Vancouver – BC Ferries

I decided to hop a boat to Nanaimo to visit some friends since I was travelling on my own time. I got a ride to the station in Tsawassen, on the mainland shore, and  paid to ride as a foot passenger on the boat. I found it relatively cheap to take the service across $15.65 with taxes and a port fee. You do have the option of driving a vehicle on the ferry for a fee. I have done that in the past and found it best to have a reservation for my crossing otherwise waiting would have been in order. This time though as I was flying straight off Vancouver Island to Calgary and I chose not to bring a car, to instead walk on.  Just like on planes you can check bags and pick them up at the other end. This helps if you are like me and over packed for a short stay.
Unlike an airport the “berth” number for each departure was written on a small sign I almost missed next to the stairs for the terminal. My ticket did not have it printed on it, nor were there any signs or screens in the terminal.  The terminal was not large and I can’t imagine I would have gotten lost.  I do feel that there would have been a benefit to gate departure screens similar to those in an airport.  Announcements were made when boarding was to begin and just like open seating planes there was a mad rush for the “best seats”. I found the ship to be quite cold and was glad I brought a warm coat, sweater, hat and gloves.  I feared if the journey were any longer I would have been an iceberg by my disembarkation.
The ferry has the amenities one would expect of any travelling vessel or airport. There is a minuscule children’s play area. Minimal play things, well two boring looking cars and a tv really. It did however look like a good place for kids to burn off some steam and be contained for the ease of other passengers.  A glass enclosed area to keep noise and kids in not dissimilar to a racquetball court.  I can only imagine how many children have bounced like an out of control ball off those walls.
There is a cafeteria that serves full hot meals and cold options too.   The line up at meal times was serpentine.  Unlike air travel there isn’t a security check so you could bring whatever you with to munch on without having to determine if it is solid enough to bring with you.  A gift shop, study/ work desks. Smoking zones (outside), bathrooms, and lots of places to walk around.   One thing I found lacking was the availability of power outlets. The work desks and random areas had them but these boats were designed before the use of personal electronic devices were so prevalent.  Make sure your iPad is fully charged to avoid having to battle other passengers for power would be my advice.
The ride across the Georgia Straight took 2 hours and 10 minutes the day I embarked on my voyage. It was a long trip for me. Even though I am used to travelling overseas for 8-10 hours on a plane and I had armed myself with books, an iPad and plenty of snacks, it was long. I am not a very good sea traveller. I know it sounds odd as I have a steel stomach when it comes to airplanes and airlines food but put me on a boat and I am a mess. Even an inner tube down the river makes me seasick.  Many years ago I made the crossing on a ferry from France to England I was extraordinarily ill.  Deathly ill it seemed though I know it was mild seasickness. I spent most of my voyage clinging to the porcelain in the restrooms from France to England. In my defence it was a very rough day on the channel that day. As a result of that trip I have never been able to handle any kind of water vessel since. I have experienced brutal turbulence in the air and felt no ill effects but put me on a ship with the slightest ripple in the water and I am a wreck until my feet hit dry land.
The trip by plane is a mere 12 minutes of flying time. Hardly time to blink let alone crack the spine of a new book. The problem with flying by plane from Vancouver to the airport is the runaround at the airport. Arriving early, checking in, checking baggage, security screening, walking to the boarding lounge takes far longer than the 2 and change ferry ride time. The price was also an incentive. Even with my employee discount I could not beat the under $16 ticket price.