Even though I'm a Washingtonian, if I had to choose between the Washington State Ferries (WSF) and the BC Ferries, the Canucks win by a kilometer. Granted, BC Ferries has had its share of mishaps. In 2006, the Queen of the North sunk while cruising the Inside Passage on its 18-hour journey between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert. One hundred and one passengers were on board, and two are still missing and presumed dead. Human error was blamed for the sinking. Two years later, the Queen of Oak Bay lost power and plowed through dozens of boats at a marina in West Vancouver while attempting to dock at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal.
Those incidents aside, I still like BC Ferries better. First off, they're clean. Real clean. As a Whidbey Islander since '75 and frequent ferry user, I've never been overly impressed by the tidiness of WSF's boats. Sometimes, they're downright filthy. The BC boats shine in comparison. Secondly, BC Ferries offers far better food, such as the White Spot burgers with that yummy Triple-O sauce.
Earlier this summer, I took BC Ferries from Tsawwassen, B.C., to Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island. I was most impressed with the Seawest Lounge, available on the three large ferries traveling between Vancouver Island and the mainland. It's sort of like an airport lounge for business-class travelers. For ten loonies (equivalent to ten bucks), you get big, comfy chairs; free coffee, tea or juice; appetizers, including cheese, crackers, fruits and veggies; magazines; local and national newspapers; widescreen TV with the latest news; and a lounge attendant. It was money well spent during the 90-minute sailing, and I would have totaled up more than $10 buying food, magazines, and newspapers.
Recently I took the M/V Chelan that sails between Anacortes, Wash., and Sidney on Vancouver Island — it's one of Washington State Ferries' most scenic routes. And for $16 one way as a walk-on passenger, it's a beauty of a bargain. But the boats on that run aren't nearly as comfortable as the BC Ferries. And what about the on-board cuisine? I had Sun Chips going and Wheat Thins coming home.
Not a White Spot burger in sight.