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Travel Courier
Issue Date: Jul 18, 2019
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Cunard answers the call of the wild

GREG COATES

Luxury cruise line Cunard is helping travellers tame their “call of the wild” with its return to Alaska after more than 20 years.

And there’s no better way to experience the wonders of The Last Frontier than by cruise ship. And what better way to cruise Alaska than with Cunard?

The Cunard experience is built on fine dining, hand-selected entertainment and outstanding service. From five-star restaurants and in-suite dining to inspiring guest speakers, the library and film screenings, every detail has been crafted to make the cruise experience unforgettable.

Captain Inger Klein Thorhauge

Cunard returned to Alaska this year with four 10-night round-trip voyages out of Vancouver aboard the elegant Queen Elizabeth. This will be followed by a full season of 10 voyages out of Vancouver from May through September next year.

During its 2020 Alaska voyages, Cunard will visit Glacier Bay, making it the only cruise line offering 10-, 11- and 12-day round-trip voyages that include both Glacier Bay and Hubbard Glacier.

The Alaska voyages feature full days in ports such as Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, Sitka, and Victoria, BC.

Cunard president Simon Palethorpe commented, “Alaska is one of the world’s most inspiring destinations, and our guests now have the opportunity to sail into this spectacular region, while enjoying the luxury and style of a Cunard ship. With Glacier Bay added to our 2020 Alaska itineraries, our guests will have an even more dramatic front-row seat from which to witness the immense beauty of the region.”

Cunard also continues its partnership with Rocky Mountaineer, offering pre- and post-cruise tours on the famous railway. Tours include three or five nights accommodation, plus two full days on board the train. Highlights include the Continental Divide, Kicking Horse Canyon, Spiral Tunnels and the rushing waters of Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon.

For travel agents, The Academy Online module “Alaska, by Cunard” has been updated to now include Glacier Bay information. Agents earn five Shine points for completing the module and over the coming months can earn an extra 20 Shine points for moving through the Academy’s ranks. Agents also have the opportunity to earn 300 Shine points for their Cunard fare bookings. For more travel agent specific information, see www.shinerewardsclub.com.

Speaking with Travel Courier during Cunard’s final 2019 Alaska voyage, Queen Elizabeth Captain Inger Klein Thorhauge said there’s no better way for travellers to fulfill their bucket list wish of visiting Alaska than with Cunard.

The luxury line has a long heritage – Cunard was founded in 1840 by Canadian Samuel Cunard – and is known for its traditions, helping set it apart from others.

“It is a brand recognized around the world with a proud heritage,” said Captain Klein Thorhauge. “It’s been an iconic brand all the way through… the names [Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary] are still something that people remember and relate to. We will always be quite well known, wherever we go, due to the name.”

She noted that Cunard has kept the romance in cruising, and, while quite traditional has, over the years, modernized the brand, all while sustaining that ever-important heritage and top-notch service.

“For us as a brand, it is about the ultimate experience for every person,” she said.

Queen Elizabeth is the newest member of the Cunard fleet, younger sister to Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria.

With a passenger capacity of 2,092, it is a nice sized ship, ideal for those wanting big ship amenities, but at the same time not be overwhelmed by its immensity.

“People like the size, it’s not too big, it’s not too small, it’s just a nice combination, but compared to other brands that have the same size ship, we are actually a little bit longer… but carry 500 to 600 people less,” noted Captain Klein Thorhauge.

Queen Elizabeth pays tribute to classic Art Deco design, invoking thoughts of the heyday of Hollywood glamour with its wood paneling, chandeliers, marble flooring and other decorative touches.

Public spaces include the Garden Lounge, a large conservatory, based on the famous hothouses of Kew Gardens, as well as a unique Games Deck. Paddle tennis anyone?

For agents with clients looking for rock climbing walls or go-karts at sea, this is not the ship – or brand – for you. A Cunard cruise is more about High Tea, ballroom dancing and Big Band music – there’s no discos here.

“Wherever you go, you can sit down and relax, nice and quiet, read a book or look out the window. You can find your own spot and do whatever you like without being drawn into that ‘there’s a show here and there’s something going on there,’” mentality, said the Captain.

Even the dining options are more traditional with two main sittings (early and late) in the two-storey Brittania dining room. Guests can also choose to forgo the main dining room experience and opt for one of several other options – room service (which is included), Verandah (French), the Golden Lion Pub, Britannia Club, Lido Restaurant (self-service) or Lido Pool Grill. Suite guests (Brittania, Princess Grill and Queens Grill) have access to their own exclusive restaurants.

Queen Elizabeth underwent a refit just last year, launching the new spa concept Mareel Wellness & Beauty, developed in partnership with Canyon Ranch. The new spa offers a holistic approach with a focus on the healing energy of the sea.

During their voyage, guests have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of Alaska with Cultured Heritage Guides on every sailing.

As for Alaska, Captain Klein Thorhauge simply called it, “amazing, absolutely stunning.”

She noted that it’s a great itinerary, but also quite demanding for ship captains – there is a lot of pilotage involved inside and outside of the fjords.

“The beauty is just stunning, it’s so majestic. You get the same feeling when sailing out of Vancouver,” she said. “I love it. I can never see enough of all this, whales, etc. – even after all these years at sea, I still get extremely excited seeing a dolphin swimming by. The wildlife up here is just unbelievable.”

For agents selling an Alaska cruise to clients, Captain Klein Thorhauge advises that they need to know what their clients are looking for.

“If you’re looking for a high-activity ship, this is not the one, if you’re looking for tranquility, peace and experience [this is it].”

Sample itinerary

(taken June 20 – June 30)

Day 1: Board in Vancouver (and head to sea)

Day 2: At sea en route to Ketchikan

This is a nice start to the cruise with a day at sea, giving passengers a chance to get their sea legs and get acquainted with the ship. It’s also a good time to book those last-minute shore excursions (as many of them do sell out).

Heading out of Vancouver is also very scenic, as the Queen Elizabeth heads northwest through the narrow bouyed channel named The First Narrows. Highlights include Prospect Bay, Discovery Passage, Seymour Narrows and Blackney Passage and through Queen Charlotte Sound.

Day 3: Ketchikan

Known as “Alaska’s First City,” Ketchikan is Alaska’s southern-most port city. Founded as a fishing camp, Ketchikan is built on steep hillsides and is billed as the “Salmon Capital of the World.” It is a quaint village, just three miles long and three blocks wide.

Highlights while ashore include Tongass Historical Museum, Totem Heritage Centre, Dolly’s House (Ketchikan’s infamous Creek Street was renowned for its illegal drinking parties and brothels), Southeast Alaska Discovery Centre, Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, and Saxman Totem Park.

Dolly’s House, located 24 Creek Street, is now a museum filled with memorabilia of the life and times around 1919. Other houses of “ill-repute,” are now art galleries, restaurants and gift shops.

Day 4: Juneau

On the way, Queen Elizabeth will pass Brothers Islands and Harbor Island, passing Endicott and Tracy Arm (considered by many to be the most majestic of all of the Alaskan fjords). The ship will also cruise the waters of Frederick Sound, a summertime hotspot for humpback whales.

The capital of Alaska, Juneau, sits at sea level below steep mountains ranging from 3,500 feet to 4,000 feet. Atop these mountains is the Juneau Icefield, a large ice mass from which about 30 glaciers flow, including the Mendenhall Glacier. Juneau is also home to one of the largest wilderness areas in the US.

Things to do ashore include Mount Roberts Tramway, Alaska State Museum, Sealaska Heritage Institute, Alaska Governor’s Mansion, House of Wickersham, Glacier Gardens, and Mendenhall Glacier (which spans 13.6 miles and is located about 12 miles from downtown Juneau).

Day 5: Skagway

Skagway is like a living museum where the past lives in the present, reminding some of a movie set, its history steeped in the cries of “gold in the Yukon.” Today, it’s home to about 1,000 residents and offers visitors quaint shops and restaurants (be sure to check out the Red Dog Saloon, home of the Duck Fart drink. It’s tastier than it sounds).

Skagway

Several rivers flow down through the regions surrounding Juneau, bringing an abundance of wildlife, including the occasional bear, bald eagles and moose.

Visitors can also visit the Shootout on Juneau Wharf Marker, NPS Visitors Centre & Gold Rush Museum, White Pass and Yukon Railway (a scenic ride along the 110-mile narrow gauge railway that was completed in 1900. Trips usually retrace the gold route to White Summit pass), Skagway Museum and Archive, Historic Moore Homestead and Skagway Scupture & Flower Garden. Thirsty? Try the Red Onion Saloon.

Day 6: Icy Strait Point

Icy Strait Point is a privately owned tourist destination just outside of the small village of Hoonah. Located on the northeastern shoreline of Chichagof Island, the region is renowned for its thriving brown bear population. With plenty of salmon in season to augment their diet, these are some of the largest brown bears in Alaska.

Available activities include kayaking, ZipRider (one of the world’s longest and highest zip-lines), Cannery Museum & Warehouse Shops, Hoonah, Icy Strait Brewery, and wildlife tours (brown bears, bald eagles, humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, and sea lions are commonly seen).

Day 7: At sea (including a scenic sail-by Hubbard Glacier)

Impressive Hubbard Glacier is located in Yakutat Bay and Disenchantment Bay. It is 76 miles long and 1,200 feet deep. The line where the glacier meets the sea (and where most cruisers get to see the landmark) is six to nine miles wide.

Icebergs also provide a convenient resting spot for marine mammals, so be on the lookout for harbour seals and sea otters.

Day 8: Sitka

Located on the west coast of Baranof Island, Sitka was once the capital of Russian America. Sitka National Historical Park was established to commemorate the Battle of Sitka in 1804, the last major conflict between Europeans and the native Alaskans. The park now helps preserve the culture of the Tlingit people, as well as Russian and American settlers. Rare artifacts, the preserved remains of a Tlingit fort and a Russian Bishop’s house can be found.

Ketchikan

The inland waters of Sitka Sound are home to a thriving population of sea otters, as well as whales, and for birders, the St. Lazaria Islands (at the mouth of the Sound) are popular with petrels, kittiwakes, murres and tufted puffins.

Day 9: At sea en route to Victoria

Watch for whales while out on the open sea, and again, take advantage of some of the amenities on board.

Day 10: Victoria

Back in Canadian waters, spend the day in beautiful Victoria. The city is known for its British colonial past and boasts plenty of Victorian architecture, including Craigdarroch Castle mansion. Another highlight is Butchart Gardens, 55 acres of floral displays, as well as statuary, water features and a carousel.

The waters around Victoria are also home to different types of Orca.

Day 11: Back in Vancouver (disembarkment).

Tip: For those with clients flying into Vancouver from other parts of Canada, an overnight at the Fairmont Waterfront is a nice option. It gives them a chance to climatize and is located right near the pier. Porters will even take guests’ bags to the ship (the next time they see them is in the stateroom).

Tip: For those with clients flying into Vancouver from other parts of Canada, an overnight at the Fairmont Waterfront is a nice option. It gives them a chance to climatize and is located right near the pier. Porters will even take guests’ bags to the ship (the next time they see them is in the stateroom).

 

 

 

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