Cruise Ship Hits Iceberg in Alaska – No injuries reported

Holland America’s ms Westerdam was involved in a collision with an iceberg on Tuesday, while scenic cruising through Yakutat Bay – location of the monumental Hubbard Glacier (the longest tidewater glacier in all of North America).

According to the US Coast Guard’s press release, there was damage to the ship approximately 15 feet below the waterline. However, it didn’t effect the structure of the ship and everyone is reportedly okay – no injuries.

Based on KPU Ketchikan Webcam, by all appearances, ms Westerdam is fine.

I must also correct myself, the ship was involved in an “allision”, the actual nautical term to describe a collision. You learn something new everyday!

Matthew Vaughan
Cruise & Travel Specialist
t: 604.737.8100 –ext. 116 | t: 1.800.565.2784 | f: 604.737.1672
My Office hours:  M-Tu 7:15-3:45  W 7:30-4  Th 8-4:30  F 9-5:30  (PST)
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Great Places to Eat in Vancouver

Food. The highlight of any travel experience. As a result of Vancouver‘s multicultural make up, the City boasts some of the best cuisine in the world. So when you’re here for your Alaska cruise, you may have a tough time deciding where to eat.

To help you out, I asked the Cruise Experts Travel team for their recommendations. Here are their favourite Vancouver spots.


Sushi was the most popular recommendation. Ask any Vancouverite and it’s likely sushi they’ll advise you to try first. Sushi restaurants all over the City. Here are the ones your Alaska Cruise Experts like best:

Toshi Sushi (181 E 16th Avenue 604-874-5173) Raychel recommended Toshi for the freshness and price at $10-$15 per person.

Tojo’s Restaurant (1133 West Broadway 604-872-8050) “#1 rated sushi restaurant in Vancouver for over 20 years,” Wes said, however, he also advised, “It’s best enjoyed with a budget of $120-$150 per person.”

Hapa Izakaya “Very nice Asian Fusion restaurant. Great for appys too.” – Kassandra

There are three Hapa locations:

  • Robson location @ 1479 Robson St,  Vancouver B.C. 604-689-4272
  • Kitsilano location @ 1516 Yew St, Vancouver B.C. 604-738-4272
  • Yaletown location @ 1193 Hamilton St, Vancouver B.C. 604-681-4272


Gotham’s Steakhouse (615 Seymour St 604-605-8282) I personally love Gotham’s. The level of service is on par with the quality of food. Excellent. Very quiet and relaxing ambiance too. Great after a long day exploring the City.


The Sandbar (1535 Johnston St. Granville Island 604-669-9030) “Excellent Granville Island experience here.” – Sharl

“The Sandbar has great seafood and selection of wine.” – Lindsay

Blue Water Café and Raw Bar (1095 Hamilton St. 604 688 8078) Located in trendy Yaletown, recommended by Nick.

The Fish House (in Stanley Park 604-681-72750) “People can see Stanley Park at the same time as getting an amazing seafood dinner.  A bit more pricey but excellent food and atmosphere. “ – Coleen


Cin Cin (1154 Robson Street 604 688 7338) Finer dining located downtown, recommended by Kassandra.

Italian Kitchen (1037 Alberni Street 604.687.2858) “It’s the place to be seen plus they are famous for their Kobe Beef Meatball AND truffle spaghetti. The restaurant is kind of noisy though because it’s always so busy.” – Billie


Maurya (West Broadway 604-742-0622) “Excellent (!) Indian Food and very nice ambiance. Once saw Goldie Hawn there.” – Kassandra


La Grotta Del Formaggio (1791 Commercial Drive 604-255-3911) “Great Italian sandwiches.” – Raychel

Japadog If you watch Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations you may have caught him when he was in Vancouver and enjoying a Japadog. In fact, Japadog is all the rave when it comes to hot dog stands in Vancouver.

Currently, there are 4 locations downtown.

  • Burrad and Smithe St (stand)
  • Burrard and Pender St (stand)
  • 530 Robson St (store)
  • In front of Waterfront Station (stand)

See what others have to say about Japadog: The Globe and Mail / / Foodists / Yelp Reviews


Memphis Blues Barbeque House “Great for people with a big appetite.  Great food…huge portions…reasonable prices.” – Coleen

Vancouver Locations:

  • 1342 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, B.C. 604-215-2599
  • 1465 West Broadway Ave, Vancouver, B.C. 604-738-6806
  • 1629 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver, B.C. 604-929-3699

Gorilla Food (101 – 436 Richards Street 604.684.3663) “It’s amazing!” – Alex

Sharl explained it well, “Vancouver offers excellent cuisine that has influences from all over the world. Whether you love a good steak, excellent seafood or something more exotic, like high quality sushi , the choices are endless.”

And if you don’t have enough time to try everything, that just means you’ll have to return.

Which of the above appeals to you most?

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Thoughts on the Crystal Symphony

A couple weeks ago, Billie, Nick and Alex were part of the Cruise Experts Travel crew that toured the newly remodelled Crystal Symphony. I sat down with all three individually to get their thoughts on the ship. It’s interesting to hear what each had to say.

What was your overall impression of the Crystal Symphony?

Billie: It felt really welcoming.

Nick: Very classy but understated.  Doesn’t jump out at you, but you can tell by the décor and furnishings that it is luxury.  I expected a bit more ‘wow’ in the public areas, but I understand what Crystal is going for.

Alex: Nice and bright, clean and ‘quiet’. A little dated décor-wise in areas – this being highlighted by the fact that a number of areas have been updated to a very high standard and in-keeping with modern trends in colour and contemporary design.

What did you like best about the ship?

Billie: The size of the ship. Not too big, not too small. There was a lot of open space, not crowded with things.

Nick: Nice staterooms, the included Nobu Sushi Bar and the other renovated dining areas, and the pool/solarium.

One of the renovated areas. There used to be a pool here.

Alex: The pool deck, hot tub and sun lounger area was very ‘spa’ like and inviting. Also, the spa treatment rooms were quite amazing with the many different treatments that are available. The updated areas of the ship were spot-on in design and elegant choice of colours and finishes.

What did you like least about the ship?

Billie: Didn’t notice anything to dislike.

Nick: The older, not-yet renovated areas (like the theater) do feel dated.  The colours and materials (purple/pink velour) aren’t very appealing.


Alex: The pastel pink furniture, brass railings and hardware in the cocktail lounge. I feel these need updating.

Is there anything you’d like to see on the Symphony that wasn’t there?

Billie: No, not that I can think of.

Nick: Nothing really, for the type of ship it is and the ambiance Crystal wants to have, it has everything it needs.

Alex: Walmart? Seriously though, I feel the ship has everything. The improvements I`d like to see are related to the amenities and décor in the areas that haven`t been remodelled. The cinema needs a dash of the millennium. The gym could be expanded to include more equipment and refinished to rival those of private gyms today.

Fitness Equipment

Having said that, the computer room and library were awesome, as were the shops.

What was one thing you saw on the Symphony that you haven’t seen on other ships?

Billie: Even the most basic category stateroom had dual sink vanities! That was awesome… no fighting over the sink anymore!  Also, their hot tub was huge! It was the size of a small swimming pool! Much better than the small circular hot tubs on most of the other ships.

Two sinks, marble countertops in staterooms

Nick: Haven’t been on other luxury ships, but the quality of stateroom linens and bathroom furnishings are outstanding.  Marble countertops with bowl sinks.

Alex: There were fresh towels and bottles of mineral water already in place on the running machines in the gym – I thought this was indicative of the level of forethought that Crystal gives to service on board. Nice touch!

What kind of cruisers would you find on a Crystal Symphony cruise to Alaska?

Billie: Someone who enjoys being pampered, but is not pretentious. Crystal represents a luxurious lifestyle onboard and makes their guests feel like royalty.

Nick: Refined and classy but not stuffy.  The overall feel was quite casual and laid back, despite it’s ‘luxury’ status.

Alex: Very well pampered and content ones, I would imagine!

On a scale of 1 (lowest rating) to 10 (highest rating), what would you give the Symphony?

Billie: 10/10

Nick: 8.5

Alex: For amenities 8, for decor 7, and for staff effort 11.

For pictures from the Crystal Symphony tour, see the April 25 post.

Have you seen the refreshed Crystal Symphony? What are your thoughts?

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Crystal Symphony Photos

On April 17, 2011, a crew from the Cruise Experts Travel office toured the refurbished Crystal Symphony docked at Port Metro Vancouver. The cruise line spent $25 million for this remodel.

If you were following us on Twitter, you would’ve gotten a peek of what the refreshed Symphony offers. Here are some more shots from the ship tour. Thank you to Alex and Billie for sharing your photos!

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What do you think of the Crystal Symphony?

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Parking Update for Port of Vancouver

Cruisepark announced on their website that they will not operate during the 2011 cruise season. It’s okay if you’ve booked with them though – all reservations will be refunded and you have other options. Our agents recommend Vinci Park Services. Cruisepark suggests you look at the Port Metro Vancouver site.

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Difference Between an Alaska Cruise and Cruisetour

Heather Clifton is our next Cruise Expert to make her YouTube video debut! Here, she discusses the differences between an Alaska cruise and cruisetour and gives us some tips on how to book the right vacation.

Have you been on an Alaskan cruisetour? Do you have any tips you’d like to share with fellow cruisers?

Posted in Alaska Cruises, Alaska Cruisetour, Cruise Tips & Advice, Experiences by the Experts | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The most inclusive cruising option

Regent's Mariner in Alaska

Mariner in Alaska. Photo courtesy of Regent.

Cruise night at the Cruise Experts Travel Vancouver office last week was a hit! Over 40 people mixed and mingled and learned about the most inclusive cruising options. Regent Seven Seas was one of them.

Regent Seven Seas

Regent is a 6-star luxury cruise line, but unless you’ve sailed with them before, I bet you didn’t know…

1. Regent Alaska Cruises offers the Club Mariner Youth Program for kids 5-17 years old.

2. After your 21st day onboard a Regent cruise, internet is free every time you sail with them.

3. Room service is 24 hours. Unlike the big ships where your options are limited to the room service menu, Regent offers restaurant menus at lunch and dinner times.

4. When you look at a Regent cruise fare, everything is included. That means the fare you see includes:
• beverages (wine, liquor, beer, pop, coffee, bottled water, smoothie)
• unlimited shore excursions
• alternative specialty dining
• free pre-cruise night at a luxury hotel
• mini bar replenished daily
• pre-paid gratuities
• taxes and port fees

People often think that a luxury line is too much money. They see the price and think “ouch!” You have to remember, however, that you may in the end spend just as much on a big ship cruise line that isn’t all inclusive.

Take a look at the comparison. When you factor in all you’re getting with this 6 star service, it’s clear the greater value is with Regent.

Interested in the full presentation? Claudia (Regent rep extraordinaire) has kindly shared it with me to share with you.

If you have any questions about Regent, please leave a comment and I’ll reply asap or call our office at 1-800-565-2784.

Posted in Alaska Cruises, Cruise Tips & Advice, Ship Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Fairmont Hotel Vancouver’s Gold Floor

It’s spring and the Alaska sailing season is just around the corner! Planning to visit Vancouver before or after your Alaska cruise?

If you haven’t decided where you’re staying, maybe I can help.  Vancouver boasts some pretty fantastic hotels, and one of them is Hotel Vancouver. I recently spent a night here in celebration of my 10 year anniversary.

Exterior of Fairmont Hotel VancouverHotel Vancouver first opened its doors in 1939 and is centrally located nearby great restaurants and shopping along famous Robson St.

In the main lounge, step back into time. I love the old world charm vibe, live jazz music and comfy-enough-to-doze-off-in wingback chairs.

We stayed on the luxurious Gold Floor. Upon informing the check-in desk that we were on the Gold Floor, a staff member escorted us up a few floors to our private check-in. Staff in general at Hotel Vancouver is courteous, polite and attentive (as what you should expect at any hotel). However, the staff on the Gold Floor displayed a refined touch above the rest.

Speaking of great staff,  Rejean, our concierge was engaging and delightful! He remembers each guest’s name (I saw him in action in the private lounge!). I wonder how he does it…

Rejean gave us a tour of our elegant Victorian decor room and shortly after, we made our way to the private Gold Floor lounge for cocktail hour (5 – 7 pm). Despite the traffic, the private lounge never felt busy or crowded. There was plenty of seating. Guests and staff alike were very considerate carrying hushed conversations, so as to ensure everyone could take pleasure in the relaxing atmosphere. While soft music lightly played in the background, we enjoyed canapés and basked in the peaceful ambiance.

After a night on the town the following morning, we enjoyed complimentary breakfast. What. A. Spread. Open-face breakfast sandwiches, yogurt, fruits, coffee, tea, oatmeal, and cereal. Seriously, the Gold Floor surpassed my expectations. You’ll also want to try afternoon tea if you can.

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Thanks to Fairmont Hotel Vancouver for the photos.

If you haven’t reserved your hotel yet, do consider the Gold Floor at Hotel Vancouver. I can tell you with certainty, it’ll be a very pleasant stay. Hotel Vancouver is part of the Fairmont chain, of which there are three others in the City.

1. Fairmont Pacific Rim

2. Fairmont Vancouver Airport

3. Fairmont Waterfront

I can’t tell you how these are personally, however, I’m sure they don’t disappoint given the chain’s standards and reputation. In fact, the annual World Aiport Survey reported that passengers rated the Fairmont Vancouver Airport as the best airport hotel in North America.

Some of the Cruise Experts in the office have also recommended the Hyatt Regency and Shangri-La.

Have you stayed at any of these hotels? Which Vancouver hotel would you recommend to a visitor? Let me know in the comments below.

You may also like: 10 Things to do in Vancouver

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Family Cruising Tips

I recently sat down with Matthew to talk about Alaska cruising for families. As a father and husband, he’s an expert on this topic, having cruised with his wife and their little girl since she was a toddler (now school-age).

In this video, Matthew provides tips for planning and choosing a cruise line for different families.

What do think of our YouTube debut? Would love your feedback, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

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Cruise Experts Travel hosting Cruise Night: April 6, 2011 @ 7 pm

Whether or not you’ve been on an Alaska cruise, cruising likely interests you in general. If you’re in the Vancouver area the evening of Wednesday, April 6, 2011, why not join us for an informative session on cruising Europe and the exotic Mekong River in Southeast Asia?

Denis (President), Sharl (Sales Manager), plus Cruise Specialists, Edward and Heather are hosting. I’ll be there too, tweeting away (follow us)!

An RSVP is required. And if you know anyone else who’d be interested, don’t forget to note their name and phone number in your reply. Hope to see you in two weeks!

Cruise Night InvitationConfirm your spot now by emailing your name and phone number to or calling 604-737-8100.

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