The Victoria cruise port welcomes numerous cruise ships returning to Seattle from Alaska. Cruise ships sailing to Alaska must dock at a foreign port in accordance with the “Jones Act.” Victoria, BC, is the obvious choice because it can accommodate larger vessels than Vancouver.
You can take a shuttle downtown from the port, known as Ogden Point, arrange a tour to Butchart Gardens, or walk to Fisherman’s Wharf.
The shuttle buses drop cruise passengers on Government Street in front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
If you’re traveling from the United States, the US dollar is stronger than the Canadian dollar, so your money will go further.
Where Is The Victoria Cruise Terminal?
The Victoria cruise ship terminal is located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It’s approximately 60 miles or 118 km south of Vancouver and 60 miles north of Seattle, Washington.
The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority maintains operations of the port, which is said to be one of the busiest Canadian ports.
During the summer, the terminal at Ogden Point sees vessels on Alaska cruise itineraries and ones that cruise along the Pacific Coast.
But your vessel may stop there if you take an Alaska cruise from Seattle, Washington or Vancouver, BC. Cunard, for instance, offers 10-day itineraries from Vancouver and includes a 12-hour visit to Victoria.
At the beginning and end of Alaska cruise season, vessels sometimes stop in Victoria as they reposition elsewhere. Victoria is an incredible city which begs for a longer stay. You may want to return to spend a few days or a weekend in Victoria, BC.
How Many Cruise Ships Use The Victoria Cruise Port?
Ogden Point has two deep water berths close to downtown Victoria. However, the Victoria cruise terminal has welcomed four or five ships on certain days.
For the 2022 cruise ship season, it welcomed its first vessel, the Caribbean Princess, on April 6th. The Crown Princess was the last ship was the last vessel to dock on November 3rd. It had 370 scheduled docking, with July being the busiest month.
Victoria harbor saw ships from Princess, Holland America, Norwegian, Disney, Seabourn, Celebrity, Regent, Windstar, Lindblad Expeditions, Oceania, Cunard, and Carnival Cruise Line.
The port has lengthened pier B in the last few years to accommodate mega-ship like the Quantum-class vessels. Afterward, it welcomes the Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Encore, RCI Ovation of the Seas, and RCI Quantum of the Seas.
In 2024, Celebrity Cruises will be repositioning the Celebrity Edge to Seattle to offer cruises to Alaska, with a stop in Victoria.
The cruise ship terminal has a significant immigration and customs area to screen passengers in Victoria.
In May and September, expect highs of up to 65F or 18C. During the peak of summer, the weather can be much hotter. With highs around 86F or 30C, it might be a shock after Alaska’s cooler weather.
Where Can You Walk To From The Port?
Depending on your Alaska cruise itinerary, some ships dock in Victoria for four to five hours (between 5 pm and 10 pm). While passengers can purchase a shuttle bus ticket to access the town, some areas are walkable.
During the summer months, it’s still light until late, so you can see parts of Victoria in just a few hours. So, don’t stay on the ship; get out and wander around the capital of British Columbia.
Fisherman’s Wharf requires a nine to ten-minute walk, and here you can enjoy the freshest seafood and the best fish and chip while enjoying views of the waterfront.
While the food is the focus, the waterfront community has some unique gift shops too.
Fisherman’s Wharf is always a buzz of activity, and it’s great to be part of the crowd. If you have Celiac like me, The Fish Store makes the most amazing gluten-free battered fish that tastes great.
Kelp Reef Adventures offer guided kayak tours that last two to three hours. On the Juan de Fuca Strait paddle, you’ll see harbor seals, numerous shorebird species, and river otters.
Alternatively, if you walk east instead, you reach Mile Zero of the Trans Canada Highway and the Terry Fox Statue on the corner of Beacon Hill Park.
If you prefer to stay close to the Victoria cruise port, a stroll along the Ogden Point Breakwater provides excellent views and a chance to watch the sunset.
Shore excursion offerings may be limited by your cruise line if you’re only stopping for four hours. Whale-watching tours are top-rated and depart from the inner harbor. They typically last two hours.
While you might have seen humpback whales on a whale-watching tour in Alaska, in Victoria, you’ll enjoy Orca sightings instead.
Known as the city of gardens, Victoria might be best known for Butchart Gardens. In the summer, it’s open until 10 pm most evenings.
Located outside the downtown area, the world-famous garden features a Mediterranean, Italian, Japanese, Rose, and Sunken Garden. The Rose Garden is magnificent, with over 280 rose species.
What To Do In The Capital City Of British Columbia?
One of the best ways to explore the capital is to do a self-guided tour. There’s a lot packed into the downtown core, and most are walkable from the shuttle drop-off point. Here are some options to consider.
Visit A Castle
Hatley Castle and Craigdarroch Castle make wonderful trips if you’re into historic buildings. As two of Canada’s best castles, you can visit one or both depending on the length of your port day.
Hatley Castle, once owned by the wealthy Dunsmuirs, now houses the Royal Roads University. As such, visitors can tour the extensive gardens and see a small museum on the lower level.
However, a visit to Craigdarroch Castle allows you to tour all its floors and 39 rooms over a massive 25,000 square feet. The self-guided tour is impressive and will enable you to discover the castle’s history.
Due to the number of rooms, allow a couple of hours to read all the information in each room.
High Tea At The Empress
On the waterfront, The Empress Hotel offers an iconic high tea fit for a King or Queen. They have been serving British afternoon tea for over 100 years, but be warned; the formal event will set you back CAD 89 per person or up to CAD 135 with champagne.
The celebrated ritual features finger sandwiches, raisin scones with clotted cream, and sweet treats. Reservations are recommended, and the hotel caters to many allergies, including vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, lactose-free, and nut-free.
Tour The Legislature
No visit to Victoria is complete without touring the British Columbia Parliament Buildings. While taking a tour is free, you’ll need a pass. So, get your ticket first, and pass the time doing something else.
Inside, you’ll tour the Memorial Rotunda, Legislature Assembly of BC, and see the Golden Jubilee Window, gifted to Queen Elizabeth in her 50th year of reign. The Parliament Buildings are open Monday to Friday.
Browse The Royal British Columbia Museum
Across the street from the Legislature, the Royal BC Museum features an IMAX theater, a natural history gallery, and rotating traveling exhibits. It’s just CAD 5 for entry, which makes it an excellent attraction for those traveling on a budget.
The museum has a collection of online galleries. So, if you can’t fit the actual visit into your Victoria port day schedule, you can access the galleries online.
Outside the museum, the Netherlands Centennial Carillon was a gift to Canada to celebrate its 100th birthday in 1967. The carillon has 62 bells and plays random tunes from 10 am to 8 pm in the summer.
Visit Miniature World
Miniature World, located around the corner from the Empress Hotel, makes a fantastic option for families or rainy days. The indoor attraction features miniatures in a variety of dioramas.
There is everything from dollhouses to railways scenes, and even one of Buckingham Palace in London. The detail in each display is fascinating, and there’s a story behind each one.
Some dioramas are of different scales, with the larger one providing more detail.
Explore The Victoria Bug Zoo
As the name suggests, the Victoria Bug Zoo isn’t for everyone, especially arachnophobic’s. For 25 years, the mini zoo has been showing off its unique insects and debunks the myth that spiders are scary.
The zoo features a giant ant colony, glow-in-the-dark scorpions, leaf insects, giant walking sticks, and most people’s favorite, the hairy tarantulas.
You can observe these insects safely tucked away in glass exhibits as they go about their daily routines.
Enjoy A Horse Carriage Ride
There’s nothing more iconic than enjoying the sights of Victoria on a horse-drawn carriage. The carriages are often seen around the BC Parliament Buildings during the summer months. The open-air carriages can seat up to six, and pricing varies.
A 30-minute tour of James Bay costs CAD 125, a 60-minute tour of Beacon Hill Park is CAD 230, and the 90-minute Capital Hill tour covers most of Victoria and costs CAD 315.
Horse Wisdom Farm uses retired draft horses to pull their carriages. They extend their average life span by ten years by providing them with low-impact daily exercise.
Take A Tour On The Harbor Ferry
If you want a different perspective of Victoria, the harbor ferry tours allow you to view from the water. The scenic ride transports visitors on tub-style boats from its busy harbor.
You’ll see the Parliament Buildings, enjoy the bustling harbors, float house communities, and learn about the Coast Salish people who called this area home. The tours vary from 45 minutes to one hour.
The waters around Victoria are rich in marine life, so you can see harbor seals, sea lions, orcas, herons, and bald eagles. Alternatively, Victoria Harbor Ferry offers mini-tours which last 15 minutes and cost CAD 20.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
Hop-on hop-off buses are a great way to see a city without walking too far. The iconic double-decker buses take 90 minutes to complete a circuit, giving you lots of time to explore before rejoining the bus.
Most travelers start at the Empress Hotel on Government Street. Stops include Old Town (and Chinatown), Christ Church Cathedral, Fishermen’s Wharf, Oak Bay Village, Cook Street Village, and the Ogden Point cruise terminal.
For an additional CAD 20 fee, visitors can add admission to Craigdarroch Castle, one of Victoria’s iconic luxury residences built in 1898.
Chinatown is a fun place to explore. While quite a distance from the cruise port, it can be accessed by water taxi from Fisherman’s Wharf.
Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in the country and the second oldest in North America after the famous San Francisco one. Fan Tan Alley, an iconic place in Chinatown, runs from Pandora Avenue to Fisgard Avenue.
This heritage site features shops, cafes, and apartments on a very narrow alley. Be sure to walk it and enjoy the culinary delights along the way.
Walk The Inner Harbor
On a warm day, walking the inner harbor provides a chance to see locals peddling their wares, admire beautiful statues, and enjoy the harbor views.
Around the harbor and near the Parliament Buildings, you can see numerous totem poles dotted amongst the flowers. To capture your visit to Victoria, get a selfie at the 3D Canada sign and the mosaic orca overlooking the water.
See The City By E-Bike
There’s a lot packed into the city of Victoria, and if you don’t want to see it on foot, rent an electric bike instead. E-bikes are easy to ride and provide power assistance to tackle hills.
Cycle BC Rentals, Pedego Electric Bikes, and Victoria Bike Rentals offer bikes, with the latter offering pick-up at the cruise port. Shops offer rentals by the hour or for the day.
If you’re arriving in Victoria, British Columbia cruise port after completing your Alaska cruise, the city provides a place to wind down before disembarkation the next day.
Warmer than Alaska, it’s a chance to enjoy a vibrant city, do some last-minute shopping, and reminisce on your spectacular Last Frontier experience.