It’s a holiday fantasia, staged on the high seas. Every December, dozens of cruise ships sail out of Vancouver’s harbor each night at dusk. Carrying thousands of passengers and decorated with hundreds of thousands of brightly colored lights, the festive ships embark on a slow procession along the city’s shoreline.
Christmas carols echo from the boats, glasses clink with toasts to the season and lavish meals are served inside: all part of the cherished Vancouver tradition known as the Carol Ships Parade of Lights.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the parade, which will depart nightly at approximately 7 p.m. from Dec. 2 to Dec. 23. Each evening the regatta of ships sets off for a different part of the city’s coast. Some nights, passengers are taken along the beautiful inner harbor 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.