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Bonaire!

Bonaire is one of three islands that make up the catchy nickname: the ABC islands. This colorful Netherlands Antilles archipelago lies 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela and is comfortably outside the Caribbean’s hurricane belt.

  

Bonaire is laid-back by design. Large chain hotels have been kept out and eco-preservation has been enforced since the 1970’s, making this some of the best dive and snorkeling sites in the world. The island’s relaxed and slow pace helps maintain the island’s chief attributes…its national park and pristine wilderness, both above and below the surface. This is the place for adventure sports: diving, caving, sea kayaking, mountain biking, wind surfing, and cliff jumping, to name just a few. Bonaire continues to be recognized as one of the top destinations worldwide for its sustainable tourism.

The culture contains layers of Amerindian, Spanish, African, Dutch and British influences. You will hear traces of these languages (plus some French and Portuguese) during any conversation in Papiamento, the creole language spoken. Try using a few key phrases: por fabor, danki, and bon dia—all of which mean exactly what you think they do!

Renting a golf cart is a popular activity. This is a fun and easy way to explore the island at your own pace. Be sure to reserve early….they sell out quickly! https://www.bonairecruisers.com

Photo courtsey of Bonaire Cruisers

Visit the donkey sanctuary, take a trip to the salt flats, view the flamingos or just hit the beach. Be sure to keep an eye out for the donkeys…they were brought to Bonaire by the Spanish in the 17th century for transportation. When modern vehicles (like pushcarts) became available , donkeys were no longer needed and were left to their own fate.

Since 1993 injured, sick and orphaned donkeys have been cared for in a shelter, called the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire. Volunteers take care over 400 donkeys in an enclosed area. The shelter is open to visitors and is located south of the airport on the Kaya Ir.R. Statius van Eps. https://www.donkeysanctuary.org/?lang=en

Reduce your speed when you approach a donkey. They may cross the street unexpectedly.

The south end of the island is host to the famous salt flats & mounts. As you drive along south road, you will notice the different colors of the water, turning into an intense pink color. Cargill has been operating here since 1997 and produces some of the purest salts in the world. Depending on the grade of salt, it is used for water softeners, the chemical industry or food production. You can learn more about the Bonaire salt on a tour, either through your ship or booked independently

The Salt pyramids of Bonaire can be seen when arriving either by sea or by air, each one is roughly 50-feet high and contains approximately 10,000 metric tons of 99.6% pure salt.

The Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary is one of only four areas in the world where Flamingos breed. Pekelmeer means “salt lake” in Dutch. The pools appear pink against the white salt flats because of an abundance of tiny rosy brine shrimp that live in the water. This is also how the birds get their pink color…eating the shrimp! The Sanctuary is located on the vast salt pans at the southern end of the island and is home to over ten thousand flamingos. Tourists are not allowed in the sanctuary, but the birds can be watched with binoculars from the road or nearby Pink Beach. Please take care to not frighten them….once they fly away, they will never return. https://www.tourismbonaire.com/sightseeing/pekelmeer-flamingo-sanctuary

Bonaire has over 22 beaches. On Bonaire and its sister island Klein Bonaire, the sands of some beaches are soft and blindingly white, while others are coarser and darker due to the high content of crushed shells and coral. Beach condition is intrinsically tied to the health of those reefs. You can help by taking your plastics and trash back with you, leaving the shells where they lie (they might be a home for hermit crabs) and wearing eco-friendly sunscreen. Every little bit helps to keep the sands clean for future generations to enjoy.

Be sure to pick up a Bonaire Island Map to find many sandy beaches and coves to explore and enjoy. Watch for the bright yellow stone markers painted with the site name along the coastal roads. They make it easy to find a great beach for sun bathing, strolling or snorkeling and diving.

Did you know that Bonaire has a distillery? The Cadushy Distillery was founded on March 7th, 2009 by the Gietman family and grew from a small start-up to a thriving company. They created something you would have never imagined…..excellent liqueur made out of cactus! Cadushy of Bonaire liqueur is based on the traditions of Bonaire. Lime has been used as a thirst satisfier for centuries and cactus has been an ingredient in the traditional kitchen. Be sure to stop and try some. https://www.cadushy.com

Enjoy your visit to Bonaire…..and island unlike any other in the Caribbean.

And if you didn’t watch the video already….please watch it!

Short tour of Curacao

Due to weather, we had a quick visit to Curacao!

Day At Sea On The Celebrity Equinox

A quick look around the Celebrity Equinox on a sea day. Included are a few of the activities provided and a nice review of the Solarium. Enjoy!!

Be sure to follow Maddie and Ryan for more adventures at sea and on land.

Exploring Sitka – 11 Things to Do

Sitka is located on Baranof Island and is nestled between the mountains and sea. The arts flourish and an ancient native culture still thrives. Surrounded by rainforest, they share their home with brown bears, bald eagles, otters and all five species of Pacific salmon.

Cruise ships dock at the island’s Old Dock at Halibut Point, about five miles north of Sitka town. A free shuttle bus service runs between the dock and downtown Sitka every 10-15 minutes. Some cruise lines drop anchor offshore instead of pulling into the port and use tenders.

Either way, the drop-off point will be in downtown Sitka near Harrigan Centennial Hall. This modern oceanfront building is the town’s visitor’s center and is the perfect starting point for your visit to Sitka. The hall features restrooms, WiFi and an information desk. Throughout the summer, there are also various cultural events to enjoy. If you’ve booked any tours or excursions with a local company, this is probably the starting point.

If your plan is to explore Sitka on your own, you’ll find Sitka to be very walkable. Most attractions are located within a few blocks of the harbor.

photo courtesy of Sitka Borough

Explore the Historic District

Even if you have tours planned, it’s worth the time to walk through the downtown historic area. Stroll down Lincoln Street and walk past some of Sitka’s most important landmarks, including the Russian Orthodox St. Michael’s Cathedral and Bishop’s House.

St. Michael’s Cathedral

 For over 100 years before it became a US territory, Sitka was  Russian settlement. St. Michael’s Cathedral ….one of the most popular Sitka attractions….is a perfect example. Built in 1848 by St. Innocent, it was the first Orthodox church ever built in North America. The golden crosses and green onion domes are an architectural wonder and it has a beautiful and spacious interior. A $5 entry fee allows you to explore the historic icons inside the church. There are also weekly services that are open to the public.

Russian Bishop’s House

From 1808 until 1867, New Archangel…as Sitka was known at that time….served as the capital of the Russian-American colony. The Bishop’s House was the administrative headquarters for their 19th-century missionary efforts. Now, the Bishop’s House is protected as a National Historic Landmark. There is a free guided tour you can take to learn about the home’s art, architecture, and historical artifacts.

Sheldon Jackson Museum

Located on Lincoln Street between Harrigan Centennial Hall and the nearby Sitka National Park, the museum has been collecting items of historical and cultural significance since 1885. Inside you will find masks, carvings, tools, toys, boats, and other artifacts from native Northwest Coast cultures.

Tlingit Clan House

Plan a visit here to learn more about the culture of the Tlingit Clan and how they lived off the land. The Tlingit clans thrived on these remote Alaskan islands long before the first Russian settlements. Also known as the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Tribal Community House, this “house” provides an intimate look into native Alaskan heritage. Watch a live performance by the Sheet’ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Dancers while enjoying the fragrant scent of burning cedar. Everyone will love the energetic drum beats and the chance to join a native dance around the fire pit. You can also pose for pictures in front of the biggest hand-carved screen in Alaska.

Looking for nature activities? There are plenty of choices!

Baranof Castle State Historic Site (Castle Hill)

Commonly referred to as Castle Hill, this state park is one of the most historically significant sites in Alaska. Tlingit natives originally inhabited this area and built a strategic fortification at this site. Russians occupied this site between 1804-1867. Alaska was officially transferred from Russia to the United States in 1867 on top of Castle Hill. Today, Castle Hill is a state historic site and is also designated as a National Historic Landmark. A fully accessible walkway leads visitors to the top of the hill and provides outstanding views of downtown Sitka and waterfront. At the top. you will find interpretive panels that provide opportunities to learn more about the history of this site.

Sitka National Historical Park

This is the oldest national park in Alaska and covers 113 acres. The park is just outside the city of Sitka. It commemorates the 1804 Battle of Sitka that took place between the Russian settlers and the Tlingit tribespeople. There are 20 hand-carved totem poles scattered along the nature trails and a visitor center with more information about the battle, as well as guided tours that delve into the island’s flora and fauna. Take time to walk through the rainforest. You will have great views of Sitka sound also and opportunities to walk along the beach and explore the numerous tide pools.

Fortress of the Bear

One of the most popular excursions in Sitka is a visit to the Fortress of the Bear. If seeing bears is on your list of must-do Alaska activities, this is your opportunity! You will get within 25 feet of the distinctive Alaska brown bear in a naturalized setting. The three-quarter acre habitat is located about 5 miles from the town center in the Tongass National forest. You will enjoy 3 populations of bears and observe their unique personalities from a large covered viewing platform.  The naturalists are happy to share details about the bears, their behaviors and how they were rescued.

City busses run back and forth to the Fortress of the Bear. The rescue center is supported entirely by visitor donations and is open to family members of all ages. The rescue center receives no government funding and relies solely on support and donations from local businesses, visitors and merchandise sales. http://fortressofthebear.org

Alaska Raptor Center

The Alaska Raptor Center provides medical treatment to around 200 injured birds each year. They specialize in raptors, but will aid any wild bird in need. The goal is to heal, rehabilitate and release all the avian patients, however, some are too injured to fully recover and survive in the wild. These birds join the Raptors-in-Residence team to help teach the public about raptors and the habitats they live in. Currently, there are 24 Raptors-in-Residence, including bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons and owls. http://alaskaraptor.org

Otters and whales

Sitka is known for the otter population. Book a tour through your ship or at the visitor’s center. Sitka Sound is home to the greatest variety of wildlife in Southeast Alaska – sea otters, whales, sea lions, porpoises, harbor seals, brown bears, puffins, bald eagles, and more! You won’t be disappointed.

Dining

You’re probably hungry after all this exploring and walking! You won’t be disappointed here. Sitka is home to fresh seafood, Pacific Northwest frontier cuisine and other delicious local favorites. You will find fine dining, casual meals and mobile food units….variety that will suit everyone’s style and budget. Not to be missed is a reindeer sausage from the street vendor. Truly an Alaska specialty!

All too soon, your visit to Sitka will be over. Grab a souvenir or two to remember this incredible visit to a unique Alaskan town….where the fish is fresh, culture is celebrated and wilderness beckons at their doorstep.

Fort Lauderdale, FL – “Venice of America”

Fort Lauderdale….known as the “Venice of America”. The city is famous for its beaches, arts, culture and the 3rd largest cruise port in Florida. You can shop on Las Olas Boulevard, ride the water taxi on the canals, wonderful cuisine and visit the historic riverfront, all while enjoying bountiful sunshine…over 300 days each year!

Located just two miles north of Port Everglades, the strip of sand that is Fort Lauderdale beach hosts many sophisticated hotels, delicious restaurants and lively bars. If you want to see and be seen, take a stroll down the Beachfront Promenade. During your walk, feel free to pop into any of the Fort Lauderdale beach hotels for a drink or a meal.

Photo courtesy of Sunny.org

There are many hotels to choose from, both luxury and moderate. Vacation rentals are also very popular here. Why not rent a waterfront home on a canal? Or an apartment in one of the high rise buildings? Many hotels along the beach have added amenities such as beach chair rental, salt water pools and bike rentals. No matter where to choose to stay, you will have a great time.

Visit Las Olas Boulevard to enjoy Fort Lauderdale shopping and dining. Located in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, it is at the forefront of everything from fashion boutiques and art galleries to outstanding restaurants, sidewalk cafes and bars. Stroll the boulevard during the day, where you can duck in and out of cool breezeways and be surprised by what you discover. And if you are looking for a great evening atmosphere, this is the place!

Don’t miss taking a trip aboard the water taxi. You will have a prime view of the mansions and yachts dotting Millionaires Row.  The captains and crew are well versed on the city and the many attractions that can be viewed from the water. The crew has seen it all and will have many stories on the area’s rich history, happenings and “who lives there?” Be sure to keep your pass handy when you depart your vessel…it’s your ticket to discounts and deals on food, drinks, merchandise and attractions at over 60 “Cruise & Save” partners. http://www.watertaxi.com

Curious about the history of the area? Stop at the Stranahan House, a preserved 1900s home furnished with antiques of the era. The house was built in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, who is credited as Fort Lauderdale’s founding father, and his wife Ivy Cromartie Stranahan, the area’s first school teacher. It is the oldest surviving structure in Broward County.

Photo courtesy of stranahanhouse.org

Each October, Fort Lauderdale hosts as the largest in-water boat show in the world. Located steps from the beach, the show spans nearly 90 acres across three million square feet of exhibit space that is connected by an intricate network of water and ground transportation services. The five-day show attracts over 100,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors representing 52 countries with more than 1,300 boats on display. Products available to purchase range from sunglasses to superyachts and everything in between. Tickets must be purchased in advance to attend. If you want to see mega yachts up close, this is a great opportunity. http://www.flibs.com

If you are boarding a cruise ship after you visit Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades is only a few minutes away. From your hotel, you can take a taxi, shuttle or use ride-share. If driving your own car, there are plenty of options for parking. Each pier has a parking structure available. You can also park off-site. A quick google search will provide you with lots of options. Many hotels also offer extended parking for cruises….be sure to look for that option when you book your hotel. Pier information can be found here: http://www.porteverglades.net Scroll down to find ship schedules, port maps and parking information.

Enjoy your visit to Fort Lauderdale. Relax in the sun, enjoy delicious cuisine, explore the canals and feel yourself starting to relax and unwind.

Seattle – The Emerald City

Seattle – the beginning of so many fun adventures. There is much to see and do in this beautiful city.

Where to stay? Downtown is expensive…..especially in the summer! Hotels near the Space Needle are a little lower in price. To really save money, consider staying by the airport. Taxi or Uber will take about 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. You can also take the light rail.

Sound Transit’s Link light rail runs daily from SeaTac to downtown Seattle. Trains arrive every 6 to 15 minutes, depending on the time of day. The journey will take about 40 minutes to travel between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. Fares run $3/adult and children 6-19 $1.50 each way. http://soundtransit.org

If staying near the Space Needle, the Seattle monorail provides a fun, quick and convenient link between downtown Seattle and Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle. It is the nation’s first full-scale commercial monorail system and a beloved Seattle landmark. http://Seattlemonorail.com

The Space Needle is probably one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world and is a treasured Seattle icon. It was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair. The tower’s futuristic design was inspired by the idea that the fair needed a structure to symbolize humanity’s Space Age aspirations. The tower’s 520’ saucer-shaped “top house” provides visitors with Seattle’s only 360-degree indoor and outdoor panoramic views of downtown, Mount Rainier, Puget Sound, along with outstanding views of the Cascades and Olympic mountain ranges. There are dining options available at the top without advanced booking….seating is available on a first come, first serve basis. http://space needle.com

Looking for something fun to do with the kids? The Underground Tour is Seattle’s most unusual attraction and is a humorous stroll through subterranean storefronts and sidewalks entombed when the city rebuilt on top of itself after the Great Fire of 1889. You would never know this existed without booking this tour! The 75-minute guided walking tour begins beneath Doc Maynard’s Public House, then spills into historic Pioneer Square, Seattle’s birthplace, before plunging underground for an exclusive, time-capsule view of the buried city.

Pike Place Market is a must do when in Seattle. The Pike Place Market has been a Seattle icon for more than a century. The Market spans nine historic acres in the center of downtown where everyday locals and tourists alike shop, visit and eat. http://www.pikeplacemarket.org

Founded in 1907, the Market is one of the oldest and largest continuously operating public markets in the United States . It is brought to life by the hundreds of farmers, crafters and small businesses. Be sure to watch the “show” where fishmongers throw fish to be cleaned and packaged. Wander through the market while enjoying samples of Pacific Northwest and International foods, marvel at the fresh flower bouquets and browse the craft booths. Don’t forget to take a selfie with Rachael….the large bronze piggy bank located under the big “Public Market Center” sign and clock. The statue is named after the real pig that served as the model. All money collected is donated to the Market Foundation.

The Seattle Aquarium is a public aquarium located on Pier 59 on the Elliott Bay waterfront. It is the ninth largest aquarium in the U.S. by attendance and among the top five paid visitor attractions in the Puget Sound region. The aquarium offers a unique window into ocean conservation and research that advances understanding of marine species. http://www.seattleaquarium.com

A day trip to Bainbridge Island, which includes a short ferry ride across the Puget Sound, is undoubtedly one of the best day trips from Seattle. Spend an afternoon or even a full day enjoying time on the water and the town of Winslow, where the ferry lands. It is full of hidden gems for foodies and shopping. You can walk onto the Bainbridge Island at Pier 50 in downtown Seattle or drive a car. Ticket prices vary and so do departure times. You can repurchase your tickets at https://wsdot.wa.gov/travel/washington-state-ferries

Have sports fans in your group? During the summer, you can catch a baseball game at Mariners Stadium and cheer on the home team! https://www.mlb.com/mariners/ballpark

Have NFL fans in your group? You can tour Seahawks stadium! The roughly hour and a half long tour experience will entertain and educate everyone who enjoys football and soccer. From those who can’t tell a first down from a touchdown, to the die-hard football fanatic, and even those who call the stadium’s field a “pitch”. Don’t forget your camera to capture the scenes from the awe-inspiring viewpoints. There are sweeping views of Puget Sound, Olympic Mountains (on those clear days) and a stunning view of downtown Seattle, all from the 300 Level concourses. Tickets can be purchased on ticketmaster.com or in person at the NW Box Office off Occidental Ave. Tickets do sell out quickly so please plan accordingly. https://www.lumenfield.com/plan-your-visit/tours

Kids of all ages will enjoy a visit to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field.

Seattle is the home of modern aviation in the United States. In 1916, Bill Boeing founded the Pacific Aero Products Co. and began building seaplanes with local spruce wood. A visit to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle is one of the best ways to experience and appreciate the region’s long history of aviation.

Located about 9 miles south of downtown, the Museum of Flight features a massive hangar packed full of aircraft old and new. If you’re an aviation fan, visiting the Museum of Flight is a no-brainer. But even for people who aren’t really into planes, the museum offers an impressive and massive collection of amazing machines and insight into the modern marvel of human flight. Where else can you step on board a space shuttle, Air Force One, a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and a Concorde jet all in the course of 30 minutes? http://www.museiumofflight.org

Do you love wine? Then Woodinville wine country is not to be missed. Just 30 minutes northeast of Seattle, in the beautiful Sammamish River Valley just , Woodinville Wine Country is home to over 100 wineries and tasting rooms representing every wine grape growing region in Washington. Currently, there are 130 wineries and tasting rooms in Woodinville. Chateau Ste Michelle introduced its first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon in 1976…..it took about 30 years for the area to become a wine destination after that point. There are four distinct districts –The Hollywood District, the West Valley District, the Warehouse District and the Downtown District. If you only have one day, you can choose one district and easily walk between the wineries. Or….take a drive through the valley and visit several! http://www.woodinvillewinecountry.com

There are so many things to do in Seattle, I can’t begin to include them all. Don’t forget about the Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Museum of Pop Culture, the Original Starbucks located in Pike Place Market and the first Nordstrom Department Store! Walk the city….explore, eat fresh seafood, go whale watching.

Enjoy this magical place….Seattle, The Emerald City.

14 Things to do before going on vacation

Vacation time is finally here! You’ve researched what you want to do and where to stay. Made list upon list of things you need take. But have you really thought of everything?

1. Contact your credit or debit card company

There is nothing worse than being on vacation and having problems with your credit or debit card. Believe me….I’ve had it happen. And in a foreign country too. UGH! Most credit card companies need to know your travel plans. Some are no longer requiring you to do this, but make sure to check before leaving. And make sure you have enough available credit on your credit cards! If you are going to be gone when a payment will be due, be sure to schedule it! Also….make sure to use a card that does not charge a foreign transaction fee if you are going abroad!

2. Contact your cell phone company. 

Are you traveling abroad or going on a ship? Talk to your service provider to find out cheapest plan for making calls, sending text messages and accessing Internet from your smartphone. Many cell phone companies offer affordable day passes to U.S. customers for International talk, text, and data plans. Most cruise lines have internet access, so it is easy to stay in touch with people at home using FaceTime or WhatsAp.

3. Notify your home security system operator. 

This is especially important if you are not going to be available by phone. Give them a secondary phone number if possible, in case they need to contact you.

4. Confirm all reservations. 

Double-check all your reservations: flight, hotel, car rental, restaurants, attractions and any other services or experiences you’ve planned. Flights can change at the last minute….you don’t want any surprises at a check-in counter. Our son once showed up for a hotel reservation, not realizing he made it for the wrong month! Advance preparation helps avoid disaster.

Keep a record of your reservations either in paper form or on your phone. I like to make a master itinerary if going on a longer, more involved vacation. I’ve also been known to take photos of my confirmations. It’s always good to have a backup.

5. Make advance payments on bills that have due dates during your trip. 

Don’t want to get hit with late fees! Make sure all credit cards, housing expenses (e.g., rent, utilities), and other monthly bills will be paid on time. You’re going on vacation…why worry about missing a payment!

6. Check the weather. 

This may seem like an obvious one, but many travelers forget to do it. Check the forecast for your destination and pack appropriately. You can also join a Facebook group if going on a cruise or to a popular location….people love to share their knowledge!

7. Eat, throw out or give away any perishable food. 

Who wants to return home to a stinky fridge! Run the dishwasher, take out the trash and clean the sink. Make sure there’s no food in the drain that could rot or attract bugs while you’re away. Yuck!

8. Leave an itinerary with a friend or family member. 

Your emergency contact should have a copy of your travel plans and locations.

9. Clean out your wallet. 

Remove any items you don’t need while on your trip. Remove loyalty cards, gift cards, extra credit cards, and any other unnecessary contents at home. Only take what you will absolutely use or need while traveling.

10. Place a hold on your mail delivery. 

This is very important if you’re going away for more than a couple days. You could also arrange for a neighbor or family member to collect your mail until you get home.

11. Bring in outdoor furniture, water plants, stop the paper if you get one. 

Don’t leave any outdoor patio chairs, cushions, toys, etc. outside….especially lightweight items that are easy to blow away or be taken. I’ve also heard people say to turn off the water to appliances…like the dishwasher and clothes washer. I don’t recommend this….the one time we did it, it caused our dishwasher to short circuit, resulting in a large repair bill. That was an unwelcome expense to return home to.

12. Close curtains, leave lights on a timer and change your thermostat.

Uncovered windows make it easy for people to look in and see if there is anyone home. Having lights go on and off at different times also provides the illusion that someone is home. Set your thermostat to keep the house cool or warm, depending on when you are traveling. Frozen pipes in the winter is not fun to come home to! And high energy bills to cool the house in the summer aren’t necessary if you’re not home!

13. DON’T….post on social media that you are going to be gone!

This is the NUMBER ONE thing the police tell people not to do before leaving for vacation. Yes, it’s exciting to share your plans, but you never know who is lurking around, looking for an empty home.

14. Arrange for someone to stop by and check on the house.

If possible, have a neighbor, friend or family member check on the house. Leaks happen….we had one that our housekeeper discovered and saved us thousands of dollars in damages by finding it early! Better yet….have someone house sit for you. This is also a great option if you have pets. Saves boarding costs!

Most importantly….relax and enjoy your vacation. You’ve earned it!

Icy Strait Point….Hoonah, Alaska

Icy Strait Point is Alaska Native owned-and-operated. All profits directly support the community of Hoonah…Alaska’s largest Native Tlingit village. The dedicated staff….many who call Hoonah home….is committed to providing a unique experience for every guest. You will be hard pressed to find a port that is more infused with local Native culture and hospitality.

Located on the Chichagof Island, the Gulf of Alaska is directly west and the capital city of Juneau is directly to the east. Chichagoff Island is home to more brown bears than humans. Eagles soar overhead and whales are regularly seen just offshore….sometimes just off the pier going to the ship. The town of Hoonah is about a 30 minute walk from the port or a 5 minute drive. A shuttle into town will be available for a small fee. You can visit a restored 1912 salmon cannery and museum, walk the nature trails through a rainforest and explore the beach.  The port is surrounded by towering forests set against the backdrop of mist-shrouded mountains.

If you want an adventure, Icy Strait Point is the port for you. Here you can ride the world’s largest ZipRider, with six 5,330’ ziplines dropping 1330’. After launching, you will rapidly accelerate to speeds exceeding 60 mph while you soar 300 feet above the rainforest below. If you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience, then the ZipRider is for you. With up to six guests descending at once, it is also a great family or group activity!

Photo courtesy of Icy Strait Point

If whale watching is on your must do list, this is the place! You will depart directly from Icy Strait Point and travel to the celebrated Point Adolphus area….home to Alaska’s largest summer population of humpback whales. Along the way, you may spot orca (killer whales), Steller’s sea lions, seal and porpoise. Don’t forget to scan the shore for bald eagles in the evergreen treetops and bears on the beaches! Onboard, you will be accompanied by a naturalist who will describe the biology and behavior of the diverse species that gather every summer. The whales are so plentiful that there have been sighted on every tour conducted since 2004!

In the the wilderness of Chichagof Island, The Spasski River Valley is famous for having one of the highest populations of coastal brown bears in the world! Chichagof Island is home to over 3,500 coastal brown (grizzly) bears…..that’s almost two bears/square mile! You can book an excursion through your cruise line that will take you through the Tlingit village of Hoonah and out into coastal rainforest and muskegs. Along the way, you may see bald eagles, Sitka black-tailed deer and Alaska coastal brown bears that could be anywhere along the road. On arrival, you will disembark the bus and follow your guide down a gravel path and boardwalks across a muskeg to viewing platforms strategically positioned over the lower Spasski River. Bear sightings are not guaranteed. While they are commonly spotted throughout the summer, this is a true wilderness area….not the local zoo! This valley is also great for bird-watching and the Spasski River is an active salmon stream.

Fishing in Icy Strait Point is excellent and the waters around the area offer outstanding fishing opportunities. Halibut can be caught all season year long. Silver salmon (soho), pink (humpy) and keta (chum) may be caught beginning the first of July through September.  Stream fishing excursions are also available. If you are stream fishing, Icy Strait Point participates in a catch-and-release only program. If you are halibut fishing, you may keep the fish. You will have to pay to have your fish processed and shipped home to you, as you will not be allowed to take the fish back on your cruise ship.

Want a more leisurely visit to Icy Strait Point? That can be accomplished! There are numerous walking trails just off the pier. Walk through the quiet of an ancient forest and feel the soft pine needle covered ground beneath you feet, while watching for eagles and wildlife. You can also explore the beach, hunting for shells and other sea life. At low tide, the tide pools are alive with activity.

A visit to the 1912 cannery and museum is a must! A short walk from the cruise ship pier, the museum is a self guided tour and has no entrance fee. The building has been fully restored to its original condition and shows the history of fishing in Alaska. There are many static displays to enjoy. Also inside you will find a restaurant and shops that sell locally made items, souvenirs and packaged salmon. The Icy Strait Point cannery is connected by smooth paths and boardwalk and every effort has been made to make the site ADA accessible. For guests needing assistance, ISP does have several compact utility vehicles to assist guests in getting from place to place.

If you get hungry while onshore or want some fresh seafood….you are in luck! There are several places to get food, both at the terminal and in town. Ever had halibut pizza? Stop in at Duck Point Smokehouse (steps away from the cruise ship dock and Zipline ride) and let me know what you think! You can also try their signature dish, the Icy Strait Point Surf and Turf, which features house-made crab tater-tots.  

The Crab Station on the pier has fresh king, snow and Dungeness crab. When in season, the Dungeness crab is caught in local waters and kept alive until cooked…you really can’t get any fresher than that!  Their Alaska Crabby Bloody Mary should not be missed! It is packed with crab meat and garnished with a snow crab leg and also comes with celery, shrimp, olives, lime and beach asparagus. YUM!

The historic Cookhouse Restaurant has been feeding cannery visitors (and workers) for more than a century! Be sure to try their Alaska halibut & chips. The fish is purchased fresh from the local dock. Another great option are the Alaska Salmon BLT Sliders, featuring Alaska sockeye salmon cakes. Not a fan of seafood? Try the Alaska Blue Burgers….made with reindeer meat! Other favorites include salmon chowder, reindeer chili and fries.

Alaska has some great local craft beers and Hoonah is no exception. Icy Strait Brewing is located in the Misty Bay Lodge…corner of Front Street and Hill Street. Join them for a beer tasting and some smoked Alaskan treats. They have a great food menu available also. http://icystraitbrewing.company

Enjoy your visit to Icy Strait Point. You will find activities for all ages and interests. There are so many great options for things to do, you will definitely want to return!

Let’s visit Victoria

Victoria….the capital city of British Columbia. Named for Queen Victoria, the city is one of the oldest in the Pacific Northwest, with British settlement beginning in 1843. The city has retained a large number of its historic buildings…..the Parliament Buildings (finished in 1897) and the Empress hotel, which opened in 1908, are two great examples. The city’s Chinatown is the second oldest in North America…..San Francisco has the oldest. Victoria is a city whose British heritage and colonial past can be seen clearly in its architecture, gardens, museums, urban squares, place names and English-style pubs.

If arriving by cruise ship, your ship will dock at the Ogden Point Cruise Terminal in the Outer Harbor area of Victoria, which is located just over 1 mile from the Inner Harbor and downtown areas. Tour operators will be waiting just outside the terminal. The walk into downtown and the Inner Harbor is very easy. It will take you about 30 minutes to reach the Empress Hotel, which is directly on the Inner Harbor. Of course, if you don’t want to walk, there are other options available. Pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages are common and definitely a fun way to see Victoria!

Don’t forget to take your sea pass card and credit cards with you. There is no need to take your passport on shore, as the ship provides that information to the port authorities.

Most ships are only in port for a few hours….usually evenings. What can you do with limited time?

One of the most popular shore excursions in Victoria is Butchart Gardens. https://www.butchartgardens.com Located in Brentwood Bay on Vancouver Island,  the gardens receive over a million visitors each year and have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.  Travel time to the gardens is about 30 minutes from the cruise port. You can book through the cruise line or independently. Taxis will cost approx. $55 one-way. Be sure to allow plenty of time to return to the ship if booking yourself….traffic on the island can be heavy.

Downtown is centered on the lively Inner Harbor. It is crisscrossed by tiny ferries, seaplanes and whale-watching boats. Facing the water, the elegant 1908 Empress hotel is famed for its afternoon tea. Unfortunately, tea service ends at 4pm, but you can purchase the tea in the hotel and enjoy it at home! You can also purchase Bee Well honey (hives are located on the rooftop!) and the Empress 1908 Gin…inspired by the hotel and made by Victoria Distillery. The shops at the Empress are definitely worth visiting!

If you are hungry, there are many seafood eateries and traditional pubs clustered around Wharf Street and Bastion Square. Boutiques fill colorful buildings on Johnson Street and an elaborate red-and-gold gate marks the entrance to Chinatown, the second oldest in North America.

Want to do something other than walk around and shop? How about a wine, beer or distillery tour? Most cruise lines offer organized tours. You can also arrange your own tour with companies based in Victoria. http://Canadiancrafttours , westcoastbrewerytours and http://therollingbarrel are a few examples. There are also many brewpubs and wine bars located in the downtown area though and are always a fun option.

Whale watching is a highlight of any visit to Victoria. This has always been a highlight of any trip we have made to Victoria. It is very rare to not see Orcas off the coast of Victoria. I suggest booking this through your cruise line, as many operators do not offer tours during the hours the ships are in port. Believe me, you won’t regret it!

If you have chosen to take it easy and explore downtown on your own, be sure to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. Located just around the corner from Victoria’s Inner Harbor, Fisherman’s Wharf is a hidden treasure waiting to be discovered. This unique marine destination offers food kiosks, unique shops and eco-tour adventures in a working harbor setting. You can wander down to the docks, buy seafood fresh off the boat, check out the unique array of commercial, pleasure vessel and float home moorage, watch the commercial fishing vessels unload their wares and view wild seals.

Victoria at night is beautiful. The buildings are aglow with thousands of lights and the weather is usually very comfortable. A light jacket is sometimes a good idea though. Whatever you decide to do, a stop in Victoria is a wonderful way to end your Alaska cruise!

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