Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Royal Caribbean Partner of the Year Celebration

There was lots of excitement last week at Direct Line Cruises corporate offices in Hauppauge NY!  As you may know, Royal Caribbean selected Direct Line Cruises as their 2010 Northeast Partner of the Year earlier in the year. Now it was time celebrate!

 We got word that Vicki Freed, Senior Vice President of Sales for Royal Caribbean and Joanne Schimelman, the cruise line’s Vice President of National Accounts, were flying in from Miami to mark the occasion.  They were joined by Cyndi Cobb, Northeast Regional Sales Director and Louise Habrack, our Business Development Manager.

We had a staff luncheon that day and had some fun by literally rolling out a red carpet for our VIP guests.  We greeted them in t-shirts that were made for the occasion.  Then we had our own, private Q & A session with Ms. Freed.  It was quite a day for all of us at Direct Line Cruises!"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cruising to Alaska and the Port of Skagway

Skagway is the historic hub of any Alaskan cruise.  It all dates back to 1896 when George Carmack and Skookum Jim chiseled a gold nugget from the bed of Rabbit Creek, a tributary of the Klondike River in Yukon, Canada and set in motion one of the most frenzied gold rushes in history. Over the next two years, at least 100,000 eager would-be prospectors from all over the world set out with dreams of making a fortune. Only about 40,000 actually made it to the Klondike, and precious few of them ever found their fortune. Fast forward to present day Skagway in which the town's eight hundred residents have gone to great lengths to recreate the original appearance of the boom town. I must say, the effort is much appreciated by the many cruisers that disembark for a day in Skagway!

The Skagway portion of Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park (free) includes a six-block downtown area as well as the 33-mile Chilkoot Trail.  The corridor along Broadway is lined with historic looking shops and restaurants, wooden sidewalks, and locals in period costumes. There is a Park Visitor’s Center located 2nd and Broadway and every day at 10AM there is a free ranger presentation on various topics. They also show a short film entitled “Gold Fever: Race to the Klondike” in the visitor center auditorium every hour (free). One hour Historical District Walking Tours (free) are led by park rangers several times during the day.  Sign up at the Visitor’s Center, as space is limited.

Hiking around the Skagway area is a great way to see the history and beauty of the area. Trail maps of hikes that vary in the degree of length and difficulty are available from the Skagway Visitor Information Center or at the National Park Visitor Center. The most popular that can be done within port time are Dewey Lake, Sturgill’s Landing and Upper and Lower Reid Falls.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cruising to Ketchikan, Alaska

Ketchikan, Alaska sits along the shore of the Inside Passage within the Tongass National Forest.  When cruising into Ketchikan, Alaska you are surrounded by the beauty of the lush green mountainous landscape, which is nurtured by the plentiful rainfall of the temperate rainforest environment. In other words, come prepared for precipitation!  The average temperature in July is mid 60’s but when the sun is shining it can climb into the 70’s or low 80’s.

 The town of Ketchikan is picture postcard perfect. Pick up a walking tour map at the Visitor’s Center then start strolling, (or rent a bike), following the numbered signs posted throughout town. Be sure to walk down Creek Street (formerly the town’s red light district), with its row of brightly colored wooden buildings perched over the water on pilings.  These turn of the century structures are now lovely boutiques, restaurants, and galleries.  You will find Dolly’s House ($5 pp), the once infamous brothel, at 24 Creek Street. Today it’s a museum and gift shop.

 Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles.  At Saxman Native Village ($3 pp on your own / tour $15pp+), located two miles outside of town, guests can experience the rich living culture of the Tlingits. There are 32 authentic totem poles (some over 100 years old) and if you take a tour, guides will interpret their meaning. At the Carving Shed master carvers and their apprentices demonstrate their craft. A tour includes entry to the Beaver Clan House and a demonstration of traditional dance and song by the Cape Fox Dancers.  This was one of the places my family visited on our Alaska cruise and we all found it to be informative and entertaining, including my son who was nine at the time.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Cruising to Alaska The Port of Juneau

Situated on the upper Inside Passage, approximately 900 miles from Seattle, Juneau is often the first port of call on a cruise to Alaska.  Average summer temperatures are in the 60’s but the climate is wet, so pack your rain slicker.  Summer days are lengthy, 18 hours long on June 21st, so plan on spending every minute in port sightseeing!  There’s so much to see and do while enjoying the extraordinary scenery and wildlife that is Alaska!

 Shore excursions, whether cruise line sponsored or private vendor, span a broad spectrum in both selection and price. There are biking, rafting, and kayaking tours, all of which give you a chance to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. There are walking tours and bus tours or excursions that give you an extreme adrenaline rush! The more adventurous ones are quite costly, but well worth it, as they are a once in a lifetime experience.

 Mendenhall Glacier, the most popular attraction in Juneau, is the only drive-up road accessible glacier in the United States and located 13 miles from downtown Juneau.  At one point the glacier is more than a half a mile wide, with ice 300 to 1800 feet deep! The Visitor’s Center ($3) has some wonderful displays and an interesting short film. The huge windows that make up the curving wall of the center offer an unobstructed view of the glacier.