If the frighteningly popular Alaskan port of Ketchikan evokes an image of throngs of cruisers bumping and pushing their way past you to purchase silver trinkets and other "native" knick-knack, bric a brac or curio on damp, stuffy, claustrophobic streets, perhaps we should introduce you to Campbell River, the newest port on the Alaska scene.
For years, the city, situated on Vancouver Island's eastern coast, has seen mega-ships pass its shores daily through the Discovery Channel (part of the Inside Passage) en route to or from Seattle or Vancouver. But with the introduction of the "Aboriginal-themed" Wei Wai Kum Cruise Ship Terminal, owned and operated by the Campbell River Indian Band (and subsidized by the Canadian government), the city of some 30,000 residents has been opened to the cruising public. Currently, the mid-sized Seven Seas Mariner is the sole ship with scheduled calls in Campbell River (making its first stop on June 5 on a southbound seven-night cruise, Seward to Vancouver), but the terminal was created with the capacity for accommodating vessels carrying loads in excess of 2,500 passengers.
In regards to onshore experience and excursions, much like other Alaskan/B.C. cruise ports, the focus is on eco-inspired options including hiking, float plane trips to the surrounding natural landscape, birdwatching and kayaking along the Campbell River Estuary in search of fauna.
Response on the Cruise Critic boards regarding the initial Campbell River stops have been overwhelmingly positive. Members have lauded the kindness of the locals and a vibe that feels far less touristy and contrived than one would experience in say, Ketchikan. MtnDriver notes, " What a good choice on Regent's part! The locals were, by far, the most hospitable hosts that I have ever experienced on a port of call." Of one of the tour options, Sjrhdavis says, "We did the First Nation Dance excursion, which was still a bit rusty in terms of the performances, but was fun and seemed truly 'local' rather than something just produced for tourism dollars."
We'd like to know, where do you stand? Are the marquee Alaska cruise ports too congested? Is it time for new "Campbell Rivers" to open shop? Vote in our poll.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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Campbell River Becomes British Columbia's Newest Cruise Port
June 29, 2007