VICTORIA, British Columbia -- BC Ferries is sailing into relatively
unchartered waters this year by packaging and promoting
multifaceted tour packages to destinations throughout coastal
British Columbia and the Gulf Islands.
According to the government-run company, the decision to pursue
the tour package market was made to increase passengers and revenue
on the line because of its relatively small base of commuter
traffic, which is the bread and butter of most ferry companies.
"This is the first year we got really aggressive on our own in
building these packages," said Bill Bouchard, director of corporate
marketing for BC Ferries. "We went to BC Rail and Gray Line and
worked with outside people for years for their programs, but these
are BC Ferries programs that are new."
Bouchard said the decision to pursue the package market was made
easier after the success of an overnight Leonardo da Vinci exhibit
tour it packaged with Tourism Victoria last year.
Clients who want a tour combining mainland British Columbia with
a scenic cruise along the Inside Passage and an ample dose of
Vancouver Island can easily be booked through a new Totem Circle
Rail & Cruise package that boasts the services of some of the
top transportation and tour companies in the province.
Packaging the Inside Passage, long a favorite of cruise lines
sailing to Alaska, is an easy fit for BC Ferries, considering the
ample inventory of free scenery offered in the rugged region. "It's
the same scenery product that the cruise ships are going through,"
Bouchard said. "We've been doing the Inside Passage since 1966, so
the cruise ships are relatively new."
BC Ferries, of course, can't offer the same degree of luxury
available on the major lines, but its Queen of the North vessel --
which plies the waters of the Inside Passage -- does contain inside
and outside lounges, a cafeteria, a children's play area and cabins
that can be booked ahead of time for about $45 over the base
The Queen of the North can accommodate 800 passengers and 157
vehicles, according to the company.
The line's six-day Totem Circle package, which taps BC Rail, VIA
Rail, Laidlaw Coach Lines and Pacific Coach Lines, travels to top
scenic attractions that are not typically covered together by
individual companies. "Totem Circle has been sold that way for
years," Bouchard said, "but the rail and cruise is brand new this
The tour includes accommodations and a 15-hour BC Ferries voyage
between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert, British Columbia, aboard the
Queen of the North vessel, as well as the shorter ferry transit
between Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia.
The tour begins in North Vancouver, with a ride aboard BC Rail's
Cariboo Prospector train to the central British Columbia town of
Prince George. After an overnight, clients board VIA Rail's Skeena
train (which originates in the Canadian Rockies town of Jasper,
Alberta) for an excursion to the central British Columbia coastal
town of Prince Rupert, where they stay the night.
From Prince Rupert, the tour embarks on the daylight Inside
Passage cruise aboard the Queen of the North, which ends in the
northern Vancouver Island town of Port Hardy. After an overnight in
Port Hardy, the tour continues with a motorcoach drive on Laidlaw
Coach Lines to Victoria, where highlights include a full-day tour
of the British Columbia capital and a visit to nearby Butchart
Gardens. The tour ends with a motorcoach transfer and BC Ferries
ride back to Vancouver.
Accommodations throughout the tour are in the small properties
typically found in the more remote areas of British Columbia.
Prices for the package, which is available between June 1 and
Sept. 30, start at about $575 per person, double.
BC Ferries is promoting a 20% discount on Port Hardy-Prince
Rupert voyages departing until June 14, and between Sept. 15 and
Oct. 20. The fare for two adults with a car is about $227 during
this time, and is fully commissionable to travel agents.
BC Ferries also teamed with Vancouver-based Gray Line Vacations
to promote a five-day, self-guided tour of the Inside Passage and
Vancouver Island. Starting at about $400 per person, double,
through Sept. 28, the tour includes ferry transportation with a
private cabin, accommodations in Port Hardy and Victoria, transfers
between the ship and hotel in Port Hardy, and taxes.
The tour starts in Vancouver, where clients board a motorcoach
that is loaded on a BC Ferries vessel for a sail through the Gulf
Islands to Victoria. After an overnight, the tour continues with a
motorcoach ride up Vancouver Island to Port Hardy, where the Queen
of the North embarks on the Inside Passage route to Port Hardy the
The tour concludes with a sail back to Port Hardy, including
another overnight, and a drive to the Vancouver Island town Nanaimo
for a coach transfer and BC Ferries ride through the Strait of
Georgia back to Vancouver.
Yet another package from BC Ferries partners the line with 20
hotels and resorts and 10 golf courses on Vancouver Island for
overnight packages that include a round of golf.
BC Ferries, Phone: (250) 386-3431, Fax: (250) 388-7754, Web: www.bcferries.com
Gray Line Vacations, Phone: (800) 667-0882 or (604) 879-9287,
Fax: (604) 879-1105, Web: www.grayline.ca/vacations