Many British Columbians are well-versed when it comes to travelling on BC Ferries, but no matter how many times you’ve boarded – you likely still have some questions.

CTV Vancouver Island’s Chandler Grieve was sent out on a return trip to the Lower Mainland to get some answers.

Why won’t BC Ferries take debit cards?

As many know, the only payment types accepted on BC Ferries vessels are cash or credit cards – not debit cards.

The company says it needs a constant signal in order to operate debit machines, something made challenging by travelling across open water, where signals can be cut off abruptly.

“It’s the way the towers are set up. We need a signal to operate those machines,” said ferry announcer Tina Yee. “Maybe a big steel tanker comes by, it cuts off that signal and bumps everyone out.”

If customers in the already busy Coastal Café had to wait for a proper signal, it would mean even longer lineups, she said.

“If you were to bump everyone out, it would hold up our lineups, people would get angry in the lineups wondering why they’re waiting for their food, the food would get cold,” she said. “That’s the reason we don’t have debit on board.”

But then, why do credit cards work?

“We have an agreement with the credit card companies,” said Yee. “They allow us to process them differently, and they’ll take care of the charges on their side.”

Speaking of signals, why is the WiFi so slow?

“WiFi is a constant challenge for us,” said fleet manager Darren Johnston. “We know it’s one of the top customer requirements and of course, we want our customers to be happy for the entire journey so we do our best to provide excellent WiFi.”

The challenge, of course, is that connectivity levels can drop out while vessels are in transit, the same reason debit isn’t offered as a payment option.

But Johnston said the company is “continuously improving” on its ability to provide faster WiFi.

Why can’t I buy a beer?

That’s not exactly true – dining rooms on ferries that travel from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert do offer beer and wine, but that’s on a 22-hour sailing.

But southern routes are strictly no-alcohol, and there’s an obvious explanation.

“It’s drinking and driving, and it’s also that drinking alcohol on the ship may lead to misbehaviour that could lead to safety and security incidents in the confined space of a ship,” said Johnston.

As for those who still try to sneak booze onto the ferry, if they’re caught by BC Ferries employees they may find police waiting for them on the other side.

I’m first on, why aren’t I first off?

Many passengers make a reservation to beat the rush at BC Ferries terminals, but some are confused when they find themselves parked behind a massive truck.

That’s because being first on doesn’t ensure you’ll be the first off.

The system ensures that weight is kept equal on vessels, so bigger trucks will occupy spaces on both sides.

Some ships also have natural lists, so workers have to put vehicles on certain sides of the vessel to compensate.

Births on board

“We don’t have a maternity ward on the ship, but it’s not impossible that it would happen and it has happened before,” said Johnston.

He’s certainly right. Since the 1950s there have actually been 24 babies safely born on BC Ferries vessels.

Those tots don’t just get a bizarre birth story to tell their friends when they get older, either – each baby born on BC Ferries gets a lifetime of free crossings.

But unfortunately for parents, the free pass doesn’t apply to them or their vehicles. 

With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Chandler Grieve