Vancouver is a perfect cruise port, especially for LGBT travel. My husband and I have used both Vancouver and Seattle for our Alaska cruises. We’ve found pros and cons to each port (stay tuned for that topic in the future).
Many Americans overlook Vancouver. They perceive it will be more expensive than Seattle. Plus their ultra-focus on Alaska makes them forget how much added value a few days in the embark/debark port can bring to a trip.
For the past couple of years, Vancouver (and all of Canada) has effectively been “on sale” for American visitors, as the U.S. dollar has regained about 20% value over the Canadian dollar.
Legendary Vancouver Pride is August 6, 2017!
Here are a couple of reasons we believe this city on the west coast of Canada is a perfect cruise port. We recommend seven must-do activities that make it worth adding a couple of days before or after your Alaska or Pacific Coastal cruise itinerary.
What makes Vancouver a “perfect cruise port”?
For us, a “perfect” cruise port has a cruise terminal that is located in an area we can walk to from a downtown hotel. Vancouver’s Canada Place has this nailed. A number of Vancouver cruises do depart from the more industrial Ballantyne terminal which requires a short cab or Uber ride from downtown, but offers proximity to the hipster neighborhood called Commercial Drive, aka “The Drive.”
Seven Vancouver must-do activities for LGBT cruise travelers
- Hang out in the Davie Gay Village.
Like many gay villages, Davie Village isn’t exclusively gay and many gays have left the village for other neighborhoods and even the suburbs. However Davie Street retains its gay flavor, and is the heart of Vancouver’s LGBT scene with several gay bars. The nexus of the village is Jim Deva Plaza, near the rainbow crosswalks (Vancouver was a leader on that oft-copied concept).
For meeting locals, The Pumpjack bar, a long-time favorite, still delivers a good time especially on weekend evenings and Sunday afternoons—perfect for a post-cruise. This gay village has always provided a friendly experience.
- Experience the Stanley Park Sea Wall. There is nothing like this pathway anyplace else on earth. Downtown Vancouver is situated on a peninsula, and Stanley Park fills the entire tip of the peninsula. Stanley Park is huge—some 1,000 acres of temperate rainforest—and is surrounded by water on three sides.
The entire park is ringed by a paved pedestrian and cycle pathway known as “the sea wall.” For a brisk walk, the stretch just beyond the end of Beach Ave. is perfection, delivering views of the ships in English Bay, the mountains, and good people watching as well. Stanley Park’s historic gay cruising area is nearby, and still has some action. For a more robust experience, you can walk the entire 9K (6-ish miles) around the park, or choose to cut through the park on a number of trails—but be warned, it’s quite easy to get lost on the inner trails!
You can also rent bikes or inline skates at shops near the intersection of Denman Street and West Georgia; all wheeled traffic is one-way around the park so plan time for the entire loop.Within Stanley Park you’ll also fine several of Vancouver’s finest attractions, including the stunning aquarium, exquisite totem poles, and a very fine activity for summer evenings: Theatre Under The Stars.
- Explore Granville Island Public Market…and the “secret streets” surrounding it.
From downtown Vancouver, it’s a short ride on the very cute ferries across False Creek to the excellent market—a blend of fresh produce, cooked foods, crafts.
The indoor market works well as a rainy day activity. The streets surrounding the market offer some real treasures, and most visitors don’t wander too far down them. That’s a shame as they miss the artisan sake maker, so don’t be afraid to go strolling!
- Eat sushi. And then eat sushi. And then have some sushi.Vancouver’s sushi culture is the stuff of legends, and everyone has a favorite sushi joint. There will be one near you. Ask a local which one is their fave, and go try it out. There is also a continually developing Japanese noodle scene, and several “izakaya” Japanese pub style restaurants. Beyond Japanese, Vancouver has long been known as a “foodie” city, and has a solid food truck scene. Among the more interesting places we’ve ever eaten is a place serving regional Aboriginal fare, called Salmon ‘n Bannock Bistro. You won’t go hungry in Vancouver–just another reason the city earns our vote as a perfect cruise port.
- Explore hipster neighborhoods.
In perfect cruise port Vancouver, your Scruff or Grindr app will continue to light up even when you leave Davie Street and the West End. Neighborhoods like Main Street, Kitsilano, Gastown, and Commercial Drive are great places to stroll, shop, have coffee at one of the ubiquitous coffeehouses, and generally hang out.
Many of the city’s LGBT locals live in these neighborhoods. Commercial Drive has long been the nucleus of Vancouver’s lesbian scene, although the only marginal touchpoint into it is a very cool sex toy shop called Womyn’s Ware.
- Don’t miss the outstanding Museum of Anthropology. Go in-depth into regional history and culture. In my world travels, I have never experienced another museum offering the level regional understanding provided by the Museum of Anthropology. Their collection of totems and other artifacts of Canada’s west coast native peoples is outstanding and endlessly engaging.
They have other galleries showcasing cool things like masks of the world and temporary exhibits, too. And as long as you’re at the museum, nearby you will find Wreck Beach, where you can…
- Get naked legally!
Vancouver’s Wreck Beach is easily among the world’s top-ten nude beaches, and there is a section frequented almost-exclusively by gay men (bottom of Trail #7). On a sunny summer day—and even in spring and fall—Wreck Beach is hopping with Vancouver locals who love to bare it all. To reach the beach, you’ll be best-off taking proper walking shoes as it’s a fairly steep trail from parking areas down to the ocean.