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Home > Member Reviews > dlb237's Port Reviews of Juneau, Icy Strait, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria

dlb237's Port Reviews of Juneau, Icy Strait, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria
Regatta cruise in May 2011
Member Name: dlb237
Cruise Date: May 2011
Embarkation: San Francisco
Destination: Alaska
Member Review: dlb237's Regatta Review
Juneau
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Regatta got one of the better berths in Juneau on this cruise, in between three other large ships. We had wondered how far we'd be from the Mt. Roberts tram - not to worry - the tram's base station was right outside our balcony. The weather was near-perfect, and the views from Mt. Roberts after taking the tram were spectacular. The tram is expensive, but worth it, and the ticket is a day pass, so one can go back up later. Buy the tickets directly from the tram to avoid the cruise line's markup.

We took a ship's tour to Mendenhall Glacier that included stops at the state historical museum, a fish hatchery and a nature walk through the woods. The Mendenhall glacier was spectacular, even from the visitor center. Having a dedicated bus with a knowledgeable and cheerful driver made a big difference; we learned a lot from his narrative between the sites. The immediate area around the docks is getting overrun with shops that cater to cruise passengers, but this is only in the immediate area of the docks.


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Icy Strait
Port Rating: Not Rated
This port was a pleasant surprise - as a terminal built for the cruise business, we were expecting the sort of tourist trap that one finds in the Caribbean. However, we found a fish cannery that had been nicely renovated with interesting displays about how fish canning was done, a reasonable number of small shops, and a nice trail along the beach and through the woods.

We went on a whale watching excursion with Allen Marine (their catamarans are bigger than other tour boats, and more stable). This was wonderful - we saw lots of whales, including a baby humpback that was repeatedly spy-hopping (head rose out of the water to have a look around) with the occasional breach (jumped completely out of the water). The baby humpback and his mother were one of at least a dozen whales that we saw, along with a sea otter or two and a few bald eagles. I walked down the road to Hoonah (local town) late in the day, and watched the local bald eagle glide in and out of the trees.



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Sitka
Port Rating: Not Rated
As in Icy Strait, we went wildlife watching with Allen Marine on another of their catamarans. Sitka is a tender port, and Allen Marine picked us up at the ship. They promised sea otters, and delivered big time - dozens and dozens. We also saw harbor seals, a few whales, and the captain even found a bear exploring the shoreline.

Sitka has managed to resist the onslaught of cruise-oriented stores; the town still has a genuine historical feel to it, and most of the stores are run by locals.

The restored Russian Orthodox bishops house (part of the national park) was interesting to visit, and the rest of the park (far end of town) has a very nice collection of totem poles in a woodland setting along with an active totem pole carver's shop in the visitors center. There's a recently carved pole outside the visitors center commemorating the history of the park, including an image of a buried Russian claim plate (claiming the land for the Russian Czar) that was found in Sitka.



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Ketchikan
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Downtown Ketchikan has been overrun by cruise-related shops - jewelers and the like. The National Forest Resource center is well worth a visit, and we took a ship's tour out to Totem Bight State Park. This was the only time we got rained on in Alaska, and the totem poles plus the chief's house still looked spectacular in the rain. We were lucky that Regatta was the only ship in town that day - on days when multiple large ships are in town, the place almost certainly gets overrun with thousands of cruise passengers.

One of the local shops that is genuine is a chocolate shop (they make their own chocolates, in more varieties than we thought existed) called KetchiCandies; some of their chocolates were a very tasty souvenir. Their specialty is chocolate-covered Oreos, including mint Oreos (decadent!).



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Victoria
Port Rating: 5.0 out of 5+
We organized our own visit to Victoria; there are three places that one simply must go. The first is the downtown area by the harbor including the Empress Hotel and the BC legislature building. The second is the Royal BC Museum in the same area, and the third (and best) is Butchart Gardens, which is a bit north of the city. Oceania provided a free shuttle to the Empress Hotel.

Butchart Gardens is a justifiably famous set of landscaped gardens that started out on the site of a worked out quarry and spread into the adjacent estate of the quarry owner. It was late spring, and lots of things were in bloom; the sheer variety of plants and landscaping styles is impressive, and they have their own dancing fountains at one end of the former quarry. There are regular tour buses from the harbor area to Butchart Gardens, and buying the tickets directly from the bus operator allows one to vary the amount of time spent at the gardens, because the buses run throughout the day.

The Royal BC museum has a lot of interesting exhibits, but their collection of First Nations material is spectacular. They also have a nice walk through reconstruction of turn-of-the-century town storefronts, a cannery, etc.



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Vancouver
Port Rating: 4.0 out of 5+
Vancouver has a lot of interesting things to see and do, but is a bit spread out. Fortunately, they have an excellent transit system, including a rapid transit line to the airport (Canada Line) and a ferry across the harbor (SeaBus).

We liked Stanley Park and the aquarium - the live animal shows were interesting, especially the Pacific white-sided dolphin show (they don't look at all like their Atlantic bottle-nosed brethren, e.g. Flipper). There are lots of interesting restaurants (primarily Asian) along Robson and Denman streets near the park. We had lunch at one that makes their own fresh noodles.

Instead of the heavily advertised Capilano suspension bridge, we went to the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge in a public park. This takes a while to get to (SeaBus to North Vancouver, then bus 229 to the park - the entrance and bridge are a short walk from the bus stop. The park is not heavily developed, so the bridge feels like it's in the middle of the woods (which it is).

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