Board the V2V Empress and Prepare to be Amused in Victoria, BC
Creativity in colourful cocktails are served by men in kilts at legendary bars. Steamy cups of pick-me-ups in earthy cafes taste best when nestled in mews and courtyards where magnolia trees bloom and street musicians strum. Horse drawn carriages are trotting the neighbourhoods by the monumental Parliament Buildings, museums, totems and galleries as the gulls wail and yachtsmen ready to sail.
From the fine bone china and silver high tea service to nostalgic Rogers’ dark chocolate, candied-ginger bites, and bountiful flower baskets. an attentive approach to service quality all around the city that for those who live and work here bring the best of the British Isles to British Columbia’s Capital city on Vancouver Island. To get a taste of regal living, visit Victoria (named after UK Royalty and established in 1843), the charming and compact city that answers to the call for a luxurious day or two away.
To get here, plan ahead for the best rooms and prices as Victoria’s popularity runs high.
First, book to board the aptly named Empress, a high-speed catamaran by V2V Vacations in Vancouver. Rain or shine, this 3.5 hour journey from the downtown cruise ship port, where we spotted a lonely bald eagle on a marine navigation post. Sail under the Lions Gate Bridge, looking to the mountains for their namesake The Lions peaks, past Stanley Park’s Siwash Rock, between the cargo ships and out to sea. This beautiful nautical journey through a mystical, natural landscape is made even more special when travelling in luxurious comfort and with time-saving convenience (the traditional ferry transfers are much more time consuming).
In Royal Class with V2V, enjoy warm raspberry and white chocolate scones, fresh berries with cream, fluffy quiche and cappuccinos. The leather high back seats are perfect for watching the whitecaps, sailboats, lighthouses and yes — Orcas! — go by, while cruising at a comfortable 25 knots.
The V2V Empress is wheelchair accessible. Equipped with ergonomic leather seating wired with handy USB ports and power outlets in every seat, each trip can be productive as well as pleasurable. Spectacular tables (featuring detailed carved wood route maps by artist and boat builder Jerry Kool) allow you to lay out laptops, camera gear, books, binoculars and other personal items.
Passengers are also invited to the upper outside deck to enjoy a spectacular 360-degree view. Step up and into the open air to feel the ocean wind in your hair, the excitement of a coastal journey and the thrill of unobstructed photo and video opportunities.
Upon arrival in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, prepare to be welcomed by bobbing water taxis, palm trees, the majestic Parliament Building and Fairmont Empress Hotel, a steady stream of tourists strolling with ice creams in hand, and horse drawn carriages passing by for an idyllic, camera-ready scene. Street performers throwing flames, fiddling tunes and fashioning balloon animals, along with First Nations carvers and other curiosity vendors all add to the upbeat atmosphere even on a dull day.
The V2V cruise is a Victoria day trip, allowing time to take in the Royal BC Museum, tea at the Fairmont Empress or other tea houses along Government Street, in historic inns or even the Butchart Gardens (a coach ride away), before cruising back to Vancouver in the afternoon. Consider extending a Victoria journey by a day or two to take in dinner or the evening pub culture. A recommended hotel is a few short blocks away — the Magnolia Hotel and Spa — for boutique luxury accommodations in traditional style with spacious, well-lit, beautifully appointed rooms and suites — live orchids, robes and slippers included!
Either way — Victoria for the day or longer — here are our top five steps toward a laid-back break in royal style.
1. Stroll the harbour to admire — the yachts, the skyline, the float planes — and to be admired as there are ample opps for selfies and people watching.
2. Visit Canada’s oldest Chinatown with a delightful shop in Fan Tan Alley for curios, decorator items, umbrellas and more.
3. Enjoy farm to table comfort food at 10 Acres for light and airy pastry, chicken pot pie is a treat even in summer.
4. Tea and scones at Murchie’s, the British Columbia tea emporium, operating for more than 125 years.
5. Add on a day-time activity presented by V2V such as a cycling tour, foodie excursion, visit to Butchart Gardens.
Whether you stay for the day or extend your trip, the cruise back to Vancouver leaves in the late afternoon to have you back in Vancouver by sundown. A light evening meal is served with a terrific selection of local wines and a generous portion of locally made chocolate truffles fit for a king or queen!