Vancouver Before A Disney Alaska Cruise: 3 Day Itinerary

Vancouver is a gorgeous city extremely popular with Alaska cruisers and outdoor enthusiasts. Although it’s tempting to arrive just a day before your cruise, spending time in Vancouver before a Disney Alaska Cruise is a great place for your adventure to begin. 

What Makes Vancouver Before A Disney Cruise Special?

Disney Wonder docked at Canada Place Cruise Terminal in Vancouver

The great outdoors seamlessly weaves into everyday life in Vancouver. The striking background of the North Shore Mountains is visible from most of Vancouver and the large greenspace of Stanley Island encourages visitors to spend time using the many biking and hiking trails.

Outdoor enthusiasts will find plenty to do, but even those who are less ambitious can spend three incredible days visiting Vancouver before an Alaska cruise. 

How Many Days Should I Spend In Vancouver Before A Disney Alaska Cruise?

Alaska cruises are generally a long vacation with most sailings seven or more nights. It’s easy to convince yourself that arriving one day before your cruise is enough, but robs visitors of so many opportunities.

We suggest two or three days in Vancouver before a Disney Alaska Cruise. Three days, including your arrival day, is the sweet spot to experience several of Vancouver’s top activities. You can also add on extra days at the end of your inside passage cruise if taking a round-trip cruise into and out of Vancouver.

Vancouver’s Canada Place Cruise Terminal is a popular embarkation spot for many major cruise lines, not just Disney Cruise Line. Expect to see ships and cruise passengers from Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and more embarking and disembarking at this downtown Vancouver port.

Book popular activities like whale watching tours weeks ahead of your vacation. Also arrive at popular tourist activities like Capilano Suspension Bridge Park early in the morning to avoid crowds.

Best Vancouver Activities Before A Disney Alaska Cruise

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

A girl in shorts and a t-shirt walks across Capilano Suspension Bridge with gorgeous pines in the background

The big draw of this North Vancouver tourist destination is the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a swaying, narrow bridge 230 feet above the Capilano River. However, the park has much more to offer than this one attraction.

Capilano Suspension Bridge links two sides of the park. Cross the bridge to reach Raptors Ridge, Rainforest Explorers scavenger hunt, and Treetop Adventure (under refurbishment in 2024).

Arriving at 9:40 am beat the crowds that swarmed the park around 10 am. By that time we had already made it across the Capilano Suspension Bridge with very few people and no waiting.

I enjoyed the swaying bridge high above the river which was fun and just a little scary. Budget about three hours to fully explore the larger than expected Capilano Suspension Bridge Park.

Stanley Park

There is so much to see in Stanley Park’s 1000 acre (400 hectare) green space.  The park is a mix of natural forest, hiking and biking paths, educational centers, and recreational areas.

Hiking Trails

Walk winding trails while admiring roughly half a million trees that are part of this rainforest on the 17 miles or 27 kms of paths in Stanley Park. Despite the logging industry’s impact, there are some trees in Stanley Park that are hundreds of years old and stand as tall as 250 feet (76 m). 

Vancouver Seawall

Mountains in the background and water lapping along a small shoreline on part of the Vancouver Seawall at Stanley Park

Another popular destination inside the park is Vancouver Seawall. This seawall is a 5.6 mile (9 km) paved path that runs along the edge of the entire park. Expect views of the downtown skyline, Lions Gate Bridge, lush forest, and English Bay. 

Walking the sea wall takes about 3 hours or about an hour on a bike. There are several Mobi bike rental stations on Stanley Island making them a convenient option for out of town visitors. 

For safety the seawall is split into lanes to reduce accidents. Bikes and rollerblades use one side of the path while walkers use a separate area. Although the seawall is extremely popular and gets crowded during the summer, we really enjoyed our stroll along part of the path.

Stanley Park With Kids

Looking for something a little more family friendly? There are four parks onsite, a waterplay area, a train ride, and the Vancouver Aquarium full of marine life sure to enthrall even the youngest visitors.

Totem Poles

Three totem poles in various carving styles and colors grouped together in Vancouver's Stanley Park

Brockton Point is British Columbia’s most visited tourist attraction and is home to several totem poles. These totem poles are not representative of the indigenous tribes of the area, the Coast Salish. Instead these totem poles were brought in from surrounding areas and tribes.

In 2008 three beautifully carved arching portals were installed near the totem poles at Brockton Point Visitor Centre. These arches are representative of the Coast Salish style and were designed by Coast Salish artist Susan Point.

While I’ve covered a lot of Stanley Park there’s even more to do. Click here for the Stanley Park Tourism site or here for an awesome printable map to plan your visit. 

Granville Island

A large "Granville Island" sign hangs above and colorful murals adorn the buildings along the sides of the main street leading into this popular tourist destination

Material dredged from False Creek built the now thriving Granville Island. Originally full of warehouses, factories, and mills, the 1970’s ushered in a new era for this man-made island. 

Today Granville Island has over 300 unique businesses and is a widely popular destination in Vancouver. Everything is within easy walking distance since the entire island is roughly 35 acres (14 hectares). 

Granville Island roads are narrow and there is limited parking. Because of the intense traffic it’s best to leave the car at the hotel when visiting the island. If possible take a ride share, bus, bike, or ferry to access Granville Island.

Granville Public Market is just one section of the island. The market is home to over fifty food vendors selling macarons, cheeses, tasty donuts, colorful produce, and more.

After grabbing some food head outside where there’s a small area with rows of picnic tables. Enjoy the delicacies you’ve found wandering amongst the stalls at the shared and uncovered tables.

Net Loft Shops and the Artisan District house clothing, jewelry, and various other art booths. We found the cutest handmade strawberry earrings made by a local artisan that made a unique souvenir.

We also spent some time enjoying craft cocktails at The Liberty Distillery. This local distillery uses 100% British Columbian grain to make their gin, whisky, and vodka.

Heavy wooden tables with a variety of shared seating make up the bar area of The Liberty Distillery. Order at the bar and then enjoy a well-crafted cocktail with new friends, if the bar is busy. 

We spent about three hours on Granville Island. This was enough time to wander Granville Public Market, several shops, and have a drink at The Liberty Distillery.

Whale Watching Tour

A humpback whale breaches the water on a Vancouver whale watching cruise.

Several of our travel party took a half-day whale watching cruise. They came back raving about their experience seeing humpback whales, orcas, and other wildlife.

There are several whale watching options, but they booked the catamaran experience. These boats are comfortable, shaded in summer or enclosed from bad weather, and have on board bathrooms.

Our friends appreciated the onboard photographer’s incredible wildlife photos which are included in the tour price and emailed to guests. The only downside of a Prince of Whales catamaran half-day tour was they didn’t get as close to whales as some of the smaller boats.

My greatest regret when visiting the city of Vancouver before our Disney Alaska Cruise was not taking a whale watching tour.

When researching our Disney Alaska Cruise people claimed seeing whales from Disney Wonder was easy. However, in our experience we saw very few and wished we’d taken the Vancouver whale watching tour.

Gastown Steam Clock

The Gastown Steam Clock in the foreground with shops and people walking along the sidewalk in the background

One of Vancouver’s most popular tourist attractions is the Gastown Steam Clock. Despite its antique appearance the steam clock was actually built in 1977. 

Powered by a small steam engine, pulleys, and steel weights, the pendulum clock runs continuously. Every fifteen minutes steam is used to whistle the easily recognized Westminster chime. 

Expect large crowds every quarter hour when the Gastown Steam Clock whistles and for them to dissipate quickly after. Although the iconic Gastown Steam Clock is prominently featured on lots of Vancouver travel guides and websites it is best visited as part of touring downtown Vancouver.

Do Some Shopping On Robson Street

Robson Street, located in Gastown, has a charming mix of shops, restaurants, and cafes perfect for shopping and relaxing in Vancouver before a Disney Alaska cruise. Although we didn’t buy much, we enjoyed the atmosphere and window shopping at some incredible stores.

Jack Poole and Bon Voyage Plazas

Each of these three recommendations are either a cool piece of history or unique art in downtown Vancouver. However, none are worth making an extra trek downtown just to see these pieces.

Olympic Cauldron, Digital Orca, and The Drop are just a few minutes walk from Canada Place Cruise Terminal. This means visiting on arrival if staying nearby or on embarkation day at the Vancouver cruise port is the easiest way to experience them.

Olympic Cauldron

Four large structures lean together forming the Olympic Cauldron which was unveiled during the Vancouver winter Olympics

Built for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Olympic Cauldron is an impressive sight. The structure stands 30 feet (10 m) tall and the spikes once burned with Olympic flames. 

Digital Orca

Just steps away from the Olympic Cauldron find Digital Orca, a unique 25 ft (8 m) black and white statue. The orca seems to jump gracefully and is formed with cubes. These cubes mimic pixels and the orca is picturesque against the mountain and water backdrop. 

The Drop

Designed to look like a drop of water about to hit the ground, The Drop is somehow both imposing and delicate. Located across from the Canada Place Cruise Ship Terminal in Bon Voyage Plaza, The Drop is a beautiful blue hue with graceful curves. 

Three Day Vancouver Itinerary Before An Alaska Cruise

Day One: Arrival and Downtown Vancouver

Arrive In Vancouver

The easiest way to experience Vancouver before an Alaskan cruise is to fly directly into Vancouver International Airport. Vancouver Airport is large and has direct flights from many big cities.

The airport is located about 40 minutes from Canada Place Cruise Terminal. There are a couple easy ways to get to downtown Vancouver from the airport.

Book a transfer directly with Disney Cruise Line and take a comfortable coach bus to your hotel or the terminal. These bus transfers to and from the airport usually cost $25 USD, or $34 CAD, per person per leg. 

We opted for a taxi from Vancouver Airport to Pan Pacific Vancouver. The taxi stand has a steady stream of available transfers and flat fare zone rates. From Vancouver Airport to Pan Pacific Vancouver, Fairmont Waterfront, or Canada Place our flat rate was $38 CAD, or about $29 USD.

These transparent Vancouver flat fare zone rates makes it easy to check how much a fare from Vancouver International Airport to a destination costs before arriving.

Tour Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia

A large, bright blue water drop sculpture is framed by the North Mountains in Vancouver

After checking in, we got some tasty tacos on Robson Street and did a little shopping. Then we further stretched our legs after a long flight by touring The Drop, Digital Orca, and the Olympic Cauldron.

We finished our evening with a stop at the Gastown Steam Clock and a guided tour that introduced us to the history of Vancouver with a bonus dramatized spooky story.

Day Two: Explore The Great Outdoors In Vancouver

Start The Day With Tim Hortons

Almost anywhere in Vancouver you’ll be steps away from Tim Hortons. Mostly known for coffee and donuts, Tim Hortons also has sandwiches and wraps for lunch or dinner.

We grabbed some coffee and TimBits, similar to Munchkins, before heading out on our morning adventure.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Tall pines support Treetop Adventure pathways high above the ground

There are some free suspension bridges in Vancouver, but we opted for the well-known Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This park is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Vancouver area. 

Because of its popularity Capilano Suspension Bridge Park gets extremely crowded especially during summer Alaska cruise season.  We pre-purchaed our timed entry tickets the day before, got up early, and had a quick breakfast before taking a 20 minute rideshare over to avoid some crowds.

While I had hoped to get there earlier, arriving at 9:40am still let us enjoy a quieter park. The crowds really started getting thick around 10 am and stayed that way the rest of the morning. Even that little bit of time allowed us to cross Capilano Suspension Bridge multiple times with no, or minimal waiting. 

We toured the Treetops Adventure and completed the Rainforest Explorers which are perfect for families, before taking an ice cream break. 

Cliffwalk at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a thin cantilevered walkway over the canyon below

Touring Cliffwalk was another activity we enjoyed at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This cantilevered walkway juts out from a granite cliff above Capilano Canyon for stunning views. I don’t love heights, so at times I felt a little nervous on the path.

I expected to spend very little time at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, but we toured every attraction at the park. In total it took 3 hours at the park which was longer than the 90 minutes I originally budgeted. With Treetops Adventure closed in 2024 two hours may be enough time for the park.

Stanley Park

It would have been more efficient to go directly from Capilano Suspension Bridge Park to Stanley Park. However, doubling back was worth it to have a little break in our room. 

A colorful stir fry on a bed of rice sits in the sunshine on a picnic table at Stanley Park Brewery

Rumbling stomachs and gorgeous weather made Stanley Park Brewing Brewpub an obvious option for a late lunch. Stanley Park Brewing serves locally brewed beer and some surprisingly good bar food inside the restaurant or one of the al fresco dining areas. 

From here we walked along Lost Lagoon and stopped by the Nature House, a small, free museum highlighting local wildlife. We then continued on past the marina along the paths to the Vancouver aquarium. Outside the aquarium is where we met our group for a guided tour of Stanley Park.

Blue waters of Lost Lagoon at Stanley Park framed by trees

While the tour was informative, I felt like we could have experienced more of the park on a self-guided tour. 

Much of Stanley Park is covered in forest. We enjoyed walking through some of these dark, and seemingly isolated areas, which were really steps away from cricket fields and recreational areas. 

Watching the waves wash in along the Vancouver Seawall and admiring the Totem Poles at Brockton Point made our journey to this urban forest a memorable experience.

By this time it was getting surprisingly late. We took a ride share back to Gastown for a quick dinner and relaxation after a long day in the great outdoors.

Day Three: Granville Island or Whale Watching and Embarkation Prep

Whale Watching Tour

On day three our group split up with some visiting Granville Island or some taking a whale watching tour. The whale watching group got up early to make it to Granville Island for an early departure. They spent about five hours on the boat before heading back to the hotel to rest before meeting us for dinner.

Still feeling energetic after the whale watching tour? Grab a snack in Granville Public Market or shop one of the cute artisan booths before leaving the island.

Or Explore Granville Island

Various food booths are surrounded by visitors choosing delicious items at Granville Public Market in Vancouver

We were ready to continue exploring Vancouver before our Disney Alaska Cruise, but at a relaxed pace. We slept in, had a large breakfast and then made our way to Granville Island.

Granville Island is home to over 300 businesses in a condensed area making perfect for a leisurely stroll. We enjoyed walking through the Granville Public Market, trying several delicious treats, and watching the crowds from a picnic table in the sun.

We also stopped by The Liberty Distillery, a local distillery which uses 100% British Columbia grain to make their alcohols. Here we savored a craft cocktail and some air conditioning before resuming our tour of the island.

A bartender works behind a rich, dark wood bar making cocktails at The Liberty Distillery on Granville Island. Inset a small picture of two of the cocktails served

Touring shops with creative souvenirs and thought provoking art was a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours exploring the island.

By the time we finished up at Granville Island and took a rideshare back into downtown Vancouver it was already 5 pm. 

Dinner in Gastown and Cruise Embarkation Prep

A delicious chimney cake filled with swirls of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with caramel is held in front of a blurry food truck

After freshening up it was time to meet our large Disney Alaska Cruise group for dinner in Gastown. We discussed what we saw in Vancouver and celebrated the start of our next adventure, Alaska.

However, before preparing for embarkation and turning in for the night we had one more top Vancouver activity to try: a stop at the popular Praguery Food Truck.

Enjoy a giant chimney cake alone or filled to the brim with soft-serve ice cream. My favorite was vanilla ice cream in a chimney cake covered in Biscoff and caramel, but each one we tried was delicious and incredibly messy.

Guests wishing to bring unopened wine or beer onboard should also purchase these items the night before embarkation.

Final Thoughts On Top Vancouver Activities Before A Disney Alaska Cruise

Spending three days in Vancouver before a Disney Alaska Cruise gave us the perfect opportunity to experience this coastal, yet urban city unlike any we’ve been to before. It felt like the perfect balance of seeing Vancouver, but still having plenty of energy for our Disney Alaska Cruise.

Need more Disney Alaska cruise planning tips or a full, printable Disney Alaska Cruise packing list? I have those for you, too.

Visit Vancouver before a Disney Alaska Cruise to jump start your epic adventure. Our 3 day itinerary highlights top Vancouver activities.