By B.S. Narayanaswamy, Valuation Consultant, Bengaluru
Our next stop was Sitka town which is the seat of Alaska University and its ethnic capital. The Alaskans are very proud of their State and culture which was evident all along. Sitka enjoys a fair weather and good rainfall. The Russians, Alaskans and Americans lead a peaceful life. Sitka is famous for its rainforests and a walking tour along rainforest was our shore excursion.
A cycling tour along its roads, rainforests and the banks of the ocean was a memorable experience. The cedar trees of Alaska are 250 years old, 150-200 ft tall and very strong. The branches of this tree are trimmed (without dislodging the tree) and used for carving of fine standing arts.
Our next stop was not a land but a narrow portion of Pacific Ocean called Tracy Arm which is a Fjord (a long narrow, deep inlet of the sea/ ocean between high cliffs). Tracy Arm-Fjords Terror Wilderness contains 6,53,179 acres and consists of two deep and narrow fjords: Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm. Both fjords are over 30 miles long and one-fifth of their area is covered in ice.
During summer, the fjords have considerable floating ice ranging from hand-sized pieces to as large as a three-storey building. The Grand Princess sailed through these cliffs and the grand vista and canvas of nature unfolded on either sides. The ice-clad mountains atop the cliff and with ice melting and forming countless streams zigzagging their way to the Pacific Ocean made a perfect canvas for painting.
During three hours of journey, we lost count of the number of such dancing streams. As we drifted further in to the fjord, the floating ice with varying sizes started appearing. These ice bodies with a divine hue of white and sky blue and of different shapes made us wonder at the nature’s wealth.
Around 10.30 am, the Grand Princess could not move further and stopped due to increase in such ice bodies. This gave us an opportunity to see various glaciers and ice-clad mountains. The sun came out in full vigour and played with ice over the mountains, icebergs and ice bodies. The time spent over the open deck is one of ever-cherishing memories.
After almost 36 hours of journey back southwards, we reached the city of Victoria, the capital of the province of British Columbia of Canada. Known as “The Garden City,” Victoria is an attractive city and a popular tourism destination. Victoria is in the top-twenty of world cities for quality of life.
The offshore excursion planned was for Butchart Garden. The gardens have been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. The beauty of this garden, established in 1921 and the sunken garden converted from an earlier quarry is unique in the world. It is difficult to describe in words the beauty of sunken garden with backdrop of dancing fountains encompassed between thick forests.
During the last leg of sailing back to San Francisco for another 40 hours the waves rose as high as 15 metres and the ship started wobbling. However, it ended soon. There was another rehearsal of Grand Princess entering into bay from the Pacific Ocean crossing the Golden Gate Bridge which seemed to greet us “Welcome Back.”
The efficiency of the crew was displayed at the time of embarking and we were at parking place in 30 minutes. We learnt that about two thirds of the guests are on repeat voyage, enjoying all the facilities and amenities and unparalleled pampering to the hilt.
The major guests were Chinese and Americans with most of the couples being senior citizens enjoying second/ subsequent honeymoons. Physical constraints of senior citizens are not a major issue when compared to the various facilities made available at and during the cruise.
Considering the type of luxury, grandeur, quality of foods and wine and the facilities and amenities, the fare is reasonable. The point-to-point cruises start from San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle from June to September.
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