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Cruise Columnist
The 2001 Alaska
SeaLetter "BIG BASH" Cruise

by Alan Walker

I'm excited for all you bashers who will be cruising to Alaska on the Statendam in July. Alaska's my favorite cruise destination (I've done it three times), and I would cruise there every year if time and money permitted. Apart from the incredible scenery you will view when sailing, all of the Alaska ports are fun, clean, safe and friendly.

I'm sorry I won't be cruising with you myself. My wife and I had previously booked our cruise schedule for 2001, and my wife says we're already over budget, over time and over weight. BUT we DO hope to host the bashers at a function in Vancouver the night before you sail. I've already got my wife making eggplant sandwiches.

I thought it might be helpful for first time Alaska cruisers if I highlighted some useful articles on Alaska and British Columbia in our Sealetter Cruise Magazine library. Let me first say, immodestly, that all of the articles are written by me - somehow I seem to have cornered the market on specific Alaska topics. However, if you use the Sealetter Search Engine (link found in every Sail Away Menu at the end of each article), I'm sure you'll find cruise ship reviews by others which mention their Alaskan experiences within their cruise review.

So, here is some recommended reading to help you fill in the time prior to July 29!

CRUISING THE INSIDE PASSAGE

This article explains the "Inside Passage" name and gives an overview of the Alaska cruise experience. The article may also be handy to keep with you for reference as you cruise northward. Towards the end of the article, I recommended buying a map called "Alaska and Canada's Inside Passage Cruise Tour Guide," and I still think that this publication is the very best Alaska buy you can make BEFORE the cruise. The map - and it's a lot more than a map - can be found in our Sealetter bookstore. Current cost at Amazon.com is $10.36. Another book I have recommended, "Inside Passage Walking Tours" may also be located through our Sealetter Bookstore.

VANCOUVER

If you are planning to arrive in Vancouver one or two days before the cruise, or even if you plan to arrive on embarkation day itself (and miss my Cruise Bash party! Mad Face), you may benefit from reading DO-IT-YOURSELF VANCOUVER - PART I and DO-IT-YOURSELF VANCOUVER - PART II.

If the Statendam is docked at Canada Place (as opposed to Ballantyne Pier), you can easily dump your bags on board and come back on shore for your own nearby tour of Vancouver.

Tip: Vancouver has lots of Alaska souvenirs at the same price, or even cheaper, than you'll actually find in Alaska itself, so don't hesitate to pick up something that you like. No, I'm not a member of the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce Happy Face.

VICTORIA

As fascinating a place as Victoria is, it's tough to get to in a hurry unless you're willing to splurge on a flight to get there. My DO-IT-YOURSELF VICTORIA explains the transportation problem, but also details the wonderful highlights of British Columbia's capital city. Unless you have two days in Vancouver, visiting Victoria may be unrealistic.

 

CRUISING FROM VANCOUVER & CANADIAN MONEY

The first half of this article describes what you will see as you sail out of Vancouver, so you may want to keep it with you on deck during the sailaway. Personally, I love knowing what I'm looking at when I leave a port.

Hidden by our Sealetter publisher in the second half of this article is an explanation of Canadian money. Although U.S. dollars are widely (almost universally) accepted in Vancouver, you may get Canadian money in change. This summary will explain what "loonies" and "toonies" are in Canada. Note that the current exchange rate in Canada is even more favorable than in past years: $2 U.S. will get you $3 Canadian, so a book that costs $12 Canadian will only cost you $8 U.S. A taxi ride from the airport to downtown might cost $25 Canadian, so paying with a $20 U.S. bill would include a generous tip.

KETCHIKAN (BY ANY OTHER NAME)

The first of your ports of call is a fun place, and my enthusiasm for the shore excursion (or "air" excursion) to the Misty Fjords National Monument is described. Bob Jackson may lead bashers on a shore excursion to the former red-light district on Creek Street where "fishermen and salmon went up stream to spawn."

JUNEAU - CAPITAL OF THE GREAT LAND

Let's compare experiences if you take the Mendenhall Lake Raft Trip that I have recommended in this article. And if you take the "glacier helicopter flight-seeing and dog sled demonstration" at $640 a couple, let me know if it was worth it Sunglasses.

SITKA

If you read my article about Sitka - holy rattlesnakes - I just realized that I never wrote one! That's probably because I only cruised there once, 17 years ago - so long ago that Sealetter wasn't even publishing, and Sharon Jackson hadn't been born. I do remember Sitka's fascinating Russian heritage, and the buildings (and some passengers) with onion-shaped domes. You'll want to know that Sitka is the largest city by area in the United States, and that in the 1800's it was the most populous city on the west coast of North America. While in Sitka, ask a local about Porky Bickar, who pulled a classic April Fool's Joke by having the local volcano erupt.

[Editor: The SeaLetter Editorial Staff has published an Alaska cruise port review of Sitka which can be read by Clicking Here. True, it's not by Alan Walker, but then, how could we editors ever compete with Alan's detail and charm? Sad Face

GLACIER BAY & COLLEGE FJORD

Glacier Bay was (and is) captivating, with its 12 glaciers, but College Fjord (which I haven't seen), has 16 glaciers! Let me know how they compare. You'll be happy to know that the ship's captain usually pirouettes the ship, so that passengers on both the port and the starboard sides get equal viewing time of the glaciers.

[Editor: Again, The SeaLetter Editorial Staff has published an Alaska cruise port review of Alaska Glaciers & Fjords which can be read by Clicking Here.

THE POST-CRUISE LAND TOUR

I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't yet added on a land excursion to my Alaska cruises, and so I'm really hoping that one of you 2001 cruise bashers will write a summary of the experience for The Sealetter.

[Editor: For an excellent review of the Anchorage/Denali/fairbanks land tour extension, we recommend Ron Varley's review of the Sun Princess which can be read by Clicking Here. While this cruise and cruisetour review dates from 1997 and is specific to Princess Cruises' facilities, it will give you a good head start on what you can expect in Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Fairbanks & Anchorage.

DUTY FREE & U.S. CUSTOMS

This may be a bit of a downer, but if you're not an experienced cruiser, you may want to read this article prior to dealing with U.S. Customs when you dock in Seward. As your three ports of call are all American, you won't have to declare anything that you buy in those ports, but you will have to declare your Vancouver and shipboard purchases if you are over the limit. However inconvenient this may seem, when you fly home from Anchorage to your U.S. home, Customs and Immigration is one hassle that you WILL NOT have to deal with.

Last, but not least, THE WEATHER

Everybody wants to know about "the weather" on an Alaska cruise. Well, the only prediction that can safely be made about Vancouver's and Alaska's weather is that it's unpredictable. But, can you exactly predict the weather in your own home town on July 29th? Happy Face I can tell you that I've never had a drop of rain on my three Alaska cruises, and my son received a significant sunburn while relaxing around the pool between glaciers. Vancouver's best weather is late July and August, and while you could get rained on both in Vancouver and in Alaska, it's unlikely that you'll get cold. I know that you SeaLetter cruise bashers (and anyone else cruising to Alaska this year or any year) are going to have a great time in the last frontier!

P.S. I lied about the eggplant sandwiches.

Line

Alan WalkerOriginally from Australia, Alan has for some time been permanently settled in Vancouver where he is a practicing Attorney. He has been a SeaLetter columnist, reviewer and our resident humorist for some time now.

To find all of Alan's SeaLetter columns, featured and humorous articles, and cruise and port reviews, visit our SeaLetter COLUMNISTS Index.

Alan loves email, and can be reached at: Alan@sealetter.com.

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