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!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.
VANCOUVERIf 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! ), 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 .
VICTORIAAs 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.
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.
SITKAIf 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?
GLACIER BAY & COLLEGE FJORDGlacier 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 TOURI'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.
Last, but not least, THE WEATHEREverybody 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? 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.
Originally 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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