- Captain Albert's Blog -

Stories from the Sea, Past and Present

12 May 2013; Vancouver, Canada.

The season is now coming into full swing. This week the last cruise ship will arrive to make up the full complement of regulars for the summer. Today we had four ships in Vancouver and that will remain more or less the same in each port.  3 in Juneau, 4 in Skagway and 4 in Ketchikan. The Zaandam is starting the run up to Seward, which we will join next cruise as the alternating ship. So this evening she will sail to Ketchikan while we go to Juneau one more time as the first port of call. This week our buddy will be the Norwegian Pearl which we will see in Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Ketchikan.  Then we will lose her as she is becoming a Seattle based ship. This means that by next week it will be quieter in Vancouver on a Sunday with only two ships in port, the Statendam and the Celebrity Century.  Vancouver lost some ships to Seattle this summer and also there are now some ships calling on Friday and that distributes the load a little bit. I believe the shift to Seattle has more to do with the domestic flight arrangements that are available if you stay inside the US than with the attractiveness, or lack of it, of Vancouver. It remains a great city to visit and to sail from.

blog a Statendam Vancouver aug 1982 own photo

The old Statendam in aug 1982 with yours truly on board. Docked at Ballentyne East which is no longer part of the cruise area. Handy dock though, just opposite China Town.

To get all the ships in, there is a 2nd cruise terminal and that is called Ballentyne Pier. It was the oldest dock for the cruise ships until they built Canada Place in the 1980’s. Until that time, there was no dedicated cruise terminal and the cruise ships docked at a modified cargo shed that handled this new-fangled business of going on an Alaskan Cruise.


Ballantyne pier

Ballentyne Pier as it is now. The old gate in the front is a left over from the Canadian Pacific days.

Then Canada Place was constructed as part of the Expo 86 happening and two cruise ships and a small 3rd one could then be handled at this cruise terminal which also included the Pan Pacific hotel, but soon it was too small but Ballentyne remained in use as a cruise terminal. Later on Canada Place was extended which made it possible to dock one really large ship on the East side and two smaller ones at the West side and that is the situation that we have now. Ballentyne can take two more ships, so the regular capacity of Vancouver is five good size ships on one day. 



Canada place was constructed on the location of the old Canadian Pacific Docks which once covered most of the sea front. Apart from the docks for the Deep sea ships of the Canadian Pacific Line, there were the docks for the Canadian Pacific Railroad ships, which were the coastal ferries, and there was the large train station emplacement in front of it.

By the mid 80’s this all started to be redeveloped and now Canada Place is surrounded by other high rises and apartment buildings that make up the new sea front. Nicer to look at than a train shunting yard, but it was the end of an era when Canadian Pacific came to an end as a shipping company that had reached from the Far East, all across Canada and all the way to England.

a blog figure head

From a old postcard. I think this is still the original figure head of the Empress of Japan. On the right one of the CPR Princess ferries that ran up and down the coast.

Some reminders are still there and one of those is the large hotel that is still in operation. World famous is of course Chateau Frontenac in Quebec, but there is also a smaller version in downtown Vancouver. I was told that you could see this hotel, which is standing right in downtown, from the docks in the days when the plane was not considered a travel option over the ocean.  Another reminder is the bow figure of the Empress of Japan which is on display in Stanley Park. I see it every time when we sail towards Canada Place. It is a replica as the original fell apart long time ago.

We had a bit of a rainy and chilly day today, while over 1300 guests joined the ship. Still we managed to pull out on time and then a whole procession lined up towards Seymour Narrows.  We have a late tide again, going through around 01.30 in the morning. After that it will be pedal to the metal again for Alaska.

The weather is a mixed bag in the coming days. Overcast most of the time with wind and haze in Queen Charlotte Sound. In the Inside passage it should be wind still and clear, so at least I will have something to look at, while I spend from midnight to until 06.00 on the bridge.  

It was good to see Missed Career at Sea on the dock again.


  1. Hello, Captain: I just wanted to mention that the original Canadian Pacific Pier B-C, dating from about 1920, is still there under the Canada Place structure, and forms the main wharf level east and west of the building. When Canada Place and the Pan Pacific Hotel were constructed in the mid 1980s, the original pier was completely refurbished and rehabilitated. The new buildings are supported on piles driven through holes in the original pier deck into the bedrock below. Similarly, the new sheds at Ballantyne Pier were constructed as part of the redevelopment, but the original pier, dating from circa 1913 is still there, having been repaired and rehabilitated in the early 1990s. A small new section at the north end was also added at that time. The south facade of one of the original sheds was retained as a heritage structure, as you mentioned.

    Thanks again for your daily blogs. They are most interesting.

  2. Good to see a photo of S. S. Statendam. In 1975, I had a cabin directly under the Bridge. After the first night’s dinner, I entered the cabin and found the curtain closed. I opened it. Very quickly afterward, a rapid knock on the stateroom door; upon opening it, I found a frantic cabin steward. He said, “Bridge called! Bridge called! Have to close the curtain! Have to close the curtain!” as he rushed into my stateroom. I learned my lesson NOT to open my curtain at night.

    Really enjoy your reports, Captain!

  3. Robbie Robinson

    May 15, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Enjoyed seeing the picture of the Statendam IV. Our first cruise was on her from the Ballantyne Pier in 1981. We took my father along with us to Alaska as that was the only state he had not been in during his lifetime. Fell in love with Sitka on that cruise. Thanks for the blog. Really enjoy it. We just returned from the Hawaii – So. Pacific cruise on the Westerdam.

  4. That lovely Statendam; took my first cruise on her in 1978, down to Venezuela and ports in between. Used to sail out of Miami.wonderful times!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *