Tag Archives: alaska

Cruisin’ Baja with UnCruise Adventures

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Baja Caramba!

This week, WIT Agents Racheal & Barbara are going on an Uncruise Adventure to Baja. They’re joining UnCruise alumni for a week down to the Baja Peninsula to swim with the whale sharks and go island-hopping. The boat sails down to Mexico, cruising the Sea of Cortés UNESCO World Heritage Site. When they return, they’ll have to share their firsthand knowledge with you, our lovely clients, and give you pointers on what to expect on a cruise with reputable line UnCruise. We can’t wait to hear their stories!

The Sea of Cortés is a veritable natural aquarium. With bountiful marine life, from scores of dolphins and mobula rays, to sea lion pups and playful pelicans. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the august humpback whale. Dive into the thrill of exploration or relax on a warm beach. The coastline of Baja is bountiful with bird colonies, schools of dolphin and colorful reef fishes. Depending on the season you go, you’ll have the chance to see whale sharks in Bahía de La Paz (Nov to mid-Jan, Mar) or spot gray whales at Bahía Magdalena (mid-Jan to early-Mar).

Call your Willamette Intl Travel agent to find out more about UnCruise Adventures, what they offer and when. 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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What is UnCruise?

UnCruise Adventures is a small ship experience devoted to sharing untraditional, intimate itineraries that really delve deep into the heart of a destination. Their cruises are a great opportunity for travelers who want to explore well-known places like Mexico, Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska in a different and new perspective. Read more about Uncruise Adventures, their history-packed Oregon cruise, and our Alaska trip report.  Also be sure to check out the photos from our Clients’ the Dents, who sailed with UnCruise to Alaska

PLUS! There are themed departures available on certain dates.

  • Birding: Renowned bird experts – on March 25.
  • Chairman’s Cruise: Sail with the leaders and owners of the UnCruise Adventures! – on Jan 7.
  • Marine Biology: Learn all about the amazing aquatic world beneath the waves on excursions and onboard lectures. – Jan 21, Feb 18, Mar 18.
  • Photography: Join NatGeo travel photographer Christopher Baker to capture perfect shots on the boat and in the field – on January 28.

We love UnCruise Adventures! Let us tell you why. Call us up for a chat at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Mexico, Travel by Ship, Un-Cruise

Un-Cruise Adventures: Not Your Typical Cruise

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Are you an adventurer by heart? Sailed with a large cruise line and on the lookout for something a bit different? Try Un-Cruise! We recommend Un-Cruise Adventures to travelers seeking an entirely unique trip experience.

Our clients who have sailed with Un-Cruise have raved about their small ships and the cozy, casual vibe onboard. The cruise line stations seven boats in Alaska, Hawaii, the Sea of Cortez, the Columbia River and British Columbia–each of which invites fewer than 90 guests at any one time.

The crew are dedicated to providing an exceptional vacation, and onboard you may be joined by wildlife rangers, historians, actors, or lecturers that bring the destination to life. There are ample opportunities for kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, paddle boarding and cultural encounters.

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Call Wittravel at 503-224-0180 to find out more on any one of Un-Cruise’s amazing trips:

Alaska: Explore Alaska’s Inside Passage and Glacier Bay on an unforgettable expedition.

Hawaii: Cruise among the islands of Moloka’i, Lana’i, Maui and Hawai’i on a 36-guest yacht.

Columbia River: Visit the Columbia river gorge and discover pioneer history roundtrip from Portland Oregon.

Sea of Cortes: Sail into a world of wildlife: whales, manta rays, sea turtles, pelicans and more roundtrip from San Jose del Cabo.

Galapagos: Venture out into the famed Galapagos Islands on a 9-night journey to eight islands and islets.

Last year, WIT Agent Linda sailed on an Un-cruise ship around Baja:

We stopped at 5 different deserted islands where we would snorkel, hike or enjoy water sports such as kayaking and paddle boarding. Out of La Paz, we were taken out to see the whale sharks…the world’s largest fish species with lengths of up to 46 feet and weighing up to 66,000 pounds! There is such a wonderful ambiance onboard and the crew will do anything for you. One guide tried to get me standing up on the paddle board one day – I couldn’t quite do it, due to the swells being too high, so enjoyed paddling on my knees, but she was so supportive and kind. Honestly, the entire crew was phenomenal and I felt so at home with all of them. I highly recommend Un-Cruise Expeditions.

Click here to read her whole trip report!

Or call 503-224-0180 to talk to Linda directly about her incredible trip!


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Photos from the Alaskan Cruise are up!

As some of you may have followed last week, WIT agent Wailana recently set out on Celebrity Cruises’ week itinerary up to Alaska. She spent time in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Victoria, and acquired firsthand experience of services and venues onboard the Infinity ship. Check out her  photos from that trip, up in the Gallery section or linked here.

Feel free to browse through the pictures and even comment! We appreciate your feedback!

Willamette Intl Travel has booked clients on countless Celebrity itineraries and other cruise lines. Interested to hear more? Email Wailana at wailanak@wittravel.com about the ship Infinity or info@wittravel.com for more information on cruises on offer.

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Filed under Alaska, Celebrity Cruises, Cruises, North America, Our Travel Agents, Travel by Ship, USA, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

South, Sunsets, Seattle!

This week WIT agent Wailana is concluding her days aboard Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity up to Alaska. Today, we take a look at Victoria and the ship herself.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012 – At Sea

Another day “at sea” is a terrific opportunity to explore the ship’ services. Besides the onboard spa, fitness center and pools, there are ample activities all around the ship, including:

–       bingo night

–       basketball h.o.r.s.e. tournament

–       watercolor art class

–       presentations by a qualified cultural historian and naturalist

–       music trivia

–       wine tasting

–       and much more

As one of the last days onboard, there was a festive air throughout the ship. The gift shop held sales and the lounges specials and events. Photographers shot scenes of impeccably dressed guests against the backdrop of a fiery sunset.

I took advantage of this day to explore Michael’s Club, the shipboard equivalent to a pub. You can sip on a beer from their worldwide selection, enjoying the lounge with its muted lighting, tasty edibles and live music. I was once again impressed with the general unpretentiousness and high standard of food and service. It was also English-themed trivia night, a hilarious event as the etymology of the word soccer came into question.

Thursday, 6 September 2012 – Victoria, BC

The morning began with a crew talent show and cooking contest. This was a great chance to see all 900+ crew members on stage at once, some of them displaying incredible feats of magic, dance, song, comedy and theatre. It was also a terrific opportunity for the passengers to show our appreciation of the hard work behind the scenes.

After, it was on to late lunch. My number one recommendation on any Celebrity ship is to try one of the specialty restaurants onboard. It’s not that the regular restaurants are inadequate–on the contrary, the main dining area Trellis is a culinary delight each seating—but the attention to detail, quality of ingredients, and presentation are up a whole new level. After the entertainment of the A.M., we headed down to the SS United States, the specialty restaurant focusing on French cuisine. The setting had a very clean and 1950’s ship interior, complete with Jazz lounge music, white polished décor, and porthole windows with wooden panels. You can order courses paired with wine or à la carte and just sample from an array of delicious and masterfully prepared appetizers. The peak of the dinner was the jaw-dropping desserts—but those, readers, I’ll let you discover for yourselves.

Specialty Restaurants: Blu (Aquaclass only), SS United States, Qsine

Disembarkation Time: 6.30 pm

Arrival into Victoria was perfectly timed for the afternoon. The sun sinks down over the harbor and bathes the waters in blue and gold. It’s a lovely 30-minute walk or brief shuttle ride into the heart of downtown. In the summer, street performers line the docks just below the capitol building—jugglers, musicians, traders. I would advise cruise passengers to spend their charming, lamp lit evening in Victoria eating out at one of the yummy restaurants in Old Town.

Embarkation Time: 11.30pm


In the end, cruises are luxury resorts set against beautiful backgrounds. They are opportunities to enjoy some fine entertainment, cuisine, and accommodations. Your activities are designed with a demographic in mind, which changes depending on the route. It is important to remember that, with less than 12 hours in any port of call, less focus is given to the destination and more to onboard experience.

With this in mind, Celebrity Cruises stands out as a luxury cruise line. The service is what makes this ship exceptional. The staff was friendly, amusing, approachable, relatable and accommodating. I am not surprised that the Infinity has the highest rated crew in the entire fleet.

Willamette Intl Travel regularly books clients on Celebrity and other cruises. Call WIT at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com to book a cruise today!

P.S. Wailana’s photographs from the cruise will be appearing on the blog next week, so stay tuned!

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Filed under Alaska, Canada, Celebrity Cruises, Cruises, North America, Our Travel Agents, Travel by Ship, USA, Vendors, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Juneau, Tracy Arm Fjord, & Skagway

This week the Willamette Intl Travel blog is following our agent Wailana as she sails on Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity up to Alaska. Read on for her day-to-day schedule, trip insights, and insider details. Today, we take a look at Juneau, the Tracy Arm Fjord, Sawyer Glacier and Skagway.

Monday, 3 September 2012 – Juneau, AK 

The morning of Labor Day, the ship’s navigational team took us on a detour through Tracy Arm Fjord. Their progress was slow and cautious, as the ship glided past bits of glacier and ice officially known as “bergie bits” and growlers. Fog clung to the summits of the surrounding mountains like ghosts, and the air was silent and still.

Most of the passengers rose early to watch the advance, stationing themselves in the Constellation Lounge or outside on Deck 11. The crew stood on standby with blankets, hot chocolate and Bailey’s. Brent Nixon, the onboard naturalist, spoke through the ship’s speaker on glaciers, fjords, and the proper use of the word gull.

At the end of this long corridor, we finally arrived at Sawyer Glacier. It looked like a massive, pouring river had just frozen in the middle of its course. I recommend heading down to Trellis Restaurant for brunch for magnificent views of the glacier and the ship’s departure with your coffee.

Disembarkation Time: 4.00pm

We arrived on land in Juneau around 4pm, later than scheduled due to some technical difficulties with some of the tender boats. The ship parked in the Taiya Inlet—at 1 mile down, the Taiya is the deepest fjord in North America.

Alaska’s capital is larger than it first appears, curving around shores and stretching from a modest downtown into countryside, farmland and fields. As there was limited daylight and the clouds were attempting to rid us of more, we ran over to the shuttle terminal and caught a bus to Mendenhall Glacier (16$ and 30 minutes roundtrip). A quiet and muted tow due to her heavy rain, the main draw of Juneau is definitely her radiant and stunning glaciers—and conveniently, Mendenhall is not too far from the cruise ship dock.

More than a mile across, dramatically flowing into a dark, silted lake, Mendenhall is just at the very edge of Juneau’s enormous ice field. If you have time, definitely take the 15-minute hike in to see the nearby waterfall. This path takes you to a peaceful sandbar, with splendid views of the lake, berg babies in the shape of a wolf’s head, and the glacier’s teeth itself. Stand below the roar of the falls, caress the waters and gray sand in your palm, and if you have binoculars, you can just make out the jagged, cobalt crystals in Mendenhall’s slopes.

Cast off time: 10.00 PM

Tuesday, 4 September 2012 – Skagway, AK

Disembarkation Time: 9.30am

The ship arrived in Skagway very early, but most guests disembarked after breakfast. The town is gorgeous and charming with its encircling mountains, ample sunlight, and a delightful shady heritage. As a major town on the edge of Alaska’s gold fields, Skagway was for years the final resting home for pioneers seeking to strike rich and sluice their way out of poverty and misery. With the gold gone, the town now thrives on tourism and the colorful stories and backgrounds of their ancestors. Skagway is very proud of its rough history, a fact readily apparent in its ubiquitous retail stores and historical landmarks.

The first strip of town is mostly shopping—jewelry, taffy, postcards, smoked salmon, popcorn, fur robes, and whatnot curiosities. I recommend picking up a few maps from the visitor’s center to orient yourself. We enjoyed lunch at the Skagway Brewing Company, pretty decent fare, but for a real delicious bagel and smoothie pop into the tasty Glacier coffeehouse on 3rd street.

If you need to stretch your legs a bit, get a little farther out of town, where there’s an array of nature hikes and historical sights. For long-distance adventures, take the White Pass and Yukon Railroad up for spectacular views into the Yukon, and glimpse the old railroad bridge that is still one of the world’s greatest engineering marvels.

For day hikers, there are plenty of trails just outside of town—one will take you to Icy Lake and Upper Reid Falls, another to Sturgill’s Landing and the remains of an ancient sawmill, and yet another to one of Skagway’s token graveyards. Gold Rush Cemetery is more than 100 years old and burial home to the town’s star villain and hero—Jefferson Smith and Frank Reid, respectively.

It was early afternoon when we finally boarded the ship. Just before dinner, we curled up on the veranda to watch sun set on the Chilkat Range as we sailed on. I would heartily recommend this to anyone who loves the sight of soaring mountains, glaciers, clusters of forests, and snow-capped, auburn peaks.

Cast off time: 5.45 PM


Willamette Intl Travel regularly books clients on Celebrity and other cruises. Join us on Friday to hear more about Wailana’s experiences onboard the Infinity, or call WIT at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com to book a cruise today!

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All Aboard, onto Ketchikan!

This week the Willamette Intl Travel blog is following our agent Wailana as she sails on Celebrity Cruises’ Infinity up to Alaska. Read on for her day-to-day schedule, trip insights, and insider details. Today, we take a look at Seattle, the ship herself, and Ketchikan.

Friday, 31 August 2012 – Seattle, WA.

Embarkation Time: 2.30pm

I met my partner, Mister G, at Seattle’s train station and after an obligatory stop at Pike’s Place for Spanish cava and piroshky, we made our way down to Pier 66. It was the sunniest I’d ever seen Seattle.

To avoid the crowds, it’s best to board your ship 1-2 hours before departure. Boarding took 15 minutes tops, and that was without online check-in. we had both traveled all morning so it was a relief to reach our hotel room so quickly. we took advantage of the time to relax and settle in, and got to know our room and stateroom attendant. Around 3.30pm, the ship’s Master, Captain Michael Sympouras, welcomed us onboard.

We climbed up to the Oceanview Café for slow guitar and to watch the shore recede. We watched the swell below and the heaving waters, the sea breeze picking up and cooling our baking skin. The ship glided on; the Needle faded around the curves of Queen Anne Hill as we sailed toward the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

We tried out the main restaurant, Trellis, around 8.30 that evening. Even without a reservation (select seating), we were seated almost immediately.  Most two-seat tables are next to portholes—fortunate for us as there were clear skies and we arrived just before sunset. Dinner was delicious—guacamole shrimp, strips of ahi tuna, herb-crusted haddock, and beef spring rolls.

After dinner, it was on to the theater for a preview of the week’s entertainment: musicians, comedians, dancers, and the onboard acting company.

Saturday, 1 September 2012 – At Sea

We spent much of this day, our first full day onboard, exploring the restaurants, nooks, pools and cafés of the ship. After a brief galley tour led by the chefs of the specialty restaurant SS United States, we enjoyed crepes and ciders at Bistro on Five. Our waiter was highly informative, and obviously very proud of his fare. I had a caprese-inspired crepe and the mister a Greek chicken, and I for one had to finish with a cup of succulent, dark chocolate mousse.

Our afternoon explorations took the form of following various musicians around the ship. Each day they travel to a different venue—so we heard Kylle the folk guitarist in the Gelateria, 545 Express (the a cappella quartet) in Café al Bacio, and Rob Ondras the jazz singer in Michael’s Club. This was a great way to sample the food and drink at each place as well as hear some terrific, varied tunes.

Around 6.30pm we climbed back to the room to change into our evening attire. Dinner was a delight, waiters singing birthday harmonies and everyone dressed in formal wear. Our waiter Robert was congenial and hilarious; I think I won major points with him and the rest of the staff by being one of the few guests to order the breaded frog legs. Better than chicken, in my opinion.

The major highlight of the day was the Broadway-themed musical show. It was an hour and half of dance, acrobats, and fresh-faced renditions of Rogers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber, among others. The dancers changed clothes so fast I could’ve sworn the costumes were all Velcro.

Sunday, 2 September 2012 – Ketchikan

Docking Time: 7.00 AM

The beauty of Ketchikan is in its mountains, harbor, and misted colors. Early morning is the ideal time to explore—crisp air, less tourists, and we lucked out in that it was sunny in this town that has 12.5 feet of rainfall a year.

Ketchikan has a very touristy downtown strip, the “Alii Drive” of Alaska for those familiar with Hawaii. A perfect location for outlet shopping enthusiasts—souvenirs, some kitschy, some practical. Only cash accepted at most retails and restaurants.

Celebrity is accommodating and hands out a coupon book for all the ports of call beforehand. We picked up some ulu knives for souvenirs. I confess when I heard “ulu” my mind went to the Hawaiian meaning—breadfruit—which I’m sure would make for a prickly knife if there ever was one! Also grabbed a few pashmina scarves, and merino wool socks. To an island girl, even 60 degrees is freezing! J

Lunch was fish and chips at the Alaska Fish House—pretty tasty fish and so-so chips; each table had malt vinegar to lick off of our fingers and a nice view of Thomas Basin Harbor. My boyfriend being a beer enthusiast, and a lover of Alaskan fare in general, we had to stop by the harbor’s token pub, the Arctic Bar & Liquor Store, “Home of the Happy Bears,” est. 1937. Their logo was of two bears being very happy together indeed.

We grabbed some espresso and headed past territorial ravens to the quieter inner town. There is a circling free shuttle for those who don’t care to walk. About 2/3 mile from the port, stands the Totem Heritage Center (and next to it, an eagle keep and fish hatchery). Nestled in a park heaving with thickening moss and streamlets, I would highly recommend the center to visitors. Several totems are housed inside—some are as old as the 19th century, some commissioned later as part of cultural conservation efforts. One of them was crowned with a menacing bear, snout raised and grimacing, claws bent. Collections of these towering totems, masks, photographs, baskets, knives, and small boats all help to paint a picture of the land back when it was known as Alakshaq. Definitely don’t miss this museum during your cruise!

Cast off time: 4.00 PM

Willamette Intl Travel regularly books clients on Celebrity and other cruises. Join us on Wednesday to hear more about Wailana’s experiences onboard, or call WIT at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com to book a cruise today!

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Filed under Alaska, Celebrity Cruises, Cruises, Our Travel Agents, Travel by Ship, USA, Where in the World is the WIT Agent?

Book Winter and Spring Travel Now

Call now for winter and spring travel! Make sure your vacation doesn’t get overlooked because of late notice! Generally, fees are lower and availability higher the earlier you book—waiting for a chance fare drop will not help when flying over these peak periods.

Sunny destinations are usually quiet the first 2 weeks in November and the first 10 days of December (sandwiched between the holidays). If you are flexible and want an early winter escape to the sunshine, consider these periods for best pricing and availability.

Airlines typically reduce the number of flights in the winter, except during the periods below when you can expect to pay high fares. Flights have been filling up for the last 6 months—don’t miss out!

Willamette Intl Travel agents are already booking:

  1. Kids flying home for Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks
  2. Christmas/New Year Travel: Key dates are already sold out for lower airfares, so prepare to be flexible on dates!
  3. Spring Break/Easter Break: These periods are already heavily booked—so call us immediately!
  4. Sunny getaway week, February 13-24, 2013; between Valentine’s and President’s Day

 And Alaska: September and early October are terrific times to start planning for Alaska’s 2013 season. Want a cruise? Early birds are rewarded with lowest pricing, best promotions, and variety of inventory. Don’t want a cruise? Our agents design custom itineraries throughout Alaska, with lodges, car rentals, small boat explorations, trains, day trips, etc.

Craving the sun in the gray winters? Head to the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s summer from December to March! Bask in 65-80 degrees F while you:

–          Gaze at the Southern Cross in the Galapagos, Cook Islands, and on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea
–          Wander in the flea markets of Melbourne; Australia is more affordable now than it has been in the last 18 months
–          Go trekking in a natural park in South Africa
–          Feast on fresh empanadas from a café in Buenos Aires

Call us now to book: 503.224.0180 OR email info@wittravel.com.

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