‘Little Bit of England’

Clients enjoy day-tripping with Victoria Clipper

By: Mike Miller

VICTORIA, British Columbia The view as we cruised into Victoria’s inner harbor was striking. The passing scene encompassed expansive lush green lawns and parks, commanding and regal hotels, the stately Parliament complex and scores of thriving businesses. On the water, large and little craft hustled and bustled around us.

The journey had begun at Seattle’s Pier 69 at 8:30 a.m. Our vessel, the Victoria Clipper, had made the 71-mile trip in 2½ hours. Most passengers aboard would return to Seattle in late afternoon after a day of sightseeing, museum visits, garden tours, pub-hopping and shopping in a city many consider “like a little bit of England.”

For travel agents, the trip is a tried-and-true client-pleaser, ideal for travelers seeking something special for a full day’s touring.

Surprisingly, except for safety and service announcements, there was no narration en route identifying cities and passing landmarks. Our ride proved smooth and pleasant. We experienced only brief gentle swells when we left Puget Sound and entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Victoria, as travel agents know, offers a variety of tours and attractions. Probably the easiest for an agent to recommend and book in advance would be one of four commissionable favorites the cruise company offers on board.

n The Grand City Tour ($15): A citywide excursion via English double-decker bus. The drive, ideal for first-time visitors, takes 1½ hours and covers the harbor, city center, Chinatown, “Antique Row,” exclusive residential areas and parks. My wife and I chose this as our tour du jour. We found our driver-guide, Gordon, both knowledgeable and amusing. (Passing the Beacon Hill Children’s Zoo, Gordon proudly noted, “We import children from all over the world.”)

Afternoon Tea at the Empress ($31): This decades-old Victoria tradition provides tableside service in gracious English style in several courses. The one-hour experience features an exclusive blend of tea plus scones, other pastries and a variety of tea sandwiches. “Smart casual” attire is required.

Butchart Gardens ($34): Ranks literally as one of the world’s premier floral extravaganzas. This three-hour tour encompasses all manner of gardens, greenery and brilliantly colored displays.

The Clipper Combo ($44): Combines a short city drive with a 1½-hour visit to Butchart Gardens, leaving several hours for other pursuits in Victoria.

There are scores of other options, as well. However, many tours and sites, including the popular Royal British Columbia Museum, do not pay commissions.

Several of us from the Victoria Clipper opted to cut an hour from our visit in order to sample the earlier departing Victoria Clipper IV. Although newer, faster and larger than the ship we arrived on, its style and service proved much the same. At the forward bulkhead, a special video showing of “Mary Poppins” kept children entertained. Video maps throughout the ship kept everyone informed of progress and location.

Over a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon ($3.75) and a basket dinner featuring alder-smoked Alaska wild salmon ($6.75), we reminisced with new friends about the trip and our respective tours.

The Details

Clipper Navigation, Inc.
2701 Alaskan Way, Pier 69
Seattle, WA 98121
Travel agents line: 877-679-1650
www.victoriaclipper.com

The Victoria Clipper is 127 feet long, offers lots of windows on two decks and travels at 30 knots (roughly 35 mph). The Victoria Clipper IV, stretches 132 feet and cruises at 40 knots, or 46 mph. Each ship offers two seating arrangements: Forward-facing airliner-like recliners (although larger and more comfortable than airline seats), or facing seats with tables between. The vessels can accommodate 297 and 330 passengers, respectively.

A small open area aft on the upper deck proved popular, with a dozen or so passengers seated on benches or standing at the rails at any time.

Breakfast choices en route cost $5.25 for adults and included cereal, Danish or yogurt basket, each with applesauce, cheese, cereal bars and juice. Complimentary coffee is always available. For early morning celebrants, a split of champagne runs $3.

Round-trip fares during peak season (May 15-Sept. 5) run $103 to $129 depending on vessel and departure. Three off-season periods offer substantially discounted options.

Commission is 10 percent.

Note: Passports are required.

DAY Tours

The following Victoria city tours all offer agent commissions.

Gray Line’s Grand Tour combined with Craigdarroch Castle. Includes an hour’s visit at one of Victoria’s most notable landmarks, a stately castle constructed in the late 1800s.
About $22; commission: 15%
800-663-8390

Tally-ho Sightseeing horse-drawn wagon and carriage tours.
From about $11; commission: 15% 866-383-5067
Prince of Whales whale-watching tours.
From about $45; commission: 15%
888-383-4884

Harbour Air Seaplanes flightseeing tours.
From about $75; commission: 10%
800-665-0212

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