(Last Updated On: October 21, 2019)
My alarm rang off at 5am. Groggily I stumbled out of bed, started the coffee maker, and minute by minute came back to life. However, instead of running on caffeine, I started to run on adrenaline. In just a few short hours I would be in an entirely different country, all thanks to the Victoria Clipper V; a ferry that runs to Victoria from Seattle (and vice versa).
Sure enough, I caught an Uber, arrived to the Clipper port, and quickly boarded the ferry. A short three hours later, which felt like the blink of an eye, I had arrived to Vancouver Island. Victoria, British Columbia, Canada to be exact. Just as quickly as I boarded the ferry, I departed the ferry, and stepped onto Canadian soil a mere minutes later.
Taking the Clipper Ferry to Victoria from Seattle – Six Things You Should Know
The ride on the ferry from Victoria to Seattle was painless. Quick and easy, I wondered why it had taken me so long to experience the Clipper for myself. Was it that I was worried about becoming seasick? Because that didn’t happen. The ferry glided through the ocean seamlessly, and in the three hours it took to get from country to country I only noticed a few bumps – logs that we had run over. Was I nervous about navigating a new transportation system solo? Also silly… getting on and off the ferry was as easy as anything I had done in the past. And even easier than going through security to board an airplane! So again, why did I wait so long to experience the Clipper for myself?!
1. The History of the Ferry Route Between Victoria and Seattle + History of the Clipper
The ferries that have operated between Victoria and Seattle come with a truly fascinating history. In 1925 the Princess Marguerite, a Canadian passenger vessel operated back and forth between British Columbia and Washington. It was built in Glasgow, Scotland and owned by British Columbia, sailing back and forth between what was known as the “triangle route”; a route that hit Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle. In 1942 the Princess Marguerite was used as a troopship and sunk by the Germans during WWII, killing 50-60 people on board. This information wasn’t released to the public until 1945.
Since then a Princess Marguerite II and III were built, but the service from Victoria to Seattle was limited. Eventually in 1986 the Victoria Clipper I came to fruition and at the time was the fastest passenger vessel in the northern hemisphere, servicing Seattle and Victoria.
Since 1991 the San Juan Clipper joined the fleet and allows for whale watching trips to the San Juan Islands. Now the Victoria Clipper V is the ferry that operates between Seattle and Victoria. The Victoria Clipper V seats 440 people and can reach speeds up to 36 knots (approx 41 mph). Before arriving to the USA, the Clipper V operated in Germany.
2. Staff Onboard the Victoria Clipper is Incredible
When you show up to a hotel, get on an airplane, board a boat, eat out at a restaurant, (etc); you expect a certain level of kindness and willingness to help from the staff. However, the staff onboard the Clipper took it to another level. Upon boarding the Clipper the staff that was first at the gate to greet you did so with friendly smiles. They were patient as I (along with other passengers), fished around for our passports and pulled up our boarding passes on our phones. They kindly greeted us and made sure we knew which direction we were supposed to be going.
Service was taken a step further when staff members were assigned to “sections” of the boat, from economy class all the way to comfort class. They were there to assist us with any needs, answer questions, and in the case you didn’t want to get out of your seat – bring food and drink right to where you were seated. I was most impressed with the knowledge of the staff. I grilled numerous members on the history of the Clipper, the best things I should be doing in Victoria, and even asked them to spill dirty secrets, which of course they graciously did not do… (or did they?). Oh and an extra special shout out to Jake and Pieter for going above and beyond with my incessant question asking and always arriving at my seat to answer my questions with a smile!
Needless to say the staff is what truly made my Clipper experience stand out. Beyond the cleanliness, champagne served on board, and ability to roam throughout the cabin freely, without the staff the experience wouldn’t have been quite the same. I also quite enjoyed that on my way home I was able to recognize several staff members. Because there is only one Victoria Clipper V, servicing Seattle to Victoria (and vice versa), the likelihood of recognizing someone is high! Something that made me comfortable as I departed home to Seattle.
3. The Clipper is (Relatively) Affordable
I had been eyeing Clipper prices for a while and had originally thought, “seems steep for a ferry”. (Note that Clipper prices vary throughout season and day of the week). I hadn’t compared the ferry prices to what the cost of flying would be, which turns out to be much more expensive. Or the cost of what renting a car would be; which would be about equal to the ferry but carry the added responsibility of driving, parking, and filling up with gas. Not to mention the drive from Seattle is 4.5 hours, versus the three hour Clipper ride. When I thought of all of these factors PLUS the fact that I would be traveling to a different country, I bit the bullet. Turns out that my original thoughts of “this is too expensive” didn’t necessarily ring true. To me, the price of my ticket felt worth it.
You also have different ticket options when booking the ferry. The Clipper is split into three different classes, all offering different amenities and coming with three different price tags. With economy being the cheapest, vista class being in the middle, and comfort class being the most expensive. Economy boards last (with Vista), has its own staff members coming to serve them, comfortable seats, and access to the outdoor deck. Plus being on the first floor of the ferry economy class gets off the ferry last, meaning you’re the first to get through security. I chose economy and would do it again in a heartbeat.
With vista class you have premium access to the viewing deck, but expect other passengers to be walking through frequently. After all, there’s only one way to get to the outdoor deck. The most expensive ticket, comfort, you get more privacy (nobody is allowed to walk through your class) and free snacks! Both vista class and comfort class also have seats that are a bit bigger than economy, they are both on the second floor of the ferry, comfort boarding the boat first. However, are the last to get off – being on the second floor.
4. It’s Quick, Easy, and Seamless!
The best part of my experience taking the Clipper was the ease of it! No waiting in crazy security lines, just arrive and board. While comfort class and vista class board first, if you’re in economy you may be waiting for a short amount of time. Like an airplane however, there are rules about baggage. You’re allowed a carry on bag and one personal item; if you bring more you must check it. This line did look to take longer so if you’re planning on checking a bag you may want to arrive a little bit earlier versus if you’re just walking on.
5. Traveling to Victoria from Seattle with the Clipper is a Totally Doable Day Trip – Even Solo!
In the summer months, the Victoria Clipper V travels to Victoria in the morning and heads back to Seattle at night (times vary). This makes for a totally doable one day trip! Get away from the busy, crowds of Seattle, hop on the ferry, and arrive in a rather clean, fresh Victoria to explore for the day.
Or like me, plan to stay a night! I boarded the ferry early Tuesday morning, arriving in Victoria at 1030am which allowed me to spend the entire day in Canada. I took off for Seattle Wednesday evening arriving home at 8pm. This gave me more than 24 hours to spend in Victoria. While I could have stayed longer it was perfect for the amount of time that I was able to spend.
6. The Clipper is More than Just a Ferry
Not only does Clipper Vacations provide a ferry route from Seattle to Victoria (and vice versa), but the company does loads more! The Clipper also provides a route to the San Juan Island, and can offer overnight packages in Victoria, Seattle, San Juan Island, Vancouver, Portland, Whistler, or multi-city packages. If you’re strapped for time and looking to do a day activity versus an entire trip, the Clipper also offers whale watching!
Once onboard the staff is available to assist with any and all needs, including booking packages for your stay. There are pamphlets found throughout the cabin with details on high tea at the Empress, taking a bus to The Butchart Gardens, and more. Or if you’re visiting Seattle from Victoria Clipper Vacations also assists with setting up activities in Seattle as well.
Other Things You Should Know When Taking the Ferry to Victoria, BC from Seattle
You do need a passport
Unlike an airplane, you can bring liquids onboard
If the ferry service to Victoria, BC happens to be cancelled due to weather, you will still have the option to make it to Victoria, even if it means taking a bus
There is no WiFi onboard
This is only a passenger ferry; no cars allowed
Both food and drink is served onboard
So you see? Taking the Clipper ferry from Seattle to Victoria, Canada is much more than a transportation vessel. Staff members can also help make plans, set up activities, and more. The staff is friendly, the ride is smooth sailing, and my only regret? Not taking the Clipper sooner.
Before I departed the Clipper, I asked the Captain to share one fact about the ferry that you couldn’t find anywhere else. He shared with me, “If you sit by the door, you’ll be the first one off the boat.” And I’d have to say that he is correct.
Are you planning on visiting Victoria for yourself? Check out How to Spend a Day Solo in Victoria, BC
Do you prefer visuals over words? Head over to my Instagram page/highlight reel for a visual look of taking the Clipper ferry to Victoria from Seattle