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When I decided to book my next holiday, I chose Scenic for an all-inclusive & fully escorted 14 day Canada land tour plus a 7 night Alaska cruise departing from Victoria, Vancouver Island.
The airlines of choice were Qantas to Sydney, then Air Canada direct Sydney to Vancouver then a short domestic flight into Victoria, British Colombia. Although long and tiring the flights were comfortable with seamless connections.
Scenic includes stays in premium Fairmont Hotels throughout their tours. The properties we were lucky enough to stay at included: The Fairmont Empress Victoria, The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, The Fairmont Chateau Whistler, The Fairmont Banff Springs, The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. I recommend you join the Fairmont Presidents’ Club as this allows you unlimited WIFI access throughout your stay, gym gear for hire at a small fee and other privileges.
We travelled by coach with our very knowledgeable guide Sinead, through British Colombia and Alberta to “The Rockies”, the summer scenery was absolutely spectacular!! Endless trees and snow-capped mountains, lakes, streams, waterfalls and much, much more….and the animals!!! We were all on the “look out” and we were lucky enough to see several Black Bears, a Grizzly Bear, Elk, Mountain Goats, Beavers and Deer! Spotting bears grazing in their natural habitat was wonderful and one of the highlights of my trip!!
Victoria – Butchart Gardens & Scenic Floatplane
The Butchart Gardens were established in 1903 by the Butchart family, the area was originally a limestone quarry. The gardens are magnificently kept and visited by close to a million tourists each year. The gardens are very peaceful and serene and a lovely place to spend a few hours wandering around.
At Victoria Harbour we presented our passports and tickets and boarded a 10 seater Float-plane for a scenic circuit over the Vancouver Island harbour area. The views were beautiful and I was surprised by the size of the island which is 500km long and 100km wide and populated by 800,000 people. The next morning we transferred to Vancouver by ferry, a 90 minute crossing and very picturesque.
Vancouver – Stanley Park, Granville Island, Gas Town & Fly Over Canada
Vancouver is a lovely cosmopolitan city which is set around Stanley Park. The massive park is a lovely haven to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, have a picnic or take a walk or bike ride around many of the tracks. Granville Island is worth a visit to stroll through the gift shops and purchase some fresh great quality local produce from the large market. Gas town is a popular tourist area set in the old section of Vancouver with shops and restaurants, mainly unique fashion boutiques and Art Galleries.
In Canada Place, which is the picturesque harbour area in Vancouver we went on the ‘Fly Over Canada’ ride and it was great!! The virtual ride is a 4D flight simulator giving the passenger an incredible experience of flying over amazing Canadian attractions, including Glaciers, Mountains, Beaches, Ice Hockey fields and Niagara Falls. The ride is so life like you really have to hold on to your seat! You feel the sheer drops and rises, feel spray from the falls on your face and smell the pine trees! It is well worth it!!!
Whistler – Helicopter Ride
Whistler is a gorgeous ski village and is also a very busy place in the summer with lots of activities including hiking and mountain bike riding. We took a helicopter scenic ride over Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains which was so beautiful. They had experienced a mild winter with below average snow falls, so there was only a little snow on the tops of both mountains. I was even lucky enough to see a bear on the decent to base.
We set off on golf buggies in the late afternoon, before dinner at the Fairmont Golf course looking to spot bears!!! We weren’t lucky enough to spot any that evening, but the grounds and 18 hole course was so beautiful to see we really didn’t mind!!
Banff – Town and Bow River Float
Banff was my favourite of the towns we visited, it has such a quaint feel and has lovely shops and houses and the mountain backdrops look like post cards or movie scenery. I loved the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. It is such a beautiful large hotel and there is so much to discover by just wondering around. The hotel has been around since 1928 when it was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the original wooden structure. It truly is a castle amongst the trees.
We took a raft and floated down the Bow River which was very peaceful and pretty and we spotted a large eagle. We also travelled on the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain for spectacular views and photo opportunities.
Lake Louise & The Athabasca Glacier
We stayed in a beautiful lake view room at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – the hotel is set in truly the most beautiful surrounds. We went for a long walk around the lake at twilight and spotted some bear ‘splat’ but no bears!! The lake is the most amazing blue colour when it is thawed in the summer months and a lovely option is to hire a canoe.
At Lake Louise we had a presentation from a ‘Mounty’ who recounted some interesting stories of his career and experiences in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Our next stop was a visit to the Athabasca Glacier where we took a huge snowmobile onto the glacier. We walked on the glacier and filled our water bottle from the stream – said to be the ‘elixir for eternal youth’!
Jasper – Harley Davidson ride
Jasper Park Lodge is a different style of accommodation for Fairmont. They are very comfortable log cabins set in beautiful grounds around Lake Beauvert. We opened our back door one night having heard some rustling and spotted a huge Elk in the bushes eating branches!!
In Jasper Town “donning full leathers” I hopped on the back of a Harley for an invigorating ride through the mountains!! It was so much fun to feel the fresh air on my face and take in the amazing views!!!
Rocky Mountaineer Train Journey – Jasper to Vancouver
In Jasper we boarded our Gold Leaf Carriage to travel on day one of our journey, with an overnight in Kamloops. The train is very spacious and like a business class set up with the famous glass dome roof for optimum viewing. The service is lovely with an ongoing array of snacks and drinks throughout the day. You make your way down stairs for silver service breakfast and lunch in the dining room. There is also an outside vestibule downstairs which allows you to stretch your legs and get some fresh air; it is also a good spot for photos. The pen bar is available most of the time, and yes the Baileys on ice were very pleasant! Day two was much more of the same (so much food!!) and our train arrived into Vancouver approximately 6:00pm. This is such a beautiful way to travel through the countryside.
Holland America Ms Noordam Cruise – 7 nights Vancouver to Vancouver
We boarded our ship in Vancouver to set sail for Alaska, USA. The ship was very comfortable with an array of dining and entertainment options. Our itinerary included days at sea and three different port stops.
Juneau – The Capital
Juneau is only accessed by sea and air and is a lovely town with lots of colourful buildings and flower boxes. The town has a huge number of souvenir shops for all the cruise ships that only visit during the summer and they are also famous for their diamond and gemstone shops offering duty free prices. There are a number of shore excursions available for your day in port including helicopter dog sled rides, helicopter fly fishing & whale watching.
Skagway – Dog sled and Mushers camp excursion
Skagway is very small and is made up predominately of one long Main Street with boardwalks which has a real “final frontier” feel to it. Acting as a gateway for the Klondike Gold Rush there were a huge number of brothels in town in the 1800’s.
We took a bus ride up a mountain to a dog sled and mushers camp where we met the dogs and went on a short dog sled ride on the road (no snow at this time of year.). We met the Mushers and had a talk from a man who has been in the famous “Iditarod” dog race. We met some puppies too, who have also been bred for racing.
Glacier Bay – World Heritage site
We continued our cruise through to Glacier Bay where our ship anchored and we marvelled at the amazing glaciers and mountains. It was freezing on deck but we wanted to be out there to feel the serenity and the beauty of this amazing place. We could see a few birds and a seal but mainly felt the peace and calm. Every so often we heard a crash and part of the glacier caved in and fell into the icy water.
Ketchikan – Creek Street
This was our final port of call and my favourite Alaskan port!!! Again it is a colourful village set on the water and is the ‘Salmon Capital of the World’. There is a small touristy area within the town called Creek Street. They sell jewellery, wood work, traditional Alaskan dolls and lots of other treasures. You can enjoy a list of shore excursions or just stroll around the town and take in the quaint scenery and enjoy a seafood meal as we did!!!
After a seamless disembarkation in Vancouver we enjoyed a full day in the sunshine and the city, before our late return flight to Australia.
It was such an amazing holiday and really was the trip of a lifetime!!!