Vancouver’s Floating Christmas Party Returns: Climb aboard the Carol Ships

Photo sourced from

Photo sourced from

It might just be the world’s only floating Christmas parade.

Each year, more than 50 boats and cruise ships festooned with strings of Christmas lights make their way through the waters around Vancouver.  For 23 straight nights in December, the brilliantly lit flotilla makes the rounds, part of the uniquely Vancouver tradition known as the Carol Ships Parade of Lights.

This year’s parade runs Dec. 6-Dec. 23.  And as gorgeous as the spectacle is to watch from shore (it’s visible from waterfront spots downtown most nights), it’s even more fun to be on board.

As part of the carol ships tradition, local cruise boats invite passengers aboard for a festive night of singing, dinner and dancing on the water.  Some 30,000 passengers take to the water each year for a night to remember.

Each local cruise line offers a slight variation on the same theme.  Activities on board generally include carolling, a holiday feast and live entertainment.  For the kids, there are chances to meet Santa, while – importantly – parents have access to a full bar. Some lines also offer holiday-themed dinner-and-dance cruises on the weekend, with DJs and more of a party atmosphere. Most cruises last from two to four hours, with prices ranging from $60-$90 per person.

Each night the parade of boats takes a different route through the local waters, gliding gently by the Vancouver skyline, under the Lions Gate Bridge and beyond.  Popular routes explore Coal Harbour and the North Shore, False Creek, the waters off of West Vancouver, English Bay and Jericho, and as far into Burrard Inlet as Port Moody and Deep Cove. A full calendar of sailings is available here.

For details on particular cruises – include departure time and place, sailing times and menu – check out Harbour Cruises, Magic Yacht Charters, Accent Cruises and Vancouver Cruises.  A complete list of participating cruise and charter lines is available on the Carol Ships website.

Anyone have some Carol Ships memories? Let us know below!

For more updates on Vancouver and beyond, follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza.  

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