Saturday, August 3, 2013

North to Alaska! Part 7 - Victoria, BC - June 29, 2013

Another cruise ship stalking us to Victoria
This is the 7th and final installment in my series about my recent trip to Alaska.  This installment will cover our short visit to Victoria, British Columbia.  If you haven't already done so, I suggest reading the first six parts of my series:

Part 1 - Background Info
Part 2 - Seattle, Mt. Rainier, and Sailaway
Part 3 - Ketchikan
Part 4 - The Tracy Arm Fjord
Part 5 - Juneau
Part 6 - Skagway and the Klondike

If you would like to view my entire collection of photos from Victoria, you can find them on Flickr here.

Victoria Basics

Distance sailed from Skagway:  880 nautical miles/1,013 statue miles
Distance sailed from Seattle:  1,894 nautical miles/2,180 nautical miles
Time zone:  Pacific Daylight Time, 2 hours behind CDT
Today's weather:  sunny, low-80s
Today's wildlife count:  none
Cumulative wildlife count:  12

I've been to Vancouver twice, but have never made it to Victoria.  I'd heard from others that Victoria is a must-visit city, so I was looking forward to stopping there.  Our visit was short, though - too short, in fact, with an arrival time of 7 P.M. local time and a departure time of midnight.  That's barely enough time to get off, take a quick tour somewhere, and then get back on the ship.  We decided to take a tour to the Butchart Gardens, which is supposed to be one of the best botanical gardens in the world.  The gardens were built by the Butchart family, on the site of a former sand and gravel quarry.  The family didn't want the old quarry to be an eyesore once the material had been fully mined.

We were greeted to "record heat" for Victoria, which meant a temperature of 82 degrees.  I'll take a record high of 82 in late June any day.   Anyway, after a scary looking line at customs that ended up taking maybe 10 minutes to clear, we boarded our buses to head to the gardens.  Our bus driver was a really weird dude, who seemed to have a fascination with women's bathrooms.  Yeah, I'm glad he wouldn't be our tour guide in the gardens.

We had a quick drive-by tour of downtown Victoria on the way over, including the "Mile 0" marker of the Trans-Canada highway.

We made it to the gardens after about a 40 minute ride.

The highlight of the gardens are the "Sunken Gardens", so named because they are a level below the remainder of the gardens.

Then it was on to the Rose Garden..

...and then the Japanese Gardens.

We then walked down to Butchart Cove, and then back up to the Italian Gardens.  They have a gelato stand in the Italian Gardens; the gelato is good, but beware that you'll pay CDN $5 a scoop.

It was our good fortune that tonight would be the first night of the Saturday evening fireworks display for the summer, so we headed over to get a good spot to watch, at least as much as we could in the limited amount of time we had left.  The unique thing about the Butchart fireworks is that many of the displays are in the shapes of trees and flowers, which was pretty cool.  Unfortunately we had to leave 15 minutes before the grand finale, but we still got to see a good display.

It was time to head back to the bus, and I got a nice photo of the BC Legislature Building all lit up on the way back.

We finally made it back to our cabin about 11:45, which made me not look too forward to having to get up early the next morning to get off the ship and head home.  That, and I really wasn't ready to have my vacation end yet!

Serving Suggestion

4 1/2 hours just isn't enough time to enjoy Victoria.  You barely have time to do one shore excursion before coming back to the ship at a late hour, thus meaning you're going to be really tired the next day when it's time to go home.  Unfortunately, almost all 7-day Alaska itineraries have the same shortcoming, that is, not enough time here.

If you have the time, what I'd recommend instead is going to Vancouver or Seattle, and then tack on an extra day or two to visit Victoria and Vancouver Island.  In particular, the downtown area looked like a good spot for a nice dinner and a glass of wine or two on the waterfront.  Vancouver Island itself has a lot of spots for hiking in the mountains or along the coast.

That's it for this trip report!  I'll have a review of the cruise itself up in the next week or two.

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