Cruising

Crystal Harmony sails the North Pacific for Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com) this year, beginning with a two-week jaunt along the North Pacific Circle beginning April 26 in Tokyo. Crystal Harmony makes stops in Sapporo and Yokohama, Japan, crossing the Pacific to ports in Dutch Harbor and Ketchikan, AK, before cruising the Inside Passage to Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Crystal’s new land excursions like Fishing the Inside Passage, Victoria Breweries by Night, Klondike Rock Climbing & Rappelling Adventure, and Indian Arm Wilderness Kayaking allow passengers to see Alaska as the locals do, and three Crystal Wine & Food Festival trips introduce revered international chefs and wine experts who host demonstrations and prepare world-class meals especially for them.

Agents: Contact the Land Programs department in advance to create special-interest excursions. Passengers can contact the shore excursion manager aboard the ship for custom excursions, like a private helicopter tour, glacier trek or dog-sledding adventure.

Insider secret: With a whole day free in Ketchikan, clients who want to explore on their own can rent a luxury SUV at Alaska Car Rental (www.akcarrental.com; 907-225-5123) and drive into the heart of Tongass National Forest for dinner at Heen Kahidi Restaurant (West Coast Cape Fox Lodge, 800 Venetia Way; 907-225-8001), where they’ll experience the freshest and best seafood in town, not to mention spectacular views of the city.

The Seven Seas Mariner sails Alaska for Radisson Seven Seas Cruises (www.rssc.com) in 2005, with a series of seven-night cruises departing from Vancouver and cities throughout Alaska from May to September.

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Guests cruise on the 700-passenger, all-suite and all-balcony ship to ports including Juneau, Sitka, Whittier, and Seward. With a full day to explore Seward, arrange for Limousine of Alaska (www.limousineofalaska.com; 907-223-3916) to take your clients from the ship into town, where they can saddle up with Bardy’s Trail Rides (www.sewardhorses.com; 907-224-7863) for a romantic horseback ride through rivers and fields at the bases of towering mountains to the shores of Resurrection Bay (a part of Seward accessible only by horseback).

RSSC’s own shore excursions include the Mendenhall Glacier & Evening Whale Watching Quest in Juneau, The Wilderness Guided Fly-Fishing excursion in Ketchikan, which allows passengers to fish Alaska’s pristine rivers for salmon under the tutelage of an expert instructor, and the Extended Helicopter Glacier Trek, a combination helicopter flight and hike across Alaska’s most unadulterated glaciers.

All reservations and excursions inquiries should be directed to the Reservations Call Center at 800-285-1835 or to Sales Service at 800-477-7500, ext. 600.

Passengers will enjoy the intimate atmosphere aboard American West Steamboat Company’s (www.americanweststeamboat.com) sternwheelers, which will sail Alaska on seven- and 11-night Inside Passage cruises May through September of 2005 and 2006. These packages include calls in Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell, Ketchikan and Glacier Bay. The 11-day tour leaves from Seattle and includes stops in Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia.

For an up-close and in-depth look at Sitka on their free time, arrange a walking, hiking or coach tour with Sitka Tribal Tours  (www.sitkatribe.org; 907-747-2954) for your clients. Tours stop at historic landmarks like Sitka National Historical Park and St. Michael’s Cathedral, among others, and are guided by knowledgeable natives. Some include samplings of authentic Alaskan hors d’oeuvres and reserved premier seating at a Naa Kahidi Dance Performance in a traditional Tlingit Clan House. The Private All Day Tour includes a gourmet lunch at the Westmark Sitka (www.westmarkhotels.com) and free time to peruse local shops. Be sure to ask about the “Serenade by the Sea” tour, which includes a romantic picnic and acoustic music for your VIPs. For added convenience: Transportation to the destination of choice is provided after each tour.

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With time on their own in Vancouver, your clients won’t want to miss Hastings House (www.hastingshouse.com), an 18-room inn on Salt Spring Island. The Relais & Chateaux resort’s spa and restaurant (described as one of the top-ten inn dining rooms in North America) welcome reservations from non-hotel guests. Helpful tip: Hasings House doesn’t offer breakfast to non-hotel guests and doesn’t have a wait staff on hand for lunch, but will arrange a group lunch upon advance request. The cost for a two-person lunch is negotiated in advance, as clients must be willing to cover the cost of a waiter. For spa and dining reservations call 250-537-2362 or e-mail [email protected] 

Due to the smaller size of American West’s Alaska-bound vessel, Empress of the North, passengers can explore more remote areas that large, traditional vessels can’t reach, such as Wrangell Narrows, Sergius Narrows, Peril Strait, Le Conte Bay and all of Misty Fjords.

Empress calls at some of Alaska’s most opportune ports for adventure and exploring. Some excursions, such as a trip to Glacier Bay National Park and a stroll through Norwegian-inspired Petersburg, are included, but optional excursions give passengers the chance to embark on more adventurous and unique side trips. Such trips include helicopter sightseeing tours of sprawling glaciers, dog-sledding through pristine Alaskan snow, and river rafting and kayaking. Book optional excursions when you book the cruise, as enrollment is extremely limited. For reservations and VIP-related requests, call 800-434-1232.

Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) will return to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest in 2006 with a series of nine- to 12-day cruises. The Silver Shadow will kick off the season in June with a weeklong tour including stops in Wrangell, Sitka, Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan, and throughout the rest of the ’06 season will carry passengers past gigantic glaciers and through Alaska’s glassy water to ports-of-call for adventurous sightseeing and excursions. Passengers can go flightseeing in Denali, come nose-to-nose with Mt. McKinley, walk along the famed Iditarod Trail, and dogsled over glaciers.

Agents with special VIP requests should call the main reservations number at 877-215-9986, or the Special Services Department at 800-722-9955. 

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