Hi boog55 ~ we were on the Island Princess on May 21st and embarked at Canada Place. We got out of our cab, had our bags taken off of us by a porter and were in the queue within about 3 minutes!! There was one person ahead of us in the queue so we were onboard within about 10 mins of leaving the taxi.
Not sure if this is normal (probably not!!) but we got there around 13.45/14.00pm if that's any help...
We're just back from Alaska cruise on Zaandam. We were at Canada Place at 11:00 am. We took our bags to the baggage area on the first floor of the cruise terminal at handed them over to the porters. We then walked across the street for a late breakfast but were back in the cruise check-in line at 11:45.
You then go through US immigration and metal detectors, then to the cruise checkin desk. Make sure you have filled out the immigration forms online and ahve signed copies with you. We had our pictures taken, credit card validated and we were walking on board at 12:15 - 30 minutes after arrival.
According to the lady at the registration counter, people actually went on board at 11:30. Several stewards were prsent in the lobby area directing everyone to the Lido deck for lunch. You could check you carry-ons at that point. The announcement that our cabins were ready came at about 1:10 pm. Contrary to other posts, there was no way you could get to your cabin earlier to drop off your carry-ons since the fire doors were closed on each deck that led to passenger cabins.
We had a relaxed lunch after boarding and toured the public areas. Then we went on the "tennis court" and batted some tennis balls around in between visits to the pool bar for a few cold beers. It didn't seem that long until we were able to get into our cabins.
The regular luggage arrived at about 3:00 in plenty of time to unpack before the muster drill and sailaway.
Just returned from RCL Vision northbound Alaska leaving Vancouver. On departure day (July 22) Vision was the only ship at Canada Place so that probably had a lot to do with our pleasant experience. Our boarding documents said 2PM boarding and the TA said noon but she also said that time is hurry up and wait. We stayed at the Hampton Inn on Robson and took the 1:30PM shuttle after a pleasant and relaxing lunch at one of the sidewalk cafes on Robson. The shuttle left the hotal at 1:25. I recall looking at my watch still 2 blocks from Canada Place and it was 1:31. We unloaded, went thru immigration, customs, check-in, the whole thing and as we were walking to our cabin I again looked and it was 1:46. Since this was my first cruise I can't comprehend all the embarkation horror posts I read........I guess that may have to wait until the second cruise, eh?
You will absolutely love it!!! I posted a review about the trip. A few other things I didn't post....The ports are big tourist traps with more jewelry stores than you can imagine. If you get away from the dock, you can find a more relaxed atmosphere where the locals shop. Ketchikan, Skagway, and Juneau downtown areas are very easy to walk.
We had a balcony room on deck 7. Take binoculars!! and also take them on any excursions. I have Tasco 7x50 and they were just fine. You don't need to invest big bucks. The onboard duty free shops are fairly cheap although the only thing I bought there was booze. My wife bought smoked salmon onboard and we did not find it cheaper in any of the ports or inland. That surprised me. At port disembarkations the lines to get off the ship were usually long. Save yourself the stress and wait 15-30 minutes unless you have an excursion. Be back on board when they say because they leave on time!!
I have a tux and took it but maybe 1/3 of the people had them on formal night. I was the only one at our table with one and I had no problem with those who did not wear one. All other times dress casually even if eating in the dining room for any meal.
Take layers. I am warm-blooded and often wore a sport jacket and was fine on deck and in port unless it was raining. Inland, I normally wore a slightly heavier camping-type jacket and again was fine. The coldest temp I saw was 42 one morning in Fairbanks. My wife put on her gloves a time or two. Temps were typically in the 50s and 60s during the day. Coming from eastern time, we were always awake at 4AM and it was light so an alarm clock wasn't necessary but we took one anyway.
Once we hit the land tour portion the food prices were quite high. I just finished breakfast here in the UP and for three of us it was $11. Breakfast inland will typically run that much for one person. Muster drill wasn't as bad as everybody says but they do make men stand in the back of the deck and women and children nearer the lifeboats. What a sexist practice, eh. Everybody had their cameras taking pictures and took it lightly, except the crew..they were serious about it and that's fine.
The best tip is to relax and be amazed at how time seems to stand still. Three days into the cruise we swore we had left Vancouver a week ago and by the time we hit land it seemed like a month ago since we saw and did so many memorable things. Definitely archive the trip with pictures or video. I wish I had video at Hubbard to record the sounds and the calving.