The end of February the BC Winter Games was held in Penticton, BC. The over 1,400 athletes participated in a variety of events throughout the 4 days of the Games. The athletes are brought in from around the Province – the majority brought on motor coaches including a wheelchair accessible motor coach and a smaller number travelling from the greatest distances by air.
Wheelchair Accessible Motor Coach
As part of the Games a variety of events involve athletes using wheelchairs, some athletes are transferrable to seats onboard the motor coaches while others are non-transferrable and are required to travel in their wheelchairs.
Unfortunately for many wheelchair users transportation is notoriously one of the most difficult parts of life as a wheelchair user. Luckily the BC Games has been able to access an uncommon asset, a wheelchair accessible motor coach courtesy of CVS Tours. CVS Tours operates motor coach charter services and sightseeing in Victoria, B.C.. Their 16 bus fleet includes five wheelchair accessible motor coaches including a modern Prevost motor coach that accommodates up to 10 wheelchairs and 20 or more passengers who can transfer to onboard seats.
The coach uses a standard Ricon wheelchair lift and the seating arrangement can be custom configured to accommodate both seated passengers and non-transferrable wheelchair passengers in tie-down positions. This coach is the only one of its kind in Western Canada and is often used for both the BC Summer Games and the BC Winter Games which are held bi-annually.
As part of the BC Games athletes use the motor coach to shuttle locally in the host community to and from accommodations venues, meal venues and special events such as Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The final day of the BC Winter Games was held on February 28th and immediately following the very successful event the athletes returned home once again in the 36 motor coaches that had transported the athletes to the Games.
Wheelchair accessible motor coaches were used in Prince George, Campbell River, Sidney and out of Surrey and Maple Ridge. By all accounts these buses provided a service which was vital both to the athletes involved and to the overall success of the BC Games.
Chartering a Bus for your group’s next trip can be easy if you ask the right questions. Knowing the questions to ask however can sometimes not seem that straight forward. As a customer you expect the Company you are doing business with to meet all the industry standards; sadly that is not always the case, so we have provided a few pointers to help you make the right decision for your group. Here are 11 things to consider when you are chartering a bus:
Book Directly when Chartering a Bus
By booking directly with CVS Tours you get the best pricing available for your needs, many other websites on the web are just bus brokers and they are middlemen who mark-up quotations by as much as 20% and offer no better service or performance. Chartering buses directly from CVS Tours will save you money.
CVS Tours owns our own buses, that means great pricing and a consistently great quality of service. Check our safety record, vehicle inspections and insurance status at the Federal Motor Coach Safety Administration’s SAFER Company Snapshot, this safety summary is free of charge and provided by the US Department of Transportation.
When selecting a bus carrier, look for companies that have experience and ensure they have amodern coach fleet. On Vancouver Island there are a number of carriers and many have multiple buses however most fleets are in excess of 20 years old. For similar pricing CVS Tours offers modern equipment that improves reliability and offers improved safety and comfort. CVS operates a fleet of 16 vehicles.
In order to operate school charters for British Columbia School Districts, motor coaches are required to beinspected and permitted by Commercial Vehicle Safety inspectors. The inspectors follow a rigorous inspection routine before certifying motor coaches as “School Bus Permitted”. This inspection provides a higher level of safety certification and many carriers either do not seek this endorsement or only endorse a portion of their fleets as School Bus “approved” – All CVS Tours buses – including our Double Deckers are School Bus Permitted.
Pricing is based on hours for most local trips or by mileage for trips averaging more the 300 miles per day; rates vary by the type of vehicle selected. CVS Tours has five (5) different sized vehicles from 11 passenger Sprinter vans to 98 passenger all electric double decker buses to provide a range of pricing and size of vehicles to meet your groups requirements.
Ensure you provide a detailed itinerary before chartering a bus. Bus companies charge by the hour or by mileage so it is important to be detailed when requesting a quotation – where is the pick-up / drop-off location? At what times is the bus required? Are there any stops enroute or specific locations that are on the itinerary? Does your group require any early morning breakfast transfers or late night dinner transfers?
Hours of Service – Operators in Canada are not permitted to drive more then 13 hours in any 16 hour period before requiring at least 8 hours consecutive off duty. For trips to the United States, drivers cannot drive more than 10 hours following 8 consecutive hours off-duty.
Bus Companies and their drivers are legally responsible for following the National Safety Code hours of service regulations and will not exceed these limits. To prevent problems with your trip’s schedule ensure your itinerary is accurate – CVS Tours can help with travel times that you are unsure of.
Ensure the carrier you select for your next charter is a member of an industry group such as BC Trucking Association or Motor Coach Canada. CVS Tours is a long standing member of both organizations.
Does your group have passengers that require accessibility such as wheelchair lifts and mobility aid tiedowns? CVS Tours is the only bus company in British Columbia that can transport up to 10 wheelchairs on a modern motor coach. A full 1/3 or the CVS Tours fleet is wheelchair accessible and we have vehicles that can be configured in a combination of 1 wheelchair and seated passengers or 10 wheelchairs and 14 seated passengers.
Insurance – ask for proof of third party liability – the amount should be no less the $10 million dollars. Unfortunately accidents can happen regardless of how professional the drivers and company you select are. Make sure you are protected, you can never be too careful.
Amenities – not all buses are created equal. A yellow and black school bus will have bench type seats and likely lacks air conditioning meaning the windows can easily fog up. Choosing a modern motor coach of 15 years old or newer means you can expect DVD-Video, onboard restroom, reclining seats, PA / Stereo system, plenty of luggage space and working air conditioning. While you should expect that the bus company you are getting a quotation from has these amenities always ask to confirm this is indeed the case. An even better option is to ask for photos of the interior and exterior of the type of motor coach the company intends to provide. For longer trips you might wish to have the added safety of passenger seatbelts. Seatbelts are not standard equipment and many companies do not offer them as an option, those companies that do offer seatbelts are committed to the highest safety standards available.
You may have other questions and before you contact potential suppliers about chartering a bus, make a quick list so that you can remember the items that are important to you. While a quick transfer across town will have different questions then a multiday charter to California, some of the basics such as how many passengers can I comfortably fit onboard, if there is onboard air conditioning, and if there are other bus size options that may accommodate the group move conveniently are all very valid questions that you should be asking about.
Making the right decision on the right bus can make you look like a hero. Often times the difference in cost between a first rate bus charter and selecting a bus or bus company that will cause you nothing but grief may only be a few dollars – and sometimes it can be less then that. Doing a little homework before you book is always the best option and one you will not regret.
CVS Tours has long been a leader in the provision of eco-friendly transportation systems in Victoria. Eight years ago CVS introduced motor coaches operating on bio-fuels starting at B35 (a 65% diesel & 35% bio-fuel blend) and within 18 months moved to B100 or 100% bio-fuel operated motor coaches. For two years in cooperation with the Cowichan Bio-Diesel Co-op waste cooking oils were collected from Cruise vessels arriving into Victoria and was recycled by the Co-op into B100 Bio-fuel which then was supplied to CVS Tours. The fuel powered their fleet, serving cruise guests on both shuttle services and shore excursions to places like The Butchart Gardens.
In recent years with the introduction of more modern engines, CVS has moved to ultra low sulphur diesel engines with cutting edge filtering and innovative Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems. These systems combine the best aspects of Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) and SCR, to provide solutions that exceed the new EPA standards for NOx emissions. The environmental systems in our Volvo D13 (Prevost motor coaches) as well as our Cummins (double decker buses) engines are automatic under normal driving conditions. The engines provide superior low-end performance with smooth and quiet operation when compared to other diesel engines of similar configuration.
CVS is not only using the technological advances to lessen our footprint in the community, we have introduced modern Alexander Dennis Double Decker buses seating upto 98 passengers actually reducing the number of trips operated on many of the services that we offer. The Double Deckers offer a unique viewing platform for guests touring the city and provide the ultimate in comfort with tour style seating and climate controlled interiors.
Electric Bus in Victoria -coming 2016
For 2016 CVS will be introducing both new Prevost motor coaches as well as a new all electric Double Decker bus. The double decker will enter service for the summer season and is done in partnership with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority and GreenPower Motor Company Inc. The electric bus will allow this cutting edge electric technology to be evaluated in providing quality, low community impact services from Victoria’s cruise terminal at Ogden Point.
Victoria B.C., has been a tourist mecca for decades. Some attractions endure and others have come and gone, CVS Tours would like to provide you with our Victoria’s 5 Best Places to Visit list for 2016.
The Butchart Gardens – easily the most popular tourist attraction in Victoria, this world renown Garden is a Canadian National Historic Site. With 55 acres of spectacular gardens, the Butchart estate is visited by nearly a million guests every year. The Gardens are family owned and celebrating their 112th year in 2016. Various themed gardens are located on the grounds including the iconic Sunken Garden, the Rose Garden, Italian Garden, Mediterranean Garden and the Japanese Garden. The Butchart Gardens is open year round and they are located approximately 30 minutes from Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Check out The Butchart Gardens highlights for every season of the year by clicking here. Visitors will find restaurants – both casual and more formal and can take in a Victoria Tradition with Afternoon Tea. A coffee shop is located off the Waterwheel Square near the well stocked gift store. Summer concerts are provided throughout at the Concert Lawn Stage and children of all ages will enjoy the Rose Carousel. Walking maps and flower guides provide guest information including what flowers are in bloom.
Our favourite time to visit The Gardens is before 10:30am or in the late afternoon and early evening. Early morning visitors miss the busy period before visitors start arriving from the lower mainland by bus. Late afternoon visitors miss the same peak period as well. The Gardens is never really crowded but mid-day during the summer is the high traffic time. As of June 15th The Butchart Gardens is open to 10pm and guests are entitled to stay until 11pm. These extended hours are daily the last two weeks of June and all of July and August. Starting on June 15th The Gardens during the evening transforms into a fantasyland with spectacular lighting displays throughout the grounds. Saturday evenings in July and August feature a fireworks display choreographed to music that is always a must see.
CVS Tours offers daily service to The Butchart Gardens in modern and comfortable Double Decker buses. During the off season there is one departure per day, however during the shoulder season (April thru mid-June & October) and peak season (June thru September) they operate as many as eleven (11) trips per day with guests being able to chose their departure time from the Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria’s Inner Harbour and there return time from the Gardens right up to closing time. This allows guests to tailor their stays from two (2) hours to all day stays if they wish. Combined with travel time, your visit to The Butchart Gardens from downtown Victoria will take between 3.5 to 4 hours with an average length of stay.
2. Royal British Columbia Museum – the museum was founded in 1886 and is indeed one of Canada’s greatest cultural treasures. The museum houses artifacts and specimens of British Columbia’s natural and human history. Permanent galleries include Natural History, First Peoples, Modern History and the BC Archives on display. On now through April 4th, 2016 the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition includes a selection of 100 of the most stunning images from around the world. Upcoming exhibitions include Mammoths – Giants of the Ice Age opening June 3rd. Take in the rare opportunity to see this larger than-life exhibition. A rich collection of fossils, casts, preserved flesh and immersive media where you will discover these amazing animals that lived through the last Ice Age.
The Royal BC Museum is located near Victoria’s Inner Harbour and is within walking distance of many of Victoria’s downtown hotels. The museum is open daily from 10am to 5pm. A gift shop – the Royal BC Museum Shop – filled with unique items is located on the main floor. You can easily immerse yourself in the permanent galleries for hours.
3. The Fairmont Empress Hotel is a Victoria icon. This grand hotel offers Victorian charm and the time honoured tradition for over 100 years of Afternoon Tea. Set in the hotel’s Tea Lobby, the Fairmont Empress has served England’s most beloved ritual and Victoria’s grandest tradition of Afternoon Tea to famed royalty, celebrities and dignitaries from around the globe. From house-made signature Empress scones to delectable pastries and tea sweets with many locally sourced ingredients, you will not soon forget the experience called Afternoon Tea. Steeped in tradition since 1908 tea is served in dainty William Edwards China with sterling silver service. The ambience is heightened with live piano and the tea room overlooks Victoria’s spectacular Inner Harbour; Afternoon Tea is a must do for all who visit Victoria.
Empress Blend of Tea is a selection of seasonal, quality teas, created exclusively for the Fairmont Empress. It is truly one of the finest blends in the world. The Empress blend of tea is available for purchase at the Fairmont Store located in the hotel adjacent the Tea Lobby. If you are interested in the 2016 Menu for Afternoon Tea please visit here.
4. One of Victoria’s favourite locals only spots is Mt. Tolmie viewpoint in Saanich. Officially named in 1934 after Dr. William Frazer Tolmie, a biologist, the viewpoint offers panoramic views of Saanich and Victoria across to the Olympic Mountain Range in Washington State. Vistas of Mt. Baker in the Cascades will entice you to hike the 120m. (360 foot) elevation of the summit and through the natural pathways along the rocky outcrops providing a myriad of places to explore. The native Garry Oaks line the winding road that traverses the park. Please note there are no services in the 18 hectare regional park. For those visitors to Victoria without there own transportation, CVS Tours Deluxe Victoria City Tour and Grand City Drive and Castle Tour both include a stop atop Mt. Tolmie.
5. No where is Victorian era heritage more pronounced then at Craigdarroch Castle. Located in the upscale Rockland neighbourhood this “bonanza castle” is a designated a National Historic Site of Canada due to its landmark status in Victoria. With 39 rooms and over 25,000 square feet of floor space, the Castle was constructed in the late 1800’s as a family residence of the wealthy Dunsmuir family. The four-story Castle has been restored with lavish Victorian era furnishings dating from the 1890’s and is probably best known for its stained-glass windows and intricate woodwork. The Castle has been the setting for a number of films including Little Women, Spooky House, Cats & Dogs and 2016’s The Boy.
The Castle is located just outside of the City’s downtown core and can be toured on average in about 1 hour. The grounds are free to wander and a great place to photograph. To gain access to the inside of Craigdarroch Castle there is a nominal entry fee. From May to October CVS Tours offers the Castle as part of our Grand City Drive and Castle Tour offering with a one (1) hour stop. The Castle is also offered on the Victoria Day Tour, an exclusive offering of the very best attractions and experiences that can be had in Victoria.
We hope you have enjoyed the 2016 version of Victoria’s 5 Best Places to Visit. Check back for updates and new locations that are must see attractions or sites.