoria: Craft beer, fire pit and a food truck]

The first port stop was Astoria, Oregon, which we reached at noon the following day. It is a pretty little town whose highlights include the Astor Column, Fort Clatsop (of Lewis and Clark fame) and a historic streetcar trolley built in 1913 that shuttles tourists along the riverfront walk. Cannon Beach and Seaside are within an hour drive for those looking to explore further.

[Fort Astoria, site of the original settlement of the town]

The third day was a sea day, perfect for exploring onboard the ship. From a morning stretch class in the gym to foot posture analysis, indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, ping pong and pickle ball, origami class, art auctions and beer and wine tastings, there was an option for everyone to fill the day, despite the inclement weather.

[The Dining Room; Holland America Line photo]

The Dining Room and Pinnacle Grill were also open for lunch as it was a sea day (open daily for dinner), making it a perfect opportunity for a leisurely meal. Formal afternoon tea was also served in the dining room at 3 pm.

The ship docked in Seattle by the time we woke up the next day. A long day in port meant plenty of time to explore the city on foot, bike, hop on/hop off, or on an excursion. The Chihuly Gardens at the base of the Space Needle displays masterpieces of glass art as well as offering demonstrations of glass blowing and cinematic stories about the exhibitions.

[Chihuly Glass Garden, Seattle]

Pike Place Market is a perfect spot to grab a bite or stop for a beer while soaking up the urban atmosphere and bustle of the vendors. If you can stay awake (like the group of ladies who wore specially designed “Sleepless in Seattle” shirts onboard), the nighttime sail away from the lights of the Emerald City is magical.

[Exquisite sweet treats from the pastry chef]

We spent the final day of the cruise in Victoria. Although a destination that most of us have been to, arrival by ship just made it feel different. The port was about a half-hour walk from the Parliament Grounds and Empress Hotel along the scenic waterfront path.

[Symbols of Canadian heritage and history in Victoria, BC]

Shops, boats, restaurants, pubs and flowers lined the route. Excursion options include tours of Butchart Gardens, Abkhazi Gardens and whale watching. The ship departed at 11 pm and slowly transported its guests back in time for breakfast the next day in Vancouver.


If you live in or near Vancouver, seize the opportunity and take advantage of the convenience of cruising from your home port. Hang out at Canada Place and watch the ships disembark, catch international tourists speaking multiple languages and ask them where they are coming or going from. The buzz is contagious and guaranteed to have you reaching out to your travel agent for more adventures on sea. Happy cruising!

We were guests aboard the MS Noordam for the purpose of exploring Holland America’s Pacific Northwest sailing. Opinions, as always, remain our own. Where not expressly mentioned, photos by BJ Oudman.

About Our Contributor BJ Oudman

BJ Oudman

BJ Oudman is a western Canadian freelance writer with interests in an active lifestyle, travel, food, and beverages from coffee to cocktails. She left her professional career as a physical therapist in Calgary, Alberta after 30 years to spend time in Vancouver, British Columbia. Follow BJ on Instagram and Twitter.

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