June 24, 2013

Alaska Cruise: Off to a Good Start

My journey began on Tuesday, July 11, with a morning flight from Washington to Vancouver. Regent Seven Seas Cruises include several features I liked: the package price includes airfare; they arrange the flights; they also provide hotel reservations for the night before departure.

First Class (?) Flight to Vancouver
I've usually chosen business class for long flights, like my many trips to Nepal. United's Washington-Vancouver flight offered only coach and first class, so I was looking forward to my first class breakfast on the 8am flight to Chicago. Soon after reaching cruising altitude, the stewardess handed me a paper bag with a scone! OK, this was a short flight, so I was willing to cut United some slack. I thought about the full first class treatment I'd enjoy on the four-hour flight from Chicago to Vancouver. Ha! I had the choice: chicken salad or sandwich.

This was my first meal experience on today's domestic first class service. It's more like the food in coach used to be, and nothing like meals on long international flights.

This was also my first flight since the airport security change allowed those of us over age 75 to keep our shoes on. Great!

I'd visited Vancouver once for business decades ago. That trip was in early March, and I remembered a beautiful city where snow-covered mountains came right down to the water.

This time there no snow and -- after Nepal -- what I recalled as mountains looked more like hills.

Still, it's a beautiful city.

I had hoped to take a horse carriage ride through Stanley Park. Unfortunately, there wasn't time. 

Coincidentally, Sunday's New York Times travel section featured Vancouver in its ongoing "36 Hours" feature. Here's the introductory description of the city:
Between the jaw-dropping confluence of mountains and sea, some of the best ethnic food in North America and public transit bliss courtesy of the Canada Line and SkyTrain, Vancouver is much more than an erstwhile Olympic site, or a place to stop over on your way to some other destination. Where else can you find an international brand of exoticism that rivals Hong Kong, Nordic-style order and a limitless array of shops, restaurants and top-notch accommodations? An abundance of outdoor options — whether it is hiking or biking in Stanley Park, kayaking in False Creek or skiing on nearby Grouse Mountain — only adds to the appeal. The city doesn’t take its natural gifts for granted; in recent years it has become so eco-friendly that some stores don’t even offer plastic bags. With its multitude of immigrant communities and northwest Canadian culture of extreme friendliness, Vancouver feels just different enough to be intriguingly foreign but familiar enough to be easily conquered in a weekend.
I didn't have 36 hours.

On the morning of our departure, Regent's ever-efficient staff gathered our luggage at the hotel and drove us to the pier for boarding. Standing in line for immigration and security, I was thankful to be sailing on a ship with under 500 passengers . . . not the more typical 2,000+.

As we left, I looked back at the city:

Then ahead, beyond the bridge, toward the Pacific:

And after a little rain, a glorious sunset. We're off and running!

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