vial group of 12 assembled at the World Travellers Ashburton store on the 5th June. After several meetings pre-tour and having some inter-twined family members aboard, all were pretty relaxed and raring to go.
After pre-flight drinks and nibbles we were on our way; first stop, Vancouver. On arrival, Trudy, a local tour gide, made us welcome and tranferred us by private coach to the hotel.
Vancouver is a beautiful city as we took in such sights as: Stanley Park and the Buchart Gardens.
With plenty of time to wander and enjoy at leisure the stunning layouts of the gardens, and as luck would have it, those warm weather clothes (we packed for all seasons) came in to good use as we basked in the sunshine.
CRUISE: The MS AMSTERDAM, was our chosen vessel, the ship holds 1800 passengers and was just beautiful. Catering for all manner of clientele, the ship offers elegant restaurants, casual cafe's and bars. Onboard entertainment was amazing and very enjoyable as we laughed and clapped along with comic acts and music of different styles.
Our first port of call was a beautiful little village with lots of shops and restaurants called Skagwey, this extremely fortunate village has the most breath-taking scenery in its back yard. The group had the majority of this day at leisure and whilst some visited the stores for knick-knack mementos, others toured the area with camera in hand to capture the picturesque scenery.
We sailed that night for Juneau, yet another delightful township with lots to offer for the tourist. Some of our group had pre-arranged with the tour staff onbaord to take a Gondola ride (as it happened, it was the first of many Gondola rides) . The final cruise destination was: Ketchikan where some of us took a small cruise around the harbour and a tour through the town. Black bears have been known to roam this area, we didn't come across any live ones, thankfully.
WHISTLER:A scenic drive to the stunning Whistler, a well known ski resort in Canada in winter and summer time the young adventure seekers descend on the town for mountain-biking and other adrenalin sports. Whistler is very picturesque and as we ascended by Gondola to the top of the mountain, we found the entire landscape to be specatuclar.
GROUSE MOUNTAIN:We were able to get up close, but not to personal with the grizzly bears. Unknown to many of us, was a simple way of recognising a grizzly from a black bear. A Grizzly has a hunched back (no wonder he's grizzly), keep away from these; where as the black bear has a sleek straight neck and back, these can occasionally be seen scavenging in the towns.
Some great bird and wild-life to be seen.
VANCOUVER - KAMLOOPS
Red Leaf - Lower Class, sufficient enough for those on a budget which boasts a viewing deck which holds up to a maximum 8 people at any one time, a good spot for taking photos of the magical scenery and wildlife The scenery was quite desert like for much of the first leg of our journey, but that viewing deck certainly came into its own as our journey progressed.
KAMLOOPS:We spent only the one night here, a group dinner and an early night ready for another early start in the morning.
KAMLOOPS - BANFF:
through the Rockies, has breath-taking scenery. Wildlife is visible in the form of mountain goats, black bears, osprey nests but sadly no osprey sighted and eagles. Our tour was served breakfast, lunch and a complimentary wine or beer before having to pay one’s own way at the bar.
As a Travel Agent, I was lucky to be invited to view the Silver Leaf class which is highly recommended as the windows are larger and the slight ceiling windows allow better viewing as you train though the Rocky's; meals and ALL beverages included.
BANFF:On our arrival in Banff, we were transferred to our hotel 'the Rimrock', which is located 5 minutes from the town centre by shuttle, busses run to and from the hotel every 15 minutes. A beautiful hotel, nestled into the mountains with some amazing views.
The group had a day at leisure to explore Banff, a lovely township with old wooden buildings, lots of souvenir/gift shops to browse. A little commercialised but not too much in your face. We were delighted to visit the museums and art galleries, the Native Indian Museum is a MUST do, very interesting to see how they lived.
The original agenda was to continue on and visit the Icefields and Lake Louise and to finally fly from Calgary, home. Floods however had road closures in and out of Banff, so our group had extra days at leisure, although we were fearing the town would run short on supplies as no trucks were able to pass the mud slides to resplenish the shops and resorts. As our route was now blocked, the wonderful team back home at United Travel rescheduled our flights home to leave from Vancouver. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our journey as we drove by private shuttle to Vancouver, stopping overnight at ' Three Gap Valley', a resort nestled snuggly in the mountains with spectacular views and located lake side. A basic and quite dated Resort but what a splendid place to stay the night.
The whole experience of Canada & Alaska was unforgettable.