Passengers from Nanaimo and Vancouver say Hullo is the way to go
Just over two hours is all it took for passengers to complete their return journey, on Hullo Ferries to Vancouver from Nanaimo’s harbor.
Passengers onboard say the enjoyed their experience overall but with a few tweaks the service could be made even better to facilitate the growing need for downtown-to-downtown service, but some were quick to offer criticism, saying they are not totally sold on the idea and will have a backup.
Hullo Ferries was set to begin service on Aug. 14, but environmental concerns caused the startup service to cancel for two days, causing more than 400 stranded passengers to find alternative transportation to Vancouver.
Amy Kuta, a passenger sailing to Vancouver, says she was apprehensive at first with some of the publicity around wind caution but once she boarded all reservations disappeared.
“I was worried a little bit about how rough it might be at first,” she says. “It feels pretty smooth for the speed we are traveling at.”
Kuta says the experience was a novelty for her but the cost, when compared to BC Ferries, doesn’t make sense for the services she is receiving.
“I think I might go BC Ferries, because for the price we could’ve brought our car both ways,” she says. “It is worth it for the novelty, but nothing more.”
Laura-Lee Epps says her experience, so far, has gone quite well and met her expectations through the whole process
“The reservations were easy to book, and getting on the boat was super easy,” she says. “It is very clean and new, which is a great change from BC Ferries.”
Epps notes the price is higher compared to the competition, but it is reasonable to reduce some of what she calls city stress.
“It is reasonable. I don’t have to take a car on the ferry or catch a bus to go downtown,” she says. “This gets me right into the harbor, without the worry of traffic.”
Most passengers who traveled from Nanaimo to Vancouver say they were very impressed with the speed of service and the facilities on board with only a few on the lower berths upset about not having access to a concession stand, but they say for the time it takes to travel it is not a “deal-breaker.”
Gillian Chandler, a Vancouver resident traveling to Nanaimo for her first trip, echoed the ease of booking on Hullo’s website and says she is expecting it to be like other rides she has taken.
“I imagine it will be a smooth ride, and will feel a bit like the Sea Bus,” Chandler says. “I like the fact there is assigned seating, so I don’t have to rush.
“I figure it will be clean and no glitches.”
Chandler says Hullo still has to prove their reliability to users who might be traveling at the last minute after the service suffered problems causing the cancelations, and although she will use the ferry, Chandler will have a contingency plan.
“It does make me a bit hesitant if I am going over to the island for work,” she says. “I will have a backup plan, so if it is not going, I will book early enough to make alternate arrangements.”
Passengers coming from Vancouver say they were thrilled to be onboard but the main issue they faced was getting through the terminal, calling it confusing and a little disorientating to get around.
Director of marketing and sales Xander France says plans for expansion in terminals and providing better customer experience are in the works; it just takes time.
“As this is a brand-new service it will take a period for people to get adjusted to terminal locations and where to go,” he says. “We are confident with the number of amenities the location is convenient for travelers.
“There are plans for a marine terminal in the future, on the Vancouver side.”
France says plans are also in the works to make routes more affordable and they haven’t pushed any reasonable idea off the table to provide incentives for future use, especially for students.
“We are noticing a whole new opportunity for new users and are responding accordingly,” France says. “We must be careful where we apply discounts, and who we partner with so we can learn more.
“Student discounts are not off the table, but we are exploring future options on which would be best.”
The ferry arrived in Vancouver 21 minutes late during the sailing yesterday, but France says it was due to extending the boarding time, allowing last-minute travelers the chance to make their connection. He says it is a policy they are going to be stricter on in the future.
Hullo Ferries is currently operating at a lower capacity, with fewer sailings until the end of the month when they plan to push their capacity to the max and add more services connecting passengers to downtown areas in both cities.
Passengers interviewed all said they would highly recommend Hullo to their family and friends.