While investigating my first trip to Victoria, I decided to take the Victoria Clipper out of Seattle. It is the middle of winter, and therefore the ticket price is $70 round trip, so $35 one way really isn't that bad a price (it is much higher during the tourist season!).
Victoria Clipper offers package deals, as well as transport only between Seattle and Victoria. They also offer a "cafeteria plan" where you can select the various activities that you like, and add them to your single ticket that you pay for at Victoria Clipper.
Adding hotels seemed to wind up being a good idea - the price seemed to be less when ordering transport and hotel together over paying for the same hotel separately. I chose to do this, but on future trips may decide to go for a different option. There are a few less expensive hotels than what the Clipper includes in its packages. Don't get me wrong: they appear to all be great hotels, and I had no problems at all with the Victoria Harbourside that I selected. They are great hotels for the typical Victoria Clipper passenger during the tourist season. However, during the off-season, the prices are much less expensive, and cheap minded tourists like me are much more likely to wander into the mix. I don't need a huge conference center, swimming pool and hot tub plus excersise room. Really, I just want a bed and shower, and maybe an internet connection.
So, be careful of the hotel selections too, and make sure you are getting a decent price for what you want, based on your actual needs.
However, then I looked at other options to add to the trip.
Buchart Gardens Christmas Lights Tour? It's would cost USA$52 to add that to the trip, and the entrance fee paid by itself is Can$25 (add 12%, or about $3 for the Harmonized Sales Tax). I could get totally screwed (by only using it twice) on a BC Transit day pass for Can$7.75 and still come out ahead on the admissions price, plus I get to choose my own entry and exit times. Plus, I found that the hotel was willing to exchange enough American money to let me have the cash fare I needed to get to the gardens on the transit bus. As the obtaining of small amounts of Canadian money for transit use was my primary concern with being able to take the bus, it all worked out well to not take the package tour.
Unique Suggestions: There is some convenience to organizing tours through a group and paying one single price. If that is your taste and you don't mind spending a bit of extra money, then it is probably worth it to you. There is also the possibility that a guided or package tour includes a few things that one simply can not do on their own.
All I can say is know what you are getting for what you pay.
I will also point out that the Victoria Clipper shows as a comparison the cost of renting a car in Victoria, and certainly doing that is an alternative - which is very expsensive.
Taking public transit ($2.50 per trip, or $7.75 for an all-day ticket), when it is an option, is much less expensive than renting a car here *or* adding the tour as a package to the Clipper Trip.
Fun Alternatives: For me, I decided I was better off organizing my local visits in Victoria myself, after I saw the prices Victoria Clipper was adding to the local price. It means I would get nailed for the foreign transaction fees for using my card outside the USA. However, that inconvenience price didn't add up to enough money to be worth the price charged for adding the tours.
But how bad could those fees possibly be? turning a $25 entrance fee into a $52 entrance fee is a horrible markup, in my opinion - though obviously having a dedicated tour bus take you there from downtown Victoria is worth something if it is raining hard.
Also, I would point out that aside of the tour packages, Victoria Clipper also offers ticket sales on the boat. I wound up purchasing the Butchart Garden entrance ticket on the boat for USA$26. If that markup sounds bad, consider that the $25 entrance fee listed does not include the Harmonized Sales Tax, which in Victoria is 12% - or Can$3. Therefore, the actual at-gate price is really closer to C$28. Buying the tickets from the Clipper, without the $52 package deal, therefore becomes a reasonable price.
If they try to talk you into buying the expensive package deal, tell them the same thing I did: I want to spend more time in the garden than allowed on the package tour, and have the leasure to come and go as I wanted - which was the case, and I wouldn't have been able to see parts of the garden in the daylight, and some of which are closed to the public during the night light show, had I gone on the package tour.
This is an underground aquarium. Not very interesting to be honest but children will find it interesting. Scuba divers flit almist constantly among the fish feeding them. I advise you to go some place else.
The building that hosts this gardens also hosted the "largest saltwarer swimming pool". It was also designed by Rattenbury (Empress Hotel and Parliament Buildings). Not so much to see just the wildlife, koi fish and beautiful flowers.
Almost everything in here can be seen elsewhere, and it's $ 14.95 per adult! Your money is better spent at the Royal BC Museum and surfing online for information.
The main part is a large static map of BC, boring, boring, boring.
Fun Alternatives: Alternatives: Royal BC Museum, IMAX theatre and Google maps
The wax museum has been a part of the Inner Harbour landscape for as long as I can remember. I finally ventured in after 45 years of living in Victoria. My daughter did not find the chamber of horrors all that horrible but we enjoyed the rest of the wax museum anyway.
Unique Suggestions: Compared to some of the other tourist traps in Victoria, it wasn't too bad! For the price it was a good way to kill about 30 minutes.
Miniature World - Every kind of display of miniatures - doll houses, battlefields, trains, but my favorite was the huge circus display. It was so tacky and crowded that I actually found it fun!
Unique Suggestions: Check out their web site and see if you want to go: http://www.miniatureworld.com/
Ok, Madam Tussaud's wax museum, Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Miniature world are all kind of touristy but they are still fun and you should include them in your itinerary if you have time. But do skip the undersea gardens...there are tiny windows to see whats going on just under the surface and pretty much all you see is silt and maybe a fish or two, no gardens in sight.
Do not waste time or money at Crystal Gardens. Nor the Undersea Gardens. Both a waste of time and money. The wax museum is great and a must-see! As is Miniature World. Both of those are good to see. But avoid Crystal or Undersea Gardens.
You pay good money to go in and see something, that you really can see anywhere. It's not too exciting.
There are lots!! There are several 'gardens' (Crystal and Underwater) that charge about $7 or maybe more, and you can extend your stay for maybe 45 minutes, then they want you to buy cheap souveniers.