December 10, 2018

Facts needed to address overboard incidents

All cruise ships maintain high guardrails to ensure passenger safety.

(Travel Pulse) Anyone who’s previously embarked on a cruise ship realizes it’s virtually impossible to “fall” overboard. Among other realities, the chest-high, sturdy iron railings aboard contemporary cruise ships ensure that only guests intent on engaging in risky or suicidal behavior end up overboard.

But for the millions of leisure travelers who’ve never been aboard a cruise ship—or a ship of any sort for that matter—media reports of passengers “falling” off are concerning.

In Facebook posts discussing the most recent highly publicized overboard incident, one travel agent complained some of her prospective first-time cruisers were now terrified of “falling off” their ship, should they choose to cruise.

The idea of facing a life-threatening situation while vacationing is naturally a sobering matter. However, media characterizations of overboard incidents, no doubt motivated at least in part by sensitivity to victims and their loved ones, routinely describe passengers as “falling” overboard.

So how should travel agents address this sensitive issue with prospective new cruisers? Well, it’s best to begin with some facts.

In its “Report on Operational Incidents, 2009 to 2017,” commissioned by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), U.K.-based analyst G.P. Wild studied a wide range of shipboard operational incidents—including passengers and crew going overboard.

The firm consulted sources including International Maritime and nautical organizations, trade and shipping industry publications, major newspaper and magazine accounts and cruise-line representatives.

Ultimately, G.P Wild found that “in every case where the cause of the [man overboard] was established following a careful investigation, it was found to be the result of an intentional or reckless act.”

The study also reported an average of 18.2 overboard incidents per year involving passengers and crew between 2009 and 2017. Annual cruise passengers grew from 17.8 million to 26.7 million during the same period.

Thus, overboard incidents represent an infinitesimal total compared with the millions of travelers who cruise each year. Simply put, such incidents are extremely rare.

The report also found that “After a low of 12 incidents in 2013, overboard incidents increased to 24 by 2015. [However] in 2017, [the number] returned close to a historically low level and the underlying trend remains downward between 2009 and 2017.”

Perhaps the most effective way to convince potential first-time cruise travelers that “falling” overboard is extremely unlikely is with a generous dose of truth.

“People just don’t ‘fall overboard’ from a cruise ship,” said Stewart Chiron, a Miami-based cruise expert who is also one of the country’s top cruise vacation sellers. “It occurs because of extremely poor judgment, carelessness or on purpose by the person(s) involved,” he said.

“Travel agents can reassure concerned guests that cruise lines take their safety to heart in every aspect of ship safety,” Chiron added. “The railings aboard cruise ships are higher than what’s required by law. Unfortunately like from hotel balconies, people do fall, but not because the balconies were unsafe.”

Chiron pointed out that statistically, “Sailing aboard a cruise ship remains the safest mode of transportation in the world.”

Perhaps it’s easy for those who haven’t cruised to believe they could “fall” from a ship. Despite its evolution from a travel industry niche to a mainstream vacation over the last 20 years, cruising remains shrouded in myths that have proven hard to shake.

It doesn’t help that the vast majority of global vacationers have never taken a cruise. When I served as director of public relations for CLIA in the early 2000’s, the fables surrounding cruises were known as “barriers to trial.”

These included the notion that cruise ships were confining, that only old and wealthy people ever took cruises, that cruises were a nonstop food fest and finally that there was “nothing to do” aboard cruise ships.

Such issues pale in comparison with a person going overboard, but they do indicate how little most people know about contemporary cruise vacations.

Yet each year more and more people cruise and discover what I’ve always found to be true: cruises offer a flexible, surprisingly diverse and most of all safe and enjoyable vacation form.

These days, when I’m asked about cruise passengers going overboard I frequently respond by saying I’ve taken more than 100 cruises and managed not to fall off “even once.”

However, going overboard into the ocean is no joking matter. That’s why agents should stick to the facts when addressing the issue with potential cruisers.

The Perennial Allure of Alaska

Seabourn Sojourn offers a luxury cruise experience in Alaska.

Everyone, it seems, wants to see Alaska. And many of us prefer to view the region’s magnificent coastal scenery from the decks of a cruise ship. The appeal of this vast northern state of glacier-clad mountains and majestic fjords is as strong as ever and the selection of cruise lines and itineraries servicing Alaska continues to grow.

The city of Vancouver has long been the main turnaround port for cruises to Alaska and it now shares that status with Seattle. Most cruises out of Seattle are one-week round-trip itineraries while those from Vancouver cover a wider range of choices. These include round-trip cruises of the Inside Passage and one-way cruises to the Alaska ports of Seward or Whittier (both near Anchorage) where land tours to Denali are popular. Several cruise lines also offer round-trip cruises to Alaska from the California ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles. For cruise enthusiasts, Alaska has never been easier to visit.

The cruise lines servicing Alaska cover all categories, from contemporary to luxury to expedition. Some lines, such as Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, have been cruising to Alaska for decades and position a fleet of ships on the west coast throughout the May-to-October season. Other lines offering cruises to Alaska include Disney, NCL, Oceania and Royal Caribbean. In the luxury market, Crystal, Silversea and Regent Seven Seas have been joined by Seabourn, which returned to the region in 2017 after a 15-year hiatus. Cunard will be back in Alaska for the summer of 2019.

Expedition cruising is also thriving in Alaska, where wilderness and natural beauty are the star attractions. Alaskan Dream Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions, Ponant, Un-Cruise Adventures and Windstar all offer off-the-beaten track voyages with a close-up look at the scenery. But even if you’re booked on a large ship, the shore excursions offered include wilderness adventures such as kayaking, hiking, whale watching and rock climbing, not to mention helicopter rides to sled dog camps where you can take a turn at mushing across a glacier.

Expedition cruising includes sea adventures in Zodiac inflatables.

For the best of both worlds, a luxury cruise on Seabourn’s 450-passenger Sojourn provides not only spacious accommodations and impeccable service but an expedition-style itinerary that follows narrow, twisting channels and stops at unspoiled hideaways, such as the Inian Islands, where the ship’s expert expedition team leads shore excursions in Zodiacs and sea kayaks. Sea otters are abundant in the waters off this cluster of small islands in Icy Strait, as are Pacific white-sided dolphins, orcas and humpback whales.

No matter which cruise line you choose, Alaska’s wilderness will be sure to steal the show.

Tips For Visiting Your Cruise Casino

An on-board attraction for many is the ship casino.

The casino on a cruise ship can be a big draw. Granted there’s a ton of activity on most every cruise ship, but a lot of passengers enjoy the chance to try out a casino in a more casual environment. That is to say, it’s easier to indulge in this kind of activity if all you have to do is walk down the hall, as opposed to going out of your way to visit a casino resort on land. If it’s part of your trip, rather than the entire goal, it just feels a little more relaxed.

Visiting a casino on a cruise ship is largely a traditional experience, but there are a few differences, and there’s generally a different atmosphere. It’s something you may want to give at least a little bit of thought to before traveling.

Know The Hours

You might think of casinos as being open 24/7 by nature, or at least being open pretty much any time you could possibly want to be in them. This is the case in some of the world’s biggest casino hubs, to be sure. But it actually isn’t the case on most cruise ships simply because of gambling laws. While there are exceptions, such as when ships dock in Bermuda, for the most part cruise ship casinos are closed when in port, whether day or night. This should be clear enough when you’re on board a ship, but it helps to remember it heading into your trip, because nothing is more frustrating than gearing up for a few hours at the gaming tables and then finding the doors closed.

Know What To Wear

Particularly if you’re not a regular casino gamer, you might have certain ideas about what to wear for this kind of activity. You’ve probably seen famous actors wearing tuxedoes to Vegas casinos, or seen images of people similarly dressed at world famous venues like the casino in Monte Carlo. This is fine, and can add a certain pageantry to the experience. But a casino cruise is generally more casual. We’d actually direct you not to Vegas or Europe but to a piece on fashion choices to consider when visiting a Canadian casino. These are more casual establishments in general, so the proposed dresscode is more like what you might wear on a cruise. In a phrase, however, dress nicely, but not necessarily fancily.

Expect More Beginners

Broadly speaking, casinos can be a little intimidating. There’s no harm in plopping yourself down at a slot machine and gaming alone, but sitting down at a card table can be daunting. For this reason it helps to know that casinos on cruise ships tend to have more beginners. Serious card sharks rarely play at sea (or so they say), and plenty of people in the ship casino will just be tourists who want to check it out and maybe have a little fun. This contributes to a more casual overall atmosphere.

Learn How To Play Blackjack

This is just one of many games that will likely be available in your ship’s casino, but it’s a great one to start with. The machines, from slots to video poker, don’t really give you the full experience. Bigger and more complicated games like poker and craps can take a little more getting used to. But blackjack is fairly easy to pick up, and gives you that awesome feeling of sitting at a table handling cards, sipping a cocktail and trying to win some chips. You can learn how to play simply by reading about it (and possibly pick up some great mathematical strategies as well), and focus on enjoying the games once you’re there.

Remember The Casino’s Goals

This is a quick one, but keep in mind above all else that the ship you’re on is a money-making machine, and the casino too is trying to generate revenue. Just because the atmosphere is a little more easygoing than most land-based alternatives doesn’t mean the odds are any better. That’s not to scare you off, but simply to remind you to be responsible.

The Dutch charm of Curacao

Willemstad’s colorful harbor viewed from a cruise ship.

Few Caribbean ports of call can surpass the arrival awaiting passengers whose ship docks in Willemstad’s St. Anna Bay. As your ship approaches, the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge swings open to allow entry into this narrow inlet overlooked by the restored waterfront warehouses of colonial Willemstad. Added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1997, Willemstad’s Dutch gabled buildings were first painted a variety of colors in 1817 when the governor complained that the sun’s glare off the stark white buildings was giving him headaches.

Those same colorful buildings now house shops, art galleries and restaurants catering to tourists that fill the narrow cobblestone streets. But it’s easy to leave the crowds behind when strolling this picturesque port, starting with the waterfront promenade. This walkway leads seaward from the pontoon footbridge to the battlements of Waterfort at the harbor entrance.

Soaking up the waterfront atmosphere in Willemstad.

At the other end of this compact town is another pedestrian bridge, this one straddling the narrow Waaigat Canal. Here you will find a floating market where Venezuelan boats loaded with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish sell their wares. Tourists looking for trinkets are studiously ignored by locals buying their groceries.

Large ships dock at the entrance to St. Anna Bay on Curacao.

Curacao was originally colonized by the Spanish but it wasn’t until the Dutch West India Company took possession of the island in 1634 that the port of Willemstad was established. The resourceful Dutch found a new role for the bitter-tasting Valencia oranges the Spanish settlers had tried to grow – they discovered that the fruit’s sundried peels contained an etheric oil which became the basis for Curacao’s famous liqueur.

The Curacao Liqueur Distillery is located in a former colonial mansion on the east side of Willemstad’s harbor, but we opted to spend the rest of our day in port by taking a taxi to the Hilton resort where a pleasant beach can be enjoyed followed by refreshments and lunch at an umbrella table on the patio overlooking the water.

We were thoroughly enjoying our interlude here when the iguanas showed up. They were very bold and one of the males was extremely large. As they closed in on us, we began to gather up our things in readiness to leave. That’s when a guest at the next table, an elderly woman, cheerfully told us not to be afraid of the iguanas.

“They’re plant eaters,” she said. “They won’t hurt you.”

Nonetheless, we decided it was a good time to return by taxi to the ship.

The Café Culture of Paris

Luxembourg Garden and Palace in the Latin Quarter.

Ernest Hemingway sought authenticity long before the term was coined in connection to travel. In fact, he often took up residence in the places he visited. He spent years living in Paris and later penned A Moveable Feast, which is both a memoir and a literary guidebook to that fascinating city. Lesser known but equally engaging is That Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan, a Canadian author who met Hemingway when they were both young reporters working for a Toronto newspaper.

Callaghan reconnected with Hemingway in 1929 when he and his wife travelled to Paris on a much-anticipated sojourn. An up-and-coming novelist, Callaghan was eager to experience the city’s thriving café culture and meet some of the famous authors living in the Latin Quarter, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce. It was during that summer that he and Hemingway spent many an afternoon honing their boxing skills at the American Club’s gym.

The café culture of Paris hasn’t changed much since Hemmingway’s day.

On my last visit to Paris I was keen to see the places described by these two writers. My husband and I were staying in a three-star hotel just a block off Luxembourg Garden, so our mornings began with a stroll past the brilliant flower beds in front of Luxembourg Palace. This elegant 17th-century palace houses the French Senate and overlooks an ornamental pond where children launch vintage toy boats.

Hemmingway lived near Luxembourg Garden on Rue Ferou.

When Hemingway first moved to Paris and was living on meager earnings from his short stories, he often had no money for lunch. So, to avoid the tantalizing aromas wafting from street cafés, he would walk instead through the beautifully manicured Luxembourg Garden. By the time Callaghan came to Paris and looked up his old newspaper friend, Hemingway was a successful novelist and living with his second wife in a fashionable apartment on rue Ferou. If you’re strolling along this cobblestoned lane, which leads from Luxembourg Garden to Place Saint-Sulpice, look for the stone lions mounted on the entrance pillars at the gated courtyard of 6 rue Ferou.

The famous Left Bank cafés referred to in the memoirs of Hemingway and Callaghan are all within walking distance of Luxembourg Garden. A block north of Place Saint-Sulpice are the famous cafés of St-Germain des Prés, where writers, artists and intellectuals of the 1920s would gather. However, we decided to try one of the restaurants on Boulevard du Montparnasse, a short walk south of Luxembourg Garden, where another cluster of iconic cafés is located.

Famous La Rotonde restaurant on Boulevard du Montparnasse.

La Coupole, Le Dome, La Rotonde and Le Select attracted the likes of Gauguin, Picasso and Hemingway to their tables. We decided to dine at Le Select because this was Callaghan’s favourite spot when he and his wife lived in Paris. Its art deco interior has been preserved and we could easily imagine Callaghan and Hemingway sitting here after their weekly boxing match, enjoying a drink and each other’s company.

One our most memorable meals in Paris was lunch at the café in Luxembourg Garden. What better place to enjoy a croque-monsieur – that classic French bistro sandwich of ham and melted cheese – than at an outdoor table in a quintessential Parisian park.

Danish Warmth in Copenhagen

Danish streets and culture mesh in the sense of connectedness.

We can all use a good hug now and then, and many a Dane practices hygge on a daily basis. They do this by taking time to enjoy life’s small pleasures, especially the sharing of meals with family and friends. If coziness is an essential part of hygge, no one does it better than the Danes, for they wouldn’t think of setting a dinner table without the warm glow of candles, and that dining table is probably Danish modern.

Danish modern design is on display throughout Copenhagen – Denmark’s capital and a busy base port for Northern Europe cruises. A pleasing mix of old world charm and modernist architecture, Copenhagen is considered one of the world’s most livable cities. You can walk everywhere in the downtown core, where pedestrian-only streets include the mile-long Strøget, its five interconnecting streets lined with shops selling an array of Danish products. These include handpainted porcelain, damask tablecloths, fine table linens and wooden toys.

Amid the selection of shops along the Strøget are cafés and coffeehouse serving mouth-watering pastries and freshly-brewed coffee. After admiring the 17th-century architecture at Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Square) you can pop into Reinh Van Hauen bakery for a tasty cinnamon roll called kanel-snegl. Delicious layer cakes, including a chocolate and coffee mousse creation honouring the Danish author Karen Blixen, are served in La Glace patisserie at Skoubogade 3, just off the Strøget.

Danish pastries served with a smile in the Winter Garden Cafe.

After strolling the length of the Strøget, from King’s New Square to City Hall Square, you’ll be ready for lunch at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, an art museum founded in 1897 by the brewing magnate Carl Jacobsen. The museum’s domed courtyard is bright and airy and the perfect spot to pause for a light lunch in its Winter Garden café.

Close by are the famous Tivoli Gardens – an amusement park of twinkling lights, flower gardens, rides and restaurants which first opened in 1843. King Christian VIII authorized its construction upon hearing the convincing argument that people amusing themselves do not think about politics. When Walt Disney began planning Disneyland, he drew inspiration from the magical atmosphere created at Tivoli Gardens.

Modern street art adorns the Strøget.

Opposite the Tivoli Gardens is a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, immortalized as the author of such beloved fairy tales as The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid. A bronze statue of the Little Mermaid sits demurely on a shoreside boulder in Copenhagen’s harbour. She’s a short stroll from Langelinie Cruise Pier and one of numerous attractions awaiting visitors to Copenhagen, a city whose residents know how to enjoy the little things in life.

Obama in the British Virgin Islands

Barack Obama kitesurfing off Moskito Island in the BVI.(Photo credit Jack Brockway)

When you’re the former president of the United States and have been living inside a security bubble for the past eight years, where do you go to celebrate your newfound freedom? Barack Obama chose the British Virgin Islands, where, as a guest of Richard Branson, he tried his hand at kitesurfing off Moskito Island. This small private island will soon be joining Necker Island as an exclusive island retreat of Virgin Limited Edition, but there are other, more affordable ways to enjoy the BVI.

Chartering a sailboat is one option. Large charter fleets are moored at marinas on the main island of Tortola and Virgin Gorda, and boat bunks are as plentiful as hotel beds in the BVI. You won’t find high-rise hotels or casinos in this unspoiled island paradise, where yachting and diving are popular pastimes

Another way to visit the BVI is on a cruise ship. A variety of cruise lines call at Road Town on the island of Tortola, these ranging from contemporary megaships to mid-sized premium ships to luxury yachts. Tortola receives far fewer ship calls than busy St. Thomas in the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands, but Tortola is well serviced with taxi companies and car rental firms.

Cane Garden Bay is one of many beautiful beaches on Tortola.

Shore excursions offered by the cruise lines include sightseeing in an open-sided safari bus and island-hopping by catamaran. Sailing, snorkeling and dive excursions are all featured, including one to the wreck of the Rhone, a 19th-century mail ship lying in 80 feet of water off Salt Island. The Baths on Virgin Gorda, a unique beach of giant boulders, sea caves and shallow pools, can also be visited by boat from Tortola.

Christopher Columbus named the Virgin Islands in 1493, but Sir Francis Drake set the tone a century later when he sailed along the channel now bearing his name, which runs through the middle of the BVI. Rich in pirate lore, the BVI were a hideout for the Dutch pirate Jost Van Dyke and for Blackbeard, who is said to have marooned a dozen or so of his men with a bottle of rum on Dead Chest Island. Nearby Norman Island inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Treasure Island.

Pusser’s store and pub are popular stops in Road Town.

First colonized by the Dutch, then annexed by the British in 1672, the BVI are today an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. English is the official language and the legal currency is the U.S. dollar. Pusser’s Co. Store in Road Town is the place to buy its famous Royal Navy Rum and the adjoining Pusser’s Pub is where you can enjoy an English-style pub lunch. Road Town is a charming port of shuttered wooden houses and shops trimmed with fretwork, its narrow streets just a short stroll from the cruise port.

Half Moon Cay – A Bahamian Paradise

Half Moon Cay has a beautiful and soft white beach on which to enjoy a long walk.

The palm-fringed cays of the Bahamas have long attracted a motley assortment of inhabitants – from pirates and salvagers to today’s seclusion-seeking celebrities, including Johnny Depp and the Aga Khan. For those of us who can’t afford such tropical solitude, the good news is that several cruise lines also own private Bahamian islands for the enjoyment of their passengers.

Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered the concept of the private island experience when it purchased Great Stirrup Cay in 1977. Other cruise lines have since followed suit. Royal Caribbean acquired the neighboring island of Little Stirrup Cay and changed its name to Coco Cay. Disney Cruise Line owns Castaway Cay, which was called Gorda Cay when Tom Hanks first encountered Daryl Hannah here in the 1980s movie Splash. Princess Cays, owned by Princess Cruises, is a private beach resort located on the southern tip of Eleuthera Island. Nearby is Half Moon Cay, voted Best Private Island for 16 years running by readers of Porthole Cruise Magazine.

Holland America Line ship at anchor near Half Moon Cay.

Half Moon Cay is the private island I visited one March on an 11-day roundtrip cruise from Fort Lauderdale aboard Holland America Line’s Zuiderdam. This was our first port of call en route to the Panama Canal and the day ashore at this idyllic island proved to be the perfect place to kick back and unwind at the start of our cruise.

Like most seaborne arrivals, our first glimpse of Halfmoon Cay was at dawn when a cluster of low-lying Bahamian islands gradually revealed themselves in the pearly pink glow of a rising sun. Only a few fellow passengers were on deck to watch while our ship slowly approached this small island lying between Eleuthera and Cat Island, where Sidney Poitier grew up.

As the ship’s anchor was lowered, Bill and I headed to the lido for breakfast. While lingering over our morning coffee and croissants, we observed the first tenders taking passengers to the island. We hadn’t booked a shore excursion, so there was no need to rush ashore – which is just as well when you’re cruising with teenagers. By the time our boys were up and ready to go, there was no line-up for the tenders and we were soon disembarking at the island’s marina.

Map of Bahamas shows location of Half Moon Cay.

Half Moon Cay, originally called Little San Salvador when purchased for $6 million by Holland America Line in 1996, was renamed for the 17th-century Dutch sailing ship captained by Henry Hudson. Upon acquiring Half Moon Cay, Holland America transformed this uninhabited island – used solely by nesting seabirds – into a unique port of call with its two-mile-long, crescent-shaped beach and shoreside attractions that include interpretive nature trails and a straw market run by locals from neighboring Eleuthera.

Best of all is the fact that Half Moon Cay’s pristine beauty has not been compromised. Designated a Wild Bird Reserve by the Bahamian National Trust, the island’s brackish lagoon is an important nesting ground for terns, shearwaters and herons. Only two percent of the 960-hectare island has been developed, with the rest preserved as a bird sanctuary.

The sailing and watersports off the beach are safe and fun.

After strolling the pathways that lead from the welcome center to various attractions, we headed toward the far end of the island’s beautiful beach and settled into some loungers near a watersports center. We’re a boating family and spend our B.C. summers out on the water, so the sight of Hobie Cats and Sunfish sailboats for rent by the hour immediately caught our attention. Bill and our younger boy, John, were soon pushing off from the beach in a Hobie Cat. They had a pleasant sail, tacking back and forth in the steady trade wind, enjoying the warm breeze before turning the boat’s bow back toward shore.

At one point a tropical rain shower temporarily drove us from the beach to the shelter of the nearby Captain Morgan on the Rocks bar. Designed to resemble a washed-ashore pirate ship, this open-air bar was a great place to enjoy a refreshment and listen to live music provided by the ship’s band. At mid-day a barbecue luncheon was served in the nearby dining pavilion.

By early afternoon it was time to leave Half Moon Cay. We caught one of the last tenders back to the ship, sorry to leave but soon talking about our next port of call as the Zuiderdam raised anchor and sailed for Orangested, Aruba.

For information on Holland America cruises to Half Moon Cay visit: Holland America

William and Kate visit Canada’s Yukon

Kate and William in Carcross, Yukon. (Photo: Chris Jackson / Getty)

How refreshing to see British royalty embrace Robert Louis Stevenson’s approach to travel. The famous author of Treasure Island and other classics once said, “Travel is the chance to come down off this feather-bed of civilization and find the globe granite underfoot.”

On a recent visit to Western Canada, Prince William and his wife Kate openly displayed their preference for down-to-earth experiences over pomp and ceremony. Their accommodations at the stately Government House in Victoria were no doubt in keeping with the luxury they are used to, but the couple looked happiest when donning casual clothes and flying to remote wilderness areas such as the Great Bear Rainforest of coastal British Columbia or the islands of Haida Gwaii, which were originally named the Queen Charlotte Islands for one of Prince William’s ancestors. But he didn’t seem to mind the name change. In fact, he and Kate looked like a pair of lovebirds who had escaped their gilded cage as they paddled, fished, sailed and hiked their way around some of Canada’s most scenic locations with big smiles on their faces.

They left their two small children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, in a nanny’s care for one night back at Government House while they flew to the Yukon. The British press was aghast that the future heir to the throne was checking into a three-star hotel in Whitehorse, but I doubt if William and Kate will be posting a negative review on Trip Advisor about their stay at the Coast High Country Inn. In fact, they looked blissfully rested and relaxed the next day while visiting Whitehorse’s McBride Museum and watching children perform at a First Nations Ceremony in the village of Carcross.

Alaska cruise passengers visiting the port of Skagway can book a shore excursion to Carcross (pop. 300), which was originally called Caribou Crossing and is located on the shores of Lake Bennett. It was here during the Klondike Gold Rush that hundreds of stampeders, after making the grueling mountain trek up the Trail of ’98, set off in makeshift rafts down the treacherous Yukon River to the Klondike gold fields.

A rail line eventually linked Carcross with Whitehorse, where travellers would board a sternwheeler to continue their journey by river to Dawson City. Whitehorse attractions include the MacBride Museum – a complex of log buildings which includes a cabin built by Sam McGee, who was a prospector and friend of the poet Robert Service. Whitehorse and other parts of the Yukon can be visited on a variety of land tours offered by Holland America Line (Holland America ).

Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia, is a port of call on round-trip cruises from Seattle and can also be visited, pre- or post-cruise, from Vancouver. There is regular floatplane service from Vancouver to Victoria’s Inner Harbour, where William, Kate and their two children boarded a floatplane after waving good-bye to hundreds of well-wishers gathered along the sea walls. Government House, the royal family’s home away from home during their week-long stay in Victoria, is open to the public. Check its website for details on tours and opening hours (Government House).

An Unforgettable Taxi Ride

The start of our light speed ride from Venice airport to hotel.

“This is one boat ride you’ll never forget,” said Ernest Hemingway to his friend, A.E. Hotchner, upon their arrival in Venice. “No one ever forgets his first ride down the canals of Venice.” The famous author and his biographer were climbing into a motor launch dispatched from the Gritti Palace when Hemingway, a frequent visitor to Venice, uttered these words.

I too have taken a water taxi to my hotel in Venice and it was indeed an unforgettable experience. After landing at the Marco Polo Airport with my husband and two teenaged sons, we emerged from the baggage claim area to see signs at several counters announcing there were no motoscafi (water taxis) available.

It was the height of summer and very busy but we weren’t discouraged by the prospect that all of the city’s water taxis had been reserved. We walked with our luggage past the crowds and headed outside to the water taxi docks. Most of the slips were empty, with only a couple of these classic cabin cruisers tied up. We approached a boatman who was striding down the dock and about to leave with his customers and their luggage stowed on board, but he called to a boatman on a nearby dock.

Some words in Italian were exchanged and he gestured for us to proceed to the next slip where an empty water taxi was tied up. We hustled over to where the other boatman was standing and quickly negotiated a price for him to take us to our hotel, or perhaps I should say we nodded our heads when he said the ride would cost us 110 euro. Then he took our bags and we climbed aboard.

Well, suddenly four jet-lagged travellers from North America were wide awake as we sped across the Venice lagoon, our vessel’s polished mahogany topsides gleaming in the mid-day sun. My hair blew straight back in the apparent wind as we raced past the fairway buoys marking the channel that leads from the mainland to the cluster of islands upon which the magical city of Venice was built.

Still flying along the canals of Venice.

The boat slowed as we approached the islands of Venice, then turned into a narrow canal, our driver threading his craft past the medieval buildings lining the edges of islands connected by footbridges. It appeared our motorboat would barely squeeze beneath some of these low bridges but our driver was unfazed as we maintained a steady speed along the winding canals busy with waterborne traffic.

Passing iconic St. Mark’s Square.

A few minutes later we emerged from these narrow side canals into St. Mark’s Basin where dozens of vessels, including the city’s vaporetti (boat buses), were moving in all directions and churning the waters that lapped onto the piazzetta in front of St. Mark’s Square. We took in the panoply of passing sights, including views across the water of St. Mark’s Cathedral, before whizzing past the entrance to the Grand Canal.

Finally we pull alongside our hotel on Giudecca Canal.

A minute later we were pulling up to our hotel overlooking the Giudecca Canal. Taking our cue from our driver, who obviously didn’t have a minute to spare as he quickly hauled our luggage onto the dock, we disembarked, paid the fare and he was gone. Our whirlwind arrival in Venice was, as Hemingway said, one we would never forget.