Replace Driving With the Victoria Clipper on Your Next Holiday
Stick Dek in the car for more than 20 minutes and the screaming will begin, and then my screaming will begin. I have no idea why he hates the car so much. Well, OK, I do. Who wants to be strapped in with no place to go for a long period of time? I sure don’t like it.
When the idea to head up to Victoria, BC for the weekend first came up, I knew we would not be driving. We would be taking the Victoria Clipper. It conveniently picked up in downtown Seattle, coincidently only a 20-minute drive from our house. Better yet, we had a gift certificate so the cost was not a problem either.
The one snag was the timing. In the winter, the Clipper only runs one boat up in the morning and one boat back at night. We would all need to be up and out the door by 6am. Not a time any of us like to be awake.
It worked out just fine though. Dek woke up early. He must have known we were headed out on an adventure. And on a boat! What could be more exciting than that? He sure couldn’t think of anything as we loaded him up in the car.
We were able to park a few blocks away and walk over to the pier terminal with our tiny suitcase. The boat had already started pre-boarding, which we were eligible for. Here I thought I dropped the ball by not checking in 7 days in advance to get into the first boarding group. I knew we wanted to sit at a table. Since seating is first come, first serve, I had no idea how we would pull that off when we got in the car that morning. Not to worry. Our ticket agent helped us through. She even printed out our return tickets and marked them for pre-boarding. This crew definitely knows how to treat families with little kids.
Once on board we settled right in. We were able to stow our small bag behind a seat along with the stroller and camera bag. No need to check bags when they are small. It would have just caused us delay at customs. Dek got comfy while the other passengers loaded on.
Coffee and tea were available for $1 a cup and included free refills. Hot chocolate was $1.25, but sadly did not include a free refill. It was still mighty tasty and just what my stomach needed as we waited to pull off the dock. Either baby was practicing his trampoline skills or my stomach was doing its own little dance with the waves.
Once we got moving the trip was uneventful. Dek alternated between breaking in our new Kindle Fire and doing a few laps around the boat with me. It was too cold to go outside on the deck, but we didn’t mind. There was plenty of room to stretch our legs. We said hi to some other kids and then played “Where’s Daddy” to find our seats over and over again. It was very similar to a plane ride in fact, just with a little more legroom.
The Strait of San Juan de Fuca was a little choppy. I had to take an extra long walk to rebalance my stomach. It helped a little but not as much as the Sierra Mist I picked up at the concession stand. Thank goodness for small but well stocked snack bars.
When we pulled up to the dock in Victoria, all passengers without checked luggage disembarked and headed through customs. It was fast and efficient. There were even bathrooms available if you needed a pit stop while in line. No break needed for us though. In no time we were outr of customs, walking across the street, checking into our hotel and enjoying the rest of our day. With an arrival time of 10:45am, we could cram in a lot before bedtime. I guess there are some benefits to a 6am wake up call.
The return trip was just as good. The water was not as choppy so my stomach stayed put. Dek was nearing bedtime so he was happy to hang out with mom, dad and his toy cars. Our boat pulled in at 8pm and we were home and had the boy in bed by 9pm. He hadn’t had much of a nap that day and with such a late bedtime he gave his mama the best gift of upon our return, a morning of sleeping in. Now that is what I call the end to a great trip.
Know Before You Go:
- Sailing time from Seattle to Victoria is approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes
- Prices vary depending on time of year and whether you book a package or not.
- Tickets must be purchased in advance. Even in the winter the boat can sell out fast. Both our voyages were fully booked.
- Check the Clipper Vacation web site for regular deals and packages on boat passage, hotel rooms and tours.
- If you have children under 5 you are eligible for pre-boarding. This gives you a chance to snag a seat with a table and more legroom than the standard row seating. If you want maximum legroom, head all the way to the front. There is enough room for kids to play on the floor, plus you get one heck of a panoramic view in front of you.
- During the winter months sailings are limited, while in the summer there are more boats and a variety of times taking you too and fro. Check schedule when booking.
- It is possible to go up to Victoria and back as a nice day trip but I don’t recommend it with kids. It’s a very long day. Plus with so much to see, why not take advantage of all there is to do.
- Food and beverages are available on the vessel. Coffee for $1, sodas for $2, light snacks and sandwiches are about $7. The snack bar accepts both Canadian and US money. Credit Cards as well.
- Duty free and souvenirs are available on board
- If you have not booked your afternoon tea or a tour you were planning to take, you can make a reservation on board and skip the lines at the attraction of your choice.
If you are contemplating the journey while pregnant, check out Pregnant on a Boat.