Tag Archives: celebrity cruises

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

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?

Celebrity Eclipse Returns + Pinterest

We have some photos from Nancy, fresh off the boat from her Celebrity Cruise to the Caribbean!

This also gives us the opportunity to introduce the newest addition to our social media sphere, Pinterest.

Travel Weekly magazine praised the tool as another great opportunity for travel agencies to pin visual representations of their trips and tours. This way our clientele can get excited about the upcoming travels, or get an idea of what a cruise or tour might be like.

“Travel is very visual,” Patrick Evans, social media manager for STA Travel told Travel Weekly, “People love taking photos and videos, and that is what Pinterest is all about. It is having a conversation with pictures. Pinterest lets users tell their travel stories through photos rather than words.”

We’ve added a few boards of interest, allowing users to see our offerings: from vacation packages, products and activities, as well as some from agents’ past trips. There are also a few boards just for laughs.

Check out Nancy’s photos at www.pinterest.com/wittravel

Do you have any requests of what boards you would like to see? Write us and you may see your board posted on the WIT Pinterest site!

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Filed under Celebrity Cruises, Features