An Elegant Alaskan Adventure
The Regent Mariner
Photo by Mary Jo Plouf
Alaska has been described as “the last great frontier” and rarely can one find the combination of adventure and luxury that is offered by the Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner on its Alaskan cruises. The completely refurbished Mariner is designed for luxury and its smaller size allows for a more intimate Alaskan experience. With a maximum capacity of 700 passengers, the Mariner is the world’s only all-balcony, all- suite vessel. Inside cabins are not a part of the Mariner experience. Shore tours, many of them complimentary, cover a range from the mild to the wild. In each of its destinations it is possible to fly into the wild for a possible “close-up” encounter with the magnificent Alaskan black bears, land and hike on a glacier or visit one of the numerous wildlife museums or sanctuaries. Simply observing the majestic snow-capped mountains from your balcony will make you agree that “once you’ve been to Alaska, you never really come all the way back.”
Our port of embarkation was the delightful city of Vancouver, Canada. Many guests spent an additional day or two exploring the city before or after the tour. As our five o’clock departure drew near, the butler delivered an assortment of caviar canapés and a bottle of chilled champagne. We sat on our balcony and watched as the stately steel and glass buildings of the city slowly gave way to outlying residential areas in the secluded hills. Almost reluctantly, we abandoned our peaceful balcony to join our fellow passengers at the Captain’s welcoming cocktail party on the observation deck. We were on our way, and a spirit of exhilaration prevailed as we left Vancouver behind and sailed into the sunset and the Inside Passage.
Dining options varied from very casual to casual to elegant. For our first evening we opted for the Compass Rose, an elegant formal dining room which required no reservations. We were seated at a window table for two which allowed us to continue to watch the magnificent views slip slowly behind us and eventually fade into the sunset.
We dined on Alaska rock fish, black mussels and crème Brule. It was the first of many memorable dining experiences. Later in the week we booked reservations at the Prime 7 and Signature restaurants.
It had been a long travel day and we postponed the many after dinner activities until later in the week. Our deluxe king-sized bed, our luxury suite and the quiet of our balcony and a final glass of white wine were calling to us. It had been a perfect day.
Breakfast on our balcony and planning for our up-coming week of tours started our second day. Ketchikan was our first stop. This small town of approximately 15,000 is the salmon capital of the world and is a paradise for sport fishermen. It also boasts of an outstanding collection of totem poles. We opted to do one of the complimentary tours, Alaska’s First City Highlights. Other choices included halibut fishing, salmon fishing, a lumberjack tour, a zip line adventure, a seaplane to the Misty Fjords or a Mountain Peak Flight Seeing and Crab Feast.
Since we were traversing the Inland Passage and would be on-board all day, we took the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the ship and meet some of our fellow passengers. We found the Veranda dining room with an extensive buffet lunch menu, the Horizon Theater, the Casino, the Mariners Lounge where tea was served each afternoon, the computer room and the library, the spa, the exercise room and the empty swimming pool surrounded by steaming hot tubs. Games and activities were scheduled throughout the day from precision golf to trivia. Nothing had been overlooked.
Ketchikan was delightful. Following our tour, including a visit to see the totem poles, we strolled leisurely down Creek Street to Dolly’s House, the oldest brothel in Ketchikan. Late in the afternoon it began to rain. Ketchikan receives thirteen feet of rain each year. It is said that if you can’t see the top of Deer Mountain, it is raining and if you can, it is about to rain.
The following days passed much too quickly. On our way to Juneau, we cruised the Tracy Arm and got our first view of ice bergs floating in the bay. In the 1800’s, the city of Juneau was established in an area that had been fishing grounds for the local Tlingit Native Americans. The Tlingit’s helped the prospectors locate the gold, which was of little value to them, and the city grew to become a transportation and trading center. In 1906. it became the state capital of Alaska. The Mendenhall Glacier is a major tourist attraction and can be visited via hiking trails or a helicopter sightseeing trip that includes a landing on the glacier and a dog-sled ride.
Skagway, another gold rush town was the starting place for the Klondike gold prospectors who started on an arduous journey to the Canadian Yukon territory. Today, visitors can see the area by train, tour the town on foot, or take a number of wildlife tours. It is even possible to play a round of golf at the Valley of the Eagles Golf Links which is listed as an “adventure tour”.
Sitka, our last port of call, began life as a fur trading post. It was Alaska’s first capital. Surrounded by a variety of wildlife including sea otters, brown bears, whales, sea lions and an endless supply of puffins, murres, petrels and other species of birds, this is a favorite place for nature tours and cruises. It is also the angler’s last chance for salmon or halibut fishing.
Our journey back to Vancouver begins as we leave Sitka for the Inland Passage. Passengers on the Mariner can opt for a quiet day at sea or an activity filled day playing games, visiting the boutique and casino or working –out in the exercise room. Perhaps the best choice of all would be a relaxing spa treatment in preparation for the day of travel or sightseeing in Vancouver.
The Mariner has more than filled our expectations. From the luxurious suites, to the sinfully delicious steak or succulent lobster and the mellow wines, we have been pampered and made to feel special. Many of the passengers used part of their final day to stop by and talk to Brian, the Cruise Consultant, about the cruises scheduled for 2010.
When you journey with Regent, you will be replenished in body and spirit by their uncompromising excellence. One voyage will truly lead to another.
Contact information: www.RSSC.com. (800) 285-1835
A Bald Eagle
on 5 June 2009.
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