One of my favorite ways to reach Victoria, B.C. from Seattle, Wash., is via Victoria Clipper. The Clipper’s three ships are passenger-only, but each one cruises from downtown Seattle’s piers directly into Victoria’s Inner Harbour. And vice versa, for Seattle-bound Vancouver-Island residents. No cars, no headaches, no hassles!
While the Clipper’s fares can be spendy in summer, prices tend to go down in winter and spring (as low as $50/per person). Kids are often free, year-round. Combining Clipper and hotel via the online packages can save families between 10-30%.
Eight tips for your trip aboard the family-friendly Victoria Clipper:
- Check in at least an hour early as requested, perhaps even 15 minutes before official check-in. If you’re traveling with kids in strollers, request pre-boarding. Pre-boarding helps you find the family-friendly seats on the Victoria Clipper.
- You’ll need to break down your stroller for storage once on the Victoria Clipper. So make sure your stroller breaks down easily (one-handed, if possible!).
- Pre-boarding families can (and should) look for four- or six-seat clusters around tables, which makes both feeding and play easier to pull off. Bring toys that are easily contained and won’t spill all over the ship.
- It’s generally a pretty smooth ride, but the Strait of Juan de Fuca can get a little rough in bad weather. Staff will generally let you know in advance. If you or the kids are prone to seasickness (my son often yaks, no matter the transportation option), prepare beforehand. I bring quease-easing lollipops and try to sit toward the front of the Victoria Clipper, looking forward. Or sit near the bathrooms (rear of ship) for quick visits.
- Breakfast and meal packs are offered aboard the Clipper. I like to pack my own easy-to-eat breakfasts: sandwiches, juices, fruit. Remember that you’ll need to toss leftover-and-now-contraband fruits and veggies before disembarking in Victoria. Tip: The Clipper Cocoa is a enormous whipped-cream-smothered delight. It’s best right before arrival, unless the kids can handle their caffeine.
- At the front of some Clipper vessels, the crew shows kid-friendly films during the voyage. Ask at check-in if your ship will show a movie. If yes, sit near the front of the ship, where the movie plays on small, floor-level screens.
- You can get up and walk around during the journey. However, it’s not a good idea to let kids run, play or get too rowdy. The ship can tilt suddenly, catching kids off-balance, and aisle traffic can annoy other passengers.
- On-board or during booking, the Clipper offers extras, including tea at the Empress, Butchart Gardens admissions, and other Victoria must-dos. Check beforehand whether their prices save you money by looking up the direct-buy option from the attraction; depending upon the exchange rate, you may save a few dollars by booking through the Clipper.