Vancouver’s Floating Christmas Parade is Back: Carol Ships, Dec 5

Photo credit: Vince alongi | Flickr

Photo credit: Vince alongi | Flickr

Vancouver’s floating holiday parade is back, and you can climb aboard.

The Carol Ships Parade of Lights sets sail on Dec. 5 and continues through Dec. 23. The uniquely Vancouver event sees more than 50 boats festooned with colourful lights motor around the city after dark in a festive flotilla. Larger boats host holiday dinner and dancing cruises and smaller vessels get in on the action, too.

The event got its start more than 50 years ago with a single boat decorated with a few lights in Coal Harbour. Today, more than 30,000 passengers participate in the Carol Ships Parade of Lights throughout the month of December.

Public cruises, offered by several local companies, generally last from two to three hours on vessels that accommodate from a few dozen to a few hundred people.

Photo sourced from

Photo sourced from

Most ships set sail from Coal Harbour or Granville Island, then follow different routes around the city, depending on the night. Some nights, passengers are taken along Coal Harbour and beneath the iconic Lion’s Gate Bridge. Other nights, the ships sail downtown’s False Creek, flanked by towering high rises, or else motor deep into the Burrard Inlet, where forested mountains meet the waterline.

Onboard, you get a floating Christmas party.  True to the Carol Ships legacy, many vessels have carol singers aboard to lead choruses of Christmas tunes. Festive holiday meals are served: turkey or ham with all the trimmings. Larger ships have bars, DJs and dance floors, so you can get your Christmas groove on while the bright city skyline slides by outside.

Photo sourced from

Photo sourced from

Or you can appreciate the entire spectacle from dry land.  Depending on the night, you can catch great views of the floating parade from Granville Island, False Creek, Coal Harbour and various points on the North Shore in North and West Vancouver. The parade typically begins around 7 p.m., continuing for several hours. (Check out the Carol Ships website for the full schedule.)

Nearly all of Vancouver’s cruise boat lines offer Carol Ships cruises (full list of participants here). Larger, luxury lines carrying passengers this year include

Accent Cruises and Harbour Cruises. Check out their websites for cruise details and to make reservations. Dinner cruises start around $70 a person.

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