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Cruise to Alaska in the wake of Haida Chiefs,
Great Explorers and Soldiers of Fortune

cruise shipBy Angela Warner

"Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at" John Muir, Travels in Alaska.

While John Muir's assertion may be true of many destinations in the world, I would challenge anyone to try to ignore the scenic beauty totally surrounding them on a cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia via the Inside Passage to Alaska. From the soaring tree-clad mountains, to the looming glaciers, to the breathtaking waterfalls, the passing panorama is just so vast, so overwhelming, it would take the most cynical and world-weary not to be impressed by it.

From the home port of Vancouver, the larger cruise companies offer two major routes: the Inside Passage Cruise and the Glacier Cruise- on both you can be assured of the same kind of luxury and service as on the more established Ocean or Caribbean cruises.

A typical Inside Passage Cruise would take you on a 7-day, 2000 mile journey from Vancouver to the top of the Alaskan Panhandle and return, between the BC mainland and the offshore islands. Because these islands act as a buffer from the turbulent seas of the North Pacific Ocean, the cruise is very calm so motion sickness should not be a problem

FILM FESTIVAL AT SEA: The Films to Sea Festival, a seven-day Alaskan cruise, will showcase up to 14 international film premiers while sailing through the Inside Passage and Glacial Bay National Park starting on August 4. Holland American Lines' M.S. Zaandam's screening room is not as big as downtown Vancouver's Tinseltown theatres, but is elegant nonetheless. Dusty Cohl, Toronto's film festival czar, organized the first such cruise in 1990 as a fun way to bring his friends together.

Ask about next year's venue!

In some places the passage is quite narrow and twisting, making for some exciting moments as the skillful officers navigate the vessel through seemingly impossible places. Seymour Narrows, 100 miles north of Vancouver is such a place- much safer since the mid-channel Ripple Rock was blasted in 1958, but still a tight, S-shaped pass. Another is the fjord named Grenville Channel- difficult to maneuver, but spectacular to behold, with mountains creating walls against which waterfalls tumble.

Once you enter American waters, it's like you've taken a step back in time as you go ashore to visit the old frontier towns. Ketchikan is Alaska's southernmost major city and is the home of the world's largest collection of totem poles.

Its waterfront buildings rise above Tongass Narrows supported by a forest of pilings and joined together by a picturesque boardwalk. Wrangell began as a fur-trading post in 1834 and has been governed under three flags: Russian, English and American. Evidence of even earlier inhabitants can be seen in some intriguing petrographs.

Juneau, Alaska has the distinction of being the only US capital that can be reached only by air or sea. This gateway to Glacier Bay rests between towering Mt. Juneau and the Gastineau Channel. Skagway is the historic town where the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1889 is relived. It is headquarters of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, the last single gauge railroad in operation. Sitka sits in the shadow of Mt. Edgecombe, a 3201 ft high extinct volcano. It was once the seaside capital of Russian America and a visit here certainly evokes the 18th century.

For many, the highlight of their Inside Passage Cruise will be the glaciers at Tracy Arm and Glacier Bay. Standing on an active glacier and maybe catching sight of a humpback whale is one of the world's truly unique experiences. For those who wish to venture further than the Inside Passage, there is the Glacier Cruise. This 7 to 10 day, one way route continues on into the Gulf of Alaska, and may continue into Prince William Sound, terminating in Seward, Whittier or Anchorage. (The Cruise may also be taken in reverse- southbound to Vancouver). Once your ship leaves the Inside Passage it's glaciers all the way, one more spectacular than the last: LaPerouse, Hubbard, Columbia and the numerous glaciers of College Fjord.

In our "Super Cruise Guide," we salute the sleek Empresses that wore the colours of Canadian Pacific, and as an extension of the mighty CPR, sailed from Vancouver to exotic ports o'call in the distant Orient. They did us proud. Their smaller, more modest sister ships, Princesses of the BC to Alaska fleet plied the Inside Passage from Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver to the Northern ports along the Alaska Panhandle. They carried freight and passengers to remote points; setting the stage for today's love boats and floating hotels. It was on the SS Princess Norah that I experienced my first memorable sea cruise as featured in my series 'Klondike Memories.' Since I found the history of the Inside Passage such a fascinating study, I am sure our potential cruise passengers would like to know more about its background and discovery.

The new Super Cruise Guide is based on the success of our Air Highway Supermaps and the earlier overland versions created for Best Western and Avis, which feature auto travel,accommodation and intermodal connections. Close to 500,000 of our various maps are in circulation. Above: Inside Passage from Vancouver to Alaska. The Fotomation sequence (above) is from the Ship to Shore Conference, where the major Alaska cruise lines entertained and educated Travel Agents from across North America.

Aprés Cruise? Fly Helijet's..Super City Triangle
We just received a letter from a lady in Southern California, who is taking an Alaska cruise this summer. After reading our article on Helijet Airways in the Air Highway Journal and this web site, she is booking transportation for her group to Victoria following the cruise. From Vancouver, at a landing pad right next to the Cruiseship Centre, Helijet Airways whisks you to Victoria in less than half an hour, then to Seattle and back the same day. For bookings, phone (604) 273-4688, fax (604) 273-5301

New shorter "Pocket Cruises" Royal Caribbean International is offering something new for cruise enthusiasts with the addition of a "pocket cruise," a shorter three-to four-day cruise between Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle on its Vision of the Seas, pictured in the 'fotomation' above. In 1999, 24 vessels representing 10 cruise lines called on Port Vancouver, for a total of 309 sailings. Passengers per voyage climbed 3% over last year's numbers. This year marked the 17th consecutive year of growth for the Vancouver-Alaska cruise.
Port Vancouver welcomed 947,659 revenue passengers, an increase of 8.5% OVER 1998'S numbers.

The numbers reflect healthy growth for the Vancouver-Alaska cruise industry. Everyone involved in the Vancouver-Alaska cruise experience should be proud of this exceptional performance," said David Stowe, VPA Chairman. There were 309 sailings in 1999 compared to 294 in 1998. The number of ships dedicated to this itinerary has remained steady over the last couple of seasons, with 24 vessels representing 10 cruise companies calling on Vancouver. The average number of passengers per voyage climbed 3% over last year's numbers, In 2000, a new market offering will begin with the addition of the pocket cruise option of three to four-day cruises, which should provide further growth for the industry.

About the Port of Vancouver
Home-port for the Vancouver-Alaska cruise, Vancouver welcomes more than 1,000,000 passengers at its Canada Place and Ballantyne terminals.

The Port of Vancouver offers Cruise customers:(1) Modern, comfortable and safe cruise facilities near both downtown and the airport.(2) Terminals that accommodate the largest cruise ships afloat.(3) A sailing time to Alaska that allows sufficient time to enjoy an extensive Alaska itinerary.

The Port of Vancouver is comprised of 26 cargo and other marine related terminals to provide a full range of facilities and services to the international shipping community. Most terminals are centrally located in Vancouver's Burrard Inlet. The exceptions are the Deltaport container terminal, and Westshore Terminals' coal handling facility, which are located at Roberts Bank, 22 km from the city centre.

Collectively, Port Vancouver terminals offer virtually no draft restrictions, post-Panamax capacity, and among the most extensive on-dock rail facilities of any North American West Coast port.

Bulk cargoes account for more than 81% of the port's annual throughput. Coal, sulphur, potash, grain, petro-chemicals and woodchips are typical of the bulk shipments which are handled through the port's 17 bulk terminals.

There are nine general cargo terminals. Forest products such as lumber, plywood, pulp, and newsprint account for 96% of general cargo, and 6% of the port's total cargo volumes. General cargo also includes project cargo.

Two container terminals, Centerm and Vanterm, are located in the port's inner harbour. The Deltaport container terminal in the outer harbour officially opened in 1997. Deltaport doubled the port's container capacity to more than 1.2 million TEUs per year.

Port of Vancouver Web Site

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