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Cooling Off In Alaska
by Georgina Cruz
year-round Floridians, my husband Humberto and I enjoy warm weather
but every so often we do long for a break from the heat. One summer
we took a cruise to New England and Canada, another one we went on
an expedition to the Arctic. This year, we cooled off in Alaska
during a seven-day voyage on Silversea Cruises’ Silver Shadow from
Vancouver, Canada to Seward, Alaska, with a pre-cruise night in
Vancouver and a post-cruise night in Anchorage.
It was very cool—in more ways than one.
Not only were the temperatures pleasant to our bodies (a high of 62
in Juneau as opposed to a high of 94 in our home in Vero Beach) but,
as conservationist John Muir once put it, the natural beauty of
Alaska makes it a place to “wash your spirit clean.” And no wonder:
Alaska (or Alyeska, “the Great Land,” as its native peoples called
it) is a place where Nature reigns supreme with such spectacular
attributes as the tallest peak in North America, Mount McKinley, and
the largest national forest in the country, the Tongass National
Forest, with more than 16 million acres.
After we spent a night in the Fairmont Vancouver Waterfront hotel,
with its very convenient and scenic location near the beautiful
Stanley Park and just steps away from the cruise terminal across the
street, we boarded the yacht-like, 382-guest Silver Shadow, the
ideal base to take in all this beauty in the lap of luxury.
We were welcomed aboard, as always on a Silversea ship, with flutes
of champagne offered by white-gloved waiters. But cool though this
is, even more importantly the welcome, as usual on Silversea, was
cordial and friendly—not stuffy—which made us feel right at home.
We noticed two new things on the Silver Shadow that had not been
there the last time we were on the ship several years ago. One was
an abundance of art including works by Picasso and Dali, among
others, in Reception and other public spaces. This is the result of
a new art program by Art Director Pasquale Iannetti, an art dealer,
art collector and appraiser who gives talks on various art topics.
Secondly, the ambiance was decidedly more casual—only one designated
"formal optional" evening during the one-week voyage. Staff told us
it is because of the itinerary. In Alaska, guests are up on deck
taking photos, whale-watching and the like until late, taking
advantage of the long hours of sunlight. We were delighted with the
more casual dress code as we were among the ones whale-watching!
Our suite #620, a Veranda Suite, is attractive and spacious with a
pleasant color scheme in neutral tones and fine woods. It came, as
do all accommodations on Silversea, with the services of a butler.
Ours, Edmundo, from the Philippines, took care of many details, like
stocking our complimentary mini-bar with our choice of libations,
bringing our laundry, shining our shoes, serving us dinner ensuite,
and leaving us fresh fruits so we would have something refreshing to
enjoy when we returned from the ports. He offered assistance with
unpacking and packing, pampered us with a selection of toiletries (Bvlgari,
Ferragamo and hypo-allergenic) and choice of pillows, and even
cleaned our luggage prior to departure. And then, he also surprised
us with extras. He noticed we like to do puzzles, so he started
bringing the daily puzzles each morning so we would not have to go
get them in the library. Another example? In Juneau, we had two
tours and a long day ashore. We asked Edmundo to bring lunch to our
suite so we could enjoy it in between the tours, and he did, and to
our surprise, when we returned from the second tour, he had drawn a
fragrant bath for me—without my asking him! Aida, our stewardess,
also from the Philippines, anticipated our needs as well, keeping
our toiletries well stocked before they ran low. What a treasure
these staff members are—it was like finding gold in Alaska once
Ports of call included Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka and
scenic cruising in the Inside Passage with its snow-capped
mountains, forests and glaciers, and at the imposing river of ice of
Hubbard Glacier which “calved” several times during our visit—with
huge chunks of ice breaking off from the face of the glacier and
falling into the water with thunderclaps and a chorus of “oohs” and
“aahs” from guests up on deck.
In Ketchikan, we took in The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, an
hour-long, fun presentation with lumberjacks competing in sawing,
tree climbing and log rolling contests, among others, and we went on
a walk on historic Creek Street, the old Red Light District and the
totem parks with these beautiful poles that are poetry in wood.
While in Juneau, Alaska’s capital, we opted for a tour to Mendenhall
Glacier—with its wall of ice—and a whale-watching tour out of Auke
Bay. Tour operators are so confident whales will be spotted that
they offer a $100 cash refund if no whale is sighted (and for the
past 10 years they have not had to pay off!). We spotted several
humpbacks, in addition to eagles and seals. In Skagway, we took the
White Pass Railway, a narrow-gauge train journey that goes into
Canada with breathtaking scenery throughout and combined it with a
visit to a musher’s camp where the excited dogs gave us a sled ride
and where we met and cuddled their puppies. In Sitka we took in The
Fortress of the Bear, a sanctuary for orphaned bears—wonderful to be
able to see these amazing creatures up close.
Back at the Silver Shadow, meals are gourmet fare including such
dishes as grilled Maine lobster with drawn butter and Kansas Black
Angus prime steak. Since we love Italian food, we had dinner twice
at alternative, no-fee, La Terrazza with its Italian culinary
delights in the Slow Food tradition—the menu changes every
three-four days at La Terrazza and it has been delectable every time
we have gone, from the freshly-baked breads with vine-ripened tomato
and garlic to the creamy homemade gelato. We also dined at our
favorite casual restaurant at sea, The Grill, and feasted on grilled
Alaskan salmon, Madagascar prawns, and pork chops that we finished
grilling on a hot volcanic slab at our table, along with grilled
vegetable skewers, baked potato, salad and apple pie a la mode. For
special occasions, Le Champagne, the Relais & Chateaux Wine
Restaurant is ideal—they even serve a festive risotto dish decorated
with real gold, edible and delicious (fee is $40 and includes the
day’s complimentary selection of wines, with additional premium
vintages available for purchase).
The Silver Shadow's Alaska itinerary begins in Vancouver and ends in
Seward (or vice versa) and there is an included scenic boat train
ride to or from Anchorage with refreshing vistas of forests and
mountains: panoramas to cool your body and your psyche and—as Muir
would say, “wash your spirit clean.”
Guide & Cruise
Cruise Diva's Blog
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