Cruise West Spirit of Oceanus by David Walker Alaska
No other vessel sailing in Alaska compares to the Spirit of Oceanus. No other vessel offers this level of luxury and personal attention as a 'standard' for all of her passengers, 5-Star elegant dining and relaxation in a 100% 'casual dress-down environment' day-in and day-out, and no other vessel can offer all of this with a unique and culturally diverse itinerary. I was among 74 guests (she has a capacity of 114, leave the kids at home) who sailed south-bound on August 27, 2001, a 7-night adventure that begins with a 1-night pre-cruise hotel stay at the Goldbelt Hotel Juneau. I arranged my air from Charlotte NC to Seattle (overnight in Seattle to break up the flights) then the next day Seattle to Juneau, arriving around 9:30am. The complimentary transfer takes you from the airport 7 miles away to your hotel were the friendly and courteous staff of Cruise West are there to assist you in setting up your optional Juneau tours (there is a LOT to see and do besides shopping), checking-in (starts at 3pm), and recommending the best places to eat. All other optional tours for other ports of call can be signed up for only once you are onboard the ship.
On your 2nd day in Juneau (Embarkation Day) around 5pm you transfer to Auke Bay 12 miles north of town where the ship is waiting and everyone is presented with a glass of champagne as soon as you step onboard. Check-in for Sail-and-Sign cards and room keys was very efficient. Every room on the vessel is a well appointed suite with polished wood paneling, TV and VCR, safe, refrigerator, twin beds convertible to king-size, separate sitting area with couch and table, vanity, plenty of storage space, bathroom with marble counters, hair dryer, ample towels, complimentary bath products, and shower. Suites on the lowest level have portholes, all others have picture windows. The vessel has 2 lounges, the larger one is where onboard briefings and lectures are held, the other lounge is complete with bar, piano, and stereo sound system, a stocked video and book library, computer for sending e-mails, and a card room with board games. The vessel has 2 venues for meals, the Bistro on deck 5 (next to the hot tub) for buffet breakfast and lunches (weather permitting) and the open-dining, open-seating Pacifica Restaurant for all meals. Complimentary snacks are always set out in the Club Lunge mid-afternoon. Sodas are also complimentary.
From Auke Bay we cruised to Peril Strait and the former capital of Russian Alaska, Sitka. We next cruised Tracy Arm Fjord where we maneuvered as close as the ice flow would allow to South Sawyer Glacier, then backing off a bit to drop the Zodiacs in the water for an hour of fun to maneuver closer to 'bergy bits' and spectacular waterfalls. In late afternoon the vessel stopped for an over an hour in Frederick Sound for observing Humpbacks whales and frolicking sea lions then proceeded to our evening anchorage at Thomas Bay. The next day we had a bit of a delay getting into Petersburg because another vessel was occupying our berth, which gave us an opportunity to see Baird Glacier and nuzzle into spectacular Scenery Cove to see one of the most beautiful valley scenes I have ever witnessed. After our visit to Petersburg (the BEST place to make sure you have a shore excursion to take you out away from town) we cruised the Wrangell Narrows to Metlakatla (Met-la-KAT-la), the cultural highlight of the entire trip, and in that afternoon visited Misty Fjords and cruised deep in to Rudyard Bay (brown bears sighted) all the way to the secluded cove at the very end, were the Zodiacs were again dropped off for river wildlife viewing. Our final stop Prince Rupert offered the amazing Museum of Northern British Columbia. After another day and a half of cruising via Greenville Channel, Queen Charlotte Sound and Johnstone Strait (the boat stopped for Orca sightings) we arrived into beautiful Victoria, BC where the ship docks at the inner harbor in the middle of town. After disembarkation you tour Butchart Gardens and then have several hours of free time for shopping, sightseeing, and eating (on your own) before getting on the 6pm catamaran 'Victoria Clipper' for the 2-hour transfer to Seattle. Allow at least 60-90 minutes for disembarkation, reclaiming luggage and Customs on the Seattle end. Transfers to your hotel are in two groups, either downtown or airport hotels and takes at least another 30 minutes. The SEATAC airport is usually very busy so allow lots of time there also. Most everyone on the ship overnighted in Seattle before flying out the next morning. Overall a spectacular trip, and although the weather was less than cooperative, an adventure I will always remember. Very highly recommended.