late-September itinerary took me a little by surprise when I looked
it up in the Holland America Line brochure.
I was booked on a
four-day Pacific Northwest voyage, roundtrip from Seattle. The
cruise was wedged into the Amsterdams schedule between the Alaska
cruise season and its South America voyages.
Seattle is a
seven-day-cruise town, since most of the voyages from there head
north to Alaska. But for all intents and purposes, HAL owns the
short-cruise niche in Seattle.
The line will
offer four short voyages from the city next September: the
Amsterdam will do a two-day cruise; the Oosterdam will sail a
three-day cruise and the four-day itinerary the Amsterdam offered
this year; and the Ryndam will offer a three-day cruise.
Its a good
introductory experience for clients in the Pacific Northwest who
might not want to fly six hours to Florida for a three-day
Also, I learned
that these are great little itineraries.
True, the vessels
dont go to Alaska, so if clients are looking for glaciers and
scenic train rides to Denali, this wont be the cruise they
But our four-day cruise included
four worthy ports in four days, assuming clients get a chance to
spend the first afternoon in Seattle.
called in Astoria, Ore., and Victoria and Vancouver, British
Columbia. Theres plenty of tall firs and scenery and, at least on
our trip, wonderfully crisp air and sunny skies.
And theres a
bonus for cruisers who prefer casual attire: HAL doesnt schedule
formal nights on these cruises.
You know its the
end of the Alaska season when Gray Line quits running its shuttle
from the airport to the cruise piers, which it did a week
A couple I met at
the airport (and first-timers, to boot) decided to arrive at the
Amsterdam in style by calling a stretch limo from the airport,
which costs $30.
a jewel of a call
from Seattle occurred after the gray veil of clouds finally lifted
from the city to reveal clear, blue waters and gleaming skyscrapers
set against the forests of the Pacific Northwest.
The seas around
that area arent always calm, which passengers discovered just at
the close of dinner on the first and second nights on our way to
and from Astoria.
high on my original list of places to see, but it turned out to be
a jewel of a call, just at the end of the Lewis and Clark
lived near Astoria during the winter of 1805. The town is the
oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.
meanwhile, is a throwback to a time when towns had main streets
(Commerce Street, in this case) with brick facades and mom-and-pop
who want to travel beyond Astoria can take a seven-hour excursion
to Mount St. Helens. An in-town excursion called Historic Astoria
and Fort Clatsop visits a replica of the fort built by Lewis and
Clark and their team in 1805.
While a colleague
of mine found time to hike in the woods, I hurried into town. The
transfer couldnt have been easier, although it wasnt free: a $2
all-day pass allowed passengers to ride shuttles between the pier
where the Amsterdam and the Statendam tied up, downtown Astoria and
the Norwegian Sun anchored nearby.
Astoria that day
was bustling with people wearing green stickers indicating they had
bought their $2 bus pass.
I popped into
several stores to chat with proprietors, including a flower shop, a
java joint (one of several -- this is the Pacific Northwest, after
all) and an art gallery that quirky filmmaker Tim Burton might
Vendors also set
up wares at a street fair just outside the HAL ships, so everyone
who was on their way to or from Astoria passed by jewelry, food,
soaps and homemade trinkets on display.
beer in Victoria
may be more familiar with Victoria, the oldest city on the Canadian
It has Native
American influences and a British feel, right down to the afternoon
tea, which HAL mentioned in its Victoria port brochure as a
hallowed ritual that is enjoyed and observed without fail
throughout the community.
Several of HALs
port excursions picked up on the theme, including the City Drive,
Craigdarroch Castle and Empress High Tea tour, which includes a
visit to Craigdarroch, a 20,000-square-foot mansion, and the
search of a more potent brew can sign up for a pub crawl (Victoria
Ale and Trail Pub Tour), which features stops at three different
pubs for Canadian beer and food.
As in Astoria,
passengers can ride an inexpensive bus shuttle from the ship to
downtown Victoria. HALs port brochure provided a few tips, such as
stopping to smell the roses at the Butchart Gardens or visiting the
didnt leave Victoria until 11 p.m. The dining room seemed fairly
empty that evening, as many diners were out enjoying Victorias
Its a fairly
short trip from Victoria to Vancouver. Since Vancouver is better
known as an embarkation city than a port call, its nice to be able
to take in the sights without worrying about catching a
excursion-bound, HAL offers a tour of Vancouver, a shuttle to
Grandville Island and a Grouse Mountain and Capilano Bridge
reporter Rebecca Tobin, send e-mail to [email protected].