Check in for your flight to Calgary. Following our afternoon arrival we transfer to the three-star superior Delta Bow Valley in central Calgary for one night.
Today we start our spectacular journey from Calgary across the gently rolling prairies of Alberta and soon the amazing slate-grey, now-capped peaks of the Rockies come into view. Our hotel, for the next three nights, is the three-star superior Banff Park Lodge in the spa resort of Banff (2012 tours stay at the Rundlestone Lodge). With its wood-panelled interior, cosy fireplace and excellent indoor pool, our hotel is a easy 5-minute stroll into the centre of this attractive town.
This morning our journey takes us along the Icefields Parkway, one of the most spectacular roads in the world, with stunning mountain vistas. Our first stop is famous Lake Louise, completely encircled by high peaks, perhaps the most photographed view in the Rockies. Then we take in Peyto Lake, one of the world’s most beautiful azure-blue glacial waters. Finally we see the Columbia Icefield, the largest in the Rockies, covering an area of over 200 square miles, at depths of over 1,000 feet, a mind-blowing display of the power and majesty of mother-nature. We’ll ride on a giant ‘Snocoach’ (weather permitting) across the surface of the Athabasca Glacier for a closer inspection of the massive crevasses before returning to Banff.
Today we have a free day. Why not take a leisurely ‘float’ trip on the Bow River or a dip in Banff’s relaxing hot springs. There are also exciting helicopter trips on offer, or perhaps a ride up to the top of 7,500 foot Sulphur Mountain, on the Banff gondola. Several walks commence from the peak and there’s also a restaurant with open-air terrace. Also very popular is afternoon tea at the magnificent Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, built in the style of a massive Scottish baronial castle.
This morning we set off on one of the world’s great train journeys! Boarding the Rocky Mountaineer you’ll be led to your assigned, comfortable reclining seats, which rotate through 360 degrees, with plenty of legroom and large panoramic windows. The train begins its spectacular two-day, 585-mile journey following the wide Bow River valley before crossing the Continental Divide at Kicking Horse Pass. Next come the famed spiral tunnels, an engineering marvel built 100 years ago, as we follow the Columbia River and cross the dramatic 500–foot steel span of Stoney Creek Bridge. The excellent on-board commentary highlights the intriguing history of the towns and villages en route and the building of the railway itself. Meals in SilverLeaf Class include excellent hot meals served at your seat on each day, as well as plenty of complimentary snacks, tea and coffee and non-alcoholic drinks served at your seat (bar service available at extra cost). Upgrade to the excellent GoldLeaf Services and their impressive Dome Carriages (see Price Includes tab for details & prices). Our overnight stay is in a range of medium-class hotels in the town of Kamloops.
For 2016 RedLeaf Service will be withdrawn and replaced with SilverLeaf Service for all departures which is incorporated into our 2016 prices.
We continue our journey to Vancouver. Following the Fraser and Thomson River canyons, passing the Jaws of Death Gorge, Avalanche Alley and Hell’s Gate Canyon, we criss-cross the river many times as we travel through some of British Columbia’s most scenic country. We finally reach Vancouver during the afternoon after our once-in-a-lifetime journey. Our hotel for the next two nights is the three-star superior Coast Coal Harbour Hotel in downtown Vancouver, close to the main shopping areas and the harbourfront promenade.
Vancouver regularly features as one of the world’s most naturally beautiful cities: the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, with its picturesque harbour, the glass skyscrapers reflecting the sunlight and the lush coastal mountains form a stunning backdrop. This morning we tour the city stopping at Stanley Park, with its famous collection of totem poles and Prospect Point, which offers lovely views. The afternoon is at leisure, though there’s plenty to see and do in this sophisticated city. A popular, easy walk starts from Vancouver’s waterfront pedestrian promenade to the huge expanse of Stanley Park. here you can visit the city’s aquarium, with its Beluga whales, dolphins and sea otters - a delightful experience! The walk continues along the shoreline path, which affords stunning vistas across the bay, until you reach English Bay’s sandy beach, a lovely spot from where to watch the sunset.
This morning is at leisure. Embarkation begins on the MS Zuiderdam at 11:30am and cabins are normally available from around 1pm. Our ship sails at 5pm, passing below Vancouver's spectacular Lion's Gate suspension bridge.
For 2016 tours our ship will be the MS Nieuw Amsterdam, please see Accommodation tab for details.
Our first full day at sea and there’s plenty of time to ease into shipboard life and take in the amazing scenery of the Inside Passage. For anyone who prefers a little more activity, there are a huge variety of onboard talks and activities available. This evening is the first formal night of the cruise.
We spend the morning cruising the narrow 25-mile long Tracy Arm fjord to view the massive twin Sawyer Glaciers. Hemmed in by near vertical ice-scoured granite mountainsides, the glaciers are surrounded by a wild and barren landscape – reminiscent of the last Ice Age! Look out for harbour seals basking on the many ice floes in the bay. After lunch we arrive in Juneau, Alaska’s state capital. From here there’s a widely varying selection of shore excursions on offer, ranging from flying to a glacier by helicopter and dog-sledding with teams of huskies, to whale-watching, kayaking, a typical Alaskan salmon bake, fly fishing by sea plane and a variety of hikes in the surrounding area.
An early start today as we arrive in Skagway at 7am. Our ship remains here all day allowing plenty of time to explore this historic gateway to the Klondike, originally a lawless tented city during its gold rush days. The shore excursions include a number of helicopter glacier sightseeing opportunities, but what makes Skagway unique is it being the start of the White Pass & Yukon railroad and there are a number of excursions that include a fascinating ride on the restored carriages of this 100-year old route through the Alaskan wilderness. The most striking feature of Alaska is the sheer sense of isolation and tranquil beauty, people are a rarity, settlement less so; the land is not farmed or used by man in any way. There's wildlife galore, safe in sanctuary of this pristine wilderness - there are few places like this left on the planet.
Today is yet another tour highlight as your cruise-ship slowly enters the magnificent Glacier Bay National Park, with eight actively calving glaciers, more than anywhere else on Earth, access to this amazing spectacle is strictly controlled by the US Parks Service. Surrounded by snow-clad 10,000-foot peaks of the Fairweather Range, the nutrient-rich waters teem with salmon and humpback whales. On-shore it’s also home to black bears, moose and wolves. Our ship will spend the day cruising this huge area comprising 900 square miles of marine waters and although we do not actually dock anywhere, National Park Service rangers will come on board to provide specialist commentary and answer any questions.
After a morning’s cruising, we arrive at the small town of Ketchikan after lunch, where a number of breathtaking trips are available, via seaplane, into the nearby Misty Fjords National Monument or the remote Tongass National Forest - a perfect environment, only accessible by air, where bears can be spotted fishing for salmon. Amongst the many other activities available, there’s salmon fishing, a crab feast, sea kayaking, and for the really adventurous, a ‘zip-line’ descent through the forest canopy!
Our last full day is spent at sea returning through the Inside Passage.
We arrive back in Vancouver in the morning, where you disembark and transfer to the airport at the appropriate time for your return flight.
We arrive back in the UK, with a heart full of wonderful memories.