Port of Call Victoria Canada

Port of Victoria and Vancouver Island Canada

Located on Vancouver Island in southwest Canada, Victoria is another popular cruise ship port of call on many Alaska itineraries. It is a beautiful town with a number of things to see and do and is only a short ferry ride or plane trip away from the city of Vancouver.

Where You Dock

Most cruise ships now dock at the cities port facilities within walking distance of downtown. The ferry terminals serving Vancouver and other areas are located almost an hour out of town.

 

Transportation

Taxis are readily available and local bus service is provided by the Victoria Regional Transit System. A fleet of modern single and double-decker buses that offer frequent service to Victoria BC’s attractions. . Typical fares for the buses include:

  • Cash Fare            C$2.50            Single boarding only – No Transfers. Drivers do not carry change.
  • 10 Tickets            C$22.50
  • DayPass            C$5.00 and are only available on bus. Drivers do not carry change.

There are also water taxis and float planes available on the cities waterfront.

Money

The local currency is the Canadian Dollar and unlike the cities in the east of Canada US Dollars are not generally accepted. If they do take the US Dollar expect them to charge an additional amount.

Attractions

The Butchart Gardens – Located in Brentwood Bay, near Victoria. The gardens receive over a million visitors each year. The gardens have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.

Chinatown – It is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the second oldest in North America after San Francisco’s. Victoria’s Chinatown had its beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century in the mass influx of miners from California to what is now British Columbia in 1858. It remains an active place and continues to be popular with residents and visitors.

BC Museum – Founded in 1886, the Royal British Columbia Museum consists of The Province of British Columbia’s natural and human history museum as well as the British Columbia Provincial Archives.

The Victoria Bug Zoo – This unique facility is a two-room minizoo that is located in downtown Victoria, just one block north of the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

Victoria is also home to several architectural landmarks and parks of note and offers a number of great pubs and cafes.

Vancouver Island is now home to a very good and growing number of vineyards with one day wine country tours available.

Learn how we disembarked in Victoria and took the ferry over to Vancouver to beat the Jones Act HERE.

 

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Port of Auckland New Zealand

Auckland New Zealand and The Bay of Islands

Approaching Auckland
Approaching Auckland

Auckland is a popular port for cruises around Australia and New Zealand as well as southbound Pacific repositioning cruises. Most itineraries also include a stop at The Bay of Islands due north from Auckland.

 

Where You Dock
Princess Wharf
Princess Wharf

The Port of Auckland has a number of piers east from the ferry terminal at Princess Wharf. All of the docking spaces are right in downtown Auckland so it is only a short walk from the dock into the CBD. There are also a number of public facilities not far from the port.

Transportation

With only a few hours on average for exploring while in this port there are a number of places within walking distance and the downtown area is very pedestrian friendly with lots to see. Taxis are readily available but Auckland is the center of a large metropolitan area so it is best to have a destination in mind and agree on a fare before heading out. There is also an extensive bus and ferry system around the area with a good web site that shows your options HERE . The city also has a visitors one and two day pass that includes admission to a number of attractions HERE.

CBD Auckland
CBD Auckland
Money

The New Zealand currency is the NZ$ currently worth about 65¢ US. Foreign currency is not readily accepted but credit cards usually work fine.

Attractions

Within walking distance are a number of good sights including:

  • Albert Park – Historical, park with trees andflowerbeds, a Victorian fountain & statues.
  • Auckland Art Gallery – A collection of national & international art, with Maori works, in a château-style historic building.
  • New Zealand Maritime Museum – exploring the country’s seafaring history through exhibits & sailing trips on replica ships.
  • The Skywalk Visitors Center
  • Auckland Bridge Climb (Bungee jumping available)
Downtown Auckland

Also about twenty miles west of Auckland is a very nice wilderness area called Waitākere Ranges Regional Park that if you have a few days this area should be considered.

The Port of Bay of Islands

Anchored Bay of Islands
Anchored Bay of Islands

Located about 175 miles north of Auckland is the Bay of Islands. The area is somewhat rural and one of the big attractions is the various vineyards nearby. While the production is on a much smaller scale than the southern island the quality is very good. A local industry has developed offering tours to the cruise passengers and probably the best way to see some of the region is booking one of these tours. Many of these excursions are focused on the waters around this port.

The Wine Trail
The Wine Trail

 

 

 

Port of Call Skagway Alaska

Spending a Day in a Gold Rush Town

Skagway is a very popular port of call for Alaska cruises. With a population that fluctuates between 700 and 2,000 from winter to summer it is easy to see what the economy is based on. While Skagway is small and isolated that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to do. Historically Skagway has its beginnings in the Yukon gold rush established as the port of entry for the Chilkoot trail leading up to the gold fields. Today it is a tourist destination with a lot of options for just spending a day off a cruise ship to even longer wilderness adventures.

Where You Dock
Cruise pier Skagway
Cruise pier Skagway
Ships tag the rocks above the pier
Ships tag the rocks above the pier

There are a set of modern docks right near town with specific docks designated for different cruise lines. While there are no facilities right on the docks it is a short walk right to the foot of State Street that runs up thru town.

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Transportation

Taxis are available but the town itself can be walked in a short period. There are locations to visit on the outskirts of town like the gold mine where a taxi would be your best option. There are also Pedi cabs and a number of tour operators that offer short ecursions.

Currency

Alaska is a U.S. state and the U.S. Dollar is the preferred currency with most major credit cards accepted.

Riding The White Pass & Yukon RR
Riding The White Pass & Yukon RR
Attractions

If you are looking for a scenic ride The White Pass and Yukon Railroad offers excursion trains up thru the mountains and back. The station is right in town. There is also a gold mining attraction near town and whale watching tours normally available. One of our favorites was the helicopter tour up to a glacier.

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State Street also has the usual lineup of tourist retail stores with an emphasis on jewelry. Look for local crafters and gift items.

Helicopters heading for a glacier
Helicopters heading for a glacier

If you are looking to book a tour our suggestion is to book on your own instead of thru the ship. You will have a whole day in Skagway with plenty of time to set something up. We called the helicopter tour service the day before we docked in Skagway and save almost fifty percent on the booking.

The National Park Service also has a Skagway facility with good information and exhibits about the Yukon gold rush.

Tip: Most U.S. and Canadian cell services do not have any surcharge for using you phones in Alaska. Just make sure you have a land based signal and are not on Cellular At Sea.

 

 

 

 

Port of Call Nassau, Bahamas

A favorite port for three and four day cruises out of Florida and returning longer cruises, Nassau has a lot to offer.

Where You’re Docked

Cruise ships dock at Prince George Wharf, sometimes as many as five are there at once. The wharf is located right in downtown Nassau with a large number of good restaurants and plenty of “duty free” shopping. The island is also famous for it numerous great beaches as well as coral reefs, sport fishing and boating.

 

Crossing a bridge in downtown Nassau gets you to Paradise Island, home of the resort Atlantis and others resorts. It is a two mile walk over the Paradise Island you can walk across the bridge.

Downtown Nassau, The Bahamas
Downtown Nassau, The Bahamas
Transportation
harbour light
Harbour Entrance

If you just want to walk around and see the town it is only a short stroll to downtown. You can rent cars and scooters right at the wharf as well as book land and water tours. Taxis are readily available but you should negotiate price before heading out.

Currency

The countries currency is the Bahamas Dollar which is on par with the U.S. Dollar. U.S. Dollars are readily accepted.

Cruise ships in port
Cruise ships in port
Attractions

Three miles east along the north shore out of Nassau is the exclusive Cable Beach area, a resort beach with great beaches and a number of good restaurants and hotels. Again near town there is also Paradise Island and the Atlantis resort (often cruise ships offer day tours over to Atlantis).

Atlantis
Atlantis
  • Atlantis on Paradise Island   A destination all on its own. FeaturesWater park, aquariums, beaches. Requires admission (day pass) unless you are a resort guest.
  • Fort Fincastle  1793 stone fort & former lighthouse
  • Ardastra Gardens Zoo, gardens & conservation center
  • Prince George Wharf    Cruise-ship dock with tour vendors
  • Clifton Heritage Park .  Nature trails, historic ruins & beaches
  • Dolphin Cay Atlantis &
  • Bahamas Dolphins Adventure . Marine habitat with dolphin interaction
  • Marine Habitat at Atlantis .   Large aquarium at an upscale resort
  • Fort Charlotte .  1788 stone fort with moats & dungeons
  • Queen’s Staircase .  Stone staircase, circa 1793
  • Pirates of Nassau .  Pirate museum with replica ship
  • National Art Museum .  Local history & art in a historic villa
  • Sea Trek Helmet Diving

 

Good links for additional information:

 

Travel Electronics (Update September 2018)

What We Travel With

Technology changes rapidly and services that worked well or were inexpensive yesterday may not be available or work the same way today.

Our travel electronics collection now includes a couple of small Macintosh Air laptops, an iPad, an Android tablet, two iPhones and a Blu phone, a compact digital camera and a waterproof digital camera (both Nikon).

This sounds like a lot but it all takes up about a half cubic foot of space and weighs less than 6 or 7 pounds.

Entertainment

While traveling we often find ourselves in media and internet impoverished areas but I will admit it gets better all the time*. We use two primary approaches as we travel. I download shows in my tablet mostly with Google Play or Netflix (many free) and I convert from our movie collection to MP4 and load a travel hard drive. One thing we have found essential is a small plug-in battery operated speaker. The current one is 2”x2”x1.5” and produces great sound (EWA Soundelf $10). Comes in handy when watching shows in bed in the evening on a laptop. We both have tablets and between us we carry a few dozen books in various apps (mostly Amazon and Google books [their apps] and B&N Nook). We do not use Apple Books as they are too difficult to share or use on non-Apple devices.

Computers

Most everyone these days are addicted to the internet and people find it strange when we try and prepare for long stretches not having internet. I have been in a couple of discussions with computer companies about back-up system software in case of an emergency (no longer are CD drives included). Apple once agreed and sold me a system on a thumb drive – just in case. Six months later I needed it and it would not load without being able to confirm the purchase on the internet!! Now falling back on a second device is always part of our plan. I carry a travel hard drive (about the size of a cell phone) with 2 Tb of storage and back up data only from both laptops to partitions on the drive regularly. I avoid backup schemes because they can be a problem if switching laptops.

I had bragged a year ago about a Windows, 2 in 1 laptop that I thought was perfect for travel. It could be used both as a laptop and a tablet. Well it self-destructed because the onboard memory (32 Gb) was taken over by Microsoft upgrades, ran out of room and stopped working because there wasn’t a complete operating system. I had installed a 132 Gb SD card to provide enough storage but MS wouldn’t allow their system to load to the SD card. My son is a computer engineer and programmer and has been unable to revive this device. Please avoid those minimum dive space laptops – there is no way to add a drive…

Cell Service

As mentioned in previous posts we have used Verizon as our primary cell service but we have given up after numerous international travel problems. I can’t even count the number of places we have been where service wasn’t available. The one thing we discovered was that most of the Americans that seemed to be using their cell phones when we couldn’t were T-Mobile customers. Verizon has sold us international phones that wouldn’t even work in London (actually almost everywhere and the battery would die because it never stopped searching for service). Our Verizon iPhones stopped a few years ago because there was a change in GSM services (we had to upgrade phones).

We now have two newer iPhones on T-Mobile and have three trips between now and December (two cruises and an extended Europe) and will let you know what happens. I still keep my Blu phone on OneSimCard service.

Cruising and Text Messaging

One issue we discover last April with a trans-Atlantic cruise involved texting onboard using iPhones and iMessage. Because of the cost of placing phone calls at see our preferred method of contact is texting. We have several family members that also use iPhones and texting with them completely failed. It seems that iMessage uses cellular data exclusively to send and receive messages and generally cellular service on ship is very expensive and data doesn’t work at all – so no texting.

The answer is to turn iMessage off and make sure SMS is active (also I would recommend turning MMS off as big photos and videos will get costly). This will solve most issues but there can be some problems if the person ashore is an iPhone user with iMessage turned on. If you believe this is causing a problem the other person must also turn iMessage off to exchange text with you.

We are always looking for tips on travel electronics and are looking into Movavi software for downloading video after another blog suggested it. Any ideas or tricks? Please let us know.

Getting To Florida Ports For That Caribbean Cruise

With Caribbean Cruising season fast approaching here is a guide to how to get to those Florida ports. Regardless if your coming by train, plane or automobile there are ways to save money making that final connection to your cruise ship.

Florida Cruises – Getting To The Port…

Florida has become one of the largest destinations in the U.S. for people taking cruises. While passengers come from all over the U.S. and even the world a large number come from the Southeast and especially Florida. The close proximity to the Florida ports offers a number of advantages to cruisers from the region but it also presents some interesting challenges. The following is as complete a rundown on how to get to your cruise ship regardless if you come by planes, trains or automobiles. Okay, maybe not trains.

Miami from the Port

Florida has four major cruise ports; The Port of Miami, Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Port Canaveral at Merritt Island (sometimes called the Orlando port) and Tampa. Each one has its own environment that makes getting to your cruise ship different for each port.

 

Flying In

Tampa

The port is some distance from the airport but there is generally a fixed taxi fare for the trip of about $25 (plus luggage fees and tip). There are also a number of shuttles as well but expect to pay between $15 and $20 per person for these. A cruise ship transfer at last check was over $15 per person.

Disney Cruise Shuttle

Orlando

The nearest major airport to Port Canaveral. Expect to pay over $100 for a taxi to the port which is a 47 mile trip. There are a number of shuttles that charge as little as $15 per person. Booking a transfer thru your cruise line can cost above $35 per person. At last check Disney offers a bus service from Orlando airport and hotels at Disney World to their cruises at $35 per guest.

Ft. Lauderdale

Port Everglades is only about 2 miles from the airport and while the airport taxi stand will usually quote a flat fare of $20 to the cruise ship if you go with the meter on, it should cost less and if you are going from the ship to the airport it should cost about $15 with tip (no delay exiting the port because of security). The cruise ships also offer transfers but they average $16 per person, which for two people makes a taxi the better choice.

Miami

If you are going from the Miami airport to the cruise terminal, current taxi charges are a $27 flat-rate fee. That’s not per person. So if you are traveling with a family of four, that’s just $7 per person (or $14 round-trip) — not a bad deal. Buying a transfer from your cruise line will cast around $17 per person though or $68 for four.

Rental Cars (In City)

Often people will fly into the port city a day or two early and if that is the case it is a good idea to rent a car. Depending on the city rentals can be very inexpensive and give more flexibility on how you get around. Be sure you check with the agency and make sure you can drop the car off near the port.

Miami

It is common in Miami for rental car agencies to allow a rental to be picked up at the airport and dropped off somewhere else in Miami. At between $25 and $40 a day this is a very economical way to get to the cruise port with the advantage of seeing some of Miami in the process. In the case of Avis and Budget*1 they both have drop-offs near the port with free shuttle service to your ship, which saves the cost of a short taxi ride.

Tampa

While it is possible to also pick up a rental car at the airport in Tampa and drop it in the city, there are no drop offs really near the port. When we come in to Tampa on a cruise it usually costs between $10 and $20 to get a taxi to the nearest rental car location.

Port Everglades

Ft. Lauderdale

Because the port and airport are so near each other, unless you plan on spending some time in the area before your cruise, there is little reason to rent a car. It is also worth noting that Avis and Alamo have free shuttles from their airport locations to Port Everglades and back (you must have a copy of the rental car reservation to board the shuttle though).

Orlando

It has become popular to rent a car for the one-way trips between Orlando or airport and Port Canaveral and the rental agencies have been very accommodating in recent years. A recent check showed three agencies (Avis, Budget and Alamo) offering cars between $50 and $75 per day for the one-way trip including free shuttles to the ships in Port Canaveral.

One Way Car Rentals

Even if you live within convenient driving distance to a port, sometimes port parking can become an expensive proposition. This is especially true if the cruise is longer than seven days. Except for the Orlando – Port Canaveral connection, one-way drop-off fees can make renting a car very expensive. The one notable exception to that is if you live near Orlando. Because Orlando is the number one destination in Florida the rental car companies are always trying to balance their inventories and are usually not charging drop-off fees between Orlando and major Florida cities. Renting a one-way car is our normal method of getting to and from Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando. We have rented cars for as little as $29 from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale. One trick is to make reservations way in advance and check the rate a few more times before the cruise.

Port Canaveral

Buses Etcetera

Back in the day buses were good, inexpensive transportation between cities and there still is a number of options for economical fares. MegaBus offers a one-way ticket from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale for $26. The problem with them as with most bus service is that you have to get to their terminal and to your destination at the other end. This can be a major additional expense impacting the economy of bus transportation. We should also note that some people live in communities with active travel groups that normally arrange charter buses as part of a cruise package

Parking Near the Ports

Most parking structures inside the various ports are owned and operated by the ports and, on average, are fifty percent higher than private services near the port. Over the years there have been some interesting fights between these venues. Mostly it has been the ports trying to make it difficult for the private lots to compete and survive. Generally private enterprise finds a way.

Port Canaveral

Parking at the port garage inside the port is currently $17 per day and they charge for each portion of a day (that means full fare for the day you arrive and the day you leave). There are at least four dedicated private lots with shuttles near the port that average under $10 a day based on 24 hour days. There are also companies that contract with some local hotels for parking spaces and provide van service to and from the port.

Miami

Parking at the Port of Miami currently is $20 per 24 hour day with a daytime rate of $7. Because the port is located right in the heart of downtown Miami it is difficult to find reasonable rates nearby. There are a number of companies offering reduced rates but it would be recommended that you investigate where these lots are and how much security they provide.

Ft. Lauderdale

Parking inside Port Everglades currently is $15 per day but offers a location right next to the ships. Because the port is located near the airport there is a great deal of parking available in the area. There are official remote lots associated with the airport with shuttle service to the terminals as well as more than a few private lots not far away. Again it would be recommended that you investigate where these lots are and how much security they provide before reserving.

Notes & Links:

*1 Avis at Port of Miami with Shuttle to Cruise Ships. Address: 99 Southeast 2nd Street, (Cruise Ship Passengers Only), Miami, FL,33131. Phone: (1) 305-379-1317. Hours of Operation: Sun 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM; Mon – Fri 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Sat 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM

Miami Budget location with a free shuttle to the port. Since this option is becoming very popular and there are a number of ships sailing, especially on weekends, dropping off cars can become very congested at these locations. Patience is a virtue…                                                    89 SE 2nd St, Miami, Florida.

A Parking option at Port Canaveral

Shuttle from MCO to Canaveral 

Alamo Port Canaveral 

Key West Port of Call

Many western Caribbean cruises include Key West, Florida as one of their port visits. This city has much to offer a one-day visitor from history to shopping to just soaking up the atmosphere of Americas most southern place.

Where You Dock – Cruise ships dock along the waterfront right at Mallory Square in the heart of town. While there is no cruise terminal there are plenty of facilities with a short walk.

A five block walk to the left down Front Street takes you past Duval Street, home to a number of shops, bars and restaurants to A&B Docks with its array of restaurants and shops next to Key West Bight. Walking down Front Street in the opposite direction takes you past the Truman Winter White House and Whitehead Street the address of the Audubon House and the Hemingway House.

Transportation – Key West is not a very large city with the center of town just steps away. Getting to the other side of the island is a few miles but without a specific interest in mind probably not worth the walk. Sightseeing is easy with the Conch Train and the Trolley one to three block from the ship. There are also a few less conventional modes of transportation available like street legal golf carts and miniature two-seaters you can rent.

Money – The US Dollar

Attractions – If you are interested in history there are a number of attractions for you. From the Ship Wreck Museums to the homes of famous Americans like President Truman, Hemingway and Audubon. There are also an assortment of water activities like snorkeling and diving trips along with sailing excursions available. Key West is also popular for shopping, seafood and bars. Be sure and visit Sloppy Joe’s Bar, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite. There is little in the way of attractive beaches nearby but there are excursions down to the Dry Tortugas and the National Park and historic fort.

Key West is also famous for its sunset celebration at Mallory Square but unfortunately because of local regulations cruise ships must depart before sunset so as not to block the views.