April 24, 2024

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About Anne Vipond

Anne Vipond is the author of several guidebooks to cruising destinations around the world. She draws on an extensive sailing background to impart her enthusiasm for cruise travel. From her home port of Vancouver, she travels by cruise ship to a wide range of destinations to keep her books current and useful for her cruise readers. Her cruising articles have been published in magazines and newspapers throughout North America and over seas.

Sailing the Inside Passage

Fury Island anchorage is one of the most beautiful of Fitz Hugh Sound.

There are many scenic waterways in this world, but there is only one Inside Passage. Stretching northward from Puget Sound in Washington State to Glacier Bay in Southeast Alaska, this vast and intricate coastline of winding channels, turquoise fjords and forested islands is a famous sea route travelled by vessels of all sizes. Cruise ships ply these waters, but the ultimate is to embark on a voyage of the Inside Passage in your own boat.

Of all the boating I’ve done along the Inside Passage, one of my favorite cruising areas is British Columbia’s central coast, just north of Cape Caution. This aptly named cape marks one of the few exposed legs of the Inside Passage. Here there is no avoiding Queen Charlotte Sound – an open stretch of water, best approached with ample preparation and a close eye on the weather.

Once past Cape Caution, boaters enter some of the best coastal cruising in the world: dozens of deserted islands, secluded anchorages, beautiful beaches and an abundance of wildlife, not to mention some of the best sport fishing anywhere.

Almost without exception, the first anchorage we pull into after rounding Cape Caution when northbound is Fury Island at the mouth of Rivers Inlet. This anchorage, part of Penrose Island Marine Park, is partially ringed with dazzling white beaches of crushed shell and sand. In sunny weather the setting is reminiscent of a South Seas atoll, especially at high water, when the water lapping ashore turns a brilliant turquoise as it shimmers over the crushed clamshells. The cove’s outer beaches can be visited by dinghy or kayak, and are a lovely place to have a picnic or a secluded swim.

Midden beaches ring the west side of Fury Island.

These stunning beaches are actually archeological sites – kitchen middens dating to pre-historic times when the Indigenous people living in villages along the shores of Rivers Inlet came to Fury Island each summer to harvest clams. The shells of these clams were tossed aside and the piles they formed were, over time, crushed and compressed into the shell beaches now enjoyed by boaters and kayakers. Visitors are welcome to laze on these beaches but not disturb them.

More beautiful beaches lie across Fitz Hugh Sound on the outer shores of Calvert Island. The main anchorage in this area is Pruth Bay, reached via Kwakshua Channel. Pacific white-sided dolphins frequently feed at the mouth of this bay and at its head is a former sportfishing lodge that has been transformed into a research facility for environmental science. Called Hakai Institute, it accommodates scientists and undergraduates who work here throughout the summer months. Boaters are asked to anchor well away from the institute’s docks, which are used by delivery vessels and seaplanes, but the rear fingers are kept free for dinghies to tie up. From here you can access the trails leading to the beaches on the other side of the island.

West Beach on Calvert Island is a quiet beach over half a mile long.

It’s an easy hike along a groomed trail to West Beach – a long crescent of soft sand with views of the surf pounding onto distant reefs. Smooth rock formations overlook parts of the beach, where ocean swells rumble onto shore and sandpipers skirt the edge of the surf as they flit across the wet sand. At the south end of the beach is Lookout Trail, which climbs to a viewpoint overlooking the ocean, then descends to a series of smaller, secluded beaches lying to the south. At the other end of West Beach is a signpost for the North Beach trailhead. This trail includes a sturdy boardwalk bridge straddling a wetland filled with native water lilies and leads to another beautiful sweep of ocean beach.

HX Hurtigruten Expeditions upgrades guest offerings

The Roald Amundsen is a 2018 Hurtigruten ship carrying 530 passengers.

HX (Hurtigruten Expeditions), the global leaders in expedition cruising, have announced plans to further enhance their onboard guest offering.

As part of a phased approach, starting with Antarctica & Galápagos expeditions departing in October 2024, they will be introducing an ‘all-inclusive’ offering as standard across the whole fleet from November 2024, covering all destinations.

Since rebranding to HX last December, this product evolution is one of many new initiatives that seek to combine their renowned exploring heritage with the modern-day guest experience.

The ‘all-inclusive’ offering ranges from including expert-led daily expeditions, access to a whole series of science-led activities both on board and out in the wild, to alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and even professional photographs. These changes look to enhance the guest experience onboard, part of a larger project aimed at crafting the ultimate expedition cruise experience, but importantly simplify the product offering for trade.

Alex Delamere-White, HX Chief Commercial Officer, states: “Expedition cruising can be a complex product for agents to sell, given the unique destinations we visit and varying experiences by operator. We’re confident that by including so many elements as standard in the price, we can simplify life onboard and enhance our trade-friendly focus.”

“We want our guests to fully embrace being curious travellers when they’re with us. By making things as easy as possible, they can focus on exploring remote parts of the world and learning from our expert team. We believe adventure should be all-inclusive, which is why our daily expeditions, talks and access to the science centre come at no extra cost, alongside delicious food and drink.”

For guests booking a HX expedition, starting with Antarctica & Galápagos expeditions departing in October 2024, their regular grade cabin will now include:

Daily expeditions and activities such as hikes, community visits, talks and more
Full board dining, including breakfast, lunch and dinner with house wine and beer
Wine, beer, spirits and cocktails available across the day and evening
All-day coffee, tea & soft drinks
Free Wi-Fi
Our interactive science programme, Science Centre and activities both on and off the ships
Access to sauna, hot tubs, fitness room and more
Professional photos from the onboard photographer
Opportunities to engage with and support local communities and environmental initiatives through Hurtigruten Foundation.

Celebrity Infinity gets make over

Celebrity Infinity, 2170 passengers and launched in 2001 , will get a make over this year.

Celebrity Cruises announced the modernization of Celebrity Infinity, just in time for a year of unforgettable European exploration. The newly modernized Celebrity Infinity will allow travelers to experience Europe in style, with transformed spaces to explore onboard.

Travelers seeking wanderlust and adventure across Europe in 2024 can enjoy the intimacy and service provided to guests of The Retreat, which has been reimagined onboard Celebrity Infinity.

These include:
A refreshed look to The Retreat Lounge (formerly Michael’s Club)
The boldly elegant Luminae at The Retreat has been expanded, giving more space for suite guests to indulge in sumptuous food and drink offerings
Brand-new Sunset Suites located in the aft of the ship, offering expansive views with large private balconies to enjoy the beautiful sunsets across Europe’s most sought-after destinations

Celebrity Infinity guests will enjoy a blend of premium experiences, making their European journey an unforgettable adventure. What sets The Retreat apart is its personalized service, ensuring that guests’ every need is met – whether it be on board or during their shore excursions. From securing reservations at the finest restaurants to arranging exclusive journeys, the dedicated team is committed to enhancing the overall experience for each guest.

The Retreat Lounge now boasts a captivating new color palette, designed to create a warm and intimate atmosphere for guests to unwind and socialize in style, offering a range of amenities including complimentary beverages, gourmet bites, live entertainment and more.

The brand-new Sunset Suites with an extra-large private balcony offer endless ocean views, allowing guests to enjoy fresh sea breezes, and soak in breathtaking sunsets with Europe’s picture-perfect destinations as the backdrop. Guests will enjoy exclusive amenities of The Retreat, including Butler service, dining at the expanded Luminae at The Retreat, and access to The Retreat Lounge throughout their stay.

Those looking to experience the modernized Celebrity Infinity will have a variety of itineraries to choose from, offering multiple opportunities to discover new vacation destinations whether guests are craving the warmth of summer days or escaping to enjoy winter sun, Celebrity Infinity promises an unforgettable experience in every season.

Popular itineraries include 7-night Greek Isles & Turkey sailings exploring the eastern Mediterranean coasts. Highlights include Santorini for a taste of the idyllic Aegean isles as well as the ancient sites of Kusadasi before sailing to Rhodes and stunning white-sand lined isles including Mykonos and Hydra.

For those looking for a longer escapade, guests can discover the southernmost corners of Europe on a 12-night Canaries, Morocco, & Spain sailing. Before reaching the Iberian coast, guests will call at three of the formerly known Fortunate Isles, the Canaries.

From black-sand beaches, to lesser-known delicious cuisine, and pristine nature reserves, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, and Tenerife. Celebrity Infinity then sails up to Morocco’s most renowned port cities of Tangier and Casablanca where an array of shore excursions are available to learn about the cities’ architecture, and history, and enjoy all that Moroccan culture has to offer.

Guests can also explore the rich history of southern Spain’s Andalucia (Al-Andalus) and visit the sites of vibrant Seville, indulge in the best of Spanish cuisine in Cadiz, or explore the Moorish architecture of Malaga or nearby Granada.

HAL opens 2025 Mexico and Pacific Coast cruises

The 2006 Noordam will be cruising to “bear country” in 2025.

Holland America Line opened its 2025-2026 Mexico and Pacific Coast seasons, including longer calls at unique ports like Mexico’s Loreto and Topolobampo, and a new seven-day Great Bear Rainforest itinerary — a rarely cruised route that reveals the beauty of British Columbia, Canada. Cruises run from August 2025 to May 2026 and range from one day up to a 29-day Collectors’ Voyage.

Holland America Line has long been known as a leader in cruising in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, and a seven-day “Great Bear Rainforest” itinerary that hasn’t been offered in decades showcases a distinct take on cruising in this region. Departing Oct. 5, 2025, and April 19, 2026, aboard Noordam, travelers seeking a more intimate experience can become immersed in the culture, nature and rare wildlife of Ketchikan, Alaska, and Prince Rupert, Nanaimo and Victoria, British Columbia.

“This in-depth exploration of the PNW takes guests through the historic Inside Passage, sailing through some of the most confined waters our ships have ever sailed, said Paul Grigsby, vice president of deployment and revenue planning for Holland America Line. “This is the true Inside Passage, the storied route between Seattle and Alaska that ships have been sailing since as far back as the gold rush era. It is a first for our company to plan a sailing focused on this fjord-like waterway that maximizes a daylight transit to allow best opportunities for wildlife sightings,” added Grigsby.

The roundtrip from Seattle, Washington, “Great Bear Rainforest” itinerary calls at Ketchikan before heading south to thoroughly explore ports in British Columbia. The ship overnights in Prince Rupert before scenic cruising in Greenville Channel, past the first nation’s village of Bella Bella, Johnstone Strait and Seymour Narrows. While cruising, guests can view wildlife like whales, eagles and the rare Kermode bear — also known as the spirit bear. A maiden call at Nanaimo and visit to popular Victoria give guests the opportunity to deeply explore many different communities in British Columbia.

Ten additional itineraries along the Pacific Coast highlight the region’s stunning scenery and sail from San Diego, California, to Seattle or Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Cruises call at popular ports like Astoria, Oregon; Santa Barbara, California; and Ensenada, Mexico; and select itineraries feature an overnight in San Francisco, California.

For those seeking some fun under the sun, Holland America Line’s Mexico season provides the perfect escape. Cruises are roundtrip from San Diego or between San Diego and Vancouver, taking travelers to Mexico’s iconic ports like Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta, while also granting access to even more of the Sea of Cortez with calls at Guaymas and Santa Rosalia, Mexico. Late-night calls on select itineraries allow guests to discover historic sites in Loreto and take in Topolobampo’s dramatic scenery.

“Our Mexico cruises are favorites among many guests due to the incredible weather and beautiful landscapes, with ports boasting on average 300 days of sunshine a year,” said Beth Bodensteiner, chief commercial officer for Holland America Line. “And there’s so much more to experience beyond the scenery. Guests can delve deep into the culinary delights of the region through shore excursions, while also enjoying local fresh fish like yellowfin tuna on board.”

HAL adds 55 ports to 2024 Asia cruise season

Holland America Line’s Westerdam will be visiting over 55 ports on various 2025 Asia itineraries.

Holland America Line’s Westerdam is heading to Asia, where it will explore 11 countries from September 2025 through April 2026. The itineraries have a strong focus on Japan with 24 different ports around the country, as well as visits to Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Cruises in the Far East depart from Hong Kong, China; Yokohama (Tokyo), Japan; and Singapore to some of Asia’s most iconic cities — with up to 12 ports in a single cruise. Late departures and overnight stays allow extra time for guests to sample the nightlife, local cuisine and rich cultures of the region.

“For travelers looking to discover Asia, our 2025-2026 season provides an opportunity to explore the region in-depth via cruise,” said Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line. “We have diversified the number of ports to more than 50 across several itineraries. We want to ensure our guests have an authentic glimpse into the diverse cultures of each country, creating immersive moments and deeper connections to those destinations.”

Seabourn Fleet Now Equipped with Starlink

Seabourn Cruises, the highly rated luxury cruise brand, has updated their ships with Starlink for high-speed internet.

Seabourn has announced that its fleet of ultra-luxury ships has been equipped with next generation Wi-Fi connectivity with SpaceX’s Starlink, the leader in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology.

The upgraded technology provides Seabourn’s guests with faster service, greater connectivity and more reliable Wi-Fi wherever Starlink’s services are available.

“Following the positive feedback we received from our guests from the successful rollout of Starlink’s enhanced connectivity on our expedition ships, we are thrilled to share that both our ocean and expedition ships in our ultra-luxury fleet now feature Starlink. Our guests can now choose to connect or disconnect as they wish during their extraordinary journeys with Seabourn,” said Natalya Leahy, president of Seabourn.

Starlink is now available on Seabourn’s two new purpose-built ultra-luxury expedition ships, Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit, as well as its ocean ships, Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Quest, Seabourn Encore and Seabourn Ovation.

Seabourn’s fleet of ultra-luxury ships visits a perfect blend of iconic destinations and hidden gems, ensuring an indulgent and unforgettable voyage for luxury travelers. Guests can discover Antarctica, the Arctic, the South Pacific, the Kimberley region in Australia, and the legendary Northwest Passage aboard Seabourn Venture and Seabourn Pursuit. They may also explore marquee destinations and boutique ports in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, Alaska and more on Seabourn’s ultra-luxury ocean ships.

Aboard Celebrity Solstice – Part 3

Celebrity Solstice accommodates over 2800 passengers.

In the week since my last blog we’ve stopped at three ports in French Polynesia as well as Auckland and Bay of Islands in New Zealand. The cruise has been good, although the ship has experienced several mild cases of Covid. Some passengers are wearing masks and coughing is often heard in the public areas. Guests are encouraged to wash their hands frequently and most are still enjoying their cruise.

The entertainment on the ship has been good. Our favourite act is a talented cover band called The Cardinals, which performs hits from the ’60s to early 2000s. As mentioned earlier, the food continues to stand out for Celebrity and the meals on this cruise, basically a transition voyage, have been better than expected. At the lido deck Oceanview Cafe there is a wide selection for breakfast and lunch.

One aspect of the ship I find needing attention is the public area’s background music which, for the crowd on this ship – mostly older couples – is a bit too frenetic, especially in the mornings. One fellow passenger suggested the music in the pool area should be much mellower for people relaxing or reading. But this is a small point for most cruisers I would guess. Alcohol drinks are expensive and when combined with the added gratuity add up to what you’d pay in a luxury hotel. A beer is about $7 USD and a bottle of basic red or white wine will be well over $40 USD. The wine steward at our table, Nelson, is very good however and knows his wines, offering excellent recommendations.

The cruise director has worked hard to engage passengers in various activities. Many of these are held in the grand foyer, where people can casually join in. Especially popular are the dancing classes, with couples brushing up on their ballroom dancing so they can take to the dance floor and enjoy the live band music in the evenings.

Venice Pulls the Plug on Cruise Ships

Large ships such as NCL’s Jade are no longer allowed inside Venice.

The fabled city of Venice, famous for its romantic canals and graceful gondolas, is facing several challenges. Situated on a cluster of islets within a lagoon in the Gulf Venice, the city that began as a medieval fishing village is slowly sinking. The islets upon which Venice is built consist of sand, silt and hard clay, which tend to compact over time. In winter, when high tides, heavy rain and strong winds all combine to bring exceptionally high water levels into the Venice Lagoon, the canals spill their banks and flood the pedestrian streets and plazas of Venice. Adding to these winter woes is the city’s summer inundation of tourists.

In recent decades, Venice has been struggling with over-tourism and, in an effort to cope with the situation, the city has introduced a fee-paying entry system for day-trippers (people who don’t stay overnight). In addition, new measures have been introduced to divert the majority of cruise ships away from the city centre to other terminals within the Venice Lagoon. Porto Marghera and Fusina Terminal are directly opposite Venice, while the small fishing port of Chioggia is located at the south end of the Venice Lagoon.

Before the ban, large cruise ships transited the Giudecca Canal.

Some cruise lines have chosen to bypass Venice and pull into other ports in the region, such as Trieste (located a two-hour train ride east of Venice on the Adriatic coast) or Porto Corsini near Ravenna (located a two-hour drive south of Venice).

Large and medium-sized ships no longer dock right in Venice (at the Marritima terminals) and instead dock on the mainland side of the Venice Lagoon, near the 4-km causeway that connects the mainland with Venice. However, many of the cruise lines still check in their passengers at a Marritima terminal and they are then taken by bus to their ship. Porto Marghera (part of the industrial port on the mainland) accommodates large ships. Fusina Terminal accommodates the small luxury ships. Train service connects Porto Marghera to Piazzale Roma at the western entrance to the Grand Canal. Passengers at Fusina Terminal are ferried across the lagoon to Venice. Small boutique ships (under 25,000 gross tons) and river vessels can still dock in Venice at the Marittima basin and at the San Basilio pier on the Giudecca Canal.

Venice can still be enjoyed from the water on a variety of water taxis and public water buses.

The thrill of arriving in Venice on a cruise ship, gliding past St. Mark’s Square and the entrance to the Grand Canal, is now a thing of the past. However, for those passengers planning a pre-cruise stay in Venice, a water taxi ride from the airport to your hotel will more than make up for it. This experience is described in a previous blog, posted September 29, 2016, called An Unforgettable Taxi Ride.

The Magic of Monaco

The view of Monaco’s yacht-filled harbor can be seen from the walk to the palace.

The tiny principality of Monaco, on the French Riviera, epitomizes glamour. Nestled in hills overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this coastal enclave covers less than a square mile but enjoys an international fame far exceeding its size. Attractions range from the royal palace in Monaco-Ville to its famous casino in Monte-Carlo. If this weren’t enough, fans of Formula One can walk the iconic circuit of the Monaco Grand Prix, passing landmarks barely visible on race weekend when the street route is temporarily transformed with crash barriers and corporate signage.

For cruise passengers stepping ashore in Monaco’s yacht-filled harbor for a day of sightseeing, the principality’s highlights are within easy walking distance. Public elevators are strategically situated to help people ascend some of the steep streets and the local buses are an efficient way to get from one side of the principality to the other.

Large cruise ships anchor and tender their passengers into Port Hercule, which is sheltered from easterly swells by a sea wall and breakwater. Rising above this natural bay is a steep headland known as the Rock of Monaco – site of the old town’s medieval fortress and royal palace.

Princess Grace was laid to rest in Monaco’s cathedral.

Avenue de la Porte Neuve leads up to Monaco-Ville where cliff-top gardens provide sweeping views out to sea and narrow, winding streets lead to Place du Palais and its grand Italianate palace in which a reigning prince has resided for over seven centuries. Standing outside is a statue of Francesco Grimaldi, who seized control the fortress in 1297 by disguising himself as a Franciscan monk. A changing of the palace guard takes place every day at five minutes before noon.

Not far from the palace is the cathedral in which Princess Grace, who died in a tragic automobile accident in 1982, is buried. Monaco gained a layer of Hollywood glitter when film actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier in 1956 to become Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco. Her son Albert has been Monaco’s constitutional monarch since the death of Prince Rainier in 2005.

After a few hours spent strolling around Monaco-Ville, it’s time to head to the other side of the harbor to enjoy the famous sights of Monte-Carlo, including those associated with the Monaco Grand Prix. This is the most historic and famous race on the Formula One calendar and its route is shown on Monaco’s visitor map. It starts on Boulevard Albert I, which runs past the La Condamine quarter of boutiques and traditional open-air markets before heading up to Place du Casino in Monte-Carlo, then circling back down the hillside and through a tunnel to emerge along the harbor.

The famous Monte-Carlo casino anchors the annual Formula 1 race.

Monte-Carlo’s famous casino overlooks the fountain-filled gardens in Place du Casino, where other attractions are the luxury Hotel de Paris and the historic Café de Paris – the perfect place to pause for lunch before visiting the casino, its interior a dazzling display of gold-leaf and gilt. Afterwards take a stroll through Place du Casino’s gardens to the seaward side of the casino complex to view the ornate façade of the opera house, then head down the hillside to the harborfront. From there it’s a pleasant walk along the marina promenade back to the cruise tender dock or you can instead hop on the bus boat for a five-minute crossing of the harbor.

Cafe de Paris is a good spot to have lunch near the casino.

HAL Lingers longer in South Pacific

HAL’s Zaandam is set for 51 day cruises in 2024 from San Diego.

Three Holland America Line ships are set to explore the lush landscapes and natural wonders of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific in 2024-2025. From unspoiled islands to cosmopolitan cities, Westerdam will spend the season Down Under, while Koningsdam and Zaandam each offer a longer Legendary Voyage to the South Pacific and Hawaii.

In October 2024 Westerdam sails a westwardly South Pacific crossing, followed by the iconic Australia Circumnavigation. From December 2024 through March 2025, the ship offers a series of 14-day departures roundtrip from Sydney, Australia, or between Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney. Zaandam’s “Tales of the South Pacific” in September 2024 is from Vancouver, Canada, to San Diego, California, or roundtrip San Diego, while Koningsdam’s “Hawaii, Tahiti and Marquesas” in February 2025 is roundtrip from San Diego.

“Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific are iconically beautiful locations, but they have so much more to offer which is why they remain high on the bucket list of travelers who are looking to see the world with the ease of a cruise,” said Beth Bodensteiner, Holland America Line’s chief commercial officer. “The Australia Circumnavigation itinerary is the most in-depth immersion a cruiser can have of the continent, and many of our Legendary Voyages make it possible to visit distant destinations from a North American homeport. These cruises are among some of the most notable we offer.”

Legendary Voyages Linger Longer
Holland America Line’s extended Legendary Voyages range from 25 to 59 days and combine the ceremony of a Grand Voyage with itineraries that feature a comprehensive collection of ports that enrich the experience in each destination. Most of Holland America Line’s Legendary Voyages sail roundtrip or to/from a North American homeport, allowing travelers to see the world from their doorstep with a convenient domestic flight and easy embarkation.